It was raining today when I stepped outside my house in Ohio on the way to my office. It was cold. It was, obviously, November. In other words, the circumstances were perfect for experiencing the timeless power ballad from Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion I. So what good fortune that Nicole Atkins and Mark Lanegan came through with a new interpretation of that very song, an ideal companion for this pre-Thanksgiving moment when the trees have lost their color and death is setting in.
Atkins and Lanegan’s “November Rain” cover turns the song into a slow-cooking country-rock duet. The Screaming Trees singer’s signature grizzled, gothic baritone makes an ideal complement to Atkins’ sweet high-pitched twang. For that we can thank Atkins’ intuition and some dreams inspired by a stay at a cozy Vermont inn, as she explains via email:
A couple summers ago, I was staying at this really cool Inn I found online in Vermont. It was called Grunberger Haus. A little Cozy Santa cabin made of wood with Thurston Moore record’s on the wall in the lobby. It was a magical retreat in the woods and a total score online from my usual chain hotels I get on tour.
I had some really weird dreams during my two nights there.
In one of them I dreamt that I was in an old tower and I was singing an old ’60s country style duet of the Guns and Roses song “November Rain,” and it sounded awesome. I immediately woke up and sang it into my phone the way I heard it.
When I got back to Nashville, I called a couple friends and went into our friend JD’s home studio and recorded it. Everything came together really quickly.
I still didn’t know who I’d get to sing it with me and then I thought, “well who’s the best loving singer?” For me it’s Mark Lanegan. We became acquainted back in ’06 when he sent me a MySpace message about my demo of my song “Neptune City.” Oddly enough that was the same month I’d just gotten turned onto his “Here Comes that Weird Chill” EP.
Mark and I have been talking about singing together now for over ten years so this seemed like the perfect time to do it. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by asking and it turned out exactly as I’d pictured.
The best thing with this cover is that I’ll play it and people don’t realize what they’re listening to until 30 seconds in. My dad thought it was a Conway Twitter cover. Then they all go, “Wait, is this November Rain?! I love that song!!!!
For his part, Lanegan writes, “Doing this song was a blast. It combined two of my favorite things: Nicole’s beautiful voice and GNR.” As a listener, I concur: good stuff. Let the late-fall vibing commence.
Check out the duo’s “November Rain” cover below — and if it stokes your hunger for the gnarly Slash solo from the original, stick around for the that too.