Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix


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If the holidays are over, then so is our respite from the day-to-day of work and school. No longer does the cold and snow bring hopes of friends and good cheer; instead, it drives us inwards: to our minds and our houses, the detritus still lingering after the burning of the old year.

We were going to see my father in Boston today, but the snow is coming: as much as a foot, out where he is. Here in the rural middle of the state we’re on the edge of the storm, looking at a shut-in day by the pellet stove, writing lesson plans and playing charades with the family while the blizzard whirls outside the window.

A day by the fire, then. And appropriately so, for it’s the time of year where we hunker down, huddling against the cold.

We’ve shared several relevant coversets over the years: on snow itself, and on the nondenominational seasonal songs so easily showcased among the holiday, thanks to a resonance with the hopeful spirit of the season.

But there are also wintersongs that are quiet, still, notes and voices resonating hollow against the shimmery white world, their voices soaring into empty, grey skies. In which each new day adds but a minute of daylight, not fast enough to slow the pace of deep introspection. In which Spring is present at a distance: a dubious promise, made muffled by the snow.

Themes of withdrawal and stillness typify the songs of this, the second season of winter. The longing for light we hear in these sounds is less golden, less joyful; more wistful, more weary. There is comfort, here, of a sorts, knowing that such states are temporary. But it is one that we must bring, ourselves, to complete the emotive loop.


Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]



Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down continues to thrive thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.

So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking. And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.

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The Year’s Best Coverfolk Singles (2016)
A-sides, b-sides, deep cuts, one-shots and more!


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And so the old year passes once again. And in our ears, there is music, echoing for all to hear.

In previous “Year’s Best” features, we’ve prefaced our final musical offering with an attempt at data analysis – a sort of state of the folkways address, as glimpsed through the lens of coverage.

This year, other than to note that there’s a good lot of tradfolk in the mix, we’re skipping the formalities of trend and tribulation. Instead of trying to make sense of what is ultimately as much a private act as it is a collective one, we’ll let the genre speak for itself, and focus in on the song.

Because at year’s end, we find ourselves holding a full deck: 52 well-loved tracks, one for each week; each one a winner on its own, and nary a joker in the bunch.

Taken as a set, this curated collection shows the margins of folk, and its underbelly; yawing wide and deep, it runs and rambles, confronting and comforting with the manic, the maudlin, and everything in between.

But taken song by song, it offers 52 chances to fall in love again with the world. And in the end, maybe that’s the more powerful reason we come here, every year, to lay the year at your feet, and begin again.

So download the entire collection here, or sample track-by-track below, as Cover Lay Down proudly presents our favorite coverfolk singles, b-sides, live tracks and deep album cuts of 2016, from indie to traditional, and all the contemporary singer-songwriter, alt-country, and acoustic poprock genres in between – with thanks, as always, to the artists, the labels, the promoters, and you, for holding us up, and in, and close, when the world keeps spinning right round, like a record.

Join us, as we rejoice in a year gone by, and welcome in the new, with the beautiful, the bountiful, and the bold – the very best coverage of a year now ended, with a whisper of what is to come from the darkened wings.



The Year’s Best Singles: A 2016 Coverfolk Mix [zip!]




Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking.

Got goodwill to spare? Want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers otherwise unblogged. Click here to give – and thanks.

Comment » | Best of 2016, Mixtapes

The Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos (2016)
Living room covers, live cuts, in-studio sessions & more!


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Because the space in which a song is performed matters. Because the close intimacy of camera and performer changes everything. Because the video re-presents a new yet very old branch of the folkways, one eminently modern and obviously ancient, a live performance frozen in time for all eternity.

Video-watching, in others words, provides something entirely different from the eyes-closed experience of the mp3 or compact disc. And although stripping a song from its space and time is an innate aspect of recording, when it matters – when an artist’s vision includes the visual and the audible – we owe it to artist and ourselves to consider that source as the song.

As noted last year, context matters more when we celebrate the performance of song for itself. Songs intended to be seen and heard the first time are designed and developed as multisensory experiences; in these cases, even as pulling a video from the eyes allows us to focus on its sonic interpretation, it does so by flattening the artist’s intent, a result that challenges and changes the relationship between listener and the music-maker.

And so, in our ongoing attempt to live our vision by serving and supporting artist and fans as directly and honestly as possible, today, Cover Lay Down is proud to present our picks for the Best Video-sourced Coverfolk of the year – a fave fifteen, with embedded links to several newly-discovered ongoing video series well worth watching.

Call it an interlude, then, sweet and strong, between yesterday’s omnibus collection of the Year’s Best Tributes and Cover Compilations and our ever-popular Year’s Best Singles Mix, which looks to emerge in the next few days. Look and listen, as artists offer the communion of their hands, their voices, their facial expression. Let their multimedia mindset awe and inspire, lingering lush in our ears and eyes.



The Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos, 2016



Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg: Stage Fright (orig. The Band)

As mentioned yesterday, Toronto clawhammer wizard and bluegrass scenester Chris Coole was all over our radar this year, both with and without frequent companion Ivan Rosenberg, an equally adept player with whom Coole has recorded a pair of dobro-and-claw duo albums. This masterful, prescient cover, dark and delightful, recorded in-studio in our own nation’s capitol a month after the election, only cements our love for these stalwarts of the northern scene.


Rayna Gellert and Kristen Andreassen: Sleepy Desert (trad.)

Simple and soulful, like the fancy couch on the front lawn where it was recorded, two of our favorite down-to-earth roots-folk take on a traditional tune on the cusp of a short Uncle Earl reunion tour – no small feat, given how much momentum its members, which also include Abigail Washburn and KC Groves, have had as solo artists in the decade since their last album was released.


Good Harvest: Woodstock (orig. Joni Mitchell)

We shared this dreamy, discordant vision from Swedish “musical sisters” Hanna Enlöf & Ylva Eriksson, aka Good Harvest, back in September, alongside a take on Coldplay’s Clocks filmed in the same barn session. Since then, we’ve heard their new single Charly; now we’re hooked and ready for a full-length.


The Moon Loungers: Mr. Blue Sky (orig. E.L.O.)

What I like best about this playful little video is just how satisfied The Moon Loungers – an award-winning Bristol-based wedding trio – seem to be as they perform this old chestnut with little more than a box, a cymbal, a pair of guitars, and their own versatile voices. Check out their YouTube page for a holy host of acoustic covers by Vanilla Ice, Yazoo, Starship, Toto, The Black Eyed Peas, and more fun fare.


Ashley Stevenson: Landslide (orig. Fleetwood Mac)

After five years in “the tunnels”, Chicago subway performer Ashley Stevenson, aka Slim Mils, went viral this year when a crowd video of her playing this song for change in the Chicago subway made national news. 3 million Youtube hits later, she’ll be performing a show at The Embassy on January 14, and we couldn’t be happier for her.


Jamie Oshima: Love Yourself (orig. Justin Bieber)

We featured brothers Jamie and Sean Oshima‘s fine, earnest cover of Passenger’s Hearts On Fire back in January, when it was released, and stand by its prominent placement. But we buried Jamie’s stunning, slippery, filmed-twice-and-spliced solo cover of Love Yourself in a midyear exploration of Justin Bieber’s songbook, and in the end, it’s this, light and airy, that sticks in our ears, in no small part due to the precious, precise traditional wedding reel at the instrumental break.



Lori Lieberman: Last Thing On My Mind (orig. Tom Paxton)

Streaming video is a young person’s game almost by definition; it’s atypical, I know, to have older-generation coverage show up in our video sets. But Lori Lieberman – yes, the one who wrote Killing Me Softly – looks truly honored to be performing this Tom Paxton song, doesn’t she? Kudos to Onder Invloed, past-featured covers collector and videographer, for this and many more sessions as the years creep ever onward.


The Stray Birds: Down In The Lonesome Draw (orig. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West)

It’s a little hollow, but that’s about right, for the stained glass church setting chosen by the folks at The Sawyer Sessions, a NC-based studio house whose Youtube channel is chock full of great performances, most of them more roots and alt-rock than folk – and many including coverage. I saw The Stray Birds take on this one live in the fading summer sun, and it was just as stunning.


L.A. Edwards: If I Needed You (orig. Townes Van Zandt)

Gentle, almost delicately countrified, and according to the promotional material we received early in 2016 from songwriter L.A. Edwards, recorded in his native Southern California during the largest downpour in over a decade. You can’t hear the rain, but you can hear the hazy, lazy harmonies huddle together, warm and dry in their close proximity.


Virginia Gavazzi: I Want To Write You A Song (orig. One Direction)

Slippery, nocturnal production dynamics, darkened rooms, and an unusual lapside perspective provide an intimacy you’d never expect from One Direction. Youtube amateur Virginia‘s got a few more, and a strong and growing following; joining up with both is highly recommended.


St. Beaufort’s Table ft. Dan Wall: Let Me Fall (trad.)

Dark as pub whiskey, and just as strong, this indoors-outdoors feel-good entry from St. Beaufort’s Table – a series of covers and traditionals which sees international folk/bluegrass trio St. Beaufort gathered, usually with a friend or three, usually around a table, with a bottle and a song – lingers in the throat, the ears, and the heart. See also their take on Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, featured here in June.


Applewood Road: Losing My Religion (orig. R.E.M.)

Concert recordings aren’t usually this pure. But Nashville supertrio Applewood Road, featuring Cover Lay Down faves Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace, in a set performed live late in 2015 but released on video Jan 1 of 2016, blow us away, as they seem to have done to the audience. Bonus points: we’ve been asked not to share Amber Rubarth’s own recording of this song, from this year’s stellar Scribbled Folk Symphonies, but even without the plucked and bowed strings that feature on her solo version, her chilling arrangement is potent, and eminently available.


