Truly nailing a cover song bringing something new to it while remaining true to the original's vision is always a tricky proposition.
But when the track you're covering is a beloved creation from lyric master Bruce Springsteen, well that's an even tougher challenge, according to Mavericks guitarist Raul Malo.
"You can think too much," said Malo, 35. He recently recorded the Boss' "Downbound Train" for Badlands: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, due Tuesday on Sub Pop. "You can think yourself out of doing the song, and that's what was starting to happen. I just went for it."
For rock singer/songwriter Ben Harper, Nebraska is a textbook study in emotion expressed in choice details. He covered "My Father's House," and in the song the house becomes a symbol for an unreconciled relationship between father and son.
"'My Father's House' could be the house of God, Heaven," Harper, 31, said. "Or 'My Father's House'
could be seeking this relationship with my father. Men have been struggling to know their fathers for years. My relationship is no different from that. It comes extremely close, if not nails my relationship with my father. He's singing to me about my dad as far as I'm concerned."
Although Nebraska is not Springsteen's best-selling album, it is widely recognized as one of the Boss' best.
Malo said it's an inspirational collection for musicians in particular, and not just for its aesthetic qualities. Coming after Springsteen's first top-10 hit in 1980 with The River's "Hungry Heart," a somber, home recording like Nebraska wasn't what most folks had in mind for Springsteen's next move.
"It blew the doors off the [record company's] expectations," Malo said. "You know what I love about a guy like that? He really does whatever he wants, and he fights for what he wants to do. That speaks volumes about an artist, that he goes against what's expected
of him, and does what he thinks in his heart is the best course of action to take. That's what Nebraska represents to me."