Nov 042022
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

dolly parton covers

Dolly Parton is a singer and a songwriter. I mention that obvious truth because these days it tends to get overshadowed by her other titles: Icon. Inspiration. National Treasure. The Only Human Being Alive Everyone Agrees On (Radiolab produced an entire nine-part radio series based on that premise). And she is all those things, but first and foremost she’s a working 9-to-5 musician who has been perfecting her craft for seven decades.

Parton says she wrote her first song as a five year-old in 1952. She hasn’t stopped writing songs since. She one estimated she’s amassed 10,000. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the verifiable numbers speak for themselves: 52 studio albums, 25 Number One songs, 100 million records sold worldwide. Just as important a tribute to her gifts, though, are how often her songs get covered. Not just the obvious ones, the “Jolene”s and “I Will Always Love You”s (though plenty of those, lord knows), but the album cuts, the singles that didn’t top the charts, and the songs she didn’t write herself but made into Dolly Parton songs anyway.

Some of the below covers sound a little bit like Dolly’s own music. Most do not. She considers herself straight country, not, as she made clear when first nominated for the Rock Hall earlier this year, rock and roll. But, in this list, she is rock and roll. And folk and pop and hip-hop and soul and a whole host of other genres. Dolly Parton may indeed be the only human being everyone agrees on. What a way to make a living.

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Feb 092018
 
nick drake covers mojo

Once or twice a year, Britain’s great music magazine Mojo will curate a tribute album to accompany an issue. The latest issue features Nick Drake on the cover, for what would have been his 70th birthday this year, and a CD featuring new covers by younger folk and indie admirers.

Many of the songs follow Drake’s quieter templates, like Joan Shelley’s gorgeous “Time Has Told Me.” Others veer further afield, like a version of “River Man” by Field Music that lurches in stops and starts with a hint of krautrock. Or “Fruit Tree” by The Saxophones, which features periodic blasts from their titular instrument. Continue reading »

Aug 022011
 

Vashti Bunyan has seen something of a popular resurgence in the past few years. The late-‘60s songwriter released a grand total of one album, in 1970, then left music after it failed to reach an audience. Fast-forward thirty years. The out-of-print album became a cult favorite, selling on eBay for thousands of dollars and prompting a comeback. In the past few years alone, Mates of State, Ben Gibbard and Feist, and Fever Ray have all released high-profile covers of her songs. Continue reading »