As I was working in office today, Spotify popped up an ad for a new Alabama tribute album. I listened to the bits of the songs, but all they really did was make me want to listen to Alabama (which I did). For me, Alabama reminds of me of riding with my older sister. She took me to my first concert: Alabama at UA Barnhill Arena. Listening to the songs not many hold up to me. You can hear that slick 80s Nashville production, but one song still holds great sway over me, “My Home’s in Alabama.” Jamey Johnson’s version puts gritter take on a song that was already more subdued than other songs on Alabama’s albums.
Yet why is it so hard to cover a song? Is it that the original artist has such a hold on the song?
I then listened to High Cotton, another tribute album of Alabama coming out next week. The artist are less mainstream but seem to embody what a cover needs to be: more inspiration than mirroring. Jason Isbell and Lucero, like Johnson, tend their own tendencies to the song. The artist on the other album seems to mirroring the tone of the originals than being inspired to make their own version. Austin Kleon wrote that it is impossible to perfecting copy another’s work. But it is possible to be too close in range that it feels flat.