Rod Stewart, one of the most prolific cover song performers around, is also an underrated songwriter. While his first two solo albums after departing The Faces included several cover songs – sterling versions of Dylan’s “Only A Hobo” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” – his superior self-penned tunes including “Gasoline Alley” from his second proper release, and the beautiful “Mandolin Wind” from Every Picture Tells a Story are the songs that really cemented his legacy.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Steve Earle turns 63 today. He’s one of the all-time great Americana/roots-rock/alt-country/whatever-you-want-to-call-it songwriters, and one who has successfully stepped out of the Nashville hit machine grind he started in to one of those “distinguished statesman” careers many of his Guitar Town-era peers no doubt envy.
In addition to his own songwriting, he records fantastic covers. His tribute album to early mentor Townes Van Zandt was quite moving, and the early-rock covers on his album with Shawn Colvin in 2016 were terrific (check out “You Were On My Mind”). He gave The Wire a season’s theme song covering Tom Waits’ “Way Down in the Hole” while acting on the show too as a recovering addict (hardly a stretch). And, my personal two favorites, he delivers arguably the definitive versions of Warren Zevon’s “Reconsider Me” and Randy Newman’s “Rednecks.”
But it’s his birthday, so we’ll let him take a well-earned break. Instead, we’ve rounded up our favorite covers of other people doing his songs. His recordings make ideal cover sources in the same way Bob Dylan’s or Tom Waits’ do: brilliant songs delivered by limited-appeal voices. It’s no surprise that “better” (or at least less divisive) country singers cover Earle constantly; Emmylou Harris alone has covered a half dozen of his songs. So we’ll start there.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Band’s legendary The Last Waltz final concert and to celebrate, NYC’s Lincoln Center hosted an all-star tribute concert Saturday night. Held down by Levon Helm’s longstanding Midnight Ramble Band, special guests included Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, and even Dr. John, reprising the song he sang at the original Last Waltz.
The Hollows are a roots-rock group of multi-instrumentalists; a freewheeling hootenany of a band. A veritable junkyard of mandolins, banjos, guitars, accordions, horns, harmonicas, and various other musical doodads are in constant rotation. With no frontman (or six frontmen), everyone writes and arranges material, creating a diverse and uniquely blended sound.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Once in a generation there comes a song so good, so perfectly written and arranged, that it transcends pure aural pleasure and becomes an anthem. The Band’s “The Weight” is one of those songs, without question – Easy Rider, anyone? If that doesn’t make you want to take a Harley across state lines, what would?
In 1970, Steve Goodman wrote a song describing a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans which many deem the best train song ever written. In 1972 Steve pitched “City of New Orleans” to Arlo Guthrie, who recorded and released it on his album Hobo’s Lullaby. Twelve years later, Willie Nelson had a number one country single hit with his version, earning Steve Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song.