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‘cover story’ | five best Springsteen covers

bruce springsteen cover songs

Bruce Springsteen is a songwriting and performing legend. his songs bleed working class New Jersey. when i was young, my mom loved Springsteen’s The River and Born in the USA. at the time, i just thought it was “mom music”. after developing an appreciation for Americana and Roots music, i rediscovered ‘The Boss’. the first song i really paid attention to was “Thunder Road”. Springsteen has a seemingly effortless songwriting voice, and his expression of setting is almost magical. lovely, lovely sad songs with an undeniable underlying strength in his characters, no matter how tragic their stories.

Camera Obscura “Tougher Than the Rest”

Camera Obscura performs “Tougher Than the Rest” very much in their own way, but its tempo falls somewhere between the original and Emmylou Harris‘ cover, making a sweet blend of Americana, Country Folk and Scot Pop. this is the B-side of one of my favourite Camera Obscura tunes, “Sweetest Thing”. i love her voice on this track.

Tortoise & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy “Thunder Road”

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s haunting vocals accentuate the loneliness, desperation and resignation in Springsteen’s lyrics. the change in key adds to this, and makes it almost more of a dirge. interesting approach that i’m not sure would have worked had anyone other than Tortoise and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy tried it.

Crooked Fingers “The River”

Taken from Crooked Fingers‘ Reservoir Songs EP of 6 cover songs, this one has all the oomph of the original, with Eric Bachmann’s own North Carolinian twist. Bachmann’s arrangement uses electric guitar and banjo picking, making the song seem more contemporary yet also giving it that vintage emptiness that is present in so many old Appalachian folk songs.

Justin Townes Earle and Joe Pug “Atlantic City”

(the audio clip above is a live recording. skip ahead to 0:57 if you would rather not listen to the pre-song banter.)

Justin Townes Earle and Joe Pug are two of my favourite singer songwriters to gain popularity in the last few years. i love that they play this song true to Springsteen’s intentions, yet their own style still shine through: Earle’s simplified Travis picking with his sledgehammer thumb thumping out a bass line; and Pug’s strong, emotive vocal harmony and urgent harmonica.
click here to see a really great version of Earle covering this song solo for the AV Club Undercover sessions.

Junip “Ghost of Tom Joad”

atmospheric, almost ethereal, and very much Junip, it took me a while to realise that this was a cover of the Boss. So different from the original, but a wonderful interpretation nonetheless.

any covers you think i’ve forgotten? please leave a comment so i can check it out!

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