A Dylan cover a day: Tombstone Blues

By Tony Attwood

Tombstone Blues struck me as one of those songs I was not going to have much luck with in looking for really interesting and different versions of the song.  The fast beat of the original tends to mitigate against anyone doing anything else with the piece – or at least that is how it generally seems to me.  But I was as ever, wrong…

Tim O’Brien keeps the speed up, but changes the key instrument to a banjo, and adds a second chord to the verse.  Then in comes an accomplished violin, and then the chorus has vocal harmonies – and all that before the thrilling instrumental break between the verses.

It’s great fun, and even the double bass player gets into the swing of doing something very different.  By the end I’m thinking this is how it ought to be performed.

Tim O’Brien

The illustration of Dylan hanging from the clock for the second cover is arresting, and Winston Apple’s version gives us a bit of bounce and fun – plus enough variation from the original for it all to seem worthy of a mention.

The original version of the picture (here), as you may well know, is Harold Lloyd from the movie Safety Last

Richie Havens

As Jochen pointed out on this site a couple of years ago in the final episode of his 13 part series on the song, “The best-known cover is probably the one by Richie Havens, on the soundtrack of the Dylan film I’m Not There (2007), and rightly so. (There are links to all the episodes of Jochen’s investigation at the end of the article noted above). But even more moving and exciting is the snippet (one minute and seven seconds) in the film itself.

Watkins Family

So is there anywhere else to go?  Well yes, the Watkins Family Hour.  (I’m not familiar with the band, hence I can only offer a link to their own site.)   But I would say I do hope you have time to listen all the way through.   They really do keep the essence of the song but add their re-interpretation of the song which is really worth hearing.

Dicte & Hempler

Again I am a bit stuck for information on the band, but I do like this version as it strips the song down, and carefully rebuilds it with limited resources.  An excellent re-imagining in my view on what is really a very simple piece of music.  It’s over six minutes long, but held my attention to the end.


I’ve really enjoyed finding that collection of versions – hope you found something in there which was enjoyable for you.  Just as I hope you listened to that last version right up to the last couple of seconds.

Here’s the rest of this series of reviews of Dylan covers in the “Cover a Day” series.  Over 150 of them, so not enough to keep you going all year, but still, quite a few.

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