A good cover song played on an acoustic guitar can be an inspiring, powerful piece of art. Unfortunately, there are some songs that are way, way too popular with cover artists. Here’s a look at five acoustic cover songs that guitarists should avoid along with suggestions for similar songs to play instead.
Johnny Cash – “Folsom Prison Blues” – This seems like an obvious choice for a cover song, as everyone knows it (or at least the “I shot a man in Reno” line) and it’s from a popular, well-respected artist. Unfortunately, its simple 12-bar blues progression makes it far too popular, and “Folsom Prison Blues” gets covered by a lot of folks who don’t can’t get across the grit and shock of the original.
Play This Instead: “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” is a less well-known Johnny Cash tune that could use a good cover version. If you’re looking for something more uptempo, try “Big River.”
Sublime – “What I Got” – This song made Sublime heroes to a generation of ska and punk fans who dig the laid-back vibe and catchy chorus. It’s now impossible to walk through a major college campus without seeing some dude hammering his way through the chords, but let’s be honest: “What I Got” is kind of a rip-off of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”
Play This Instead: “Santeria” is covered less often and it’s a much better song from the band’s short history.
Rolling Stones – “Dead Flowers” – Some songs are covered because they’re well-written and effortlessly simple. There are three chords in the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers,” so it’s one of those guitar songs that everyone at the open mic night will know how to play. That’s not always a good thing.
Play This Instead: “Wild Horses” has the same country sensibilities as “Dead Flowers,” and it also has a more challenging guitar part.
The Beatles – “Blackbird” – This Paul McCartney classic is one of the most difficult songs on this list. However, it still only takes an afternoon or two to learn, so it’s a very common cover song. There’s really no reason to cover it, though–it’s hard to picture a cover version of “Blackbird” that adds anything to the original.
Play This Instead: Everything by the Beatles has been covered pretty extensively, but no audience can deny the beauty of John Lennon’s “Across The Universe.”
Old Crow Medicine Show – “Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show wrote “Wagon Wheel” by borrowing heavily from an old Bob Dylan demo with the same name. Unfortunately, every guy with a guitar now knows the simple chords to this tune, and if you’ve been to an open mic or a local music show in the last five years, you’re already tired of this song.
Play This Instead: “Wagon Wheel” is a lot of fun, but “Tell It To Me” is another great singalong tune from O.C.M.S. that’s less likely to annoy folk music fans.
What do you think are the worst acoustic guitar cover songs? Post below.