Monday Open Thread: Better Than the Original

At lunch today, a friend of mine mentioned that she doesn’t care for Fleetwood Mac, but loves the way the Dixie Chicks do “Landslide.”   “Better than the original,” she said.

To which I thought, “Yes! I don’t have to come up with my own open thread discussion tonight!”  (Seriously folks, start suggesting some in the comments.  Please.)

There is one cover that I think absolutely decimates the original, even though it’s pretty darn good on its own.  Dolly Parton’s “The Grass is Blue” isn’t just the title track of her bluegrass set.  It’s the high point.

But Norah Jones’ cover of it is far better.  She turns it into a haunting piano ballad, and it works better in her jazzy style.  I love when she covers country songs.  She’s done fantastic versions of “Wurlitzer Prize”, “Cold, Cold Heart” and “For the Good Times”, too.

What covers do you think are better than the original recordings?


  1. I won’t go as far to say that Crystal Shawanda’s version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is better but this bluesy version is one of the best remakes of a classic that I’ve heard.

    It’s not country but Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” is the definition of better than the original.

    Cash’s version of “Hurt” is better than Trent Reznor’s. Even Trent says so.

  2. “Fancy” by Reba McEntire. I like it much better than Bobbie Gentry, who wrote and sang it originally.

    “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson. Also much better than the original by Elvis.

  3. Actually, the original on “Always On My Mind” was by Brenda Lee in 1972, a version that I liked at least as much as Willie’s version

  4. Smashing Pumpkins’ version of landslide was much better than the Chicks’.. but I also think the original was better than the Chicks’

    Sugarland’s live covers of “Life in a Northern Town”, “Irreplacable” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” were fantastic, but were covers of songs that were incredibly hard to beat. Same goes for Faith Hill’s rendition of “Piece of My Heart”.

    Cash’s version of Hurt, however, is an obvious. So much pain and depth in that voice.

  5. I am going to second both of the Reba songs mentioned and add Wynonna’s version of the Tammy Wynette tune ‘Woman To Woman’ and also any cover sang by Trisha Yearwood – ‘Woman Walk The Line’ and ‘Seven Year Ache’ notably.

  6. “Who Invented The Wheel” Trisha Yearwood- The passion and performance is flawless, one of my all time favorites.

    “Top of the World” Dixie Chicks- Technically Griffin’s version was released later, but I much prefer the Chicks version.

    “Easy From Now On” Miranda Lambert- I forget who the original was, but Miranda’s is better than Terri Clark’s version, IMO.

    “Over The Rainbow” Martina McBride- She just has the right pipes for this song, from her Martina album.

    “Spit On A Stranger” Nickel Creek- This song is just so much fun in their version.

  7. Whoops, forgot Sugarland’s “Come On Get Higher” from LotI. I like Sugarland’s extended “sha-la-la” section and I like the harmony.

    I also second “Life In A Northern Town”, you can’t go wrong with 6/7 part harmony.

    (Sorry for the double post)

  8. I’d argue that Emmylou Harris’ version of “Easy From Now On” is the best of all of them. She has the maturity for it that, as much as I love Miranda, Miranda doesn’t quite have yet. I’m not a huge Terri Clark fan, so both versions are better than hers to me.

    Ew to Smashing pumpkins! That’s one band that my husband hasn’t been able to convert me to.
    Ditto to Nora Jones version of “The Grass Is Blue.”

    I really like Travis Tritt’s version of “Take It Easy” better than the Eagles’ version. I think it has more muscle. To me, the Eagles are too weak on that song. (Sorry to my friend, Courtney, who loves The Eagles!).

    I also love Dwight’s version of “Suspicious Minds” and only moderately like Elvis’ version.

  9. It had already been done by Wanda Jackson and Skeeter Davis, to name just two ultra-legendary women, but “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”, for my money, has never been done better than the way Linda Ronstadt did it in 1973, turning it into a fiddle-fueled C&W-rock throwdown (and her first big country hit single), and showing why she was, and still is, a powerhouse vocalist and all-around role model.

  10. Hey Clandestine friend of ours,

    Good call on Alison’s “Now That I Found You”! I also like her version of “When You Say Nothing At All” better.

  11. I know that Eva Cassidy doesn’t necessarily count as country, but her covers were always so different and beautiful–she did was just perfect for the song.

    Examples: Fields of Gold, Autumn Leaves, Songbird, Over the Rainbow.

  12. I have to admit I like Alan Jackson’s version of Tequila Sunrise better than the Eagles original even though its one of my favorite Eagles songs. The totally countrified production along with Alan’s vocals is a perfect match that actually gives me goosebumps.

    On Wylie and the Wild West’s second album “Get Wild” was a song titled “Honky Tonk Girls” that Wylie camped up in his usual style. Hank III later recorded the song on “Risin’ Outlaw” and just mops the floor with it. Great stuff….

  13. If you argued that, Leeann, you’d be right. Emmylou’s take on “Easy From Now On” is definitive. This could easily have devolved into an “Emmylou’s best covers” thread:

    To Daddy, The Boxer, Pancho and Lefty, You Never Can Tell . . . all of which I liked as much as the originals

  14. Kevin, I actually made that South Park avatar! Thanks for noticing!

    I am a fan of cover songs actually. :) I’d say that Cash’s version of “I Hung My Head” (a Sting song) is pretty great too.

