“I love country music,” Mick Jagger revealed back in 1995. “Even though it’s been very Americanized, it feels very close to me, to my roots, so to speak.”
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Picking more from the blues greats like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker, the Rolling Stones were never chasing a country song, but they knew where to find one.
In the early speckles of 1969 Let It Bleed track “Love in Vain” and throughout the ’70s, more country painted the band’s repertoire on Sticky Fingers’ “Wild Horses” and “Dead Flowers”— the latter partly inspired by Keith Richards’ buddy Gram Parsons. Never hiding from its twang, the Rolling Stones’ admiration for the country genre later slipped through Exile on Main St. tracks “Sweet Virginia” and “Torn and Frayed,” along with “Winter” from Goats Head Soup, and the Some Girls storyteller “Far Away Eyes.”
Regardless of the Stones’ draw to country, some of their songs —even the hardest of tracks — hold pieces of their essence. Fittingly, the rock band’s music was revisited by a collection of Nashville artists on Stoned Cold Country: A 60th Anniversary Tribute to The Rolling Stones.
Commemorating the band’s six decades together, Stoned Cold Country runs through 14 Stones tracks in a more countrified state. A collection of country-bent covers, the album isn’t so much a reimagining of the Stones’ songs but a gathering of artists who have the rock slant and can still remain faithful to the originals — with a few unexpected alterations.
When that four-part harmony hits, Little Big Town finds the larger longing in “Wild Horses,” while Ashley McBryde lends a feminine touch to the more male-dominant “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Zac Brown Band makes “Paint It Black” sound less sinister while Brooks & Dunn are the perfect choice for another Stones’ classic as the duo brings more honky tonk to the 1969 hit “Honky Tonk Women.”
On the Brothers Osborne and The War And Treaty’s four-way medley of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” the lyrics ring out, but it’s Tanya Trotter’s parts — reminiscent of Tina Turner’s own explosive duet with Jagger in 1985 — that inject the most vigor into the hard rocker.
Slicing through with his guitar, and lifted by a touch of strings, Steve Earle manages to soften the blow, (just a bit) on the more heartrending “Angie,” and Lainey Wilson’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” peps up the tempo of the slower brooding original.
Singing Women think I’m tasty, but they’re always tryin’ to waste me / Make me burn the candle right down, Elle King leaves an unexpected twist to the bluesier Exile on Main St. track “Tumbling Dice,” with Koe Wetzel delivering a sincere rendition of closer “Shine a Light.”
Maren Morris reveals a surprising transformation on her fiery rendition of “Dead Flowers” with another modification to a Stones classic on Jimmie Allen’s more soulful R&B-tipped “Miss You.” Taking on a song like “Sympathy for the Devil” is no easy task, but Elvie Shane mixed it up enough in his tapping instrumentals and echoed vocals.
With his crunching guitar, Marcus King knows just how to cut right into the grittier ends of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Another standout on the album, Eric Church managed to reconfigure the rhythm of “Gimme Shelter” with Joanna Cotten just waiting to wail on the explosive Merry Clayton parts.
Clearly, King and Church could very well cut an entire Stones album on their own, but the remaining covers still demonstrate the hardiness of the Stones catalog — in country, or wherever the music moves them.
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