[Cover Me]: PJ Harvey, Iron & Wine with Calexico and Bon Iver

PJ Harvey – Highway ’61 Revisited (Originally by Bob Dylan)

Congratulations are in order to PJ Harvey for winning the Mercury Prize last night for Let England Shake. PJ Harvey’s albums have littered the Mercury Prize shortlists over the years and it’s been ten years since she first won the award in 2001 for Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, making her the first artist to win the award more than once. In recognition of this it seems only fitting to post Harvey’s cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Highway ’61 Revisited’ which featured on her second album Rid of Me in 1993. Dylan’s desperate blues shuffle becomes a feverish and filthy juggernaut in Harvey’s voice, laying waste to the characters that populate the song. Beginning with Harvey’s muted rhythm guitar and her delicate vocals the song soon erupts with distorted guitar mangling and Rob Ellis’ cacophonous drumming while Harvey’s vocals turn into the whooping of a bird of ill omen. Proof that throughout Harvey’s career she has always had the power to captivate. And still does.

Iron & Wine with Calexico – Wild Horses (Originally by The Rolling Stones)

Sam Beam undoubtedly has one of the most distinctive and gentle singing voices and whatever he sings will always come out in his own hushed style. So though this live session from the In The Reins tour is close to the Stones’ original, Sam’s whispering delivery still keeps things sounding fresh. In fact with American and Mexican folk influenced band Calexico performing this cowboy song of camaraderie with Beam on vocals, a certain level of authenticity is brought in. Coming from musicians who have spent their careers traipsing the American plains, ‘Wild Horses’ sounds truer than ever.

Bon Iver – Bonnie Hathaway (Donny Hathaway/Bonnie Raitt medley)

It’s no secret that Justin Vernon has the heart and soul of an old fashioned crooner, as exhibited by his appearance on the Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble’s release A Decade With Duke performing, amongst his own material, jazz standards such as Duke Ellington’s ‘Rocks in My Bed’ and Nina SImone’s ‘Since I Fell For You‘. In what sounds like an ‘off the clock’ moment in the studio, Vernon lays into a soulful and sublime medley of the Donny Hathaway song ‘A Song For You’ and Bonnie Raitt song ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. Accompanied by gentle and plaintive piano, once again Vernon’s vocals soar and express infinite emotional depth. I realise with recent articles on ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir‘ and ‘Bon IverTSAR has been a tad Bon Iver heavy of late, but it’s odd throwaway moments like this which bring home just what a treasured artist we have in Justin Vernon.


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