Artists You Should Know: The Detroit Cobras (with ticket and mp3 giveaway)

The Detroit Cobras

Next Friday Madison will be treated to the devastatingly hip retro sounds of one of the Midwest’s greatest cover bands.  Described as “combining girl-group hooks and harmonies with high-octane, Motor City garage rock, the Detroit Cobras conjure the 1960s era of Top 40 AM radio and vinyl 45s…singer Rachel Nagy has attitude to burn and the mixed-gender band plays with plenty of rough-hewn energy.”  ( We’ve got the full story below, plus free mp3 downloads and a chance to win tickets to their show.

GENRE: Garage Rock, Soul

SOUNDS LIKE: The Mooney Suzuki, The Sonics, The Von Bondies


“One of the earliest groups to emerge from the Detroit garage rock scene, the Detroit Cobras developed a reputation as the Midwest’s finest (and most distinctive) cover band — while the band members devoted themselves to performing other peoples’ material rather than recycling established hits, the Detroit Cobras dug deep into the well of vintage R&B and primitive rock & roll sides, building an individual identity out of lost classics from the past which they modified to fit their swaggering aural personality.

The Detroit Cobras were formed in 1995 by Steve Shaw, who developed a taste for classic R&B from spending time with Alex Chilton, whom he met through his friends in Detroit primitives the Gories. The first edition of the Detroit Cobras featured former exotic dancer Rachel Nagy on vocals, Shaw and Maribel Restrepo (ex-Vertical Pillows) on guitars, Jeff Meier (from Rocket 455) on bass, and Vic Hill on drums, and they released their first 7″ in 1996.

In what would prove to be the first in a long line of personal changes, Hill was replaced by Chris Fachini by the time the Cobras released their third single (which also hit the stores in 1996), and their debut LP, Mink Rat or Rabbit, featured a third timekeeper, Damian Lang (who’d worked with Snake Out and Elvis Hitler). During the three years that passed before the Detroit Cobras appeared on the Jack White-produced compilation Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit, founder Shaw left the band, with Dante Aliano stepping in on guitar and Rob Smith taking over on bass.

Rachel Nagy’s tough but soulful vocals and Maribel Restrepo’s lean, muscular guitar lines would be the group’s only constants from this point on, though they would be enough to earn the group a potent following on the American garage scene and a major buzz in the United Kingdom, where they scored a deal with the fabled indie label Rough Trade, which released 2001’s Life, Love and Leaving in Great Britain (it appeared on Sympathy for the Record Industry in the United States). (That LP also featured new guy Eddie Hawrsh on bass.)

While veteran tunesmiths Ellie Greenwich and Jackie DeShannon expressed interest in writing material with the group, the fourth Cobras album, 2004’s Baby, once again featured them rocking out on a stack of R&B dusties, though Greg Cartwright, who helped produce the album, did co-write an original with Nagy and Restrepo, ‘Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat).’ The album also documented another Cobras lineup, with Nagy and Restrepo joined by Steve Nawara on guitar, Joe Mazzola on bass, and Kenny Tudrick on drums.

After a brief hiatus and a move to Bloodshot Records, the Phil Spector-influenced Tied and True was released in 2007 with yet another rotation of musicians — reintroducing Greg Cartwright and adding seasoned bassist Carol Schumacher, a fellow member of the Reigning Sound, to the ever-changing roster.” -Mark Deming,

Detroit Cobras


Detroit Cobras – “As Long As I Have You”

Detroit Cobras – “On A Monday”


The ‘Cobras have us thinking about cover songs that surpass their original recording.  Tell us at least 3 songs that have a cover version that is superior to their original recordings.  What makes them memorable?  Post your comments by 6:00 pm this Friday for a chance to win a pair of spots on the guest list for the show. Winners will be notified at that time.


Check out the Detroit Cobras on their official site and MySpace.

3 Responses

  1. the Clash – Pressure Drop (Toots and the Maytals) –
    the faster, amped-up version to me just sounds more immediate, more in line with the song lyrics…

    Band of Horses – The End’s not Near (The New Year) –
    the vocals on the BoH version just sound better to me, plus the song was on the TV show The OC, doesn’t that automatically make it awesome???

    Cat Power – I Found a Reason (The Velvet Underground) –
    this is tough to admit to, but I find the VU version long and sounding kinda dated, and Cat Power strips the song down to the parts that suit her voice really well. Her version is raw and haunting.

    The Jesus Lizard – Sunday You Need Love (Trio) – in all honesty I’ve not heard the original, but I’m not sure how it could be better than the Jesus Lizard, doesn’t seem possible…

    Jason Sailing

  2. CatPower – New York, New York – she brings out the ache lurking within the song

    Iggy Pop – One For My Baby – His voice has always lined up nicely as a lounge lizard and this song has always provided him the opportunity to slink around.

    Cracker – Duty Free – Ike Reilly is great but his version is too poppy. Cracker drunks it up like an Irish drinking song.

    Mono Men – Rumble – The greatest song ever and they add a third testicle to the proceedings. Roar!

  3. Cat Power really has a way with covers, doesn’t she? Your selections were fun to read! The contest is now closed, but if you have more favorite covers to share, comment away.

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