Sam Amdion w/ Bill Frisell: Your Lone Journey (orig. Doc & Rosa Lee Watson)

It takes a while to get started, as do so many of the otherwise fine covers shared on the e-Town webstream – a series generally recorded as multiple-artist encores for the popular radio program, but interrupted in broadcast by credits and a premature fade-out. But this earthy performance is especially apt, given that: a song that never truly resolves, like the past it evokes.


Ryan Larkins: Pass Me Not (trad.)

“a gorgeously hushed, soulful, slide-and-pick take on old gospel hymnal standard Pass Me Not played on an old 60′s Silvertone flat top guitar” from Nashville-based Christian acoustic folk-rocker Ryan Larkins, an incredible, incredibly versatile still-rising star whose love shines through every heartwrenching chord and chorus.


Sam Kelly: Sultans of Swing (orig. Dire Straits)

We could have picked any number of great covers from this year, or year’s past, from The Big Comfy Sessions, a twice-monthly series that features local and itinerant musicians playing on the giant red squashy couches of Coventry’s Big Comfy Bookshop. All artists perform a cover of their choice, and the gems are sweet, bright and casual; see also, Adrian Roye’s recent Yazoo cover, older entries from Vena Portae (Young Folks) and Roxanne de Bastion (Real Love), and a live version of Gillian Welch’s Dark Turn Of Mind from Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – the recorded version of which will appear in our Year’s Best Singles mix.





As always, if you like what you hear here, click through to YouTube channels to lend your support to the artists we celebrate, the better to ensure the continued production of new music in 2016 and beyond.

And if you, too, have a little of the giving spirit left in you after the holidays, perhaps it’s time to consider a gift in support of our mission at Cover Lay Down. All donors receive our undying thanks, that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from patronizing the arts, and an exclusive mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk released in 2015 and 2016. Click here to give, and thanks.

Comment » | Best of 2016, YouTube

The Year’s Best Coverfolk Albums (2016)
Tributes, Tradfolk, Covers Compilations and more!


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It’s been months since we found ourselves together here, by this virtual hearth. I have missed you, my friends. And though I cannot promise what the days will bring, let us be present together, in this moment, and rejoice.

For those who ask – and we are grateful for it, when it comes – this week of holiday offers but a respite. In the days of our lives the teen elderchild and her wiry sister continue to be challenged by a life lived with illness, leaving us plagued by surgeries and hospitalizations, homeschooling adjustments, service dog training, and a reluctance to plan too far ahead. I’m a team leader now at the struggling urban school where I ply my vocation, putting in long nights and weekends leading the desperate charge to glory even as the conditions we cannot change – poverty and transience, and their symptomatic malaise – loom large in our daily deliverance. And, as the eldest son, and the only one living locally, I’ve spent every weekend across the state for most of the year, helping my father transition into a graduated living arrangement that better suits his needs.

These pursuits are important, and offered with love to the world. They are good work, and I’d not trade one for the other. But time is precious when you’re the center of the whirlwind. And sometimes, that means letting go.

Which is to say: we have blessings this year, it’s true: a growing house concert series; family and friends, and a strong and beloved community; a roof over our heads, and food on the table. But mostly, I’ve spent the latter part of 2016 in survival mode, putting aside many of the practices that have made me feel most whole, most connected to the universe and to the self, in a desperate attempt to find balance.

More often than not, the heart is heavy in the midst of this wearying, worrying life. And January offers only more uncertainty, here in the real world, where we live and breathe.

But we’re here this week, today, this hour. Because no matter how heavy the load, no matter how loud the natter and buzz of duty and despair in our ears, in the background, the music continues, as it ever does.

And so we’ve kept a list, and checked it twice – not enough by a long shot, in another year of chaos and malcontent, but enough to celebrate the discovery process, and honor those albums, songs, and videos that stuck with us, and shone through the fog and the darkness.

And here at the wire, at the long year’s end, as we have done for the last several Decembers, we curate and collate, ice melting in our hearts by the woodstove fireside as the children nestle snug in this, our humble home.

For music is a home, too. It is our home, and one of yours, too. And as we live in the music, so must we pay homage to the best of it, lest it, too, fade into the night, and be lost to the world.

From the smooth to the ragged, then. From the delicate to the deep. From the bringers of light to the media of our melancholy; from the hoot and holler to the hushed and harmonic. From all corners of the broad tent that spans the folkways, shading it from the harshest of weather and whim.

Cover Lay Down is proud to present our favorite coverfolk tribute albums, covers compilations, projects and soundtracks of 2016, featuring choice cuts from highly recommended folk, roots, bluegrass and Americana LPs and EPs.





