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David Bowie Cover of the Week: Sweet Megg’s Sweet Cover of “Soul Love”

Although, as usual, several quality Bowie covers were posted on YouTube and elsewhere this past week, it wasn’t a tough decision as to what to choose. Sweet Megg’s cover of “Soul Love” (as part of the Postmodern Juke Box series) has all the elements I like in looking for a cover to feature: the performance itself is outstanding, the song is not typically covered, the video is of a highly professional quality, and the arrangement is different enough from Bowie’s original to count as value added. My only hesitation in featuring this video is that it made its way around Bowie-related social media and there’s a good chance that if you are reading this, you already saw the video.

But see it again. It’s that good. Megg’s voice is terrific and the whole thing just has this big feel to it— like the video is an event. I’ve heard Bowie done as jazz before, for instance an excellent cover of “Starman” by Jazz Dynamos (click HERE to see my discussion of that and another great video). I suspect because the idea isn’t necessarily intuitive, those who make the attempt put special care into their plan of attack. Megg and her band certainly did. This sounds right.

In the course of running this weekly feature, I have sometimes received negative feedback more or less along the lines that covering Bowie is an affront. The logic is something along the lines of, Bowie is the best, nobody can do Bowie better than Bowie, so all covers are inherently inferior. I think this video is a better response than any counter-argument I can articulate with words alone. But I’ll add some words: part of the reason for “cover of the week” is to highlight the songs themselves, which have life and vitality beyond Bowie’s original recordings. Bowie lives on through his musical legacy, and the songs inspire artists ranging from major acts to “guys in their basement with a guitar.” The songs are beautiful and give artists a lot to work with. Just as I’m happy that Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett recorded their own versions of the same songs, so too am I happy about an artist like Sweet Megg who takes a half-century old Bowie song and injects it with something new.

And that brings me back to song selection— “Soul Love” is a good song that gets overlooked because it’s on the same album as “Starman,” “Suffragette City,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” and, well, almost every other song on Ziggy Stardust, almost of of which get more attention than “Soul Love.” But “Soul Love” deserves some attention and I’m very happy Megg chose it rather than something more common like “Space Oddity” or “‘Heroes’” to cover.

Megg has a website, which you can link to HERE. Paraphrasing her bio, her thing is combining old-time jazz with country. Her influences range from Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith to Patsy Cline and Bonnie Raitt, reflecting her diverse musical background. Megg’s upcoming album, Bluer than Blue, set for a 2024 release, will continue to explore this unique fusion, featuring her original compositions that blend the storytelling of classic country with the improvisational freedom of jazz. You can read more about her on her website. I’ll note that this rendition of “Soul Love” is all jazz with no country, at least as far as I can tell.

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As much as I like Sweet Megg’s “Soul Love,” I indeed found other quality covers this week, a few of which I will highlight below. Click on the bolded song title to link to the video:

Look Back in Anger by Voragine. Another somewhat overlooked Bowie song, this is a quality cover with a video that, though minimalistic, shows some attention to visual art (but I mostly like it for how the performance sounds).

Life on Mars by Tracy Ratledge. Recall how I mentioned the “guy in his basement with a guitar” type of cover— this is a woman in her basement (well, I don’t know it’s her basement) with a guitar. And she plays the guitar well! Nothing particularly unique about this cover, but I like it.

Bring Me the Disco King by Johnny Amish. Guy, guitar, room (possibly basement). Actually, were it not for Sweet Megg, this would have been my featured selection this week. Very well done, stripped down performance of a rarely-covered later Bowie song. This performance draws more attention to the song’s words than Bowie’s original version, at least to my ears. Nothing flashy here, but very solid.

The Jean Genie by Icehouse. This video suffers from a common affliction of concert videos— the sound isn’t great, which is a big problem when you want to listen to a song. But I’m including this because the performance is good and who doesn’t want an excuse to listen to “The Jean Genie?”

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