It is now with a great deal of amused surprise that I see that the cycle is coming around. Perhaps I just didn't pay attention when Garth Brooks was doing this many years ago by remaking Billy Joel songs, but he definitely has brought on a pack with him. As country has found a rougher, rockier edge what used to pass for rock is being swallowed whole by lyrics-defeatist rap or over-sampled dance acts. To be honest it's depressing when you think about it...if a great band such as The Kinks were to drop in on the music scene now, they most likely would never get a recording contract, let alone any airplay (and they had a hard enough time doing that very thing, anyway). So while Garth apes Billy, Travis Tritt vocalizes The Eagles, and Merle Haggard redoes the classical standard (the latter album, "Unforgettable" by The Hag HIGHLY recommended, by the way), I also bring out two of my best contenders for Country Goes Pop this week. Will the circle be unbroken, indeed.
The first is what has been recently done and attempted by country stud du jour Tim McGraw, a wonderful song called "When The Stars Go Blue". I have listened to both versions, and as much as I would like to support Mr Faith, I feel I just have to go with the original and much better version, a duet featuring The Corrs and U2 frontman Bono. While this song was originally done by them as part of a fundraiser, the clip below is them performing it live last year for Live 8.
All clips featured below are from YouTube, as I always do here.
There's an interesting article about "Hurt" here (from Wikipedia). I hate to say it, but I think Reznor's (lead singer and songwriter of NIN) right when he says the song is 'not mine anymore'. Mr Cash blew the thing out of the water, and what he didn't achieve vocally, he more than did so in the video. Of all the images I carry with me from The Man in Black (and I grew up listening and singing to his songs like millions have and still do), it is perhaps these last images from the video, with his beloved June Carter overlooking him as his Guardian Angel...this frail, frail man with a voice still capable of human thunder, just months before his untimely death.
These two choices also offer a great contrast in emotion: The Corrs/Bono contribution is one of hopefulness and imagination (especially in consideration of the event of which it was performed), while Cash's work is one of sadness yet resolve at his impending mortality. Honestly, I can't decide which I like more, for I love what both are trying so desperately to tell me.
And, on a much lighter note, something that proves that all this divergence and co-mingling can have its detrimental effects if not properly done: former Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth has recorded bluegrass versions of his glorious Van Halen heavy metal classics for a new album called "Strummin' With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen". I shudder to think of "Jamie's Cryin'" with a mandolin or any version of "Jump" for that matter (the latter being the song that most true Van Halen fans signal as the beginning of the end for this once great band). For real, not as a joke, people. (Actually, I'm horrified yet strangely intrigued at the same time.)