13 great Americana versions of Bob Dylan songs


13 great Americana versions of Bob Dylan songs

Americana is an amalgam of roots music formed by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions that make up the American musical ethos; specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and other external influences. Americana, as defined by the Americana Music Association (AMA), is “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”

A while ago I did a post on my top 10 country versions of Bob Dylan songs (soon to be updated), since then I’ve been made aware of a lot more songs from people who read the original post. Then most of my pickings where of classic country leaning on outlaw country, in this post I will concentrate on the new generation of country/ alt. country.

Dylan Outlaw Cowboy

Here are 13 favourite Bob Dylan songs performed by Americana artists. Lets start with a great live version:

Bobby Long & John Fullbright – It’s Not Dark Yet:

What a wonderful sound and such a great performance. These guys are just so good!

Coal Porters / Sid Griffin – You ain’t goin’ nowhere -You ain’t goin’ nowhere (27.06.13):

Sid Griffin and his Coal Porters perform their final encore, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere” live at Eurofolkfestival, Ingelheim (near Mainz), Germany on June 27, 2013 in front of the stage because the stage was cleared for the next act. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere” was written by Bob Dylan in 1967 and was first recorded by the Byrds and released as a single on Columbia Records, produced by Gary Usher, on April 2, 1968 reaching #75 US and #45 UK as well as being on the  classic album “Sweetheart of the rodeo”.

Dylan himself released a 1967 version, produced by Leon Russell, on his 1971 sampler “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II” aka “More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits” as well as “Basement Tapes” (recorded with the Band).

Sid Griffin is a great American musician / singer-songwriter (former member of the Long Ryders, Western Electric and the Unclaimed), journalist and Dylan-author. The Coal Porters are the world’s first alternative Bluegrass band.

Nickel Creek – Tomorrow Is a Long Time (live @ House of Blues, Boston on 5/1/14):

What a great voice Sarah Watkins has!

Sarah Jarosz – Ring Them Bells:

One of my all time favourite Dylan covers!

The Tallest Man on Earth – Every Grain of Sand:

Wow, a strong version of a wonderful song. He really gets the lyrics through.

When searching the big web for songs, about a thousand versions of To Make You Feel My Love popped up. It’s a good song, and there are many decent versions. But it is heading into that class where Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heavens Door is, in radio hell. Songs doomed to mainstream radio with vastly inferior versions than the originals. It’s a shame, but I guess it is what happens when songs are played to death (pun intended). All of the songs here are fresh and good interpretations even if I like the original better, and that goes for all the Dylan songs I have chosen.

Dr. Dog – The Man in Me:

I fine interpretation, a bit chatty audience and shaky camera work but the greatness of the song and the band is obvious.
It looks like it was a great Lebowskifest!

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Brownsville Girl (this is impressive!):

Will Oldham aka Bonnie Prince Billyis  performing with the whole Motherlodge crew. Recorded at Actors Theatre in Louisville on November 11, 2012. I know I have posted this in a video post before, but I think it is so good I just had to include it here. Wonderful singing and it’s a long song, I am impressed he manages to keep that storytellers-groove going all that time.

Chad Stokes and the White Buffalo – Girl From The North Country:

If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she’s a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds.


The Avett Brothers perform Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman (with help from Simone Felice, 2011):

The Avett brothers have covered quite a few of Dylan’s songs, but I think I made the right choice (the other ones are also good). Great band. Fun Fact: Simone Felice played drums on the album (I and love and you), no, not all the songs, but it shows his musicality. He’s a very good drummer, great songwriter and guitarplayer, and , my God, what a voice!

Talking about…

Simone Felice and Simi Stone – I Shall Be Released:

Great version, I’ve seen them in different settings over the years. Simi Stone was also a member of The Duke and The King, great band both on record and live, hope they’re just on a break.

The Lumineers – Boots Of Spanish Leather :

Good band that we have done at least one write up on in the past, check them out.

Bon Iver – With God on Our Side:

Bon Iver can cover everything and it will turn out interesting!

First Aid Kit – One More Cup Of Coffee:

This is a song that sounds as if it was written for them, they’re good singers! This was recorded just a short while ago.


– Hallgeir

14 thoughts on “13 great Americana versions of Bob Dylan songs”

  1. This is wonderful work! The Nickel Creek cover is stunning.

    May I suggest the below for your consideration (if you don’t already know it) ? Ellis Hartman – I Believe In You. The vocal performance is magnificent

  2. Two years after my previous comment, I’ve just spent some very pleasant minutes listening again to these recordings. I thoroughly enjoyed myself all over again. I liked “Brownsville Girl,” “God on Our Side,” and “Every Grain of Sand” even more this time around.

    1. The post needed a fix and when i looked over it I liked it so much myself that I re-posted.

      Glad you liked it (this time also 🙂 )

  3. Thanks for these, which are a lot of fun. One quibble: I’d suggest that the world’s first alternative bluegrass band was Jerry Garcia’s 1970s Old and in the Way (assuming you don’t count his pre-Dead efforts with Hunter et al.). I mean, is it even possible to get more “alternative” than Jerry? 🙂

  4. Awesome Bon Iver cover. I always learn of new things on your site. Than you so much!

  5. Every one of these clips was well-worth listening to. In each case, the artists brought something special, and it seems to me that every version was performed with careful attention and craft. I’m glad to have spent the time to hear these versions. Thanks

    1. Thank you for the comment

      There are so many good Dylan covers out there, and I had a hard job to limit the selection to 10.
      I’m almost certain there will be a follow up post 🙂

      I am glad you liked them 🙂

      – Hallgeir

  6. Thanks for posting that Bonnie Prince Billy versio of Brownsville Girl – just a stunning piece of video history. “Never Say Goodbye” by Jim Thompson from Cosmic Cabin memories brought that particular song back for me – also some great Dylan covers on Jimmy La Faves first album (Austin City Limits?). Not sure if Willie Nelson is Americana or not but try “He Was a Friend of mine” from the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack – there’s an accordian there, just creeping through before the band kicks in. Nice selection. For Australiana try “Caribbean Wind” by The Revelators (Amazing Stories) – awesome close cover version.

    1. Thank you for your feedback and for your tips, I will check them out (and maybe include them in my next post on the subject).

      My definition of Americana is very broad, and I most definitely include Willie in the genre.

      “Australiana” or Australian Americana, maybe we can call it Australian Cosmic music in honor of the late great Gram Parson 🙂
      ..I’m not very familiar with, but I will most certainly seek out your suggestions.

      Thanks again.

      – Hallgeir

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