Rocket Man goes bluegrass, x 2

Bluegrass covers of pop, rock, and country songs have long been a part of our music. Flatt & Scruggs were doing them in the 1960s near the end of their tenure, just as The Country Gentlemen were starting to do the same. The Seldom Scene made it a staple of their shows, and it seems that every other new album has at least one, sometimes even a cover of a bluegrass cover of a pop number!

We have a curious situation now, with two young, contemporary grass acts dropping a single of the same pop hit, Elton John’s Rocket Man, first released in 1972. The song was an instant hit, and saturated rock and Top 40 radio in the fall of ’72, though it never made it to #1 on either the US or European charts. Even today, it remains a top seller in digital form, and is widely regarded as one of the most enduring songs to come out of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin collaboration.

And now in the fall of 2018, both Mile Twelve and Lil’ Smokies have versions to add to the many, many remakes of the anthem in the intervening years. Let’s take them each in turn, and everyone can choose which one works best for their tastes.

As has been their habit with pop covers, Mile Twelve plays it pretty straight, attempting to replicate the original as best they can with bluegrass instruments. Lead singer Evan Murphy’s voice is pitched similarly to Sir Elton’s, helping them keep the sound of the ’72 release, with fiddler Bronwyn Keith-Hynes replicating the slide guitar parts with her bow.

Contrast that with this take by the Smokies, who slap on a driving bluegrass beat and speed it up a bit for their Rocket Man. On top of that, vocalist Andy Dunnigan takes some liberties with the melody, giving the song a very different feel.

Both tracks are available now for sale wherever you stream or download music.

If you like one or the other better, let us know in the comments.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.