Best of Cover Wars: Highway 61 Revisited

Tombstone Blues (Tim O’Brien): A studio track has once again made its way into Cover Wars this week. Red On Blonde is an album O’Brien made in 1996 filled with Bob Dylan covers and when I first heard it a few years back, it blew me away. It’s a recommended listen for any Dylan fan, and worth a purchase based on his stellar renditions of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) and Lay Down You Weary Tune alone. Verses Sung: 1, 2, 5 and 6 (of 6).

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (The Black Crowes): It’s taken a long time for The Black Crowes to make their debut in this column, but it has finally come. If you like this, I grabbed it off a compilation that is available on featuring many other tracks of The Crowes covering the likes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd and many others.

From a Buick 6 (Great Plain Gypsies now known as The Gyps): What we have here is the most obscure track on the album that DaveO prays someone has covered while picking an album for his column. The Gyps do a straight-ahead cover of this straight-ahead Dylan blues-rocker. Check out the whole show on The Archive

Ballad of a Thin Man (Elliot Smith): Elliot gets every word of this 6-minute story that Dylan described as a song, “in response to people who ask questions all the time”. Elliot delivers a few phrases in a very Dylan-esque tone, which I can only assume is in loving tribute. Check out the whole show on The Archive

Queen Jane Approximately (Grateful Dead): Much like Elliott on the prior track, Bob Weir is channeling some Zimmerman-like delivery for some of these verses. This tune was the third most covered Dylan tune by the GD (played 129 times), behind When I Paint My Masterpiece (144 times) and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (145 times). Queen Jane Approximately remains a staple in the Ratdog repertoire. Check out the whole show on

Highway 61 Revisited (The Radiators): The Radiators have some ripping guitar in between verses on their cover of the title track. Check out the whole show on The Archive Verses sung: 1, 2, 3 & 5 (of 5).

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Neil Young): I had to pick Neil’s cover for this tune considering he was the subject of last week’s piece. I don’t think we’ll ever know if it was intentional by Neil or not, but he makes the women on Rue Morgue Avenue “ugly” instead of “hungry”. This track comes off the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert release where Neil also performs a ripping All Along The Watchtower. Verses sung: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 (of 6). “I’m going back to New York City” gets a big cheer from the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.


Desolation Row (Railroad Earth): The verdict on getting all 669 words of this song? So close! All verses are sung except Verse 7 (of 10). Perhaps that was intentional, I think a lot of the artists in this week’s edition have made a conscious effort to abbreviate some of the epic Dylan compositions. Check out the whole show on The Archive

Additional YouTubes:

A rare clip of John Mellencamp not selling Ford Trucks (Like A Rolling Stone from the Bob Dylan 30th Show at MSG):


Dylan does Tombstone Blues in 2000:


Steve Earle performs Train to Laugh…for some prisoners in TN:


One of my favorite’s Chris Smither doing Desolation Row:


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7 Responses

  1. I’m going to give a write-in vote for Nina Simone’s version of Tom Thumb’s.
    It’s a sublime version of a great tune.

  2. Really cool idea, so many options with Dylan as it’s been mentioned, I love Legion of Mary covering Tough Mamma…cool ass song, smooth ass cover. Vote goes to Neil here though, that Zero cover almost put me to sleep.

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