Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock n' Roll

My friend Josh is one of the sharpest experts I know on film, literature, music and sports. He recently lent me Tina Fey's Bossypants, which I liked enough to pick up for a birthday present later that week. In thanks, I'm returning his book with a mix CD.

Josh is a vault of music knowledge, especially in all things country. He once ran a radio show of country music covers of non-country songs and vice versa, so this mix  is based on that idea. Making a country-themed CD for Josh is like trying to impress TourĂ© with your hip-hop expertise. In other words, a challenge I couldn't resist.

A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock n' Roll
  1. Paul Westerberg, "Dyslexic Heart"
  2. Madonna, "Don't Tell Me"
  3. James Hetfield, "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand"
  4. Social Distortion, "Making Believe"
  5. Dolly Parton, "Shine"
  6. The Rolling Stones, "Country Honk"
  7. Sam Cooke, "Tennessee Waltz"
  8. Willie Nelson, "Midnight Rider"
  9. Led Zeppelin, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"
  10. Johnny Cash, "Rusty Cage"
  11. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins, "Handle with Care"
  12. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "The Singer"
  13. Mark Kozelek, "Up to My Neck in You"
  14. Bob Dylan & Ralph Stanley, "The Lonesome River"
  15. Jerry Lee Lewis, "Jambalaya"
  16. Wendy & Lemmy, "Stand by Your Man"
  17. Dead Kennedys, "Rawhide"
  18. Ray Charles, "Hey Good Lookin'"
  19. Ryan Adams, "Down in a Hole"
  20. Neil Young, "Oh, Lonesome Me"
  21. Rod Stewart, "(Find a) Reason to Believe"
  22. Mick Jagger & the Chieftains, "The Long Black Veil"
Two country-tinged openers that I vaguely remember Josh liking lead into 20 covers with country and rock n' roll elements.

Being limited in my country knowledge, I primarily stuck with renderings of heavyweights like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. With that in mind, I tried to be a little more left-field. Social Distortion show up with their Kitty Wells cover, rather than their likable but overplayed take on "Ring of Fire." Johnny Cash's invigorating Soundgarden cover takes the place of the beautiful but exhausting "Hurt." Any number of Bob Dylan songs could have landed here, but I picked his lovely, lesser-known collaboration with Ralph Stanley.

Any country/rock mix needs to showcase some of rock's pioneers. Hearing Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson seamlessly blend country, rock and R&B into their tracks still amazes me, especially considering how new the genres were and how terrible every attempted country/rock/pop/R&B crossover is these days.

Some of these covers give me a chance to enjoy artists that I don't normally listen to. I'm not crazy about Ryan Adams, Wendy O. Williams or the Chieftains, but I love the verve that each of them show for their songs here, plus their nerve for drastically reworking the originals. Rod Stewart's cover of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" is doubly heartbreaking when considering both Rod's delivery and his almost instantly squandered talent. On the opposite end, the Dolly Parton and Led Zeppelin covers let me appreciate songs that I don't have much interest in otherwise--who knew that Collective Soul and Joan Baez had it in them?

Mark Kozelek's delicate reading of an underloved AC/DC song comes from an admirable album of acoustic AC/DC covers, and James Hetfield's race through a Waylon Jennings standard actually makes me pine for Metallica solo albums. Both of those songs will come in handy when I finally get a country-metal mix together.

Thanks for the lend, Josh! Enjoy the tunes.


Anonymous said...

Ugh, this sounds great. I have promptly made a playlist. Parfait!

Ben Apatoff said...

I want to hear it!