Cover Versions: Cross Road Blues

MacAoidh kinda overdid it last night with all that classical stuff and the Eurotrash DJ dudes, and I had no idea that’s the kind of music he likes.

But I do like his idea to pick a song and show all the different versions of it. I’m just not so sure about his first example.

Because I’d have started with this one.

That’s Robert Johnson. He sold his soul to the devil, y’know. I know that because Joe Seneca told me, and the Karate Kid didn’t argue when he heard it either.

Crossroad is the most famous song by maybe the most famous blues man. So it’s no surprise it’s been covered a lot.

Jimi Hendrix covered it, for example. The lyrics were a little different, but the song was the same.

About the same time, Eric Clapton discovered the song. He’s done a million versions of it. I like this one…

This one’s not bad, either – he’s got John Mayer sitting in with him on it (and while Mayer does a lot of whiny chick songs, he’s actually a pretty stout guitar man when he wants to be)…

And here’s Clapton with Steve Winwood doing the song, which might be the best version of the bunch (Doyle Bramhall sits in on it as well)…

But Clapton’s not the only one who’s covered the song. This chick’s name is Rory Block, and she does a lot more “authentic” version of the song – more blues, less rock, not quite as good a deal with the devil.

Betcha didn’t know that Rush has covered it, too…

Of course, here’s a song by a guy from Mississippi, and all the famous covers of it are by English guys and Canadian guys, and OK John Mayer.

How ’bout some legit southern dudes? How ’bout Skynyrd? We’ve got Skynyrd.

What’s funny, though, is none of the other blues guys ever really did much with the song after Clapton got it.

John Lee Hooker did, though it doesn’t sound much like the rest.

A surprisingly not-half-bad version comes from Phish, and the good part about this is you don’t have to listen to any of their asshat fans on this video…

But since I’m always looking for the obscure stuff, I kinda like this version. It’s from Paul Gilbert and Jeff Berlin, who you’ve probably never heard of. Berlin’s a bass guitar guy who’s totally underrated probably because he doesn’t sing. But his guitar does. And Gilbert was the lead guitar on Racer X and Mr. Big, which were white trash heavy metal bands in the 80’s and 90’s.

There’s even an Ole Miss white-boy harmonica version. This guy’s name is Adam Gussow, and while he might be a black bear type the harmonica playin’s pretty good. Who the hell is Sterling McGee, though? Is that the Phi Delt version of Legba?

OK, Clapton probably still owns the song given how many times he’s covered it. But so many different folks have taken a whack at the thing it’s amazing. If you’re a blues-rock guy, you pretty much have to.

And if you’re a blues guy, you don’t really. Funny how that goes. Maybe the blues guys believe all that stuff about selling their soul to the devil and the rock guys don’t and that explains it.



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