Top 6 Bluegrass Covers of Classic Rock Songs

With its roots in folk music, bluegrass tends to lean heavily on tried and true standards. However, some modern bluegrass bands have taken things in a different direction by covering classic rock songs. These adaptations adeptly bring classic rock into the bluegrass context, complete with the genre’s signature instrumentation and layered harmonies. Check out these fantastic bluegrass covers of classic rock songs.

Videos by American Songwriter

1. “Rocket Man”—The Lil Smokies

The Lil Smokies turn Elton John’s yearning piano ballad into a bouncy bluegrass song. Driven by fiddles, the track perfectly blends elements of the original track while making it into something completely new. The standout is the chorus, where the band breaks into two-part harmony. Elton John’s track suddenly lends itself to a mournful country vibe, which The Lil Smokies deliver with heart-rending perfection. It’s utterly different from the original without forsaking it altogether. 

2. “Carry on Wayward Son”—Iron Horse

When you first hear Iron Horse’s cover of the classic “Carry on Wayward Son,” you’ll assume it’s just an uncommonly catchy bluegrass tune. It’s not until a few bars in that you ask, “Wait, is this…Kansas?” The classic rock song lends itself incredibly well to this rambunctious adaptation, as especially exemplified when the backing guitar and banjo come in. Iron Horse covered this track for the compilation album The Bluegrass Tribute to Classic Rock, and it’s absolutely a standout on the track list.

[RELATED: Top 3 Contemporary Bluegrass Artists to Know]

3. “Dear Prudence”—Cornmeal

When Cornmeal gave “Dear Prudence” the bluegrass treatment, it was surprising how well it worked. The Beatles classic gets a guitar and mandolin makeover, with fiddle accompaniment in the background for good measure. It’s simple and perfect, a fitting tribute to The Beatles and their White Album. Cornmeal’s cover shows that bluegrass adaptations can be creative without getting too over-the-top. 

4. “Bad Moon Rising”—The Seldom Scene

There might not be a bluegrass cover of any rock song that’s more intensely bluegrass than this. The Seldom Scene hits hard with their adaptation of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” coming in with frantic banjo pickin’ right out of the gate. The rest of the song is performed with tight, layered harmonies, making CCR seem right at home in a country music hall. It’s intensely creative and catchy, and will no doubt take many listeners by surprise.

5. “Wild Horses”—Old & in the Way

This Rolling Stones number didn’t originally start with a furious mandolin intro, that’s for sure. But the bluegrass group Old & in the Way gave this already-country-tinged classic a one-of-a-kind remake in 1997. Set against the backing instrumentation of mandolin, banjo, and guitar, this “Wild Horses” cover seems right at home in its new bluegrass clothes.

6. “I’m on Fire”—Town Mountain 

Bruce Springsteen gets his own unique bluegrass makeover that toes the line between pure bluegrass and classic country. Featuring an animated mandolin intro and a mournful fiddle foundation, the song is sung in twangy two-part harmony that brings it solidly into the country sphere. The original track won’t ever be bested, but keeping from tapping your toe to Town Mountain’s cover is impossible.

Photo by Aaron J.H. Walker/Getty Images

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Tyler Childers Redefines Classic Country