Like any genre of music, country music is famous for its cover tunes. Younger artists paying tribute to legends, old songs getting a breath of fresh air, or sometimes a song is so great it takes almost every country artist in Nashville to record it. No matter what the reason, artists will continue to create their own unique version of timeless country songs. PPcorn has compiled a list of top favorite country covers, why we think they are great, and why you should add them to your country music playlist.
“Crazy” was made famous in 1962 by Patsy Cline. The running joke in Nashville is How many female country singers does it take to sing “Crazy?” Apparently all of them. I would not argue that countless artists have covered the song, however when it comes to LeAnn Rimes’ version of the Cline hit, you can’t help but turn the volume up and forget you’re listening to yet another Cline cover. Rimes does a fantastic job of emulating Cline’s vocals note for note. The track stays true to its original format, but showcases Rimes’ strong vocal talent, emotions, and ability to create something equally as timeless as the original.
“Delta Dawn” was made famous by Tanya Tucker in 1972 at the young age of 13. “Delta Dawn” has had its fair share of performers since then. In 2012 the song surfaced on Terri Clark’s ninth studio album, Classic. Classic consisted of covers of Clark’s favorite songs. What makes Clark’s version unique is her interpretation of the Tucker classic. Clark took the seed of a song, added a little water, and allowed it to grow. Featuring Tucker herself as a guest vocalist, Clark melts her strong vocals with the iconic sound of Tucker’s signature vocals for a perfect blend of talent in this new rendition.
“Honky Tonk Girl” was the debut single from the one and only Loretta Lynn in 1960. The song opened doors in country music for Lynn and other female artists at that time. It would only seem fitting that if you set out to create your own country music legacy, you would start off your career with a song just like that. For Tayla Lynn she did exactly just that. Lynn took the classic tune “Honky Tonk Girl”, dusted it off, and showcased her pure and natural talent in her new version of the song on her EP Coal Dust. Staying true to the original, Lynn even called upon the icon herself to collaborate, add some harmonies and guest vocals.
“Silver Wings” was written by Merle Haggard and made famous when it was released on Haggard’s tenth studio album A Portrait of Merle Haggard in 1969. In 1994 Nashville paid tribute to the “Hag” by releasing Mama’s Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard. With an all-star line-up of talent, it is Pam Tillis’ version of “Silver Wings” that frequently finds itself circulating on my iPod. Tillis has one of the sweetest voices in country music. Her pure tone and vocals flow throughout the song. Tillis creates a great contrast with her version when compared to the original version featuring Haggard’s rough and tough vocals.
“Coat of Many Colors” is one of Dolly Parton’s most iconic songs. Penned in 1969, and recorded and released in 1971 “Coat of Many Colors” topped off at number 4 on the country charts. In 2003 the album Just Because I’m A Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton was released. The album featured numerous female artists paying their respects to Parton. Shania Twain took on the challenge of creating her rendition of “Coat of Many Colors” for the project. Featuring Alison Krauss and Union Station, Twain’s version is soft, simple, and stays true to the original that Parton fans love and enjoy. Known for being a flashy performer, it is refreshing to see Twain showcase her country vocals on this classic song.
“Ring of Fire” brought Johnny Cash a number one hit in 1963. It is only one of many hits that Cash had in his lengthy career, but it is one of his more notable and memorable hits. With “Mexican” horns and a faster tempo, it stands out amongst his catalogue of slow, baritone ballads. In 2010 Alan Jackson teamed up with Lee Ann Womack to produce his version of the song as a lead-off single for his 34 Number Ones album. Jackson’s strong country tone, backed by the unique voice of Womack makes a perfect musical pairing. Jackson and Womack are both known for their traditional country sounds.
“Burning Love” is probably one of the more popular hits belonging to Elvis Presley. In 1972 it brought him his twentieth number one hit. “Burning Love” has been covered by artists in multiple genres. Wynonna Judd added her version to the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack in 2002 and it was released on her album What the World Needs Now Is Love in 2003. Judd’s version is swinging, with the right amount of rock. It’s “countrified” but not all “twanged” up. Judd has a powerful voice and pulls the song off perfectly with her vocal styling.
“She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Double)” was the only number one hit from Gary Stewart. Released in 1975 the song has had a handful of singers since then. Ronnie Dunn added his version of the song to the soundtrack for the 2010 film Country Strong. Though Dunn’s version was never a charted hit, it doesn’t stop it from being a great rendition of the song. Dunn has a classic voice. It is unique, soulful, and strong. Dunn’s version stays true to the original but showcases his vocals. If you have never heard the song before, you would think that it was a long lost Brooks and Dunn tune.
“Stay” was a mega hit for country duo Sugarland. It was released in 2007 as a fourth single from their album Enjoy the Ride. “Stay” is an acoustic ballad featuring Sugarland’s lead singer Jennifer Nettles backed by only a single guitar track. It is a raw and emotional song that is hard to imitate. In 2009 Ronan Keating added it to his sixth studio album Winter Songs. Keating’s version has more elements than the original. The careful use of instruments, background vocals, and production creates quite a contrast when compared to the original. Keating has a soft voice and uses it well to convey emotions in his performance of the Sugarland hit.
“When I Call Your Name” by Vince Gill is the title track from his fourth studio album released in 1989. The album and single both peaked at number two on the charts. Gill has one of the most soulful and purest voices in country music. Gill is one of the most sought after country vocalists. Though the song has not been covered by multiple artists, in 2011 LeAnn Rimes added the song to her album Lady and Gentlemen. The album was Rimes’ musical take on classic male country hits. With her stellar vocals, Rimes collaborated with Gill when creating her version of the song. Rimes gives nothing short of a great performance of the Gill classic and it adds to her musical library of great originals and well performed renditions of classic country songs.
If you dive deep into country music, for years artists have been covering each other’s material. Younger artists “cut their teeth” by performing renditions of their idol’s hits. While people often look down on interpretations and renditions of songs new and old, cover songs are quite often flattering, and well done. I always enjoy discovering new covers of my favorite country songs. Whether it is a new tribute album to an icon such as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, or Johnny Cash, an album of cover material such as Tanya Tucker’s album My Turn, or Martina McBride’s album Timeless, country music is a constantly spinning circle of new and old material being shared by artists of all calibers of talent. Wherever you look you will find great renditions of your favorite songs.