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Choosing cover tunes (#1275)

Topics/tags: Music, rambly, unedited

I’m fortunate to have a pair of friends who are great musicians [1]. Danika has a great, soulful voice. I keep saying that she’d sound great singing the white pages [2,3]. And Jeb his a firey guitar player. When Michelle and I were living apart, we had remote dates during their StageIt shows. We’ve been privileged to have them play at our house and to visit them at theirs.

Every few months, Danika and (the) Jeb do a new covers show. I love their covers because they spend a lot of time preparing each song [4] and really make them their own. If I understand, the covers they did a few years ago were generally songs the chose to cover. These days, they invite friends and fans to request covers a few weeks [6] in advance of the show. We usually end up with two sets of ten songs a piece.

It’s fun to hear/see what people choose. Some go for songs similar to ones Danka and (the) Jeb have performed in the past. For example, they do a great version of Take it Easy. Some go for popular songs (or semi-popular songs) that they think it would be fun to hear the pair do. I recall, for example, a Cars song at their last new covers show. Some go for slightly (or significantly) less famous songs as a way to introduce friends. Does the Wilco/Billy Bragg California Stars count under that category? I’m not sure. Some try to get Danika or Jeb to push their boundaries. For example, Skylark was a recent choice.

Michelle and I have accumulated a few song choices. At the last new covers show, we got Danika and (the) Jeb to do Jonathan Richman’s Not Yet Three and Dave Alvin’s Harlan County Line. Both challenged Danika to consider how to sing songs by nontraditional vocalists. The latter really let Jeb rock out on guitar. Before that, Michelle had requested Lowen and Navarro’s Legacy, which, from my perspective, fits both in genres like Danika and (the) Jeb do and songs that more people should know. Of course, Michelle chose it for other reasons.

We’re now considering what songs to request for the next show. We’re not supposed to tell people what our choices are, but I figure it’s okay to muse about a larger set of songs.

Part of me wants to hear Danika sing some vocal classics, both new and old. Both Michelle and I love the song Fever, although Michelle prefer’s the Little Willie John original and I prefer the Julie London version. Perhaps that makes sense. My Funny Valentine would be awesome, although I can’t imagine any vocalist reaching the wonder of Ella Fitzgerald’s version. And speaking of Julie London, Cry Me A River would be awesome.

Part of me wants to find a song that lets us hear more of Jeb’s guitar playing, although perhaps in a slightly different mode or genre. Should I choose the Who’s I Can See for Miles?. Is that song the same without the chaos of Keith Moon’s drums? That song would also be good for their anti-valentine’s show. And imagining Jeb treating his guitars like Pete Townshend treated his is, um, amusing. I also love Jeb’s extended solos on their covers of, say, The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. Can Jeb do the dual guitars of Whipping Post or some other Duane-era Allman brothers? Both would also represent a somewhat different use of Danika’s voice.

I think we’ve joked about them doing the full version of Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Aerosmith’s Dream On. While I like those songs, I’m not sure that it’s worth spending one of our choices on them. I love the guitar part in The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running, not least because it gets incorporated in The Loomers’ Television.

I enjoy Danika and (the) Jeb’s soul covers. Would it be asking for some soul or Motown? Most such songs have a great guitar part and awesome vocal lines. There are so many options. The Pointer Sisters’ Yes We Can Can? The Spinners’ I’ll Be Around? Probably not The Temptations’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone, even though it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.

What about less famous bands that I enjoy? Perhaps something by The Del Lords? Top Ten (rip) and Eric Ambel are great guitar players. But my favorite Del Lords song, Judas Kiss, really benefis from the harmony vocals. A bit of power pop?The Hoodoo Gurus’ I Want You Back often makes it to my mix tapes as does The Plimsouls’ A Million Miles Away. The dB’s’ Amplifier might be appropriate, but it’s a bit dismal.

What about some of the albums that lived in Michelle and my cars back before we moved to Iowa? We spent a lot of time listening to early Michelle Shocked, Gregson and Collister’s Love is a Strange Hotel (all covers, I suppose), Lowen and Navarro’s Walking on a Wire (we chose Legacy by the duo already), various Joe Ely albums, the Bad Examples, Jon Svetkey, and, um, I forget what else was on our normal playlist. I’ll need to check with Michelle. I’m not sure Michelle Shocked would work; the guitar bits are not much for Jeb to work with and while I love songs like Anchorage, I don’t know that they’d benefit from the D&tJ treatment. And The L&M Don’t Stop Here Anymore, which is another fave, is already a cover. Some Joe Ely songs could be fun. Perhaps Fools Fall in Love. Or the Flatlanders’ West Texas Waltz, since some of the Danika and (the) Jeb fanily are in West Texas [7]. What about The Bad Examples? Not Dead Yet and Hey Saint Peter could be a lot of fun. I should ask Michelle [8].

The more I write, the more songs come to mind. How about Kisses Sweeter Than Wine? Never Tell an Angel by The Stompers. The Pousette-Dart Band’s Amnesia, which seems strangely appropriate for Danika [9]. That reminds me that we also used to listen to Poi Dog Pondering, although I’m not sure why I made the connection. U-Li-La-Lu could be fun.

Did we listen to Ferron while driving? I know I did. Ain’t Life a Brook is such an amazing song. It’s definitely not a blistering guitar line, but Jeb could do some fun fingerpicking. And, boy, do I love that song.

Okay. It’s time to stop. Perhaps I need to spend time making mix tapes again. I certainly haven’t succeeded in narrowing my choices. Maybe I’ll let Michelle choose instead.

What will we choose? I suppose you’ll find out if you go to D&tJ’s next covers show, whenever that is.

Postscript: This musing needed some updates.

  • All I’d remembered from Amplifier was the lines She’d taken everything … she left his amplifier, which is kind of funny. But it’s a depressing song.
  • Somehow, I misspelled Jon Svetkey’s first name.
  • I misidentified what Lowen & Navarro album Legacy is on.

There are probably other issues to address, but those were the first few.

[1] Or is it a pair of great musicians who are also friends?

[2] Is there still a white pages?

[3] I know, they said that about someone else. Maybe Ella? But Ella might have scat the yellow pages. Or is that scatted?

[4] Jeb is somewhat intense about arranging music [5].

[5] Is that an understatement?

[6] Months?

[7] Michelle and I saw Joe Ely and Butch Hancock at Fitzgeralds’ way too many years ago. I still remember them both trying to take the lead on each verse.

[8] Better yet, she’ll read this and give me an answer.

[9] I can make fun of friends, right? [10]

[10] Danika: You should always feel free to joke back.

Version 1.0 released 2024-02-28.

Version 1.1 of 2024-03-01.