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Revelatory covers (1st in a series) : June Tabor sings Kris Kristofferson

Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee will forever be the best-known cover of a Kris Kristofferson song, but even more remarkable is June Tabor‘s singular version of Casey’s Last Ride.

Their American “outlaw country” author recorded both songs on his eponymous LP, released in 1970.

Both have been covered many times; Gordon Lightfoot had a hit with the former song before the author’s or Janis’s versions, and in 1971 John Denver covered the latter, surprisingly well. (it is probably the darkest song Denver ever recorded)

Kristofferson did hear Janis sing Me and Bobby McGee, but – along with the world in general – only after she had died. (they had been lovers. Some believe that she had inspired his song)

I have no idea whether or not Kristofferson has ever heard June Tabor’s October 1998 performance of Casey’s Last Ride at the Purcell Room in London.

It is the most surprising arrangement of a Kristofferson song that I have ever heard. More importantly, it is also the most heart-rending; when (her friend and former regular accompanist) Martin Simpson first head this recording he cried, and had to go outside for 20 minutes.

With June were her preferred pianist-arranger Huw Warren and a brass quintet – tuba player Oren Marshall, trumpeter Richard Iles, trombonist Liam Kirkman, bass trombonist John Higginbotham and French hornist Alan Tokeley.

For a great number of songs, the best thing that ever happened was when June Tabor chose them.

I think she is the greatest living interpretive singer of lyrics, in English.

You can believe the headline in an interview-based articleJune Tabor: ‘Will I ever write a song? I would say the answer is no’

This post’s recording is issued only on June Tabor’s 2005 4-CD boxed set, Always.

Always surveys four decades and is superbly annotated. Divided approximately equally between selections from previous albums and “rarities, most unavailable elsewhere”, it is a must for Tabor-philes and newcomers alike.

A new album is imminent; Nightfall will be the 2nd outing on ECM from Quercus – the trio of June Tabor, Huw Warren and saxophonist Iain Bellamy.

Published in 'western' musics music songs, in English

One Comment

  1. Bob Evans Bob Evans

    Hi Doug,
    Thanks for the pointer to Casey’s Last Ride – not a song I’ve ever heard before – and I agree that June Tabor sings it brilliantly and darkly. Your comment about John Denver’s darkest song got me thinking about a song written by Bill Danoff titled Readjustment Blues which Denver recorded on Aerie. It may not be as dark as Casey, but it certainly seemed uncharacteristic of Denver at the time. And I don’t really know much about Bill Danoff but I remember appreciating the song when the Vietnam war was still raging and demos against conscription were mounting in Australia and the US.
    Cheers.

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