The Year’s Best Covers Album (single artist)
+ Moddi, Unsongs

+ Dustin Kensrue, Thoughts That Float on a Different Blood
+ 48 Cameras, Songs Our Mothers Taught Us
+ The Devil Makes Three, Redemption & Ruin
+ Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Wintersong

It was a strong year for covers albums, all things considered. As always, we stand by our assessment of those releases that caught our attention early, most especially the home-grown harmonies and chutzpah of Pesky J. Nixon’s second covers album Red Ducks, Volume 2, which brought a broader sound, and a richer one, to their hearty acoustic Americana, thanks to the addition of mandolin into the mix, strong studio dynamics, and new shared lead vocals and piano from founding band member Jake Bush. Recognition remains, too, for the mostly-trad strains of Red Diesel, the newest from award-winning traditional English folk band Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional bluegrass stylings of The High Bar Gang, whose second album Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind explores the “cheating and hurting” side of bluegrass, and the drowning tones of the ever-morose Mark Kozelek, which found their way to pianofolk this year on Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites, a “stunning new release featuring guest vocalists galore”.

But other than a nod to Wintersong, a new holiday collection of intimate and introspective folk from local favorites Rano Arbo & Daisy Mayhem that transcends its seasonal premise with simple joy and sweetness, our highest end-of-year praise in the general covers category is reserved for a quartet of otherwise-unblogged releases with strong conceptual grounding, each well deserving of rescue and polish after falling to the bustle and jetsam. And in the end, though three of our top four made it to fellow coverblog Cover Me’s end of year round-up as well, it’s the one we haven’t heard anything about, and got to discover on our own, that edges out the rest.

Runner’s up honors this year go to Dustin Kensrue’s live tour de force Thoughts That Float On A Different Blood, which finds the frontman of California post-hardcore band Thrice stripping down to ragged, soulful solo performance; the result is soul-crushing, and practically perfect, with covers of Patty Griffin, Milk Carton Kids, Lorde and more. From the gospel-and-blues aisle, The Devil Makes Three’s Redemption & Ruin, with its dual, titular thematic sides, mixes blues and bluegrass, transforming dark delights by Townes Van Zandt, Muddy Waters, Tampa Red, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, and other intuitively obvious influences with sidework from Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas and more. Add to this Songs Our Mothers Taught Us, a decidedly fringefolk covers project from long-time “experimental alternative” digital collaborative 48 Cameras, narcotized with spoken word layers like a lost album from Nico and Leonard Cohen, remixed subtly with haunting oboes and drums for the post-millennial indiefolk set, and you’ve got a crowd that, in any other year, could easily take top honors.

But I don’t think we’ve ever had as clear and triumphant a category closer for our bread-and-butter category than Unsongs, a labor of love that came quietly out of nowhere towards the end of the year, and seems to have made nary a splash in the American market – a wonderful concept album, lovingly executed, that comprises 12 songs censored in 12 different countries, collected and reimagined.

Here’s the blog feature I meant to post, when I first discovered it:

Norwegian folkpop singer-songwriter, activist and self-professed storyteller Moddi (aka Pål Moddi Knutsen), who is currently finishing a Masters degree at the University of Oslo’s Centre for Development and the Environment, is apparently known for his interpretations of others’ songbooks, most notably Togsang, a 2013 Norwegian-language cover of Train Song which Vashti Bunyan calls her favorite cover version of any of her songs. But Unsongs, leaked slowly and then finally released in full just a few weeks ago, represents a perfect twining of the artist’s personal bent towards social and environmental justice and his incredibly delicate indie folkpop sensibilities. The result is an epiphany, hushed, sublime and saturating: a true tour de force of unforced political songcraft, a wide-ranging survey of both western and eastern sources that manages to serve simultaneously as commentary on the counterculture and its struggles and a gorgeous set that aches with melancholy and protest. The songs – most of which will be unknown to western ears, save a pitch-perfect Strange Fruit and Kate Bush’s Army Dreamers – range from shivery and sad to cold fury; tinkly piano and slow nylon guitar, lush, tense string and horn arrangements, and a fragile, nasal voice that aches with loss and longing make for a majestic, intimate album, orchestral and tight, a bit like Colin Meloy performing a full-band acoustic set in a cathedral wearing crowns of thorns; you’ve never heard Pussy Riot so tender, or been so in love with anger.



The Year’s Best Covers Album (multiple artists)
+ Various Artists, Locals Covering Locals, Vol. 3

Most various artist covers albums this year ran the gamut past the boundaries of folk; as such, this year’s is a short category, to be followed below with a compendium of mixed-genre gems well worth our time. But we cannot help but raise a glass once more for Red Line Roots, whose third volume of Locals Covering Locals, released way back in February, adeptly uncovers the blossoming folkscene in and around the Boston area by once again featuring peer-to-peer coverage that aims to showcase both the finest in local songwriting and the best of local performance – and succeeds in spades.



