From Weezer’s Teal Album to Mercury Rev’s full-length reimagining of Bobbie Gentry’s obscure Delta Sweete, cover albums seem to be everywhere these days. I’m not sure why — maybe it’s just easier to get people to listen to music they’re already sorta familiar with. Or maybe it’s just not worth writing songs anymore now that you need to get about 600 trillion streams to just to buy a hamburger. Whatever’s behind it, I’m not complaining too loud. I love a good cover. Doesn’t matter if it’s a faithful rendition, an out-of-character surprise or a wild stylistic overhaul; as long as it’s interesting and well-done, I’m all in. If you feel the same, here are three recent covers sets that are well worth a spin:
Chatham County Line
Sharing the Covers
Your mileage may vary, but speaking personally, if I have to hear one more faux-bluegrass novelty act ironically convert heavy metal headbangers and classic-rock hits into lickety-split banjo breakdowns, I’m going to storm the stage and jam a fiddle into someone’s f-hole. Luckily for all concerned, you won’t find any of that sardonic hipster crapola on these North Carolina bluegrass vets’ ninth full-length. Instead, you’ll find inspired but respectful mountain music revamps of familiar fare like John Lennon’s Watching the Wheels, The Stones’ The Last Time and Tom Petty’s You Don’t Know How It Feels (which feels particularly suited to Dave Wilson’s nasal drawl). And just to keep things interesting, you also get left-field fare like Beck’s Think I’m In Love and Wilco’s I Got You (At the End of the Century), plus comfort-zoners by the likes o Leo Kottke, John Hartford and The Louvin Brothers. Of course, as usual, everything here is outfitted with tasteful arrangements, impeccable performances and rich, tremendous harmonies. Best of all: There isn’t an AC/DC tune in sight. You’ll want to share this.
Hot 8 Brass Band
It’s probably safe to say that Love Will Tear Us Apart is one of the last songs anyone would expect a New Orleans brass ensemble to tackle. So naturally, the Hot 8 Brass Band enthusiastically kick off this EP with Joy Division’s brooding post-punk classic — converted, naturally, into a glorious celebration complete with raucous gang vocals, jubilant solos, a barking tuba and a bumptious backbeat. For some reason, however, things take a decidedly Jacksonian turn after that, with equally upbeat street-parade versions of Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), Remember the Time and Baby Be Mine, interrupted only by George Benson’s supple Give Me the Night. A little more variety in the set list would have been nice, but bottom line: Even Ian Curtis couldn’t be bummed out listening to this.
Jesus Chrüsler Supercar
Holy Chrüst | Horn Alley Live Session
You gotta serve somebody, Bob Dylan insisted 40 years ago. Even if you’re the self-proclaimed Dirty Death ’n’ Roll hellraisers of Stockholm’s Jesus Chrüsler Supercar (not to be confused with the similarly named Arizona rockers). Appropriately enough, the Swedish bruisers kick off their live-in-the-studio covers EP Holy Chrüst by serving up some Dylan, turbocharging Zimmy’s Time Out of Mind cut Love Sick into a slab of aggressive boogie-rock. The rest of the four-track EP hits closer to home, paying homage to Motörhead’s Overkill, Danzig’s It’s Coming Down and The MC5’s Ramblin’ Rose. Supposedly, each member of the band chose one childhood favourite. Next time they should go for two — at just under 15 minutes, Holy Chrüst speeds by way too fast. No matter what you say.