Jul 182013

“Samm Bennett is the kind of musical genius we see only once every 100 years.”

That’s how Samm Bennett suggested I start this post. And while it’s perhaps a slight exaggeration, it’s true that he delivers something different and unexpected with every cover he does (see these). On this “Suffragette City” cover – recorded as part of a MetaFilter project – he continues a long tradition of wresting music from unusual and obscure instruments. Witness the instrumentation difference:

David Bowie’s “Suffragette City”: Guitar, piano, bass, drums, synthesizer.

Samm Bennett’s “Suffragette City”: Cigar box guitar with only one string, late ’70s Roland synthesizer, a children’s marching drum, a mini tambourine. Continue reading »

Oct 292010

You’ve probably seen our birthday tributes to the likes of Tom Petty, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna. Well, today, they say it’s our birthday. We’re gonna have a good time. In fact, we’ve already begun celebrating. This morning we enjoyed a Schoolhouse Rock Song of the Day. We offered up a new vinyl giveaway. We even re-posted our very first post (covers of songs off John Wesley Harding). But this is the big one.

We contacted a bunch of artists we’ve worked with in the past – terrifically talented folk who have all played a role in Cover Me’s history. We asked them to record birthday-themed cover songs for a special three-year celebration album. Find the fruits of their labor below. Eleven brand-new covers of birthday songs both famous (“It’s My Party”) and obscure (“Birthday Boy”), all recorded just for the occasion. You can download high-quality MP3s individually below or the full set (plus a bonus track!) way down at the bottom. Each artist shared their thoughts on the song they chose, so be sure to read those. Continue reading »

Sep 022010

Song of the Day posts one cool cover every morning. Catch up on past installments here.

In the November 2008 issue of Harper’s Magazine, John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote a fascinating article. The subject: his attempts to fact-check a piece Greil Marcus was writing on “Last Kind Words Blues.” The song, by the mysterious Geeshie Wiley, existed only as a scratchy, hard-to-make-out recording. Marcus wanted to quote some lines, but he couldn’t make out the exact words. To investigate, Sullivan visited famed guitarist/folk historian John Fahey. The back and forth of them trying to puzzle out this ancient recording is a must-read. Here’s an excerpt from earlier in the piece though, of Sullivan describing the mysterious recording:

Not many ciphers have left as large and beguiling a presence as Geeshie Wiley. Three of the six songs she and Elvie Thomas recorded are among the greatest country-blues performances ever etched into shellac, and one of them, “Last Kind Words Blues,” is an essential work of American art, sans qualifiers, a blues that isn’t a blues, that is something other, but is at the same time a perfect blues, a pinnacle.

Some have argued that the song represents a lone survival of an older, already vanishing, minstrel style; others that it was a one-off spoor, an ephemeral hybrid that originated and died with Wiley and Thomas, their attempt to play a tune they’d heard by a fire somewhere. The verses don’t follow the A-A-B repeating pattern common to the blues, and the keening melody isn’t like any other recorded example from that or any period. Likewise with the song’s chords: “Last Kind Words Blues” opens with a big, plonking, menacing E but quickly withdraws into A minor and hovers there awhile (the early blues was almost never played in a minor key). The serpentine dual-guitar interplay is no less startling, with little sliding lead parts, presumably Elvie’s, moving in and out of counterpoint. At times it sounds like four hands obeying a single mind and conjures scenes of endless practicing, the vast boredoms of the medicine-show world. Read the full article.

Continue reading »

Aug 052010

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

In the annals of rock history, The Velvet Underground & Nico is filed under “Important Albums.” Sure, it sold all of five copies at the time of its release, but it is has since risen through the ranks to define not just a sound, not just an era, but an entire lifestyle. This one has everything. Drugs! S&M! Andy Warhol’s peelable banana cover!

Lou Reed’s noisy rants have inspired thousands of covers over the years. Below are our favorites for VU & Nico. As always with Full Albums, a different artist reinterprets each and every track. From folk harmony to psycho guitar squall, from musicians foreign to the dark subject matter to those who can relate all too well, it’s here. Click each song title for an MP3. Banana not included. Continue reading »

Jun 212010

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should.

I’d never heard of Samm Bennett until he posted a link on Cover Me’s Facebook page (moral: submit your stuff). The sights and sounds that greeted me at his YouTube page knocked me out. The song was Elvis’ early hit “All Shook Up,” twisted to a form both familiar and unsettling. Over a sludge-guitar riff, Bennett gestures and jerks like a homeless guy at the subway station. If Tim Burton made an Elvis biopic with the guy who directed I’m Not There, it might look like this.

A little exploring led to two more gems, both equally well conceived, recorded, and produced. His version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” does the impossible: it reinvents the most clichéd cover ever. Bennett does so by tossing out the original melody entirely, singing a tune you’re only half sure he planned in advance. Finally, there’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.” This cover stays slightly more faithful, to the extent that a Velvet Underground song played with a two-string cigar box guitar and jawharp can.

Continue reading »