Well it’s official, Mr. Blotto is the first member of the Cover Wars Hall of Fame. They have won back-to-back weeks including both last week’s Houses of The Holy edition and the week before with Pinball Wizard.
Sure, maybe it’s the same guy that keeps voting over and over again with different IP addresses, but I don’t care! Umphrey’s McGee is likely headed to the CW HOF, as well, as they were the only other entry to give Mr. Blotto a run for their money last week. While it’s clear that voting is just a popularity contest, it’s my opinion that these two artists did have the best covers last week. Many of our readers pointed out that I omitted Gov’t Mule from the running, as they have covered the entire album. Surely, we’ll make it up to Mule fans with a review of the official release when it comes out.
As always, I want you listening to the whole track and not just 30 seconds of it, so you need to register/login to Imeem first.
On to this week, and the second edition of Cover [Album] Wars, we’ve got Neil Young’s second solo disc Everybody Knows this is Nowhere. This is Neil’s first solo album and his first with Crazy Horse as his backing band. Fun fact about Neil’s songwriting lifted from the Decade liner notes, I’ll transcribe this chicken scratch the best I can:
READ ON to check out the specs on this week’s contestants…
Down By The River: Wrote this the same day as ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’. Lying in bed sweating with scraps of paper covering the bed. On the cuts that made around this time, Crazy Horse had only been together for two weeks. This was the last album I overdubbed lead vocals on. I remember Crazy Horse like Roy Orbison remembered “Leah” and “Blue Bayou”.
Cowgirl In The Sand: Wrote this with 103 fever in bed in Tapanga. Long live Crazy Horse.
I don’t understand what that Roy Orbison reference means…if anybody gets it, please let me know.
Cinnamon Girl (Toad The Wet Sprocket): The recording of the band may not be the best, but the vocals come shining through. Sure I could have selected Phish, Umphrey’s or The Breakfast, but wanted to mix things up and bring you some different bands, so here’s a lil’ early ’90s rock band for ‘ya. Check out the whole show on The Archive
From the Decade liner notes:
“Wrote this for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me thru Phil Ochs eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife.”
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Yonder Mountain String Band): YMSB brings a string band arrangement of the title track this week. These guys tastefully stretch this one out to a 5-minute song, doubling it’s original length on the album. Check out the whole show on The Archive
Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long) (The Mother Hips): So, when I decided to switch up Cover Wars formats and make this an album thing instead of all different versions of the same song, I thought it would be easy to find albums where different artists had covered each track…IT’S NOT! Tried to do about 10 different albums this week before I could do this one, and my saving grace was this band. Thankfully they covered the entire thing, so I could use them for the more obscure tracks. They are going to appear again later in this edition, but let me just say, they NAIL this whole album start to finish. While this column may be time-consuming, and I may get yelled at by some Gov’t Mule fans, it’s worth it when I discover stuff like this. You must check out their cover of this album start to finish, it’s got strong vocals and fantastic arrangements both electric and acoustic. I say it a lot, but CHECK THIS OUT ON THE ARCHIVE
Down by the River (Strangefolk): I saw Reid Genauer’s solo set on Saturday at Harper’s Ferry and was reassured that he is truly one of the best screamers of our generation. On first listen I wasn’t going to select this track ’cause they only sing one verse, but then Jon Trafton reminded me he can rip with the best of them, so I kept it. This actually comes in the middle of a Strangefolk tune called So Far Gone, check out the whole show on The Archive to find the track in its entirety.
Neil explained a little bit about the song during a show in 1984:
I’d like to sing you a song about a guy who had a lot of trouble controlling himself. He let the dark side side come thru a little too bright.
One afternoon he took a little stroll down thru a field and thru a forest, ’til he could hear the water running along there. And he met his woman down there. And he told her she’d been cheatin’ on him one too many times. And he reached down in his pocket and he pulled a little revolver out. Said “honey I hate to do this but you pushed me too far”.
By the time he got back to town he knew he had to answer to somebody pretty quick. He went back to his house and he sat down on his front porch. About two hours later the sheriff’s car pulled up out front. It started sinkin’ in on him what he’d done. The sheriff walked up the sidewalk, he said “come with me son, I want to ask you a few questions”.
As he heard the jail door shut behind him he sat down on a little wooden bench. And he looked out of the door – thru those bars – at this kind of wimpy looking sheriff out there. He started getting mad again and he realized what he had done.
There wasn’t nothing he could do about it now though. He just sat down and put his head down and he started thinking to himself “I’m all by myself here, there’s nobody on my side…..”
I did not select the version from Farm Aid 1998 where Neil joined Phish for this tune, ’cause knowing this crowd nobody else would have gotten any votes. In case you didn’t know, this entire bad boy is up on YouTube in all it’s Languedoc glory. I recommend watching the whole thing. If you’re a fan of the 5 guys on stage it is sure to brighten up your day, even if the song is seriously dark.
The Losing End (When You’re On) (Frog Holler): A lot of these songs lend themselves to folky/bluegrass arrangements as is well illustrated here. Frog Holler is another band I had not heard of before, the harmonies remind me of a band that I love – The Jayhawks.
Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets) (The Mother Hips): Ladies and Gentleman: Once again, my lifesaver, The Mother Hips! I know this blog has some serious Chicago readership, so go check these guys out when they roll into Schuba’s and request track after track from this album! Well, maybe not, I don’t know if they still play any of them…they should though.
Cowgirl in the Sand (Sean Kelly of The Samples): This is my Dad’s favorite song of all time, and though I wanted to pick a serious rocker for this song, this gem I found from a Samples show could not be overlooked. Though it took place during a Samples show, this track is just Sean Kelly and his guitar. He’s got some great effects on his guitar that make it sound sitar-like at times, and his voice is perfect for the material. Check out the whole show on The Archive
Here’s some great words from Neil regarding the playing of his backup band on the album track that he shares with Uncut Magazine, December ’04:
“Nobody played guitar with me like that. That rhythm, when you listen to “Cowgirl In the Sand” he [Danny] keeps changing. Billy and Ralph will get into a groove and everything will be going along and all of a sudden Danny’ll start doing something else. He just led those guys from one groove to another, all within the same groove.
So when I played those long guitar solos, it seemed like they weren’t all that long, that I was making all these changes, when in reality what was changing was not one thing but the whole band. Danny was the key. A really great second guitar player, the perfect counterpoint to everything else that was happening.”
So that’s what we’ve got this week. Place your vote below, but remember this: The Mother Hips have no strong feelings on the Gas Tax Holiday.
Before I go, I’d like to thank the fansite Thrasher’s Wheat for a lot of the Neil quotes and info.
A few videos:
Neil solo acoustic Cowgirl Massey Hall 1971:
A scary looking Neil performs Cinnamon Girl with full band:
CSNY does Down By The River:
Uncle Tupelo’s Down By The River in 1987!