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 May we saw A Tribute to Jawbreaker’s Dear You collection (Sell The Heart Records subscriber exclusive), The Black Crowes’ 1972 EP (Amazon exclusive), Todo Muere SBXV (artists from the Sacred Bones roster covering their favourite tunes), Sarah Brown singing Mahalia Jackson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band doing Bob Dylan, the previously announced Coverama compilation, Lester Greenowski tackling the discography of Kiss on Kover All Over and various ladies performing songs of The Boss, Bryan Ferry’s smooth Love Letters EP, and nice releases from The Soul Jacket, R.E. Seraphin, Ditches, Zeno Jones, Walker Brigade, Praise, The Christian Family and Rat Tamango with some successful cover versions. And there was a lot more, but below you hear the 10 best that we haven’t mentioned yet.
It’s Raining || Cover: JD McPherson || Original: Irma Thomas
American singer-songwriter/guitarist JD McPherson’s released The Warm Covers EP, Vol. 2, a great sequel to his 2014 cover collection (the new 5-track EP is out now digitally through New West Records, a physical edition including additional bonus tracks will follow sometime in 2023). The obvious choice here would be his interpretation of a song originally performed by Iggy Pop or Pixies, but thanks in part to It’s Rainin’ (4am) by Bob Forrest’s The Bicycle Thief, I don’t miss a chance to listen to this Irma Thomas classic. Heartfelt rhythm ‘n’ blues the way it’s meant to be.
Another Sad and Lonely Night || Cover: Brad Marino || Original: The Bobby Fuller Four
A power pop supergroup featuring Brad Marino (vocals, guitar), Geoff Palmer (bass), Zack Sprague (drums), and Joe King aka Joe Queer (back up vocals) reviving a 1966 original by Bobby Fuller, what’s not to like?
Darlin’ || Cover: She & Him || Original: Brian Wilson
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have delved into the extensive songbook of one of the greatest American singer-songwriters. On July 22, they will release She & Him’s seventh studio album on Fantasy Records. Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson contains covers of 14 of their favorite tunes from the living legend. You can already listen to the beautiful opening track – dreamy and summery, with wonderful vocal harmonies – and pre-order the LP.
Heroes and Villains || Cover: The 1981 || Original: The Pooh Sticks
During the lockdown Adam Widener (vocals, guitars, keys, drums, bass) and Bobby Martinez (keys, bass, guitar, vocals) from Oakland indie pop band The 1981 recorded a number of covers separately. Previously they released the 4-track Quarantine Covers EP, and now 5 additional cover songs have been brought together on the EP Variants – out digitally and on cassette through Dandy Boy Records. Their lo-fi version of The Pooh Sticks’ Heroes and Villains (1988) is particularly worthy of your attention, with the help of the vocals of Yea-Ming Chen, who recently put out her sophomore album “So, Bird…”.
Octopussy || Cover: Lande Hekt || Original: The Wedding Present
UK singer-songwriter Lande Hekt (Muncie Girls) received acclaim last year for her debut album Going to Hell, which she now follows with the single Romantic – out digitally and on 7″ vinyl through Emotional Response. The B-Side is a strong and solid cover of The Wedding Present’s Octopussy (1991), with driving guitars and convincing vocals.
Sex Beat || Cover: Nasty S’ And The Ghost Chasers feat. Paul Smith || Original: The Gun Club
The 16-track debut solo album Waiting For The Last Gasp Of My Generation by French musical activist Samuel Guillerand aka Nasty Samy (guitars & bass) also features some covers not to be missed, including this intense version of The Gun Club’s Sex Beat (1981), with Yoann Brighenti on drums and Paul Smith on vocals. Out digitally and on CD through Nineteen Something.
Search And Destroy || Cover: Florence + The Machine || Original: The Stooges
And here’s Iggy Pop after all, because a haunting cover of The Stooges’ Search And Destroy (1973) has been added to the deluxe edition of Florence + The Machine’s new album Dance Fever (out on cassette, CD and vinyl LP through Polydor).
At Your Funeral || Cover: Catholic Guilt || Original: Saves The Day
Wiretap Records and Friend Club Records teamed up for a tribute to iconic indie label Vagrant Records. On the (digital) compilation Undercover On The Streets you can hear no fewer than 31 renditions of songs originally performed by Vagrant bands (The Get Up Kids, Alkaline Trio, The Anniversary, Face To Face, Dashboard Confessional, Rocket From the Crypt, Thrice, Paul Westerberg, Alexisonfire, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The 1975, Pete Yorn, etc.), recorded by an assortment of artists from the Wiretap and Friend Club rosters. Lots of gems here, like Melbourne punk/alt-rockers Catholic Guilt’s version of New Jersey rock band Saves the Day influential single from 2001, with those lyrics you’ve never forgotten: “This song will become the anthem of your underground.”
Hill Country Rain || Cover: Steve Earle & The Dukes || Original: Jerry Jeff Walker
Steve Earle probably needs no introduction, as the American singer-songwriter has been creating quality rock, country and folk music for well over four decades. His most recent release is JERRY JEFF (out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through New West Records), a 10-song collection in which he, along with touring and backing band The Dukes, honors the late Texan songman Jerry Jeff Walker. The full-band recording of classics like Mr. Bojangles, Hill Country Rain and Gettin’ By turns out very well – musically this is perfectly fine and Earle’s vocals are awesome.
Jag Ska Aldrig Dö || Cover: Psychotic Youth || Original: Dr. Zeke
Red West Production released the new split EP PUNK with Psychotic Youth and City Saints, featuring 4 covers of vintage Swedish punk songs of Dr. Zeke, Leathernun, Sator and Perverts. The energetic version of Jag Ska Aldrig Dö (1979) by the legendary Psychotic Youth is as catchy as it gets. Watch the video here.
Check out our Dusted playlist on Spotify for more cool cover songs.