The Year’s Best Covers EP (single artist)
+ Lotte Kestner, December Covers

+ Caleigh McGilchrist and Maria Crawford, Covers For The Cure 2
+ autumn-autumn, Cherry Patty

The covers EP is too often a throw-away, especially in an age where home recording makes it so easier to run a full-length album in a few living room sessions. Bandcamp, especially, is full of saccharine wannabes, and amateur recordings too twee, and too rough, to truly represent the best of what a year can offer.

But for a few artists, the small coverset is part and parcel of the modern digital world, an uncompromising artifact of the ongoing home recording life. Enter Lotte Kestner, the solo project of Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William, whose shimmery shoegaze coverage, delicate and frigid and perfectly romantic, has emerged throughout the year in small batches as behind the scenes she struggles to finish mixing a long overdue album of original work. Most of these tiny sets have already disappeared into the ether, and her most recent, December Covers, will disappear with the end of the month, along with Best of Requested Cover Songs, the majestic 17-track set winnowed down from the 3-year-long 60 cover kickstarter campaign promise that drives her current album. But if you hurry, you, too, can download and steep in etherial takes on The Cure, The Hollies, and a slow synth-driven version of Nothing Compares To U that ultimately owes as much to the lo-fi sensibility that pulls songs from the air like soap bubbles as it does to either Sinead or Prince.

Runners-up Caleigh McGilchrist and Maria Crawford defy expectations, coming out of Bandcamp nowhere with Covers For The Cure 2, the second of their homespun compilations, recorded in their Nashville hometown in honor of Laurel Stevens McGilchrist and dedicated to all past and present battles of breast cancer. Simple guitar, soaring harmonies in layers straight out of the First Aid Kid indiefolk songbook, and just enough strain at the edges to prove and preserve their delightful inexperience: it’s like being there, and that’s saying a lot, indeed. And a tip o’ the cap to Minsk, Belarus, home of autumn-autumn, aka Tanya Dubinskaya, whose drowned, broken 4-track covers EP Cherry Patty, complete with crackling static and hollow guitars, aptly described as whispercore, still fills our empty days.



The Year’s Best Tribute Album (single artist)
+ Reid Jamieson, Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection

+ Rory Block, Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute To Bukka White

Two familiar faces and voices provide a veritable sweep of this year’s solo-artist tribute album set, a labor of love project-type generally overwhelmed by tributes to the forgotten, the undersung, and the dearly departed, but this year topped by a loving tribute to a man who was still alive and performing, and well-respected, upon its release.

First, hands down kudos go to perennial Cover Lay Down favorite Reid Jamieson this year for Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection, a prescient tribute to fellow Canadian countryman released way back in March, months before his passing. Where most choose to channel angst and darkness, Jamieson’s touch is light and lighthearted, with brushes, ukelele, guitar, fiddles, and gentle harmonies bringing a tender, almost Caribbean country lilt to these familiar songs, and the whole thing works beautifully, revealing a brighter, more optimistic soul than even the most die-hard Cohen fanatic could have envisioned.

Second place honors to Rory Block, whose ongoing series of full-album tributes to the pioneers of American acoustic blues continues this year with a tribute to Mississippi bluesman Bukka White. Keepin’ Outta Trouble is typical of Block, and of her ongoing work in paying homage to her progenitors, and that’s no denigration – listen as the sliding, slippery blues finds beauty in the hands of one of the greatest living Delta blues guitarists and voices, and then head back in time to pick up the entire six-album series.



The Year’s Best Tribute Album (multiple artists)
+ Days Full of Rain: A Portland Tribute to Townes Van Zandt

+ Basket Full Of Dragons: A Tribute To Robbie Basho, Vol II
+ Dreamer: A Tribute To Kent Finlay
+ A Fast Folk Tribute To Jack Hardy

Strong contenders this year here, too. But how could we not love Days Full Of Rain, a mostly-folk tribute to Townes Van Zandt from some of our very favorite players from the Portland indiefolk scene. With Blitzen Trapper, Jolie Holland, Jim James, Blind Pilot, Black Prairie, a grungy take on Rake from The Minus 5, and the devastating vocals of Liz Vice in the mix, almost every track’s a gem. From the country rock of Denver’s Junkpiled to the country croon of Barna Howard to…um…the country soul of Portland Country Underground, the whole thing moves like a cowboy through the mist; even the subtle folktronica stutter of Castanets serves the mix. Bonus points: all proceeds go to charity, with half to fund the furtherance of roots music education in public schools, and the other half to support musicians financially in the face of illness.

Back in the world of primitivism, Basket Full of Dragons, the second Robbie Basho tribute in two years spearheaded by guitarist-singer-songwriter Buck Curran (of the duo Arborea), nets praise and proclamation for its authentic approach to the mysticism and mystery of a philosopher who firmly believed the Indian raga and the steel string represented the next iteration of truth, and the furtherance of the guitar as a serious, classical instrument. Like first volume We Are All One In The Sun, Basket Full of Dragons proves Basho right, as washes of sound drown us in eternal moments, leaving us with an unsettled peace.

