Finally...A Truly Great Crossover Cover!
I'm evidently a bit late to the party on this one, as this video seems to have been posted a few months ago -- but I think this is far too impressive and worth sharing to pass up, if even just a few readers wind up giving it a chance.
This here is a video of a Finnish group called Steve 'N' Seagulls offering a live re-interpretation of Pantera's "Cemetery Gates" that has been described on its youtube page as being "polka". While there are certainly unmistakable elements of polka in this cover, I think simply labeling it "polka" may do this performance something of a disservice (though likely unintentionally so), as there seem to be bluegrass, folk, country, and even gypsy jazz elements at work here as well.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm so rarely impressed with crossover covers like this as to almost never even indulge them with a single click. The cross-genre reworkings of classic tunes to which I've been privy over the years have almost invariably been nauseatingly sterile, and have often amounted to little more than cynical attempts to garner clicks, as opposed to genuinely thoughtful re-imaginings of pre-existing works.
Admittedly, I may be missing out on some incalculable amount of astonishing music as a result of this inclination of mine. But nonetheless, statistically speaking, I believe I'm likely much happier as a result of my current approach -- which is to allow these sorts of totally re-interpretative renditions of classic songs to simply float incidentally into my view, occasionally resulting in the happy accident of my falling in love with a precious few of them.
Needless to say, that kind of happy accident is precisely what occurred in this case!
Pantera and Me: A Love Story
At this point, I feel a sudden need to relay some personal context here as to why my admiration for this particular Steve 'N' Seagulls piece is so great.
Since the tender age of fourteen, Pantera has been my favorite band of all-time, second only to the Beatles. (Yeah yeah, I know that sounds weird to some, especially considering the type of music I play. But whatever -- fuck off. If you can sit down with an open mind and a Pantera record, and somehow tell me you've discovered therein no exceptional degree of talent, then you're either musically ignorant, self-deceived, a bald-faced liar, or repressed in some grotesque manner that would defy even the most astute psychological analysis.)
In fact, twice in my life, I've found myself overwhelmingly fortunate enough to have met and hung out with legendary Pantera guitarist, Dimebag Darrell. And I can honestly say without the slightest equivocation that the initial encounter I had with Dime was the single most important musical moment of my life.
(I once momentarily spoke about my all-too-brief experiences with Dime in a television appearance with one of the quirkiest interviewers life has ever thrust my way. For anyone interested, the relevant excerpts are available on youtube here: Don Ryan on Dimebag Darrell, New Album, & Songwriting.)
So -- being that residing within me is an utterly intense, molten-hot burning inferno of love for Pantera, I tend to be very protective of their music when I think someone is trying to disingenuously co-opt it for his or her own personal gain; or even worse, culturally capitalize on the untimely death of Dimebag Darrell -- as I suspect may have been the case here with Madonna's "cover" of Pantera's "A New Level". (Perhaps there is a debate to be had about her intentions there, but a) there's little chance of convincing me that this wasn't merely a feeble grab for some metal "street cred", and b) that whole topic is a discussion for another day that hopefully never fucking arrives.)
Let Me Finally Get This Train a'Rollin'!
Good lord! With all this preamble and these "Alice's Restaurant"-esque digressions, I seem to have almost lost the plot of this blog entirely! Many apologies, dear reader, if you're even still out there.
Let me get back on track: I've come to tell you about Steve 'N' Seagulls' excellent cover of "Cemetery Gates"!
First, it should be noted that not only did this performance not offend me in any way whatsoever -- well, maybe the singer/banjoist's hat did kinda bug me just a wee bit ;) -- I found this to be a truly exhilarating and refreshing take on this old classic. Steve 'N' Seagulls offered such an attentive and detail-oriented delivery that, to my ear, felt utterly genuine and in no way contrived.
In fact, as far as I'm concerned, this arrangement stands perfectly stable on its own two feet as a piece of art, regardless of the original; which is more than one can say about almost any cover of any song ever!
Though competence is certainly abound throughout, I'd consider the most daring moment of the performance to be the point at which Steve 'N' Seagulls fearlessly took on Dimebag's ever-daunting guitar solo -- and not only nailed it in terms of feel, but initially slowed things down for accordionist Hiltunen to fully allow the beauty of Dime's introductory solo melody to enjoy its well-deserved moment in the sun; only for the song to erupt moments later, allowing banjoist Herman to deliver the knockout blow with a slightly abridged but nonetheless furious conclusion to the solo. (Apologies to the band if I've gotten their names wrong. I'm only going by what I've found online.)
And of course, being that I'm a total sucker for gypsy jazz, I'd include among the highlights the uptempo gypsy/polka treatment of the song's main riff. It not only does a great service to Dimebag's original tonal concept, but also reveals an upbeat element of fun and an insight into the personalities of the musicians who comprise Steve 'N' Seagulls.
Anyway, without further ado, please check out "Cemetery Gates" performed by Steve 'N' Seagulls!