single artist cover albums!

This week at work I’m listening to a huge playlist on shuffle; songs rated four or five stars that I haven’t heard in three months. Today, Adam Sandler doing “Werewolves of London” kicked up, and it got me thinking.

I love a good cover song; I have almost a thousand, original artist meticulously noted in the Comments field in iTunes, and while most of those are stand-alones or random live tracks, I’ve got a bunch that came from albums that featured multiple artists covering one single original artist. So I thought I’d make a list of my favorites, in case you’re a nutty about cover songs as I am:

  • Highway 61 Revisited Revisited. Nine artists take on the Dylan classic start to finish. Highlights: American Music Club’s version of “Queen Jane Approximately”, and the Drive-By Truckers cover of “Like A Rolling Stone”, which turned up on their 2009 The Fine Print and is the first committed-to-tape instance of bassist Shonna Tucker singing lead for them.
  • All Aboard: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. Punks, ex-punks, aging punks, and people who are punk-ish, covering the Man in Black. Highlights: the Gaslight Anthem’s version of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, which features Brian Fallon’s raspy heartbreaking voice doing this creepster tune justice, and Chuck Ragan’s full-steam-ahead punk-folk cover of “the Wreck of the Old 97′”.
  • Endless Highway: the Music of the Band. A sprawling, 20-track, hour and thirty four minute trek through the best (and some clunkers) of the Band. Highlights: oddly enough, LeAnn Womack’s plaintive cover of “The Weight”.
  • Enjoy Every Sandwich: the Songs of Warren Zevon. This is the album that originally turned me on to Zevon; I’d never given him much of a thought before I heard other people doing his songs. Highlights: Don Henley’s “Searching for a Heart”, the afore-mentioned Sandler cover of “Werewolves of London”, which is hilariously demented and delightful.
  • Introducing Townes Van Zandt Via The Great Unknown. A fair number of lesser known — or, to me, previously unknown — artists taking on Van Zandt, who had already gotten one album in 2009 (Steve Earle’s excellent Townes. Oh, Townes. Highlights: The Be Good Tanyas’ “Waiting Around To Die”, Christina Kulukundis’ “If I Needed You”, a song I was somehow unaware was a Townes song until this album.

There’s plenty more out there — apparently there’s one that’s the songs of Elvis Costello (Hem covered “Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes” for it, and it’s great) that I’d love to track down eventually. But those, as it stands, those are my favorites out of my collection. And there’s single artist performance, various artists covered discs, too (Jesse Malin’s stunning On Your Sleeve features a cover of the Hold Steady’s “You Can Make Him Like You” which I prefer to the original — which is, in turn, in my top five Hold Steady songs), and stuff like Sun Kil Moon’s great Tiny Cities (all Modest Mouse covers) and Dwight Yoakam’s Dwight Sings Buck (Buck Owens), but there’s something about a bunch of artists coming together to take on one artist they all love that gets to me. It works, and it’s often gorgeous.

What’s your favorite cover song?

Links go to Amazon, although I don’t recommend purchasing the $40 import version of the Dylan album. Or the $143 out of print US version. If you cannot live without it, email me and we’ll talk about other places to get it.

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