Under The Covers

An intriguing title, I think. But I’m afraid I might be about to disappoint you (at least I didn’t put ‘bed’ or ‘sex’ in the tags for this piece!). Look at the tag line for my blog: yes, this one is about music, and specifically cover versions of songs.

As you may have noticed, I’m given to recycling older posts that I think may well have slipped under the radar with current readers, who wouldn’t have been following this blog way back when. I use an app called Timehop, which is great at reminding me of post anniversaries. Recently it has given me Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma which originates from November 2015 and shared some of my favourite parody versions of songs. That year was the second, following on from 2014, when I took part in National Blog Posting Month – aka #NaBloPoMo – and committed myself to posting every day in November. As you can imagine, that was hard for an irregular blogger like me, and I decided that twice was more than enough!

If you followed the link to that older post you’ll see that it includes a reference to a piece the previous week, Shake It Off when I’d written about cover versions of songs, and how people can make them their own. Recently I’ve found myself listening on YouTube to a lot of cover versions of some of my favourite songs and I thought I’d share some of these obscurities with you. Many of the covers posted on YouTube are what I’d call vanity projects, where the enthusiasm of the performers isn’t matched by talent, but I’ve found some notable exceptions. There’s no pattern to this – just a selection displaying real talent. In each case I’ll give you the original and then the cover, so that you can make up your own mind.

One of my long time favourite bands is Crosby Stills and Nash (plus Young, when he joined in). Their back catalogue is full of gems, amongst which is this one, which displays their harmonies to full effect:

YouTube suggests videos for you to watch, based on your previous viewing, and that is how I came across this cover version of the song. Stripped down, it shows off its full beauty. I was intrigued to find out more about this, and it turns out that this is a mother, Kappa Danielson, and her daughters Emma, on fiddle, and Halie on mandolin. This dates back nine years, and there are many others from the family since then which show how the two girls have developed their musical talents over the years. Kappa herself made an album in 2010, If I Let Go, and it’s as lovely as you would expect having seen this video: I’m sure you’ll be as impressed with this performance as I was. I’ve watched it many times!

Not knowing how Google works its alchemy with the algorithms for YouTube, I don’t know if it was pure coincidence that they have also suggested another band with a family connection. The many videos of a band called Foxes and Fossils are on the YouTube channel of a guy called Tim Purcell, who features as singer, guitarist and keyboard player. The ‘Fossils’ are Tim and some other gentlemen of a similar age, whilst the ‘Foxes’ are his daughter Sammie and (initially) Maggie Adams, though she has since moved on and been replaced by Chase Truran. When the band started out, Sammie and Maggie were just 15 – as was Chase when she joined. Their videos have clearly gone through some post-production but they all sound amazing and very professional, with great singing and musicianship. There is a lot of talent on display here, but if you search for them you will probably wonder, as do I, why they often seemed to be playing in car parks! Keeping with the CS&N theme, this is the opening track – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes from their eponymous debut album:

As that is over seven minutes long you wouldn’t expect a semi-pro covers band to take it on, but Foxes and Fossils did:

Remember that the two girls are 15 in that performance: I think it’s amazing!

To show that both groups don’t just cover CS&N, I’m sharing another video by each of them. Firstly, this one by Kappa and her girls. This is from two years ago, and shows how much our children grow up in seven years! It’s also beautiful:

And now this one, by Foxes and Fossils, who have recently got back together again and have posted a couple of new ones, featuring all three of the Foxes:

There’s a lot of rubbish on YouTube, but I’m always pleasantly surprised to come across hidden gems like these. You should try it sometime: I’d be interested to know what you find. You could do a lot worse than visiting the two previous posts I linked above – plenty more to enjoy there 😊

#SaturdaySongs No.13 – Teach Your Children

Just when you thought I might never do another #SaturdaySongs post – it is only seven months since the last one, after all – here’s a brand new one for you. Following on from my previous post, I Hope You Dance, this is also on the theme of families and how they develop through the generations.

If, like me, you watch a lot of music videos on YouTube, you’ve probably followed links to some of their recommendations for you. This one was in mine the other day, from a band I’ve loved ever since their first album all the way back in 1969. This song was actually on their second album, Dejà Vu, by which time they had morphed from being CS&N to CSN&Y, though Neil doesn’t feature much on the original version – it is very much a Graham Nash song:

If you Google the song and follow the various links to sites on which people share their interpretations of songs you will find some weird and wonderful stuff. For me, though, this has always been about how our experiences shape us, how we pass that on as we bring up our children, and how they in turn teach us some lessons about life. In other words, it is about the cyclical nature of life’s experience and how it is interwoven into us, and between us and the ones we love. Given that I became a grandfather just over a fortnight ago, you can probably see why this song says so much to me right now – although, to be fair, it has always seemed to me to be much more profound than it might at first appear. The version I shared is a simple acoustic one, just the three guys with guitars and their amazing harmonies. You may have spotted that the signature sound of the original recording – the pedal steel guitar played by the late, great Jerry Garcia (of a little band called the Grateful Dead) – wasn’t part of that live show. I missed hearing it the first time I played the video – it was, after all, part of the reason for the song being a huge hit single – but I think this stripped-down version really brings home the beauty and the meaning of the song.

One of the hallmarks of a good song is the number of cover versions it inspires, and in particular how closely those covers adhere to the original. Fellow musicians know a good tune when they hear one, although there have been many amazing covers which have completely changed the feel of a song: Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends comes to mind – but not Disturbed’s total massacre of The Sound Of Silence! Most of the many cover versions of Teach Your Children are faithful to the original, including the use of the pedal steel. As it is, at heart, a country song, it isn’t surprising that many in that field have covered it. Here’s a lovely version from three of my favourite country musicians:

I think the female harmonies really do the song justice, and it kind of becomes their song while they play it. And on a side note, it’s good to see a former American President singing along – I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t happen now, as the clown in chief doesn’t even know the words to God Bless America, yet claims to be the biggest, most beautiful patriot! Maybe I should exclude him from any analysis of this song, though, as his children aren’t exactly role models, and he himself has been quoted as saying ‘Growing up, I hardly ever saw my father and it hasn’t done me any harm.’ Yeah, right. Never was the inherent truth of Graham Nash’s song so perfectly demonstrated!

There is also this performance, which links the two previous ones. It’s not often that you get to sing a song with the guy who wrote it, and this is another great version, and a lovely video too:

To bring this full circle (before I share every YouTube video I can find!) I’m closing with one more, perhaps the most appropriate of all. Think about the meaning of the song as you watch this video – my guess is that you may have a tear in your eye by the end:

Who needs a pedal steel guitar anyway? The beauty lies in the simplicity, as it does in the acoustic CS&N performance above. I hope those kids are encouraged to learn what the song is about, as they represent our future and will be the ones who put its values into place in their own lives and those of future generations. As Graham Nash has said: ‘I wrote ‘Teach Your Children’ and we have a lot to learn from our kids. We have a lot to teach them, but we do have a lot to learn from our children.’

Teach your children well….and know they love you.