Honorable mention this year goes to Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay, a solid take on the homespun songbook of career-launcher, lyric editor, venue coordinator, mentor and songwriter who shaped the careers of the likes of George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Todd Snider, and James McMurtry through his legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention A Tribute To Jack Hardy, a beloved two-disc tribute chock full of familiar Fast Folk faces and next generation collaborators, from Red Molly and Anthony Da Costa to Richard Shindell, John Gorka, Rod MacDonald, Christine Lavin, Terre Roche, and more, written about and pre-released here at Cover Lay Down several summers ago, but now finally and officially available for purchase as of 2016 thanks to Smithsonian Folkways, who now owns the Fast Folk archives.



The Year’s Best Tribute EPs
+ Tom Moriarty and Katey Brooks, I Shall Be Released

+ Quinell, From The Woods: Inside Llewyn Davis

Sometimes, simple is best. And of the four little duo covers on I Shall Be Released, it’s their take on The Times They Shall Be A Changin’ – unadorned, raw, precious and plain, though Tom Moriarty’s other work is full-bore horn-and-gospel driven bluesy rock and roll, and rising-star singer-songwriter Katey Brooks trends more towards intense folkpop – which truly showcases the genius of pairing the two alongside this year’s Nobel Prize winner’s songbook. Oh sure, the organ and drumbeat layers that underpin I Shall Be Released and The Man In Me are reminiscent of Dylan’s time with The Band, or perhaps the best of Joe Cocker, and wonderfully so…but the songs remain more subtle, somehow, leaving us marveling at the power of their quietude, their presence, their directness. His weary, soulful voice, her hearty one: heaven.

Simple, too, is the soft intimacy of log cabin session From The Woods: Inside Llewyn Davis, recorded for video in the dead of winter by Pasco, Washington singer-songwriter Quinell. Just three songs, and nominally all from the same deep and murky tradition – but influenced by their presence in Inside LLewyn Davis, the folkflick based on the life and times of Dave Van Ronk, and decidedly united, too, by the soft, homespun tones of an artist embracing the weariness of these timeless tunes.



The Year’s Best Tradfolk
+ Lukas Papenfusscline, man&woman;you

+ Rachel Newton, Here’s My Heart Come Take It
+ The Lonesome Ace Stringband, Gone For Evermore
+ Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, The Willow Collection

An unusually strong turn-out in the tradfolk category this year leaves us a bit up in arms about comparison: if anything, if this trend continues, we’d be better served by splitting the category to allow for splinter subtypes, lest we forget some pretty impressive standouts. On the grassy side, split-side albums from both Eli West and Michael Daves, covered together back in a February round-up, kept our summer hot with electrifying performances and special collaborations with Dori Freeman and Bill Frisell (West), bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny (Daves); more mellow, melodic approaches typify Noah Wall, whose swinging, sultry approach to 15 classic American blues numbers makes us swoon. And if it’s the cowboy life that attracts you, you’d be well served by a buy-and-listen to the Billy Bragg and Joe Henry collaboration Shine A Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad, a pairing which works even better than it should, thanks to the artists’ shared sense of labor rights and an honest, down-home directness in both performance and sparse arrangement.

But if we have to crown a conqueror this year, it’s a dark horse, indeed: man&woman;you, a late December release from classically trained pan-genre experimentalist Lukas Papenfusscline, is as weird as its name, and as open to possibility; a hallucinogenic field recording from the road, and recorded, duly, in a variety of places, some of them actually outdoors; its traditional Appalachian tunes recast into broken, almost classical compositions, as if Sam Amidon had been trained at Berklee before establishing a hermitage farm by a stream in the deep woods. Creepy, creaky, yet somehow coherent as hell, the record pulls its tradition as much from the recordings of others as it does from the primordial ooze of nature itself, with familiar songs hissed into being slowly and deliberately, faded and torn from the journey, still choked with the reality of the field and forest.

Honors go to Glaswegian Rachel Newton for April release Here’s My Heart Come Take It: purer and more vibrant than the Unthanks, but just as brooding and cavernous in its way, Newton’s harp and voice are bright as glass in the sun, and as mysterious as the dark inner worlds their reflections obscure. More go to The Willow Collection, a titularly thematic set from Nova Scotian sisters Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, who bring piano, guitar, fiddle, and flying footwork in equal measure to a fine, polished, jaw-droppingly beautiful album, and one of several 2016 projects from prolific new fave Chris Coole, a stalwart of the Toronto bluegrass scene whose hatchet face and banjo wizardry showed up in spades this year: in a potent cover of The Band classic Stage Fright which will appear in our Singles mix, in solo narrative project The Tumbling River and other stories, and in The Lonesome Ace Stringband’s mostly-trad live-to-tape Gone For Evermore, a stunning example of the stringband subset, with masterful-yet-playful bass and fiddle besides, and high harmonies as polished as a back porch. A rich field, indeed.



