Cover Me: Happy Birthday, Boss, the 2015 Edition

I often joke and say I came out of the womb loving Bruce Springsteen, but it’s somewhat true. I don’t really remember when I started loving him…I just know that I always have. In every phase of my life since I was 10 years old, Bruce has been there. I’ve come a long way since playing The River on a tiny little tape recorder in the backyard with a guitar that I assembled out of a shoebox and rubber bands. His songs have changed meanings for me as I’ve grown up, gotten out of my slowly-dying little hometown, and chased my own dreams – they became personal anthems. His music has been the soundtrack to some of the very best moments (and some of the strangest!) moments of my life, and been a solace for me when everything was falling apart. Next to my Mom, his music has been the one unwavering constant in my life. It is everything.

It is now 12:03 PM on September 23rd, and officially Bruce’s 66th birthday. As has become a tradition, I honor him in some way…usually with a blog post, sometimes with birthday parties, and once with a cake adorned with his butt from the Born in the U.S.A. cover.

This year, I decided to go with something a little different. Because I still get googly-eyed when I go to a show and I hear an artist bust out with a Springsteen song, I thought it would be fun to pay tribute to my favorite singer and songwriter of all time with six of my favorite Bruce covers. It’s nearly impossible to pick just six – for crying out loud, I’m leaving out Brian Fallon’s cover of “Backstreets” and Matthew Mayfield’s version of “Dancing in the Dark” (which is downright spooky and wonderful). But I tried, anyway.

Happy birthday, Boss. Thanks for everything.

Ari Hest, “I’m On Fire”
Ari, quite simply, has one of the purest voices around. He’s been covering “I’m on Fire” for years, and he stays pretty true to the original. However, it’s Ari’s crystalline voice that makes this, without a doubt, my favorite Bruce cover by anyone, ever.  I picked this video because it is so bare bones, you can hear just how incredible he is without any amplification at all.

Matthew Ryan, “Something In the Night”
Darkness on the Edge of Town is probably my third favorite Springsteen record, behind Born to Run and Nebraska. It’s an incredibly bombastic record, and this song is about as close to a “power ballad” as Bruce gets. So when the Light of Day tribute album came out in 2003, I was mesmerized by a haunting version of the song that stripped it down to almost nothing. A few years later, I would go to a show at The Evening Muse and see this fellow, the incredibly wonderful Mr. Matthew Ryan, play a show with Mieka Pauley, and come to discover his music was just as fabulous in its own right. (Really, you should check him out.)

Tim Brantley, “Spirit In the Night”
I could tell two dozen stories about Tim Brantley and Bruce Springsteen. The first time I saw him, he wore this wool hat that was kind of slung back low on his head, and he looked so much like Bruce in the legendary Hammersmith-Odeon concert, and there was just all this Bruce in his voice…I think it might have sealed the deal for me falling in love with Tim Brantley on the spot. One night, a year or two later, he was playing a show here in Charlotte, and he walked in to the venue wearing skin tight black jeans, and a mechanic’s shirt, with his hair slicked back. I looked at him and said, “Well, aren’t you duded up for Saturday night,” a reference to this song. He grinned at me and said, “I think you’re the only girl I know who knows what that means.” From that point forward, he’d play this one for me whenever I came out to see him. I am a lucky gal.

Passenger, “The River”
In 1985, the “box set” came out…and it was a big deal at the time. Three tapes of live Bruce performances over the course of 10 years. I was 11, and I remember playing the cut of “The River” over and over again, because Bruce told this long story before it about his relationship with his dad, and I wanted to memorize it. So when Passenger released this cover last year, I lost my bloody mind. One of my favorite present day singers covering the ultimate singer. Yes, please.

Ben Harper, “My Father’s House”
If you’re a Springsteen fan, I don’t know how this couldn’t be on the list of best covers of a Springsteen song ever done. Ben Harper is just perfect in this absolutely gorgeous version of a very under-discussed, underrated Bruce song. Thanks, Ben, for raising its profile. (And seriously, how smoking hot is Ben in this video?)

The Hold Steady, “Atlantic City”
My favorite Bruce song of all time is “Jungleland,” followed closely by a dead tie between “Dancing in the Dark” and “Atlantic City.” Loads and loads of people have covered Atlantic City, but none ever nailed it for me until I heard The Hold Steady do it. It’s raspy, and filled with a modern-day desperation that matches the original. I love it.

Happy Birthday, Boss: My Top 5 Greatest Springsteen Songs

Happy Birthday, Boss.

Happy Birthday, Boss.

It is officially 20 past midnight on September 23, which means that we are now celebrating a Krissie federal holiday:  Bruce Springsteen’s birthday.

In honor of the Boss’s 64th, a short list of my Top 5 Greatest Springsteen songs.  This is a near impossible task.  The man has put out 17 studio albums, 5 live albums, a bunch of box sets and been on too many compilations to count.  In fact, I would argue that no two diehard Bruce fans have the same list…which is why this post is called My Top 5 Greatest Springsteen songs.

5. “Thunder Road
Born to Run is not only my favorite Bruce album, but it is also my favorite album, ever, of all time, by any artist. The older I get, the more meaning it has, and loads of it is packed into this song.  The sheer determination, the bravado, the rock n’ roll of it all.  How can you not be on this guy’s side?

