Post Malone’s making waves across the pop-country spectrum this week, covering and getting covered by two country-music icons. Most recently, Sheryl Crow released a cover of his 2019 hit “Circles.” It’s far from the first country take on the song – Billy Strings’ version landed on our Best Covers of 2020 list – but this one sounds like it could actually be a country music radio hit circa 1994. Crow says it has a “fun summer vibe,” adding on Twitter, “I’m such a fan of Post Malone’s songwriting.”
Aimee Mann – Brooklyn (Steely Dan cover)
If you missed the whole brouhaha when Steely Dan dropped Aimee Mann as their opening act, it’s too long to recap here. To skip to the end, Mann tweeted, “All is forgiven if Donald [Fagan] just tells me what Brooklyn is about.” And he did! So, at a recent show at City Winery, she covered it. All does indeed appear to be forgiven.
A year ago, I did a Covering the Hits feature where the song randomizer sent me to Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” I found some killer covers of the Spider-Man soundtrack smash, by Vampire Weekend and AJR alongside lesser-known artists, and now there’s another to add to the pile, by Australian rock band Holy Holy. The duo of Timothy Carroll and Oscar Dawson performed it on radio show Like a Version, augmented by their live band and Tasmanian-based singer Medhanit.
“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.
Last time the “Covering the Hits” dice-roll landed me one of the earliest chart-toppers ever – Ernie K-Doe’s sassy New Orleans classic “Mother in Law” – and today it lands me one of the most recent: Post Malone and Swae Lee’s contribution to that animated Spider Man movie, “Sunflower,” which went to number in 2019.
Post Malone gets covered a lot. In fact, we had a bluegrass version of “Circles” on our year-end list two months ago. “Sunflower” didn’t quite hit “Circles”-level covers ubiquity, maybe because it sounds pretty hard to sing, but it’s been tackled plenty (once by a very prominent band). (And let’s not forget Posty himself knows his way around a cover; I saw multiple people call his Nirvana set one of the best livestreams of 2020.)
Typically, the world of cover songs does not change that much year-to-year. You can point to big shifts across decades, sure, but the difference between cover songs in 2018 and 2019, broadly speaking? Negligible. But 2020 was – in this as in everything else – very different.
As concerts ground to a sudden halt, musicians turned to live-from-quarantine home performances, first on their social media, then, once some kind of business model got built up, on various paid platforms. And cover songs were a big part of that. Some musicians did themed covers nights, like Ben Gibbard on YouTube early on or Lucinda Williams’ more produced Lu’s Jukebox series more recently. Others just felt the freedom in such an intimate environment to try things out, spontaneously covering influences, inspirations, or even songs they only half knew. We collected dozens of those early home covers in our Quarantine Covers series, and still only hit a small fraction.
Musicians eventually settled in, and productions got a little more elaborate than the staring-at-your-iPhone-camera look. Witness the heavy metal comedy series Two Minutes to Late Night, which transitioned from a long-running live show in New York City to a series of YouTube covers with dozens of metal-scene ringers covering songs from their couches, corpse paint and all. Witness Miley Cyrus’s endless series of killer cover locales, from a fire pit to an empty Whisky a Go Go. Or witness long-running radio covers series like BBC’s Live Lounge or Triple J’s Like a Version – often the source of a song or two on these lists. First they had musicians tape special covers from home, then, in the BBC’s case, they moved to a giant warehouse studio for suitable social distancing. (Triple J’s pretty much back to post-coronavirus business as usual – sure, Australia, rub it in.)
There’s one other major way covers reflected 2020, and it’s almost too painful to think about, so I’ll just list their names. John Prine. Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner. Charley Pride. So many musicians taken by this virus, many reflected in some of these covers (Pride’s death happened after our list was finalized, but tributes are already rolling in). In a year filled with tragedies, covers offered one place for musicians and fans to find solace.
Many of the songs on our year-end list reflect this terrible year in one way or another. But you know what? Many don’t. Because covers can also offer a fun respite from all the stress. Doom metal Doobie Brothers? Post Malone on mandolin? A viral TikTok hit by a guy who calls himself Ritt Momney? Those have nothing to do with anything! But they’re what we live for.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
This should have been a belter.
True, in places Kindred Spirits shines, and it’s everything one could have expected from this talented pair of sisters.
Let’s first set the scene. Larkin Poe are Megan and Rebecca Lovell, two sisters from Tennessee, deeply ingrained with the sounds of “the South Will Rise Again,” i.e. the Allmans and all who knelt before them. Indeed, their publicity touts them as little sisters of the Allman Brothers (although the Black Keys, for me, is a better reference, sonically speaking). Kick-ass slide and sassy vocals are their calling cards, and since 2014 they have produced a run of well-received records, usually with an added rhythm section adding woomph to their twin guitars and vocals. In recent years they have seemed glued to the side of Elvis Costello, notably on his solo tours to support the autobiography, acting as his support band and accompanists. Frankly, at times, they were better than their employer.
A lighter side of their work has been the slew of YouTube recordings put up, looking all very ad-hoc, in hotel rooms, maybe whilst touring, and a delight they are.Kindred Spirits is in that style, just the the two of them.