The Year’s Best Mixed Genre Covers Albums & Tributes
+ Various Artists, Say Yes! A Tribute To Elliott Smith

+ Various Artists, Day of the Dead
+ Various Artists, Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97′s
+ Various Artists, God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson
+ Various Artists, Just Love: A Tribute to Audrey Auld Mereza

Our own minor forays into the musicworld hewed narrower to folk this year, leaving us dependent on other blogs and songsources to uncover the category at year’s end. But a few standouts worth reiteration emerge in this coverall category nonetheless. These include Mojo’s fine bespoke Dylan tribute, which we featured here in our Mojo spectacular a few months ago; Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97′s, a Pledgemusic-driven tribute curated by the band and their webmaster and featuring, therefore, both faithful renditions and diverse deconstructions of great songs by some of the Old 97′s favorite artists, many of whom share the same Texas scene-ground, and have toured and recorded with the band; The sark brooding blues-on-fire of God Don’t Never Change, an Alligator Records tribute to Blind Willie Johnson with Lucinda Williams, Trucks and Tedeschi, Tom Waits, and the most beautiful coda from Rickie Lee Jones; the lighthearted Let All Children Boogie: A Tribute To David Bowie, which aptly proves that even as the kindie world continues to produce to robust originals of its own, the kidfolk category we once touted here may have faded – but it’s not gone for good.

Day of the Dead, for example, a sprawling. “epic” 5 disc set that represents the Red Hot Organization’s 25th release, sees 59 artists hosted by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National taking on the songs of the Grateful Dead (and the traditionals they made their own) in a broad, meandering path through modern music that befits both the long and storied history of the band and their tendency towards long, extended-play performances and recordings. The album is decidedly imperfect, with a touch too many phoned-in performances, but there’s strong tracks here galore, if you’re willing to sift through. And the record easily contains a full-sized, full-bore folk covers album in the mix, with standout tracks from Sam Amidon, Hiss Golden Messenger, Bela Fleck, Bill Callahan, and others.

Lesser known but no less stellar entries here include Just Love: A Tribute to Audrey Auld Mezera, a darling lo-fi Nashville-by-way-of-Australia 2 disc set that makes for a mostly acoustic, if equally sprawling, nominally country album, though the downunder use of the term is closer to folk than it is here in the States, and our favorite, by a nose: American Laundromat’s tribute to Elliott Smith, Say Yes!, which – like their previous forays into the world of grungy indie coverage – spreads deep across a narrow band that runs from fuzzy electronic to soft acoustic, heavy on the solo singer-songwriter fare, with familiar songs from label frequent-flyers Lou Barlow, Julianna Hatfield, Tanya Donelly, William Fitzsimmons, Amanda Palmer, Sun Kil Moon and more.



Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, like, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive.

And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, and want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and a special gift mixtape of well-loved but otherwise unblogged covers from 2015-2016, including exclusive live covers from our very own Unity House Concert series.

Comment » | Best of 2016, Lotte Kestner, Reid Jamieson, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Covered In Folk: Blaze Foley
(The Avett Brothers, Sharon Van Etten, Timbuk 3, Ben Haggard & more!)





As the posthumous subject of songs penned and performed by Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, and other luminaries from his own era, it’s not hard to see the influence Blaze Foley had on his scene, especially in the context of Van Zandt, with whom he traveled and performed frequently. But if you only faintly recognize his name, it is because the Texas singer-songwriter was the Daniel Johnston of his time and place: a drifter and drinker, troubled yet iconoclastic, earnest and yet just plumb weird; a difficult and often lost soul who wore duct tape on his cowboy boots and lived in a tree, wrote plain, plaintive songs about big cheeseburgers and high school heroes, got kicked out of the Kerrville Folk Festival, and died at the end of a gun in mysterious circumstances at the age of 39 over 25 years ago.

In no small part because the sandpaper influence of his personality made recording opportunities scant and scattered, if Foley is remembered, it is because of his songcraft, not his recordings. Tracking Foley’s songbook is possible, mostly, thanks to Live at the Austin Outhouse, a 15-track “greatest hits” performance from the month before his death, once out of print but rereleased at the turn of the century to find a new audience looking for the roots and branches of their underground heritage.

But this small collection contains the seeds of greatness realized. A true poet, unafraid of both the political and the personal lens, whose simple, direct images spoke loudly to universal themes of love, loneliness, leaving and loss, Foley was in many ways a songwriter’s songwriter, famously covered in his lifetime by the likes of John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, with If I Could Only Fly cited by Haggard upon his first listen as ““the best country song I’ve heard in fifteen years.” And although finding these rare original performances, to seep into them as their fumbling, couch-syrup tones rise and fall, is a visceral experience, well worth pursuit, it is Foley’s songwriting, and its continued influence – both beyond his lifespan, and beyond the world of Texas country – that interests us today.