4.  “Stolen Car
The second record of the double-album The River didn’t get much attention, but it sets the stage for Nebraska (which followed on its heels and, as a whole, is probably my second favorite Bruce album of all time).  This track is buried in the middle of that record, and it is an incredibly realistic portrait of a life not only falling apart, but being reduced to invisibility.  It crushes me every damn time.

3. “Born in the USA
Perhaps the most misunderstood and misused song in the entire Springsteen catalog.  Bruce’s statement on the horrors of how we treated returning Vietnam veterans often gets used as a patriotic anthem…when in fact, it’s anything but.  Oddly, it’s also one of the songs that propelled him to super stardom.

2. “Atlantic City
Maybe I am fond of this song because it’s about exactly where I’m from, but more likely, it’s because the narrator never fucking gives up, despite his world and his life being a total mess and the outlook for what comes next being downright bleak.  And he’s loyal as hell…he’s never leaving his girl, no matter how bad things get. “Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”  That guy and I can totally be friends.

1. “Jungleland”
Bruce has a ton of songs that tell epic stories – and I am a SUCKER for a good story.  “Wild Billy’s Circus Story.”  “Rosalita.” “Spirit in the Night.”  “Meeting Across the River.”  They’re all electric in their own way, but none as much as the Magic Rat’s tale of escape, adventure and ultimately, defeat. And Clarence’s sax solo takes the cake.  There is no other song in the world like it, and it is Bruce at his very best.

The New Music Drought Is Over

Is it just me, or is spring in the air?

I’m sitting in New Jersey right now, looking outside at a beautiful sunny day, and the weather folks are promising temperatures in the 50s today. Winter is definitely in the rearview mirror…And I could not be happier!  Bring on sunshine!  Bring on 80 degrees!

Meteorologists are the only one with bright forecasts these days.  Seems like there’s beaucoup de new music on the horizon in my world.  Lots of my old and new favorites are putting out new music this spring.  Because I love ’em, I’m just going to make a short list here of the new music that’s come out recently or that IS coming out soon… So go pre-order and get your hands on some hot new stuff for spring!

The Sunday Funday Playlist – January 22, 2011

First week in awhile I’ve had to really sit down and listen to some new music…of course, a lot of it is by some of my old favorites, but there’s a few new voices that have snuck in.

1. “Walking Shoes” – Red Wanting Blue

I am totally in love with Red Wanting Blue’s new album, The Vanishing Point.  It’s half love song to a person, half love song to being in a band.  This is my favorite of the latter songs, and possibly my favorite on the album, catchy as all get out.  And the first line is so awesome…”I am the blurred out background spot in that photo on your wall.”

2.  “Brother” – Matt Corby

Apparently, this fella won Australian Idol a few years ago or something…but I am digging his voice in a big way.  That throaty chorus gets to my bones.  Of course, you can’t buy anything here in the States.  So frustrating.  Luckily, this song was available for free download on a few websites.  Side note:  Passenger fans, Matt sang on Passenger’s latest release, Flight of the Crow.

3.  Foy Vance – Be the Song

When I was in Ireland, I had a conversation with Christy’s very hot podiatrist (don’t ask – long story) about Irish/local music and he told me I should check out Foy Vance.  I downloaded a few of his older albums and have been loving them.  Then, noticed he had recorded a Daytrotter session in Decemeber, and downloaded that, too.  The three-song session is AMAZING, and this might be my favorite.  Love, love, love.

4. “Tokyo” – Imagine Dragons

I bought Imagine Dragons It’s Time this past summer, but for the past couple of weeks, I’ve had it on repeat.  I just love this song…It’s so…FUN.  You MUST check out the video.  It will make you laugh, and want to dance around your living room.

5.  “We Take Care of Our Own” – Bruce Springsteen

An unexpected surprise this week…Bruce releases a single and announces the much anticipated new album release date.  Not as much of a surprise, the song has a very “Born In the USA”-esque type theme to it.  A questioning, “What are we doing to help each other get through in hard times” kind of song.  “Where are the hearts that run over with mercy,” strikes me as the most poignant line. A challenge, almost, for people to reinvigorate the American spirit.  And damn, it sounds so good at top volume in the car!

SXSW Gets Bruce AND These Guys…

When it was announced that Bruce Springsteen, the only man I’ve ever really loved, would be giving the keynote at SXSW, my cell phone and e-mail blew up with messages from friends asking if I was going to figure out how to be there.  And while that would be cool, what bums me out the most about not going to SXSW is missing all the great up and coming talent.  Like this uber talented band…

Vegas’s Imagine Dragons was all over my Best of 2011 list for good reasons.  Their 2011 EP, It’s Time, is absolutely delectable little bit of indie rock, laced with happy clappy rhythms, synthesizers, rhyming, and layered harmonies.  And song’s like this one, “Tokyo,” “Amsterdam,” and “America” will get stuck in your head, with unforgettable lyrics.  You have been warned.  You’re going to be hearing a lot about these kids.  If you are going to SXSW, don’t miss ’em.

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