WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
January 16, 2020
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or so the saying goes. While the origin of the ever-applicable statement is supposedly the government trying to save billions (go figure), we prefer a far less heavy take, as you can hear in our recently dropped "Strange But Sick Covers" playlist on Spotify.
The definition of good music will forever be an argument of the generations based on age, life experience, and personal taste. However, over decades of songwriting, from Billboard hits to one hit wonders, there seems to be select few covers and remixes that are universally and unanimously regarded as awesome. Something people didn’t realize was possible, but that they’d been wanting and needing all along. These versions are timeless, authentic, and pay homage to tradition with a tip of the hat.
That respect makes all the difference in crafting a successful cover song. You can hear the difference, and trust us, you can feel it, too. We admire brands rooted in these principles and will always strive for the same at Black Buffalo: authenticity, respect, and a commitment to quality. As you might have noticed by now, music plays a strong role in our brand, and just as we've created the best possible smokeless tobacco alternative that we could, we love us some cover songs that breathe new life to the original versions with appreciation for their history.
We’re not talking “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice here. Ol’ Robbie Van Winkle and co. didn’t even legally clear the sample of David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” for the release of the 1990 smash hit. To be clear, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it in a different song or piece. Late ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop was notoriously … B.I.G. … on this. DJs and producers would spend hours digging through crates searching for old records from which they could borrow a sliver of sound, load it up into an MPC or chopping device, and lay drums beneath it for a BPM (beats per minute) over which rappers could flow. The result was often a head bop friendly version of something richly soulful that sounded familiar, yet new at the same time.
Chicago’s Kanye West, Detroit’s J. Dilla, LA’s Dr. Dre, and New York’s DJ Premier are a few kings of this technique who built their catalogs of music (and culture) with well-chosen samples.
A cover, however, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded song. A fellow musician’s fresh take on a classic recording. In many instances, the second version of a well-written record is the one the public believes is the original. Perhaps most famously:
Jimi Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower” – original version, Bob Dylan
Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You” – original version, Dolly Parton
Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U” – original version, The Family (Prince)
Aretha Franklin, "Respect" – original version, Otis Redding
Unlike sampling, in these scenarios, the artist believes credit is due to the original version and keeps its full integrity intact. Are they trying to “fix” the song? No. Are there tweaks and changes in melody, tone, and cadence? Of course. Is it the same song then? Yes, but different, and perhaps even better depending on who you ask. In the instance of covers, the artist re-recording the song is almost paying ultimate respect to the original musician. It’s a nod to the song’s greatness, so much so, that they’re going to offer their own spin to the world. In a handful of scenarios like the ones listed above, the second or third time around is the charm. The cover version of the record takes off on the charts, or nowadays terms, “goes viral and gets a ton of streams.” The original artist, sometimes decades later, gets more exposure and proper kudos for writing a hell of a song at one point in their career. It’s quite the evolution and further proof that there’s no recipe, rhyme, or reason, to the success of music.
In an era of disposable songs and over-consumption, great music comes and goes. It’s impossible to keep up with every release. That’s why it’s a privilege when one of the world’s best songwriters, Chris Stapleton, hand-picks something that he not only likes, but that the world needs to hear. After organically stumbling upon the groove during sound check, Stapleton and his band played their own version of David Allen Coe’s 1981 Billboard hit “Tennessee Whiskey” nightly on the road until they finally got to a studio to record it.
“It's a part of the fabric of things that influenced me over the years,” said Stapleton. Whether he’s referring to the song itself, the ritual of sipping whiskey, or both, there’s an honor of tradition that comes with this genuine re-record. You can feel it in the warm tones and simplicity of the version from a man with glass shattering pipes. The song hit the charts like a tidal wave in 2015 and, ironically, catapulted the typically quiet, behind-the-scenes, humble Grammy award winning songwriter to the forefront. For years, your favorite country and pop stars have leaned on Chris Stapleton as “The Wizard Of Oz” behind a curtain for a hit record, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Luke Bryan.
Whether your mind was blown by Jimi Hendrix playing Woodstock in 1969 or you grew up during the golden era of ‘90s hip-hop, covers and samples are rare standouts for all generations’ respective catalogs of music. There has always been and always will be those special re-records and remixes that are sonically perfect renditions of the original with respect to the history of the song and musician. Times change, trends become laughable, and sound morphs. Songs can be duplicated, but authenticity cannot be copied.
Like Stapleton and our other favorite artists, we love the process behind our products. As an analogy, if our products were music, we’re hustling in the studio everyday in an effort to keep plenty of albums available on our website for you to listen to. Unfortunately, the recording process cannot be forced nor can we push an agenda as an independent artist in an industry of big record labels. We’re carrying on the the best way we know how in order to keep the ritual alive and well, just as Stapleton charged ahead in tribute to three of our favorite things: a good song, whiskey, and tradition.
Listen to our "Strange But Sick Cover Songs" playlist on Spotify.