Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Under the Covers

I’ll get to the music momentarily, but first a quick update on the Death Cab In Lakeview saga I posted last week. Monday the jury found the accused passenger guilty of second degree murder of 62 year-old cabbie Haroon Paryani. It didn’t take long. Defense attorneys argued self defense for passenger Michael Jackson, saying the cab driver went ballistic and threatened Jackson’s life after Jackson identified himself as a city employee and planned to report him for reckless driving. This was apparently not enough to excuse Jackson from running over Paryani with his own cab. The sentence could be as much as 30 years in prison.
Secondly, check out the excellent blog Locust St. for an outstanding post on all things blue. You won't be disappointed. One of my favorite blogs.
On to the music. Today’s topic is the cover song. What is it about an artist performing another’s work that is so intriguing? Is it an homage, an acknowledgment of influences, or laziness? Probably a little of all three. Jam bands like Phish raised the cover to an art form, sometimes filling a third of their long sets with other artist’s material. Nirvana was clearly acknowledging their muses with the numerous covers on the Unplugged in New York set. At concerts it's a sure crowd pleaser when the band takes the stage for an encore and plays some classic rock song, or some obscure cover. In certain genres like folk music the cover is seen as a way of passing down a legacy. Some of the best loved Grateful Dead songs performed live are old folk and blues songs passed down through the generations. As the Dead tribute bands carry on and play their music, the circle remains unbroken. Then there are the recorded covers, which sometimes eclipse the original artist’s version.

Bob Dylan has covered dozens, maybe hundreds of songs in his career, and he has had his own material covered extensively. Back in the day, bands like the Byrds covered his songs at nearly the same time as Dylan’s own recordings, and had huge commercial success. Some might say their versions of Mr. Tambourine Man, My Back Pages and All I Really Want To Do are more well known than Dylan’s own versions. And the mother of all covers, Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower, is even preferred by Dylan himself.

I’ve got a collection of Dylan covers that I’ll dig into as time goes on. I’ll be focusing on the more obscure tracks, hopefully stuff you’ve never heard before. Bob’s songs are ingrained in my mind; when I hear a cover version, it opens my mind to hearing a song I’ve heard hundreds of times in a different way. And, it has introduced me to some great artists, too.

Dylan Cover #1 – Pink Nasty – It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

Pink Nasty, aka Sara Beck, is an Austin based singer in the vein of Neko Case and Lucinda Williams; folk/country with a sweet-sexy drawl to her voice. She seems to be a favorite of the local Austin music scene, but I'm not sure she's well known outside the southwest. That lurid name could be a problem.... Check out therealpinknasty for other free downloads. Bob's original version is a slow acoustic blues on his 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album. A more rollicking electric version can be found on The Bootleg Series Vols 1-3.

Dylan Cover #2 - The White Stripes - One More Cup of Coffee(Valley Below)

The White Stripes of course need no introduction. This cover has been often featured in their sets, and suits Jack White's guitar style and plaintive vocals nicely. The lyrics, about a dark and mysterious lover, also fit right in the Stripes oeuvre. Bob's original is on the excellent 1975 Desire album, the follow-up to Blood On The Tracks and somewhat overlooked by the mainstream, except for the famous song about Hurricane Carter.

Buy the White Stripes



Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Hendrix's cover of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" as performed at the Montery Pop Festival is, mistakes and all, my very favourite cover ever.

If the Drive-By Truckers ever cover DOA's "Redneck" I may have to rethink that.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

That's a good one, but sloppy. I'd like to hear Dylan cover Jimi; like The Wind Cries Mary....

9:03 AM  
Blogger D.P. said...

What's the source of that Pink Nasty track? Thanx.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

That tune came from fellow Dylan fan via the DylanPool fan site. It came from a EP called Midnight Stain, but I haven't been able to find any info on it.

1:30 PM  

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