Between the Covers: Schools Out! Featuring covers by Soul Asylum, Old & in the Way, Nanci Griffith, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and James Taylor

School is over, my wife is home and we're ready to have some fun.
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My wife teaches French and literature at a university. This past semester she taught a metric butt-load of classes including one night class that lasted until 8:30 in the PM. Her normal day included being at the office from about 8 in the morning to 5 or 6 in the evening. She'd come home, have supper, play with our daughter for an hour or so and then get back to work grading papers, writing tests, or preparing for the next day. She worked her little arse off every day which also meant I was crazy busy cooking, cleaning and taking care of the 1-year old (this also explains why I've been absent from Blinded by Sound for awhile now.)  She finished up this last week and we are both thoroughly glad she's off for the summer. I thought the theme of summer break would make a nice way to return to my cover songs postings.

The Faculty Soundtrack Soul Asylum Alice Cooper"School's Out" by Soul Asylum
From the Original Soundtrack album, The Faculty
Original by Alice Cooper

I have fond memories of the 90s when alternative became mainstream and seemingly every movie had to have a super cool soundtrack. Soul Asylum is a band I pretended to like a lot more than I ever actually did. They were the "it" band briefly (and lead singer Dave Pirner even dated hip-for-the-moment actress Winona Ryder) and I really did dig their hit album Grave Dancers Union, I just never paid much attention to them beyond that.

On paper they would seem an odd fit to be covering this Alice Cooper hard rockin' classic and in reality its fairly terrible. The original is nothing more than big dumb rock that charms you in a frat-boy kind of way, but Soul Asylum were always smarter than that which makes them just sound dumb. They were probably going for irony but it comes off more like cashing in than funny.

"Midnight Moonlight" by Old and in the Way
From the album Old and in the Way
Original by Peter Rowan

Now that the wife will be home everyday and we'll be much more relaxed I suspect I'll be staying up later watching movies and reading. I'm really something of a night owl and I love burning the midnight oil with a good book. This last semester kicked my butt every which way and utterly exhausted me so that I was going to bed rather early. I'm looking forward to kicking things up late once again.

Old and in the Way was a bluegrass supergroup that performed briefly in the 1970s. It consisted of Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Peter Rowan (which I guess technically makes this not so much a cover as an interpretation) Vassar Clements and John Kahn. Their version isn't vastly different than the original as it was always a bluegrass number but Old and in the Way speed it up a bit and take turns soloing and well, when these guys solo its really something spectacular.

"The Valley Road" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
From the album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2
Original by Bruce Hornsby

My family and I live in West Tennessee while my parents live in Oklahoma and the wife's folks are up in Kentucky. What this means is that every Summer wind up in the car, a lot. Add to family visits our own desire to explore the world and our summers quickly get less restful and a lot more road weary. I'm actually a huge fan of driving and for the most part enjoy taking road trips. This year my family is all getting together in Florida for a bit in some beach-side house which should be fun or completely disastrous. Either way you can be sure I'll be loading my iPod up with lots of audio books, podcasts and tons of cool music.

Like the song above this isn't so much a cover as a reinterpretation. On volume 2 of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken albums the band enlisted a number of pop/country stars including Johnny Cash, Roger McGuinn, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt and many more who play a bunch of contemporary songs bluegrass style. Its a great album with a whole bunch of great songs including this one which does include Bruce Hornsby on piano and vocals. The original comes from Hornsby's second album, Scenes from the Southside which was a slick, radio-friendly hit. The Dirt Band turn it into a fast-picking, tons-of-fun hootenanny full of big rave-ups and short instrumental solos from just about everybody.

Nanci Griffith I Fought The Law"I Fought the Law" by Nanci Griffith
From the album Blue Roses from the Moons
Original by Sonny Curtis

We got some new neighbors a couple of months ago. There are two teenage boys involved and they both love to play basketball late into the evening. We're talking past midnight they'll be out there *bang* *bang* *banging* their balls and hooping and hollering. For the most part we've just silently cursed their names and wished they would go away. A few nights past they woke my daughter up about 12:30 and then again at 1 in the morning. I had had enough. I got the girl down again and went outside asking them politely if they would please knock it off. They said they would but not five minutes later they were back out there again making even more noise.

I called the cops on them. The officer showed up, presumably told them to keep it down and left. Five minutes later they were back at it, even noisier than before. I called the cops back to see what the deal was and was essentially told that they have no right to force people into their homes and that they couldn't do anything more. I was steaming mad but essentially out of options short of murder.

The next day while mowing my yard the dad signaled me to come over and chewed me out for spraying some grass over on his drive-way. I half-heartedly apologized and then tore into him for letting his boys play ball all night. He yelled right back at me for calling the cops and promised he'd call them on me if I got grass on his drive again. There was more yelling and then a walking away. The rest of the day and night was completely ruined for me not knowing what to do.

The next morning while taking a walk the dad came back over to me and I was ready to fight. Proving who the better man was he apologized to me, saying he was having a bad day the day before and that he would ensure his boys weren't out late again. I apologized right back and now we're bosom buddies. Or something.

I can't help but think this song is appropriate though as the one time in my life where I call the cops and they prove completely useless.

I seriously didn't mean to include a bunch of songs that include the original performer playing on them, but that's what this has turned out to be. Sonny Curtis sings back up on this Nanci Griffith cover of his own song. It is a perfectly serviceable version. Nanci and Sonny give it their best on vocals and the Blue Moon orchestra creates a pretty country-rocking set of sounds to back them up.

"Summertime Blues" by James Taylor
From the album Covers
Original by Eddie Cochran

Nobody in the family is working for the summer so there aint no blues going on around here. Our biggest complaint is going to be that the summer isn't long enough to do all the things we want to do. The wife and I both have long lists of projects we've been meaning to get to and there just aren't enough days to fit them all in. That's a problem I really don't mind having though.

Taylor's cover of this Cochran classic has none of the sheer joy of the original, but its got its own enjoyable groove none-the-less. Taylor sucks the rockabilly out of it and adds in a slinky blues shuffle with some nice horn playing thrown into the mix.

Happy summer, ya'll.