Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, and others cover top 40 power ballads and pop songs

By Mandi Bierly
March 02, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

The last place you’d expect to find a Hinder power ballad is on the country charts, but that’s where the band’s ”Lips of an Angel” currently resides — albeit as a tenderized version by Texan singer Jack Ingram. He isn’t the only country artist reinterpreting pop and rock hits these days.

Jack Ingram
(Hinder’s ”Lips of an Angel”)
Cover Story After hearing that Hinder wanted their monster hit to cross formats, Ingram, who says he’d always thought it’d make a great ”three people when there’s only room for two” country song, added it to his album, due March 27. Key Change The steel guitar and fiddle are new; so is Ingram’s intimate yet desperation-free delivery. Fun Fact ”In the video, I got to wear a cool, shiny scarf that my mom likes,” says Ingram. ”But then I wore it at a show and it fell off by my microphone and some girl stole it…. Damn.”

Rascal Flatts
(Tom Cochrane’s ”Life Is a Highway”)
Cover Story 2006’s top-selling act reworked Cochrane’s ’92 hit for the movie Cars, directed by friend/fan John Lasseter. The single was released to Top 40 stations but not to country radio (where it charted anyway). Key Change An explosive Joe Don Rooney guitar solo replaces Cochrane’s harmonica bridge. And the Flatts’ harmonies make the song more poppy, less rock-y. Fun Fact ”It doesn’t matter what we’ve accomplished,” says frontman Gary LeVox. ”The song made me a hero with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. I’ve done Cars, and that’s it.”

(Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ ”American Girl”)
Cover Story The duo opened their late-’06 concerts with this mood-setting anthem. ”It says, ‘This is gonna be a fun show, something special and possibly different,”’ explains singer Jennifer Nettles of the tune, which isn’t on any album. Yet. (Hear an acoustic version on Strippedmusic.com.) Key Change Nettles inhabits the girl of the title, bringing an immediacy to the lyrics. Fun Fact Sugarland also covered U2’s ”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at gigs last year. They’re now playing Pearl Jam’s ”Better Man.”

Nickel Creek
(Britney Spears’ ”Toxic”)
Cover Story According to mandolinist Chris Thile, the bluegrass trio listened to Spears’ ”pinnacle achievement” so often on their bus that they added it to their set list in fall 2005. It’ll remain their most requested song when they kick off their Farewell (For Now) tour in April. (The ”little live present” can be heard on their MySpace page.) Key Change Britney’s slickly produced dance track is surprisingly sexy in the hands of Thile, who provides vocals and virtuosic picking. Fun Fact ”Some people think we’re making fun of it,” Thile says, ”but we have a great deal of respect for the song.”