Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Cover Leonard Cohen With David Grubbs
For months now, old friends Bill Callahan and Will Oldham (recording, as usual, as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) have been getting together with friends and covering other people’s songs. Callahan and Oldham have released those covers one at a time, and they’ve taken on tracks from songwriters both beloved and obscure. In recent weeks, they’ve dropped their versions of songs from Johnnie Frierson, Air Supply, and Michael Burton. Most recently, they’ve covered Oldham’s own Palace classic “Arise, Therefore.” And today, they’ve take on one of the big dogs. Callahan and Oldham have covered Leonard Cohen.
Interestingly, Callahan and Oldham haven’t recorded one of the many beloved old Leonard Cohen songs, the ones that get covered all the time. Instead, they’ve released their version of “The Night Of Santiago” — a Cohen song that came out in 2019, three years after his death. Cohen was working on an album when he died in 2016, and his son Adam released a finished version of it under the title Thanks For The Dance a little more than a year ago. “The Night Of Santiago” is a story-song based on a brief affair, which Cohen adapted from a Federico García Lorca poem. The Leonard Cohen version of the song features contributions from musicians like Beck, Daniel Lanois, and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry.
For their cover, Oldham and Callahan have teamed up with the veteran avant-rock guitar wizard and former Squirrel Bait/Gastr Del Sol member David Grubbs. Oldham, who always appreciates the opportunity to sing some surprisingly horny lyrics, doesn’t have the gravity of late-in-life Leonard Cohen, but he really sings it, and the contrast between his tenor and Callahan’s baritone really works on this one. They also kept the flamenco-style handclap beat from the original. It’s a really cool cover! I might like it better than Cohen’s version! Check out both versions below.
“The Night Of Santiago,” like all the Bill Callahan/Bonnie ‘Price’ Billy covers, is out now on Drag City.