Best Acoustic Covers of All Time: My Top 40 in 2023

Published Categorized as Acoustic Guitar Songs
best acoustic guitar covers

I heard an acoustic version of Thunderstruck by AC/DC (see #4 below) and it made me think that this website needed a list of the best acoustic covers.

So I have created my top 40 in the list below. The focus of the list is based around:

  • The skill of the players;
  • How they brought out the emotion and feel of the original; and
  • The touch of uniqueness they added to the song.

In no particular order:

Table of Contents


Acoustic Guitar Cover #6: Beat it


Artist: Karlijn Langendijk

Song: Beat It

Original Composition: Michael Jackson

This was a great arrangement of the piece where she attempted the guitar solo!


Acoustic Guitar Cover #5: Teardrop


Artist: Newton Faulkner

Song: Teardrop

Original Composition: Massive Attack

My focus for this list was on the guitar work – and this is the only acoustic cover on the list with vocals. But I felt it earned a place. One guy playing this trip-hop classic with just him and his acoustic is pretty impressive!

Not sure how he gets that reverberation out of his guitar for the percussive parts – maybe it’s something to do with the room that he’s playing in?


Acoustic Guitar Cover #4: Thunderstruck


Artist: Luca Stricagnoli

Song: Thunderstruck

Original Composition: AC/DC

This isn’t the last time this talented Italian musician appears on this list. In fact, I was tempted to put him at #1 and #2 but I felt the balance of the list was better splitting them up – but I just couldn’t leave either of them off the list.

And as if this wasn’t skillful enough watch out for around 1 minute 10 secs into the video – the dude starts walking as he’s playing!

What’s perhaps even more unbelievable is that Luca is only about 30 years old!


Acoustic Guitar Cover #3: Little Wing


Artist: Dan C Holloway

Song: Little Wing (fingerstyle arrangement)

Original Composition: Jimi Hendrix

I once learned the intro to this song and loved playing it (must re-learn it the way this guy plays it!) but I always got stuck after the intro – when playing without a band and without any singing it gets a bit fiddly after the intro.

But the way this guy has arranged it has really bought out the original song in a fingerstyle arrangement that sounds really awesome with just the one guitar.


Acoustic Guitar Cover #2: Crazy


Artist: Don Ross

Song: Crazy

Original Composition: Gnarls Barkley

What can I say! I have a whole new appreciation for this song now.

Brings through the funkiness of the song and adds his own flavor. Great arrangement, with some immense skill, and brilliantly brings out the emotion and the rhythm of the original – all on one instrument. Takes acoustic songs to a new level!


Acoustic Guitar Cover #1: Last of the Mohicans


Artist: Luca Straglioni

Song: Last of the Mohicans

Original Composition: Randy Edelman / Trevor Jones (last of the Mohicans score)

The second appearance of Luca Straglioni on this list is a cover of the theme from the movie Last of the Mohicans.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that this actually brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it – in amidst huge admiration for the shared skill of this guy.

The Rest…

If you are still hungry for more acoustic covers, then never fear! We have you covered!

#7 ‘Because’ by Elliott Smith

Originally a Beatles song featuring some very distinctive early use of a synthesizer, Elliott Smith took this tune and made it his own with his signature spider-web-quiet vocals. Already a big fan of the Beatles, this act surely cemented it in the mind of his fans.

Because

#8 ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Taken By Trees

This version of the tune is among the best acoustic cover songs to ever take a rock song and turn it into something far more tender. The original version is full of toxic masculinity and misguided bombast – here we are treated to emotions that are genuinely touching.

Sweet Child o' Mine

#9. ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana

Who would have thought that one of Nirvana’s defining moments would be them playing songs of their own in an acoustic style? Yes, this album is likely the best acoustic setlist and acoustic performance for those unwilling to meet folk music in the middle. Still, this is one of the best acoustic rock songs!

All Apologies

#10 ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden

Fellow grunge-era compatriots Soundgarden were also not shy about bringing out an acoustic rendition of one of their own songs. This came in the form of one of their most popular songs, providing the world with an unforgettably captivating cover version that removes any inkling of death metal from the original.

Black Hole Sun

#11 ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure

The Cure also had their own time to shine on MTV’s famous unplugged series and here exhibited one of their most beloved songs for the listening public to hear rendered in an acoustic style.

Just like Heaven (2006 Remaster)

#12 ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton

Normally, I am utterly averse to giving Eric Clapton any sort of shine on any of these lists purely because he is such a racist pig. However, I thought today we could change that by giving him a place on the list purely to make it known that he is indeed a racist pig. This prejudice has made itself known several times, especially when Clapton had a drunken outburst during one of his shows.

