Relief Block print by Stephen Alcorn
Gram Parsons was a master songwriter both on his own and in collaboration with others. It is no wonder that his songs are covered by many artists. I have picked some of the best ones and hereby present my Top 7 Gram Parsons Cover songs.
1) Jay Farrar’s wonderful rendition of Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man (and Christine’s Tune as a bonus). Jay Farrar has a great voice, and he’s a good performer, this music just fits. He gets to pay tribute to the country part of his roots. Just fantastic!
“He’s been like a father to me
He’s the only DJ you can hear after three
I’m an all night musician in a rock ‘n’ roll band
And why he don’t like me, I can’t understand”
Written By Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn
The song Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man details a moderately unpleasant on-air exchange between Ralph Emery and Roger McGuinn, the lead singer of the 1960s rock group The Byrds, concerning their 1968 appearance at The Grand Ole Opry. In that performance, the Byrds attempted unsuccessfully to convince traditional country music fans that their developing country rock sound was a legitimate part of the tradition.
2) I’ve chosen , A song for you performed by Whiskeytown (great vocal by Ryan Adams) and performed by Justin Townes Earle.
I couldn’t just pick one them, they’re both so god dam good and very different.
Justin Townes Earle:
“…So take me down to your dance floor
And I won’t mind the people when they stare
Paint a different color on your front door
And tomorrow we will still be there…”
Written by Gram Parsons
Here is a great compliment: “The song is absolutely hopeless, beyond despair. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.” That was Rolling Stone magazine’s description of A Song for You in March 1973, reviewing the album on which it featured, GP.
3) My Uncle performed by Steve Earle.
Steve Earle is a hero of ours and a list like this would not be complete without him. That said, he gives a fantastic interpretation of My Uncle from The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Guilded Palace of Sin.
Steve Earle My Uncle:
“A letter came today from the draft board
With trembling hands I read the questionnaire
It asked me lots of things about my mama and papa
Now that ain’t what I call exactly fair
So I’m heading for the nearest foreign border
Vancouver may be just my kind of town
Because they don’t need the kind of law and order
That tends to keep a good man underground..”
Written by Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons.
4) Hickory Wind sung by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
I could have picked this one just for the suit that Gilliam wears, but I didn’t, it’s a very good interpretation of a great song.
“…It’s a hard way to find out that trouble is real
In a faraway city with a faraway feel
But it makes me feel better each time you begin
Callin’ me home, hickory wind
Keeps callin’ me home, hickory wind”
Written by Bob Buchanan and Gram Parsons.
Bruce Eder (allmusic.com) says:
“Written in early 1968 in collaboration with Bob Buchanan, his former associate from the International Submarine Band, the song was the most personal achievement of Parsons’ career, a beautifully woven, nostalgic remembrance of an idealized childhood that he clearly never had but just as obviously wished he’d had.”
5) Hot Burrito #1 sung by Jim James (My Morning Jacket).
A hauntingly beautiful version that really does the song justice.
Jim James – Hot Burrito #1 (Audio only):
“You may be sweet and nice
But that won’t keep you warm at night
’cause i’m the one who showed you how
To do the things you’re doing now
He may feel all your charms
He may hold you in his arms
But i’m the one who let you in
I was right beside you then”
Written by Chris Ethridge and Gram Parsons
Mark Demming (allmusic.com):
“Gram Parsons was known to call George Jones the King of Broken Hearts, but on this tune (which he co-wrote with Chris Ethridge), he certainly gave the Old Possum a serious run for his money.”
6) K.D. Lang and Dwight Yoakam sings Sin City.
A match made in heaven singing about the most sinful place. It’s so lovely It’ll make you cry!
“This old earthquake’s gonna leave me in the poor house
It seems like this whole town’s insane
On the thirty-first floor your gold-plated door
Won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain ”
Written by Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons.
Mark Demmin from allmusic.com gives a wonderful description of the song:
“”Sin City” often sounds like a half-parody, half-tribute to the Louvins’ greatest music. While there’s the slightest hint of a wink and a nudge in its depiction of Satan as a car dealer (and a bit of a smile in Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman’s harmonies in the original recording), there’s a sense of apocalyptic dread that’s all too real in the earthquakes and fiery rain Parsons imagined would one day level the Los Angeles he both loved and despised. ”
7) She performed by Norah Jones.
The fabulous Norah Jones does an almost hymnlike version of She, she makes it a gospel song.
“She she came from the land of the cotton
Land that was nearly forgotten by everyone
And She worked and she slaved so hard
A big old field was her back yard in the delta sun”
Written by Chris Ethridge and Gram Parsons.
It makes me speechless.
Thank you, Gram Parsons!