Breakfast With Thomas: Cover Me Pt. II

Printby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

For Part I, click here.

It’s the second of three total weeks of choosing cover songs for (mostly) Lubbock faithful to cover. After choosing songs for Daniel Markham, Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward, Grady Spencer, Charlie Stout, Thrift Store Cowboys, Tori Vasquez, and Erick Willis indiescapes last week, we’re giving you another 8  songs. Click the giant “click here” above for Part I.

As I said last week:

The key to a great cover isn’t actually choosing the actual cover. Contrary to popular belief, choosing what to cover isn’t the most important part of the process (It’s important, but it’s not the most important. Hear me out.)

The key: Actually having a catalog of songs you’ve personally written. That’s the principle element that makes cover songs enjoyable. Otherwise, a cover song in a string of cover songs doesn’t mean much, does it? 

Though I certainly can’t speak for the majority of live music goers, when I’m attending a show, I’m going for that given person’s songs. I want to hear you. Your songs. And that’s what can often make cover songs most memorable at shows. It’s something that catches them off guard. They came to hear this specific artist and expected to hear this song, this song, this song, and this song. They heard those specific songs. And then they were surprised and delighted to hear this song. It’s a wild-card.

Editor’s Note: We selected songs for the following artists: Josh Abbott, Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards, Danny Cadra, Estelline, Colin Gilmore, William Clark Green, Hogg Maulies, Warren Jackson Hearne & Le Leek Electrique, Benton Leachman, Daniel Markham, Dave Martinez, No Dry County, Kenneth O’Meara, Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward, Rattlesnake Milk, Charlie Shafter, Amanda Shires, Grady Spencer, Charlie Stout, Thrift Store Cowboys, Tori Vasquez, Ronnie Eaton and Erick Willis. We’ll reveal seven artists and songs with each column. I also have had no prior contact with the given artists about doing any of these songs.  

Part Two

9. Estelline
Song: “What Difference Does It Make?”-The Smiths
Odds of Happening: 150: 1 
Surprisability: 5.5
Artist Compatibility: 3.5
Why It’d Work:

It’s strange. The Smiths really have some jangly tunes, especially early on their debut record The Smiths. “What Difference Does It Make?,” “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” “This Charming Man,” and “Hand in Glove” all have that distinct Johnny Marr guitar jangle. If you go to Estelline songs, you’ll find similar folk-country jangle (Check out like “William Jones,” “It’s All Grey,” and “I’m a Monster.”). Morrissey has always had that yodel in his voice as well. While Kenny Harris may be more Hank Williams than Morrissey, they’re both voices that carry distinct, albeit differing characteristics. The way they bend words isn’t like many at all, but somehow, they (Morrissey and Harris) share this quality. What makes “What Difference Does It Make?” such a longshot of being covered is just the mere fact that I’m at a loss of hearing Harris actually ever cover a song. “What Difference Does It Make?” just begs to be done by Harris and company though.

10. No Dry County
Song: “All the Pretty Girls Go to the City”-Spoon 
Odds of Happening: 175:1
Surprisability: 8.0
Artist Compatibility: 6.0
Why It’d Work: 

It certainly helps that Trent Langford of No Dry County is now setting up a keyboard at his shows now. The keyboard parts on “Pretty Girls” isn’t just something that I think you’d like to toss out when doing a cover. they’re kind of crucial–and probably more importantly, really damn good. I’m sure you could go and turn them into a guitar riff, and maybe that’s what they’d do, but I’d opt for the first choice because A) they are good and B) there’s already some really great guitar parts on the song. What I’ve always loved about Spoon has been their crisp and crunchy sound. It’s sharp. While Langford and company are typically more inclined to being rougher, I think they’d be able to pull this off quite nicely. While listening to Britt Daniel sing, the more similarities I saw between him and Langford as well. They both possess a growl in their voice. 

11. Dave Martinez
Song: “Blood Bank” Bon Iver
Odds of Happening: 50:1
Surprisability: 4.0
Artist Compatibility: 7.0
Why It’d Work:

At this point, Dave Martinez is still a one man show. He’s not back by a band that fills in the voids of his songs. Course, that can be a good thing for some songwriters and songs. Others, it’s a complete wreck. They don’t have the songs or voice to carry a person’s attention. Through Justin Vernon’s first two albums, he’s taken us to essentially those two things: a stripped away minimalist album (For Emma, Forever Ago) and a sweeping piece of music that took entire band to create and emote (Bon Iver, Bon Iver). Between those two albums was the EP Blood Bank though. And it seemed to be a transition between the two. “Blood Bank” is really quite up Martinez’ alley. He could certainly strip away some of the extras on the song without it losing all its’ magic. Maybe he could even get his buddy and fellow singer-songwriter David Ramirez to do some backup vocals here and there.

