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The conclusion about remakes is

Country Musings by Robert Loy, November 1999

For some time now, I've been meaning to say something about cover songs - you know, remakes, but I've held off because I haven't been able to reach any conclusions about them. I mean, what are they supposed to be? Why does every artist include one on just about every album? Is it a genuine homage to those who have gone before or just an easy way to fill out an album?

(Actually, I have reached a semi-conclusion on that last conundrum. I'm leaning toward homage. Think about it; with the quality of songwriting coming out of Nashville these days, it would probably be easier to slop something together as to dig some gem up out of the past.)

Whenever I hear somebody do a song that is a note-for-note Xerox of an original, I shake my head and wonder why they would bother. But if they make significant stylistic changes then I want to know who the heck they think they are messing with a classic.

And if you mess with the lyrics you better have a good reason. When Sawyer Brown covered "Six Days on the Road," they changed the line "I'm popping little white pills" to the more politically correct (albeit stupid) "I'm passing little white lines." Which is ironic because if you remember Garth Brook's first hit "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)" he caught some flak for talking about white lines. (Of course, that was back in the days when Garth Brooks was still Garth Brooks. I really don't what to say about somebody remaking themselves into an Australian.)

Sometimes you can change the meaning without changing the lyrics.

When Lee Greenwood did "Ring on Her Finger (Time on Her Hand)," it sounded like a man who had learned a lesson about ignoring your loved one. When Reba redid it, it became a cheating wife's flimsy excuse. Which is not to say that women shouldn't redo songs made famous by men. As much as I love Johnny Cash, I have to say Shelby Lynne outcooled him on her version of "I Walk The Line."

So, in the final analysis, I think what we can say about remakes is...

(Well, I told you I didn't have any conclusions.)

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