Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.
In April we checked out George Is Lord’s My Sweet George (10 George Harrison songs), Phonophore Records’ All Good Kids (a tribute compilation with various artists doing 28 Guided By Voices tracks), The Greyboy Allstars’ Get A Job (10 funky covers that have become an integral part of the band’s famed live sets), Edgar Winter’s Brother Johnny (an all-star musical love letter to Johnny Winter), The William Loveday Intention’s Paralysed By The Mountains (Billy Childish calls his You Gotta Move cover, featuring his wife Julie and Dave Tattersall, one of his best recordings ever), and Willie Nelson’s 72th(!) album A Beautiful Time (with tunes of The Beatles and Leonard Cohen). We’ve already written about LPs by The Surfrajettes and The Sellwoods with some fun cover versions on it. And then there also were 20+ other releases that would be worth mentioning, but as always, we’re limiting ourselves to the 10 best.
It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad || Cover: Eli Paperboy Reed || Original: Merle Haggard and The Strangers
On his new full-length album Down Every Road (out digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Yep Roc Records), American soul shouter Eli Paperboy Reed pays homage to country legend Merle Haggard by putting a soulful spin on 12 of his classic country tunes. Thanks to Reed’s distinctive, powerful vocals and the groove of Mike Montgomery (bass) and Noah Rubin (drums), the new versions gain in expressiveness, which is certainly reflected in It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad (this one isn’t written by Merle Haggard by the way, but by Glenn Martin & Hank Cochran). Those who pre-ordered the LP or CD in time, received a 7″ single with an almost unrecognizable take on Motörhead’s Ace of Spades.
Camino Al Swan || Cover: IndisPuestas || Original: The Undertones
It often gives an extra dimension when you hear a well-known song in another language. There were several nice examples of this last month. En Casa del Herrero recreated Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ King’s Highway in Galician and Spanish, Fundación Francisco Frankenstein plays The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated as Voy A Ser Un Drogata, The Courettes translated 2 of their own hits into Italian. And a 4-track self-titled EP by Spanish punk rockers IndisPuestas features a great adaptation of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks (out digitally and on 7″ vinyl via Long John’s Boutique Label). It’s now a desperate cry to return to the bars, a heartfelt tribute to the club – El Swan – where they have danced to so much good music, an energetic cover with which they close their concerts.
If I Should Fall From with God || Cover: Jesse Malin & Eugene Hutz || Original: The Pogues
American artist Jesse Malin and Ukrainian-born singer Eugene Hutz of “Gypsy Punks” Gogol Bordello have teamed up for an exclusive Bandcamp release (via Velvet Elk Records), in order to collect proceeds for Ukraine. The lyrics of Anglo-Irish Celtic punk band The Pogues are very appropriate: “This land was always ours // Was the proud land of our fathers // It belongs to us and them // Not to any of the others.” I’ve seen both Jesse Malin and Gogol Bordello live separately, but I never expected a collaboration like this to turn out so well. Reportedly the two musicians bonded over The Pogues years ago, and they say it’s only natural that they sing this anti-colonial song for Ukraine now.
Blood & Roses || Cover: Kurt Baker & Bebe Buell || Original: The Smithereens
This is a combination of American greats I didn’t see coming: power pop champion Kurt Milton Baker and rock singer Bebe Buell got to work on Blood & Roses (out digitally via Wicked Cool Records), one of the most popular singles (1986) by New Jersey rock band The Smithereens. They stay close to the original, which is actually a nice rediscovery.
Pasa-Get-Down-Dena || Cover: Corb Lund || Original: John Evans
Canadian country singer-songwriter Corb Lund has released the full-length cover album Songs My Friends Wrote (out digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through New West Records), and the title reveals exactly what it is. Lund wanted to shine a little light on some relatively obscure songs that have always spoken to him, even though many of them won’t be so familiar to people. That concerns the work of Hayes Carll, Geoff Berner, Ian Tyson, Tom Russell, Fred Eaglesmith, Ian Tyson, Mike Plume, Todd Snider and John Evans, and especially the latter is a great discovery – Pasa-Get- Down-Dena (from his 2001 LP Biggest Fool In Town) is an amazing song. Corb Lund warns there is a pretty good chance of a volume 2, 3 and 4 eventually, because there were a lot of friends and a lot of songs to choose from. I wouldn’t mind.
Jolene || Cover: GA-20 || Original: Dolly Parton
A year ago, American blues band GA-20 performed a swampy, bluesy and relaxed version of Jolene, live somewhere in a backyard. Very cool. That version has now been officially released by Karma Chief Records, digitally only for now.
Sympathy For The Devil || Cover: Fences & Bonnie “Prince” Billy || Original: The Rolling Stones
American indie rock band Fences (Christopher Mansfield) releases a new single called Niagara (via Enci Records). On the flipside you can hear a stripped down cover of Sympathy for the Devil, in collaboration with singer-songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham). The artists didn’t know each other before, but Oldham says: “I live for the connection, for the idea that making music will bring me to the table with the likes of Christopher: someone new to me who is a living, breathing, fluent, damaged, energized, and inspiring worker-in-song, finding it in himself to not only give me the time of day, but to actually invite me to sit and work with him.”
Love Gun || Cover: Coheed and Cambria || Original: KISS
American progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria have a new single out (The Liars Club) and a new album coming up (Vaxis II: A Window of the Waking Mind), but they also shared an acoustic live version of KISS’ Love Gun. On their Great Destroyer tour they played it every night just before the show and the audience responded well to that, so it was an obvious choice. Quite different from the original stadium rock anthem, but very successful, and fans are now requesting a full acoustic album.
We Got The Beat || Cover: E.G. Daily || Original: Go-Go’s
We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, but Sympathy For the Record Industry and TravoRamo Productions have finally released If You Gotta Go-Go, Go-Go Now, a Travis Ramin produced tribute to amazing all-girl band Go-Go’s. It includes 24 cool covers by cool bands/artists such as Baby Shakes, The 126.96.36.199’s, Tina & The Boom Booms, Pale Lips, Hayley & The Crushers, Fastbacks, Holly & The Italians, and of course Natalie Sweet who recently shared her 5 favorite Go-Go’s songs with us. Most surprising I find the contribution of E.G. Daily, from whom I hadn’t heard anything – shame on me – since her 1985 hit Say It, Say It, but whose gritty vocals take We Got The Beat to great heights.
Song 2 || Cover: Baker Boy || Original: Blur
A month ago we had a rock version of a hip-hop classic, but Baker Boy proves that the other way around can be just as much fun. For Like A Version, a nice feature on Australian radio station Triple J (every week a band performs one of their own songs and covers a song they love), the Australian rapper/dancer/artist/actor adds a lot of value to Blur’s guitar riffs. You have to see it to believe it. Awesome.
Check out our Dusted playlist on Spotify for more cool cover songs.