12. Charlie Shafter
Song: “Only Son of the Ladiesman”-Father John Misty
Odds of Happening: 75:1
Surprisability: 6.5
Artist Compatibility: 6.5 
Why It’d Work:

I must say, there’s not been another artist who emerged from 2012 that intrigued me more so than Father John Misty. The artist formally known as J. Tillman did a complete transition into the Father John Misty persona. Misty’s record Fear Fun had this eclectic mix of songs that went all over the place. It was serious and fun at the same time. And to be perfectly honest, I’d be content with Charlie Shafter and company doing any of the 12 songs on Fear Fun. Admittedly, right before writing this, I switched from “Well, You Can Do It Without Me.” With “Ladiesman,” Shafter could take it to places it’s not been before. Seeing it transformed into a stripped away acoustic piece with Shafter giving it the Nebraska treatment. Or probably way more fun would be doing it full band and hearing Starfire throw some mandolin in there. It’d probably also be really chilling to hear him, Daniel Markham, Grady Sandlin, and Eric Tarr give some echoing harmonies. 

13. Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards
Song: “The Passenger”- Iggy Pop
Odds of Happening: 25:1
Surprisability: 6.5
Artist Compatibility: 5.5 
Why It’d Work:

What exactly would Brandon Adams do with “The Passanger?” I’m not really sure to be honest. I’m not even sure how exactly this would work. It was chosen more so out of a gut reaction than anything statically. It’d just be something interesting to see happen. It’s a party song. Adams and company like to party. Why not? Now if he decided to get weird, “Nightclubbing” would be a hell of a trip. We’ll stick with  safer “Passenger” though. Strangely, “The Passenger” almost feels too light of a song for Adams and company to do. They’d probably inject it with some heavier, darker guitar tones.  

14. Benton Leachman
Song: “Lost Cause”-Beck
Odds of Happening: 15:1
Surprisability: 8.5
Artist Compatibility: 2.5
Why It’d Work:

The thing with Benton Leachman is that he’s still a sponge. He’s constantly listening to something he’s never had much interest or exposure to and letting it effect an aspect of his songwriting. If you look at Beck’s career, you would most likely go and say Sea Change is where he’s at his most country–even though it’s obviously not country–it’s still his most country moment. “Lost Cause,” in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful sounding songs. The melody is light, airy, simple, and creates this elegant structure that Beck just fills in with his down and out lyrics of loss and sorrow. It’s very Hank Williams in a way. Leachman would most likely take this tune, like Beck, and keep it simple. Possibly just him at the microphone with guitar hand. And as I was hinting at before, if done correctly, could sound like an old ’50s country tune. Let’s just hope we hear him do it before Darius Rucker gets the idea.

15. Rattlesnake Milk
Song: “Happy House”-Siouxsie and the Banshees
Odds of Happening: 150:1
Surprisability: 7.0
Artist Compatibility:  
Why It’d Work:

John McGeoch’s riff. That’s essentially why it works. Rattlesnake Milk’s Andrew Chavez lives on such riffs. While Chavez and company typically go with guitar tones that channel ’60s surf rock, the proto-punk “Happy House” guitar riff works quite nicely. There’s some keyboards on the original as well, but I’m sure they’d figure out how to incorporate that aspect of the song–which, I think is an important one. It’d also be interesting to see exactly what vocalist Sean Lewis decided to do with the vocals. As he’s said in previous interviews, he likes his vocals drenched in reverb, so it wouldn’t be surprising to hear him go the super heavy route. 

Bonus:

16. K. Phillips & The Concho Pearls
Song: “Psycho Killer”-Talking Heads 
Odds of Happening: 150:1
Surprisability: 7.5
Artist Compatibility: 2.5 
Why It’d Work:

K. Phillips has a way with delivery. I think it’s actually his strongest performance attribute. And “Psycho Killer” has all these lines that need the perfect delivery. Think the “fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa better”  and “Qu’est-ce que c’est.” The beat fits right in with Phillips’ rambling rock tunes. The bassline is just brilliant. It’s thumping and would give something for the band really let loose with while Phillips was up there transforming into the psycho killer. And of course, “Psycho Killer” is one of the most tame songs from the mostly avant-garde new wave ’70s/’80s band. David Byrne has said he was trying to write a song Alice Cooper would do had Randy Newman written it. It’d be brilliant for Phillips. You could actually see him trying to write under the same context as well.

 

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