In this ongoing Monday Series we will be exploring various artists versions of Bob Dylan song's. Today's tune comes from Pete Townshend and it is his live cover of "Girl From The North Country"
Thoughts on Dylan's Original:
A fun little number that connects Dylan with folk's past. I heard Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" first when I was growing up so I have always been a bit more partial to that version of this old folk tune even though Dylan changed a bunch of stuff around (obviously) with his recording that appeared on The Freewheeling Bob Dylan. His duet with Johnny Cash that highlights Nashville Skyline is something else entirely, a major sonic effort that I love. On an album that saw so many massive tunes come flowing out of the bard this one can be overshadowed yet his first version of this track is just a sweet folk ditty that has aged very, very well.
Thoughts on Cover Artist:
Townshend is one of the greatest rock and roll artists ever...his band was epic, no one can talk about rock and roll with greater accuracy and his albums are some of my favorite of all time; safe to say he is a legend around RtBE parts.
Thoughts on Cover:
When Pete introduces the song he says it is based on a different cover of Dylan's tune and has "eerie parts" Roy Harper's version was bit more sped up then the original and Pete playing here at Woodstock 98 follows that route. To be honest I wanted it to be eerie-er if that's a word. The piano and string sounds are nice flairs, and Pete's picking on the tune gives it vibrancy, but it never really expands on the original a whole lot. This is a simple song, this is an admirable cover, but nothing earth shattering. I do really enjoy his singing on this one though so that pushes it up a notch getting a bit fired up towards the end.
Grade - C+
Over the years, "Girl From the North Country" has served Dylan's Neverending Tour well, proving to be the middle-set gem amid the croaking politics and token rockabilly of these late years. It's a haunting tune that embraces the timeless power of human sentiment - making it just as relevant in 2011 as it was in 1963.
It's easy to say "nothing will ever touch the original." But if you're going to take a classic tune for a ride down a new road, it's helps to be Pete Townshend. He injects creative flourishes into the song - adding new depth - and updates the emphasis sung over fifty-year-old stanzas. All too often on cover songs, we see an artist trying to do their "own thing," either to pay homage while avoiding a comparison with the creator, or simply to strike out on their own. Pete goes right after "Girl From the North Country" at Woodstock. He immerses himself in the original, and with an emotional depth one expects from the maestro of Quadrophenia and Who's Next, offers a rendition of the song in a way that suggests he understands it better than the guy who wrote it.