[Cover Me]: Anna Calvi, Nirvana and Bhi Bhiman

Anna Calvi – ‘Joan of Arc’ (Originally by Leonard Cohen)

If, like me, you are champing at the bit to get your mitts on Anna Calvi’s upcoming album, One Breath, then hopefully this wee gem will help keep you tided over until October. Originally recorded for the Attic Sessions and subsequently released as the B-side to ‘Desire’, Anna’s instrumental reinvention of Leonard Cohen’s own reimagining of Joan of Arc’s death as the love between Joan and the fire that would consume her is a shimmering slice of guitar wizardry. Calvi explains of her version that ‘there are four parts to the instrumental, as there are four verses. After each verse Cohen returns to the same refrain, which he sings a beautiful tune just with “la’s”. After each verse I also return to this melody. I just wanted to capture the story which is so beautifully told, with music.’ As with everything I have heard of Calvi, ‘Joan of Arc’ is spell binding and the fact that she manages to effectively convey purely in notes the emotions that Cohen puts through in words is a testament to her tasteful virtuosity. Roll on 7th October.

Nirvana – ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sun Beam’ (Originally by The Vaselines)

Nirvana’s final album, and best in my opinion, In Utero, is twenty years old this September and is set for a deluxe rerelease, so it seems fitting to put in a cover from their MTV Unplugged show performed two months later. I fell out of love with Nirvana for a long time, but digging out the Unplugged album a couple of years ago reminded me how accomplished their songwriting and melodies were, really indebted to the Beatles as much as punk and alternative rock influences. In the midst of the media shit storm that surrounded Nirvana for the three years after Nevermind broke, it’s really lovely to see them revelling in some of their favourite songs at this performance. The tip of the cap to The Vaselines here is a beautiful moment, where the band all appear to be comfortable and content. From this performance you could be forgiven for imagining at the time of Nirvana’s end that Dave Grohl would go on to start a solo career as a one man band (he simultaneously sings, plays bass and hi-hat on this track), but it would seem he formed Foo Fighters instead. Ah well, I guess we shall never know now what could have been….

Bhi Bhiman – ‘Walk of Life’ (Originally by Dire Straits)

As promised last week, here is a track from Bhi Bhiman’s fantastic covers EP, Substitute Preacher.  In truth, all of the songs on Substitute Preacher are remarkably reimagined (check out ‘Highway to Hell’), holding the same quality as the covers on Johnny Cash’s American Recordings where you cease to have the original version in mind. However, I had to choose just one so I’ve gone with his take on Dire Straits’s ‘Walk of Life’. Never really a Dire Straits favourite of mine, but when I saw Bhiman perform it at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, complete with audience whistling and shouts of ‘Ooh yeah, the boy can play’, I was really taken with it. Bhiman says ‘I knew the song since being a kid, and I’ve always thought of it as Mark Knopfler’s nod to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”. The song really rings true with me because, in a way, its my story too.’ The song is also perfectly complemented by the Buster Keaton compilation video that accompanies it:

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