Layla (Acoustic Live)

#13 ‘Street Fighting Man’ by the Rolling Stones

Here, through the facade of awful album art, the Stones exhibit their uncanny ability to rock and roll even acoustically and even at the ripe old age that they were back when they recorded this!

Street Fighting Man (Live / Remastered 2009)

#14 ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by Pete Townsend

One of rock music’s great rhythm guitarists nabs a spot on this list just so I can mention the oft-forgotten fact that he is actually a pedophile. Seems everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet…

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#15 ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus

Heaven knows it’s far more difficult for a pop artist to cover their own material acoustically due to the fact that so much goes into a big pop production that really lifts the song and the vocalist upon which it lays. Here, Miley Cyrus does an acoustic version of this ballad apparently to prove wrong those who naysay her vocal ability and who detract by alleging that the vocals on the studio version of this track are rife with autotune – you be the judge!

Wrecking Ball

#16 ‘Twist and Shout’ by the Mamas & the Papas

Hallmarks of 1960s pop music the Mamas & the Papas take on an iconic tune by the Beatles for a real 1960s festival of masturbatory proportions.

Twist And Shout

#17 ‘Surfer Girl’ by Happyness

Indie-pop outsiders Happiness bring forth an excellent acoustic rendition of the Beach Boys’ classic ‘Surfer Girl’, reimagining it with just his voice and some scant instrumentation.

Surfer Girl

#18 ‘Prototype’ by Tame Impala

Australian psych-pop legends Tame Impala once stepped down to street level to take Outkast’s ‘Prototype’ for a ride and it was a great time!

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#19 ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo has never been shy to share their covers with the world – this Cure offering from their later discography is a real gem!

Friday I'm In Love

#20 ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Yo La Tengo

Pilfered from the same album as the Cure cover from above, this is a cover of the late and great Hank Williams’ signature tune. There’s no shortage of great covers from this band, and this is no doubt one of the greatest acoustic songs of all time too!

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

#21 ‘Ballad of Red Buckets’ by Yo La Tengo

They’ve only gone and done it again! This time, though, they have chosen to cover themselves! What fun!

The Ballad of Red Buckets

#22 ‘Jesus’ by Smog

Before Bill Callahan was Bill Callahan, he was Smog, offering more experimental offerings than his decidedly tender work nowadays. Back then, he even covered the Velvet Underground!

Smog (Bonus Track)

#23 ‘Only You Know’ by Arctic Monkeys

For all their missteps, the Arctic Monkeys remain a bunch of artists with impeccable musical taste. Covering a song by legendary pop singer Dion is a step in the right direction!

Only You Know

#24 ‘For The Good Times’ by Kris Kristofferson

One of America’s most underrated country singer-songwriters, Kris Kristofferson has always been more comfortable operating in the background. Still, this version of Perry Como’s classic track has been an enduring hit for him.

For The Good Times

#25 ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ by Johnny Cash

This song was originally written by none other than Kris Kristofferson, though perhaps it was taken for more of a ride by Johnny Cash in this astounding live version.

Sunday Morning Coming Down (Live)

15 Songs to Cover Acoustically

If none of these other tunes take your fancy, why not try these classic tunes and cover them yourself?

#1 ‘Cherry Cherry’ by Neil Diamond

In the days when the single reigned supreme and before his debut album, Neil Diamond released a whole bunch of great singles on the Bang label of which this is one of the best!

Cherry, Cherry

#2 ‘California’ by Joni Mitchell

A real classic before the era of MTV Unplugged rid acoustic music of any dignity, this is her ode to her home state.

California

#3 ‘Guinnevere’ by Crosby, Stills & Nash

This strange song seems to contain multitudes, wearing within its diaphanous garbs a mystery yet to be cracked.

Guinnevere (2005 Remaster)

#4 ‘Parallelograms’ by Linda Perhacs

Arguably the best dentist to ever make folk music, Perhacs released this album and then it was long forgotten before rediscovery in this era. Try wrapping your head around those dense harmonies next time you pick up your axe of choice!

Dolphin

#5 ‘Rye Whiskey’ by Tex Ritter

This ode to whiskey is sung by none other than Hollywood’s own Tex Ritter, an acting musician in cowboy get-up who sings pastiche and paradoxical versions of lives in the old West.

Rye Whiskey

#6 ‘Tecumseh Valley’ by Townes Van Zandt

Known for his scathing poetical lyrics, Van Zandt here takes us on a trip through the yarn of Caroline, the daughter of a miner who heads over to Tecumseh Valley to look for work, falling upon hard times and inevitably crumbling before the lord.

