By Paul T. Mueller
Singer-songwriters usually, and understandably, focus on their own songs when performing. But many also perform songs they didn’t write, especially in a festival setting, where the audience tends to appreciate the different perspectives artists can bring to others’ work. The recently concluded Cayamo 2017 cruise, a singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea, featured many excellent cover performances.
Leaving aside shows that by definition were pretty much all covers (a tribute to the late Guy Clark, for instance), here’s a sampling (in no special order and by no means comprehensive) of artists’ takes on songs written by or usually associated with other artists.
- Parker Millsap, “You Gotta Move” (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
- Brandi Carlile, “Going to California” (Led Zeppelin)
- Patty Griffin and Aaron Lee Tasjan, “Insider” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
- Richard Thompson and Rufus Wainwright, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (Sandy Denny)
- Christian Lopez Band, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (The Beatles)
- Bonnie Bishop, “Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers Band)
- American Aquarium “Spanish Pipedream” (John Prine)
- Aoife O’Donovan, “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith)
- Steve Earle, “Rex’s Blues” (Townes Van Zandt)
- Ruby Amanfu, “I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
- Gretchen Peters, “Guadalupe” (Tom Russell)
- Sarah Jarosz, “Come On Up to the House” (Tom Waits)
- Gurf Morlix, “The Parting Glass” (Traditional)
- Sarah Potenza, “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
- Patty Griffin, “Where or When” (Rodgers and Hart)
For lack of a better title, the “Repeat Offender Award” (no offense) goes to the Christian Lopez Band, which, in addition to covering the Beatles, performed Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons,” Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” Steve Fromholz’s “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” and Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” Let it be noted that A) they did a fine job on all of these, and B) their original material was also excellent.
The “Reverse Cover Award” goes to Steve Earle, who introduced his own “Galway Girl” by predicting that 100 years from now, people in Ireland will still be singing the song, but will be insisting that it was written by an Irishman.