Category Archives: Cover Songs

Today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes

It’s early morn on Thanksgiving Day as I write and, all through the house, not a creature is stirring – aside from the feline who’s stalked me since his breakfast at dawn. Just now, he poked his head up beside me and bellowed a mew. It’s his version of “please, sir, may I have some more?” but instead of “sir” it’s “serf,” and he’s added and subtracted a few other words, too. “Serf, I want seconds. Now!”

I jest, of course.

Thanksgiving is, as its name makes clear, a time for giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for this year, as there is every year, even though – as a whole – 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the all-time worst. It sometimes feels as if horrors from a parallel universe are bleeding into ours.

But here’s one reason (of many) to give thanks: Tomorrow, sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor, aka the Staves, release a new album, a collaboration with the chamber sextet yMusic titled The Way Is Read. The three tracks they’ve released to promote the project are breathtaking. “Silent Side,” which they shared last week, is aural beauty personified:

Their show at the World Cafe Live in March, I should mention, was a highlight not just of this year’s concert slate, but of all my years’ concerts. It was akin to stepping through a portal to a magical, mystical land where everything’s groovy and everything’s alright. In other words, it’s in the running for the Old Grey Cat’s esteemed Concert of the Year Honors.

One of the things I like about them, aside from their songs and vocals, is their knowledge of music past, which they obviously use to inform their music present. One can hear it in the borrowed tunes they sometimes sing – as I’ve written before, a well-chosen cover song is like a glimpse into the soul of the singer(s); and the sisters’ picks, which range from the sublime to silly, are illuminating.

Here’s today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes.

1) “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young)

2) “These Days” (Jackson Browne)

3) “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)

4) “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

5) “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks)

And two bonuses…

6) “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

7) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)


Today’s Top 5: Harriet

harrietA few months back, someone (or several someones) posted to Facebook about a British singer named Harriet, who’d just released a new album. I remember that the post(s) came on a busy work day, so clicks weren’t made and, as is often the case, the post(s) descended on my timeline never to be seen again; and the mental note I made to check her out went the way of many mental notes.

Information overload is par for the course these days, after all.

Anyway, fast forward to this morning, when I pulled up Rumer, backed by Lissie & the Pierces, singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on YouTube –

It’s a beautiful, touching performance of a beautiful, touching song. And there, on the right hand “Up Next” list of videos picked by YouTube’s algorithms, was a song by Harriet: “Maybe This Christmas.”

Now, as I write, it’s a little past one p.m., Eastern time, on Christmas day. I’m in no rush. Diane and I exchanged gifts (10,000 Maniacs’ Our Time in Eden on vinyl for me!) last night, and we have nowhere to be until later this afternoon. I planned to use this time to start work on a Top 5 culled from a 1974 Rolling Stone…but those plans went out the window once I heard Harriet’s voice. Here’s another taste – the lead single from her self-titled debut album:

What I’ve learned over the past few hours: Everyone and their brother, including Rumer (and, now, me), have compared Harriet’s vocals to Karen Carpenter’s; and that I really like her music. Perhaps that’s because, as she says in this interview, it’s rooted in the ‘70s:

So, without further adieu, here’s today’s Top 5: Harriet – two additional tracks from her album, plus a few smart covers.

1) “What’s Mine Is Yours.”

2) “Afterglow.”

3) “Last Christmas/I Can’t Smile Without You.”

4) “Every Breath You Take.”

5) “I’m Not in Love.”


Today’s Top 5: Rumer Has It


By the end of the month, I will be immersed in my Album of the Year: Rumer’s This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook. I say that without equivocation or hesitation because, well, it’s Rumer; and, as the YouTube sampler she released a few weeks back demonstrates, that voice and these songs equal unadulterated bliss.

This past week, she released her spin on the classic “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which was a No. 7 hit for Jackie DeShannon in the year of my birth, 1965.

Rumer has a knack for choosing the perfect song to cover so, for today’s Top 5: Rumer Has It. These aren’t necessarily my all-time favorite covers by her, just a collection of cool songs she chose to perform in concert, on TV or in the recording studio. (Her second album, Boys Don’t Cry, is an all-covers affair, of course; and her B-Sides compilation includes more.)

1) “Take It to the Limit” – the Eagles’ classic.

2) “Rocket Man” – Elton John’s classic.

3) “American Dove” – the Laura Nyro song. (This is my video, by the way; and is from Rumer’s American soil debut, which occurred months prior to Seasons of My Soul being released in the U.S.).

4) “Sara Smile” – The Hall & Oates’ classic.

5) “Arthur’s Theme (The Best You Can Do)” – the Oscar-winning title tune to Arthur.

And two bonuses:

6) “Moon River” – One of my favorite songs of all-time. This comes close to Audrey Hepburn’s original, which can be found in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

7) “Goodbye Girl” – from the classic movie of the same name; and the perfect end to Rumer’s 2010 debut.