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by Robert Dean
I think about cover tunes a lot. When a band decides to do a cover on a compilation record or add it to their live show, there’s a lot at stake. Is the band going to do the song straight up? Are they going to take some artistic liberties? Is the song the right choice for the band? There’s a lot to consider when playing someone else’s tune.
What got me thinking about this list was imagining if some of my favorite artists covered songs that in my head worked in concert with their existing sound and style. Cuz, let’s face it; there’s many times when a band picks a cover tune, and it’s complete trash. I’m constantly wondering what a band would sound like if they just tried this song, this one jam.
Maybe I’m nuts, but here are my top songs I think artists should be covering right now:
Don’t Mess Around With Jim – Jim Croce, as covered by JD McPherson
There’s a familiar cadence of the groove between this tune and what JD continually pumps out. The breezy verses seem almost too perfect for McPherson’s solid rock and roll swagger. With the head bobbing tempo and slick feel, there’s so much soul and pure filth underneath this song, that JD McPherson could pull it out in spades. Plus, there’s a third verse riff where it’s just vocals and a super in the pocket drum beat that JD would be all over with that big, bright voice.
Remedy – The Black Crowes, as covered by Every Time I Die
Remedy is one of The Black Crowes sleaziest, blues-soaked tunes. There’s a sense of inherent vice and slick danger to this song. It’s full, breathy and is so slinky and over the top. Every Time I Die have recently been more of a metal band with a few mutated classic rock riffs thrown in, but should they ever wanna flex those muscles they were in the Hot Damn! Era, Remedy would be a great vocal fit, but also be a solid sing-along tune in respect to the chaos of their live shows. Because Every Time I Die have the musical chops to pull off a song like this, I feel like their ownership would be astounding.
Breathe – Pink Floyd, as covered by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Now, this one might sound weird, but hear me out. Jason Isbell’s guitar playing is silky smooth. The backbone to Pink Floyd’s signature era was David Gilmour’s Stratocaster taking humans to new planets. Isbell is a songwriter, but he’s got some chops, too. Plus, The 400 Unit are quite the band, musically speaking. Coupled with Isbell’s ability to pour himself out and bring out those inner demons, he could harness something akin to the sounds of Dark Side Pink Floyd. When you think about it, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. If you need further proof, listen to Isbell’s biggest bummer ever, When We Were Vampires – if you don’t hear lament and slow, steady blues, something is off with your ears.
Refugee – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, as covered by Lucero
Lucero has a back catalog of a million songs. Most of which, Ben Nichols can draw up from the well in an instant mentally. But, one in a while, Lucero will break out their cover of Jawbreaker’s Kiss The Bottle. But, as the band gets older and establishes a much more weighted in purist rock and roll sound, Refugee is a tune that fits Nichols swagger, but also works with how the band works as a cohesive unit. That wide open riff matched with the song’s signature call and response works well considering Lucero’s On My Way Downtown isn’t too far off style-wise.
They did cover "American Girl" already: ~Trailer
Magic Man – Heart, as covered by Nikki Lane
There’s something low-key magical about Nikki Lane. She is sultry without putting it on front street. She could deliver on Ann Wilson’s vocal runs. Songs like Highway Queen aren’t too thematically different than the Heart catalog. This one feels like a natural fit.
Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters, as covered by Chris Stapleton
Another odd choice, but it works when you think about it. Chris Stapleton has a gigantic, powerful voice. What’s the most memorable thing about Mannish Boy? It’s the riff and Muddy’s ownership of the room, challenging all comers to step to his vocal prowess. Stapleton could master that song as long as he kept it true to it’s roots and go country.
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) – The Rolling Stones, as covered by Jack White
If there’s anyone who can handle the instrumentation concerning the original sound and spirit, it’s Jack White. He’s already jammed Loving Cup with The Stones, so seeing him tackle one of their lesser known, but die-hard fan hit songs would be a perfect match. He’s got the gear, the ability to play all of Keith Richards riffs and he’s a complete purist who’d relish trying to offer that same fierce spirit that the original Goats Head Soup warrants.
I Never Loved a Man That Way That I Loved You – Aretha Franklin, as covered by Lady Gaga
Look, Lady Gaga is one of the three best singers in pop music. That’s not even up for debate. It’s her, Beyonce and Adele. Yes, I’m aware there are other badass singers with a serious set of pipes. But, I’d like to see anyone else take the Pepsi Challenge on nailing such a soulful icon track. (If there’s someone you think could wreck shop on this one, shout it out: @Robert_Dean, I wanna know.)
Anyhow, one of the best songs of all time. I’d love to see a killer vocalist take the track on and show off their skills.
I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home – Grand Funk Railroad, as covered by Margo Price
Here’s the wild card. Margo Price is a beast. She’s so talented it’s unreal. If there was anyone who could destroy the all-time jam, it’s Margo Price. Her band is insane and just so tight. When she did those Prairie Home Companion with Jack White we saw a layered, classic Margo Price that could straight murder harmonies and let’s face it. She would wreck shop on this tune. Someone send her people an email. This one would be dope.
Agree or disagree, tweet us or leave a comment. What are your dream covers? We want to know.