Bryan Robison is the guitarist for Starlings, TN. He’s also an all around great guy and grower of an award winning, epic beard. Mr. Robison was kind enough to put together a playlist for us…
For this playlist, I decided to pick 10 of my favorite songs. Now, these aren’t my 10 absolute favorite songs, but they are 10 songs that I do hold dear to my heart. As a tribute to these 10 songs, I chose cover versions of each one that I feel do justice to the original song and, in some cases, trigger a personal memory.
Not Fade Away - The Rolling Stones (The Crickets)
My mom had a pretty decent record collection: The Beatles, The Who, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Wilson Pickett, Diana Ross, etc. She was definitely a Beatles fan - my great-grandmother took her to see them in Houston in 1965 - so she only had one Stones record: Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass). I listened to it over and over and this was one of my favorite songs on it. I love the The Crickets version too.
Sympathy for the Devil - Jane’s Addiction (The Rolling Stones)
Jane’s Addiction was one of my favorite bands in high school. I listened to this cassette over and over at home, in my car, and in my friends’ cars. My band back then, The Roadside Monuments, covered this song and I copped my guitar solos from this version.
Downtown Train - Rod Stewart (Tom Waits)
I love Tom Waits original version of this song so much, but the first time I heard the song was this version in my mom’s car. My mom is a Rod Stewart fan so I grew up with the man. I didn’t find out this was a Tom Waits song - or that Rod Stewart was in The Faces - until college.
You Belong to Me - Flat Duo Jets (Jo Stafford)
My wife and I absolutely love this song. It wasn’t played for our first dance, but we did play three different versions of it at our wedding: our friend Emily performed it as an instrumental during the processional,we played Jo Stafford’s version on 78 during the cocktail hour, and this one during the reception.
There Is a Light That Never Goes Out - Dum Dum Girls (The Smiths)
In the mid-90s I went through a Smiths phase and must have listened to The Queen is Dead about 200 times. This is my favorite song on that album and this cover comes from an EP released in 2011. Dum Dum Girls is one of my current favorite bands so I felt like I had to include this song on the list.
Dreaming - Yo La Tengo (Blondie)
My favorite Blondie song. This cover is from a mid-90s compilation I owned that had a bunch of New Wave songs covered by indie (I guess then they were alternative) bands like Sonic Youth and Polvo. Yo La Tengo always does great covers and this one is no exception.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You - Great White (Led Zeppelin)
Ok, this one is totally a guilty pleasure. I became a Zeppelin fan in 5th grade when my art teacher played them for me. I’m still a huge fan and this is one of my favorite LZ songs. I watched MTV Unplugged religiously from its first episode, so even if I wasn’t much of a fan, I’d give the performers the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s the program that gave us two amazing REM episodes never mind Nirvana Unplugged in New York. It also gave us this cover.
Pancho and Lefty - Steve Earle (Townes Van Zandt)
Another one I originally heard because of my mom. She absolutely loves the Wille & Waylon version while I’m partial to this version. I’m pretty much partial to anything Steve Earle and even once dressed up as Harley, his character on Treme, for Halloween a few years ago. I played the original Townes Van Zandt version for my mom once and she said it wasn’t as good as Willie’s. She’d definitely hate this one.
Band of Gold - The Afghan Whigs (Freda Payne)
This song is from an EP of soul and R&B covers that the Afghan Whigs put out between Congregation and Gentlemen. I started listening to them when Gentlemen came out, and was hooked by the time their next album, Black Love, dropped. It’s another one of those albums I’ve listened to a few hundred times. What I like most about this cover is how there’s no mistake it’s the Afghan Whigs, yet it still stays true enough to the original feel of the song.
Cortez the Killer - Built to Spill (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)
I almost didn’t include this one on my list simply because it’s not so much a cover as an almost note for note tribute to original version the song - even the tempo is the same. But I included the Great White cover, so I decided this one deserved to be on the list too. Both Neil Young and Doug Martsch are big influences on my guitar playing and I totally guitar geek out on both versions of this song.