The 1988 single “Fast Car” is the song that put Tracy Chapman on the map, and it’s a time-capsule memory from a lost era where a sincere folk song about poverty could become a massive crossover hit. (The rap duo Nice & Smooth sampled it on “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow,” one of the great forgotten hits of the early Def Jam era.) During a recent visit to the BBC Live Lounge, the super huge-faced Sam Smith followed the path laid down by so many coffeehouse open-mic-night singer-songwriters before him, trying out his own cover of “Fast Car.” But unlike those coffeehouse types, he radically overhauled the song, with his band giving it a spacious lite-soul arrangement that gave Smith’s voice plenty of room to maneuver. Check out Smith’s live-in-studio cover below.
Smith’s album In The Lonely Hour is out now on Capitol.