Tecumseh Valley

#7 ‘Courtyard’ by Bobbie Gentry

Bobbie Gentry is easily one of the underrated voices in country music of the last 50 years and this song is clear evidence why that is the case.

Courtyard

#8 ‘This Is My Name’ by Sun City Girls

This forlorn letter by the Sun City Girls to their late drummer is just one of the many beautiful and gut-wrenching songs featured throughout this album. On what would be their last release, the band paid fitting tribute to their deceased member and friend, in turns playful and austere.

This is My Name

#9 ‘Venus in Furs’ by the Velvet Underground

Looking to acoustically soundtrack some sort of transgressive happening? Then it looks like the Velvet Underground has got you covered once again! The original demo for this song by John Cale sounds more like a baroque air on the lute than an experimental rock song, so follow his example and get creative!

Venus In Furs

#10 ‘Leading a Double Life’ by Blue Gene Tyranny

Though a sight more experimental than some of the other offerings on this list, the songwriting chops here ensure that this song can be transposed to just about any context and still work efficiently at conveying its message. Blue Gene Tyranny really is one of the forgotten greats!

Leading a Double Life

#11 ‘Slip Inside This House’ by the 13th Floor Elevators

Probably more famously covered by the legendary Primal Scream, the original is no less potent. In fact, the droning nature of the song combined with the knowledge that they were all inebriated by psychedelic substances at the time of recording makes this a very interesting listen. Definitely one of the great one-chord jams!

Slip Inside This House (Mono LP Version)

#12 ‘Under My Thumb’ by the Rolling Stones

Perhaps one of the greatest 60s songs about marital infidelity and patriarchal ownership, one might also remember it being featured in a scene from Scott Pilgrim vs the World (the film). Indeed, just as Ramona has returned to her ex Gideon’s evil clutches, he rolls up to the eponymous Scott Pilgrim in a car that is playing this song through the stereo, thereby enforcing what the story is telling.

Under My Thumb

#13 ‘I Talk to the Wind’ by King Crimson

The epic, everlasting progressive rock elixir that is King Crimson began as they meant to proceed, releasing the seminal In the Court of the Crimson King, a 5-song epic that contained moments both blistering and blissful. This sumptuous flute-ridden number occupies the second camp and translates surprisingly well to acoustic covers territory.

I Talk To The Wind

#14 ‘The Rubber Room’ by Porter Wagoner

This is truly one of the great forgotten country songs. Where other country tunes are content to sing about the trials and tribulations of the West, however caricatured, this offering by Porter Wagoner instead focuses on the trials and tribulations of the rubber room. Drawing on his own experiences in a sanatorium, Wagoner crafts an intense and real artistic rendering of a time most would rather forget.

The Rubber Room

#15 ‘Song to the Siren’ by Tim Buckley

The late and great Jeff Buckley had a father who also made music and died under tragic circumstances. They were rather estranged from one another, though it is hard to deny the latter’s influence on the former. This is undoubtedly one of Buckley Sr’s greatest moments, emotively taking his longtime writing partner Larry Beckett’s wistful and poetic lyrics into the stratosphere.

Song To The Siren

Final Tones

What are the best acoustic guitar covers you’ve heard? Anything you think could top any of the ones on this list? Let your opinion be known in the comments below.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

5 comments

  1. My Favorite of your list was number 3. WOW, He is one really talented guy. It sounded amazing. I could watch that video over and over again.

    Why I liked him so much was that I could totally feel his passion in what he was doing. I can’t believe it was just him and the acoustic guitar. Was it him and just the acoustic guitar? Lol

    All I can say is that I’m a Luca Stricagnoli fan. Would you do another article and show the top 5 acoustic guitar covers by girls? Fantastic article I really enjoyed reading and watching all the talented players. Thanks!

    1. Hey Evie

      Yeah Luca is pretty extraordinary alright! I was very impressed when I first saw him play – and I still am.

      Yes just him and acoustic – sometimes hard to believe.

      Thanks for the idea of doing a top acoustic covers by girls. I will definitely add that to the list of posts to do.

      Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you appreciated the talent on offer here.

    2. Luca “s rendition of “LAST OF THE MOHICANS”. Was the winner but monster kudos to other
      participants !

  2. whoa I like Newton Faulkner! Firstly, he looks like a boss rock n roller! And the way he uses the guitar to get that bass drum sound. He has a cool voice too. Ah man that is too cool. Do you like him too.
    Not to mention he’s playing a legendary song, he makes it look to easy too. haha. How does he do that tapping, it sounds so legit man. Good post though, Nate!

    1. Hey Billy

      Yeah definitely like the Newton Faulkner one. Think a lot of that drum sound is to do with the little room he’s playing in (which I think is a lift) but there could also be some post production effects added.

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