Darius Rucker Has Recorded a Cover of “Wagon Wheel”

Darius Rucker has released a version of “Wagon Wheel” for his latest single.  I’ve listened to it.  It is a nice song.  It gets all the chord changes, notes, and words right from The Old Crow Medicine Show’s original.  Rucker obviously loves the song (as most of us do) since he has performed it often in concert.

Here is my problem.  Cover songs often miss the passion and the urgency that makes up great music.  When you like a song too much sometimes you concentrate so much on getting all the notes right you don’t always let that passion come through.

One of my favorite covers of all time is “Ooh Las Vegas” originally done by Gram Parsons and covered by The Cowboy Junkies on the Return of the Grievous Angel tribute album.  The reason it is a great cover is The Cowboy Junkies took a great song that they loved, kept the basic structure, but reinterpreted it through their slower darker sound bringing a whole different feeling and perspective to the lyrics.

They imbued the song with a new passion and urgency by making a part of it their own.  Passion and an urgency sometimes bordering on anarchy is the reason I love music.  It is the feeling that this song could fall apart at any minute.  It is the reason I love The Band.

At their best, The Band always sounded like the music was going fly completely off the rails.  As if they were all just a little wasted and playing with complete freedom and abandon, but just enough on this side of sober to still master their instruments and the music.  Blues and its children, rock and roll, country, rhythm and blues, and hip hop, has its core a sense of that anarchy and of possibility.

I have no problem with Rucker covering the song.  I have no doubt that Rucker loves this song.  I have no doubt that he wants to do a good version to show respect to The Old Crow Medicine Show.  I also think it is a nice sounding version of the song, and when it sells like we all know it will it will make The Old Crow Medicine Show a lot of money.  It is a well written song sung by a good singer who is also one of the hottest country acts going today.  Yeah, it is going to make a lot of money.

You do not always have to respect the end product or the marketing of that product, but you almost always have to respect the craftsman.  Art and beer are very much the same in that respect.  It is as hard to make bad beer/art as it is good beer or art.  That is why I always respect the craftsman who is trying to make something out of nothing.  I respect the hell out of the brewers at the big beer companies.  They have to not only brew many batches of beer at one brewery that have to taste the same (which is hard enough), they have to make sure all those batches taste the same as the batches brewed throughout the world.  That is a skill that I respect.  I may not drink their boring beer, but I respect the ability to make it consistently.

It is the same with art, music (television and movies also) especially.  It is hard to write a song millions of people want to hear a lot.  Writing pure pop music is a special skill that not many people have.  Like with the beer, I may not enjoy it, but I see the skill behind it and respect it.

I have listened to Darius Rucker’s version of “Wagon Wheel” and I think it is a good song.  I won’t go out of my way to listen to it again, but if it is on television show I’m watching I won’t turn the channel.  I respect his voice and his attempt at making this song; I just much prefer the original.

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