Cover Corner: Colin Hay – Driving With the Brakes On (Del Amitri)

Cover songs can serve a number of purposes; reimagining a song in a way that puts it into a new context, honoring the creator of the song, or highlighting a lesser known track which may have been forgotten over time.

On his recent covers album, Australian troubadour Colin Hay certainly does the latter with his warm, gentle cover of “Driving with the Brakes On” by Scottish rock group Del Amitri, from their 1995 album Twisted. In Hay’s versions, the drums and extra accouterments are mixed to the background, putting central focus on his acoustic guitar and soothing, melancholy vocals.

Having never heard the original version, I was immediately captivated. As Hay sings “When you’re driving with the brakes on, When you’re swimming with your boots on. It’s hard to say you love someone. And it’s hard to say you don’t” in a subdued but still impassioned tenor, it’s impossible not to feel for the song’s protagonist, struggling in a turbulent relationship. And hearing this version led me to listening to the original track (and all of Twisted, which aside from the classic single “Roll to Me”, I had never heard). The original version is just as lovely, adding in gentle country-rock guitar lines and percussion, as well as some subtle harmonies.

So if like me, you haven’t heard this track, take a listen to Colin Hay‘s version, as well as Del Amitri‘s original, below:

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