It’s one thing to simply cover another artist’s song; it’s quite another to re-imagine it in a meaningful way. In that vein we’ve been treated to some mighty fine covers this year. Here are a few of my favorites plus a brilliant selection from the archives .
Stop in the Name of Love, Bob Woodruff (from the Steel Derrick Music release The Year We Tried to Kill the Pain)
Woodruff turns this classic song by the Supremes on its head. Whereas the original is an upbeat and somewhat defiant appeal to a cheating lover, Woodruff’s version is a mournful plea. The transformation is striking.
Little Mascara, Shane Nicholson (from the Universal Music single When the Money’s All Gone)
Australia singer-songwriter Nicholson reshapes this Replacements rocker into a beautiful ballad. An insistent drum track keeps it from becoming maudlin while an otherwise spare arrangement highights the poignant melancholy of the lyrics.
All or Nothin’, Waco Brothers (from the Bloodshot Records release Going Down in History)
Who better to cover one of rock history’s greatest bar bands than, well, one of the genre’s most fervent current practitioners. Dean Schlabowske’s ragged but impassioned vocals, accompanied by his bandmates scruffy harmonies, make for one fist-pumping sing-along.
Money, Eric Ambel (from the self-released Lakeside)
I already shared Ambel’s incredible cover of Gillian Welch’s “Miss Ohio” here but there are more gems to be found on his latest release. Barrett Strong’s ode to income has been covered countless times, most notably by the Beatles. Eric “Roscoe” Ambel unleashes his guitar with glorious results on this electrifying roadhouse version.
Sweet Jane, Willie Nile (from the River House Records/Virtual Label release World War Willie)
Nile pays tribute to the late Lou Reed with a rousing take on a Velvet Underground classic. In Nile’s hands, the song becomes a radiant rocker.
Twisting the Night Away, Nikki Hill (from the Deep Fryed Records release Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists)
Hill and her band slow down the tempo and add a healthy dose of grittiness to this legendary Sam Cooke hit.
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Silver City Bound (from the self-released Take My Picture)
The NYC-based quartet maintain the spirit of the Aretha Franklin original but give it an enticing Cajun feel by adding some winsome harmonies and a wisp of accordion.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
You may never hear TLC’s R&B classic in the same way again once you’ve heard Steve Poltz lay it down folk-singer style.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.