  15. It’s not country, but the first time I heard this group sing this song, I mistakenly thought they were a country band:

    Metallica – Covering Bob Segar’s “Turn the Page”

    Leeann, When you mentioned the Eagles and Take it Easy, I thought of another great cover. Clint Black’s “Desperado” was really really good, probably better than the original.

  16. Actually, I liked most of the Eagles Tribute album better than the Eagles’ original versions, which really makes my Eagles loving friend sad.

    I think Alan Jackson’s take on “The Blues Man” is far better than Hank Jr.’s version.

    Then of course there’s this gem from Nickel Creek, which is definitely better than the original.:)

  17. Darren,

    I notice that you’re a big Diamond Rio fan. I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. My next Favorite Songs feature will be on Dwight, but DR is a definite possibility for the future. I really like their version of “Beauty And the Beast” too.

  18. Well if you’re going to leave the country behind.. I like Vanessa Carlton’s strange but strong rendition of “Paint It Black”, and Pearl Jam’s version of “Last Kiss”

  19. And yes, the Eagle’s tribute “Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles” was great. Most notable Miss Bogguss and Miss Yearwood’s songs. Hell, I even liked Travis Tritt’s version better, and I usually can’t stand him.

  20. I used to think I would hate Pearl Jam because of “Last Kiss”, since that song was my first exposure to them. I love them now, especially their live albums, but still don’t like their version of that song. I like the original though.

  21. “Love Hurts” by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

    For me, this is the definitive version of this song now.

    However, I got to know the Jim Capaldi version first.

  22. Roseanne Cash’s version of “tennessee flat top box” is awesome. No disresecpt intended, but it runs circles around her dad’s version.

  23. Emmylou probqbly had the original recording of “Easy from Now Om” but a few years later the writer Carlene Carter recorded her version and I’ve not heard anyone else do it better.

  24. While I am a huge Patsy Cline fan, I love k.d. lang’s cover of Leaving on Your Mind from Remembering Patsy Cline — but there have been several others mentioned that I have loved —

  25. Dolly’s much better cover of Collective Soul’s “Shine” gives me a spiritual awakening everytime. I love Sara Evans’ cover of Bruce Hornsby’s “Every Little Kiss.” It’s ten times better than the original. And speaking of recent covers…Rissi Palmer’s cover of Jordin Sparks’ “No Air” shows who has the penultimate talent between those two raven-haired songstresses. Jordin is good but Rissi made me love that song….didn’t particulary care for Jordin and Chris singin’ it. Just wish that radio would give Rissi a chance….oh well….

  26. I saw desperado mentioned i love and have every version of it and i must say carrie underwood’s grammy performance just gives me chills the rendition is great so soft yet power full.

  27. Carrie Underwood did an acoustic (violin included)cover of Heart’s “Alone” at a fan club party that was in my personal opinion impossible. If you like you can listen for your self.

  28. Ok, here is my heresy…

    I think Sara Evans did a better job than Loretta Lynn on ONE’S ON THE WAY, and better than Patsy Cline with IMAGINE THAT..

    And I think Patty Loveless does a better job with WHY BABY WHY than George Jones, and a better job with I CAN’T GET YOU OFF OF MY MIND than Hank WIlliams!

    May be heresy to say, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    -Steve from Boston

  29. Kevin,

    I actually think that would be a good “topic” for today. I blogged about that while still keeping The Lost Highway active.

    I would probably phrase it: “What pop song would make for a good country cover and who would be the best artist to do it?”

  30. I’d buy that Carrie album too, as long as she took the eighties out of the songs.:) Y’all know how much I just love eighties music.

  31. Steve,

    If you’re going to commit heresy, I might as well join you. While I love Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You”, there are times that I’d prefer to listen to Whitney Houston’s version.

  32. Actually, there’s an exception to every rule and I kinda like that song, Matt. There *are* some eighties songs that I like; just not the majority of them. Actually, it’s not really the songs, but the production of that time that I don’t like.

  33. Gary Allan – Best I Ever Had

    He pretty much has the most unique voice out there right now and I like this version a little more.

  34. Leeann,

    Diane Warren is very good at what she does, power ballads. I appreciate her writing even if I don’t like all of her songs. So it’s a compliment on the song.

    My personal favorite of that song is the Dolly Vince duet of it.

  35. I loved Mindy Smith’s version of “Jolene” Her voice is so haunting on that song. Though I should mention that Dolly’s is great too.

    I don’t know if you have had this topic before- but what about famously bad songs written by great songwriters? It could coincide with your songwriter series y’all are writing.

  36. Amber,

    I’m not in charge of the daily discussions, but that sounds like a cool topic.

    As much as I love Vince, that’s not my favorite version of the song. It sounds a bit uninspired to me, as much as I hate to say it.

  37. I love being heretical!!!! Here’s my heresy…Jo Dee Messina’s “Lesson in Leavin'” whoops all up on Dottie West’s version. I love me some Dottie, but Jo Dee’s “lesson” was much better learned and loved!

  38. Matt…I expanded it from 1977-1994 and created one for myself. It reads like this:

    “Go Your Own Way” (1977)
    “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (1981)
    “Alone” (1987)
    “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1987)
    “Paradise City” (1987)
    “Patience” (1989)
    “I Remember You” (1989)
    “Praying for Time” (1990)
    “November Rain” (1992)
    “I’ll Stand by You” (1994)

    It came out really good.

  39. Okay, an open thread idea. Maybe you’ve already done it.

    For which artists are you a completist? Or, whose albums will you buy without hearing a note, reading a review, etc.? Something along those lines.

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