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Once upon a time, someone wrote a song, performed it, and some time later, someone else heard it and thought, “I could do that sooo much better.”
Maybe they weren’t quite this narcissistic– maybe it was actually two people who both heard someone else perform a song. Afterwards, the non-musical half of the hypothetical couple turned to the other, who happened to be musically inclined, and said, “Hey, could you do that song for me, the one that goes na, na, naaaaa, na, na…?” and when the musically-inclined one performed it from memory, it changed, but neither could quite remember how it went anyway, so it eventually gained legitimacy and became it’s own version. Or, as I often do, maybe someone just took a song they really loved the lyrics to and made it applicable to all their other moods by playing with the tempo etc. and thus a whole new musical “act” was born…
Whatever the conjecture, folk rock musicians have done some incredible covers, and, if you know where to look, they are all over the internet. Posting the Josh Ritter cover of Springsteen a couple weeks back got me thinking that I should connect you to more of the same, sort of, so here goes–
A darling little blog entitled “I am Fuel, You are Friends” (accessible at www.fuelfriendsblog.com) regularly posts AWESOME examples of how folk rock musicians can take a song and make it that much better…or at least get you thinking about it in an entirely different way– time for some examples, no?
First, Ray Lamontagne covers the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” or his cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” accessible at http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2008/10/27/tonight-ray-lamontagne-and-leona-naess/
or how about when one folk rock musician covers another folk rock musician, as Steve Earle has done with the inimitable Townes Van Zandt’s song “To Live is To Fly”? at http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2009/04/16/shake-the-dust-off-of-your-wings-and-the-sleep-out-of-your-eyes/.
Denison Witmer put a new spin on “contemporary” country by re-working Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
(You’ll have to forgive me for posting the entire page, rather than just the song link, but this set of 20 songs is so solid you should be acquainted with them all. For example, the clangy, fun “Get Yourself Home” by These United States listed above Denison’s makes me want to take a road trip just so that I can blast this song while bopping across the flat green plains of Wyoming, a 7-11 slushy sweating into oblivion in the cupholder and a fast-food burger wrapper doing somersaults on the passenger side floor because of the wind ripping through the open windows…camera full, wallet nearly empty, and a borderline murderous Motel 6 waiting at the end of the line…it’d be great. Sigh.)
If I’ve not mentioned it, I secretly love The National too. Now, I’m not so smitten as to be blind to the fact that a lot of their songs sound the same…put them on shuffle, take a nap, wake up and your brain will, if only for a moment, try to remember if it’s heard this one already or not, but I like ’em anyway, so there. I also really dig Carolina native Eric
Bachmann of Crooked Fingers. I saw him open for Josh Ritter last spring and thought he was a subtle phenomenon.
When these two factors come together, you get The National’s cover of Crooked Fingers “Sleep All Summer” and you can’t help but want your heart to break just so you can feel the full mourn of the chorus:
“Cold ways kill cool lovers/ Strange ways we used each other/Why won’t you fall back in love with me?/There ain’t no way we’re gonna find another/The way we sleep all summer/so why won’t you fall back in love with me?”
Not yet satisfied? Head over to www.stereogum.com and just see what comes up when you type “cover” into the search bar. For those who are curious but don’t want to go exploring just yet, I’ll have you know that there are over 2000 posts that have something to do with musical coverings of one kind or another…get excited and go kill a couple hours. Not into Stereogum? The same thing happens at The Hype Machine. Blog posts galore if you just type in one word: “cover.”