Unsurprisingly, with a few exceptions, Foley’s songs are difficult to interpret, making coverage rare. But happily, those who have chosen to take on the challenge of reimagining them do so without trivializing, giving the lyrics and chords new voice and clarity through interpretations inevitably crisper, and more deliberately nuanced, then their original raw and dirty forms. Read on for our favorite next-generation coverage, as growled and soft-shoe traditionalists and indiefolk reinventionists alike take on the Blaze Foley songbook in all its weird, wonderful, yet still prescient north-by-northwest madness.


Covered In Folk: Blaze Foley [zip!]


Comment » | Blaze Foley, Covered In Folk

New Artists, Old Songs: Introducing
Will Cookson, Robert Nottingham, Daphne Willis, Good Harvest & more!

We’ve been in hiding for a few weeks while the school year kicks in, calibrating against the winds of change as they rail against the tide. What better time to feature the new sounds of the season? Read on for coverage of Sufjan Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, The 1975, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and more from a set of emerging artists and newfound discoveries well worth a second listen.

cooksonWe start today with a bit of pianissimo whisperfolk with tense undertones and swells from Bristol-bred alt-folk songwriter Will Cookson, who made us cry with his take on this Sufjan Stevens cover. Cookston’s newest album Ghosts of the Morning Sun will hit the skids in October. Feature track Worthing Beach is intimate and epic, with sweeping arrangement, wistful voice and an aching heart; we’re happy to have it, and eager for more.


0008133357_10Like a fragile field recording, this amateur Bandcamp find – a secondhand cover, built by stripping down Halsey’s dreamy indie electropop b-side – lingers in the psyche, a haunting heartmurmur heard long after the last gently plucked note fades. Kudos to Bostonian singer-songwriter Maryam Raad, about whom we can find no more but this and a single single; if and when that changes, we’ll let you know.


symbolsAnd now for something completely different: a refreshing acoustic-swing jazzfunk rock take on a familiar Fleetwood Mac classic from husband and wife duo The Symbols, exclusively released here on Cover Lay Down. Equal parts Django and Hendrix, the track is a delight, with powerhouse pop in the throat and an audible grin on the lips of lead singer Mer Sal making for the perfect compliment to cymbal-crashing percussion, backup singer oohs, and Grammy-nominated hubby Jasco’s string-bending wizardry.


Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 7.43.45 AMA little pop, precisely done; a little jazz in the slippery tone, and more than a little soul have us falling in love with Daphne Willis, whose summer release Come Together takes on five Beatles songs in a set that gently combines the best of Stevie Wonder, Mazzy Star, and Imagine Dragons without losing a whit of authenticity. Willis hails from Nashville, but there’s Chicago in her history and sound, too; with a voice like that, odds are she’ll be from everywhere soon.


nottinghamIt’s over a year old, but a failed attempt at focusing a coverlook lens on the songbook of The 1975 leaves us nonetheless with this dear, raw, gently poppy track from Manchester singer-songwriter Robert Nottingham – a standout radiopop reminiscence translated into the solo, pensive mold. We’re having trouble putting this one down, and you will, too; head on over to his pages on Bandcamp and YouTube for more than forty more great coversongs performed live and at home.


okkoLA-based producer/vocalist duo OKKO‘s brand new world-beat cover of Heartbeats, originally by The Knife and famously transformed for the folkworld by indie transformationalist Jose Gonzalez, turns the secondhand into contemporary gold with sitar, synths, and eastern percussion, making the track, the first in an intended series of Indian and Yoga-inspired transformations of popular song from a duo whose previous work includes “cowrites with Cyndi Lauper, singing on Britney Spears tracks, and pop releases in Sweden,” an auspicious harbinger of what may come as they take on Nirvana, MGMT, and more.


Like the tight, aching harmonies of First Aid Kit, but prefer your Swedish vocal harmonies a little less sharp? Then it’s time to try this gorgeous new version of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock, which belongs in the pantheon right alongside Darlingside and Heather Maloney and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: crisp, clear, and tight as an indian drum; sort, soaring, smooth and pure as springwater, lovingly presented in its native video form as the artists intended, and with a Coldplay cover from the same barn session as a bonus. Kudos to harmony-and-guitar duo Good Harvest for a perfect pairing of song and singers – we’ll see at least one of these songs again in our best of 2016, for sure.










Always ad-free and artist-centered, Cover Lay Down has been exploring the modern folkways through coverage since 2007 thanks to supporters like you. Coming soon: our annual Fall fund drive, plus new and newfound tribute albums and cover compilations, artist features, and more!


1 comment » | New Artists Old Songs

The Towers Fell, And Then We Were Silent:
A Remembrance, In Coverfolk and Prose

Originally posted 9/11/2011. Sometimes, you get it right the first time.


911foot


I was a media specialist the morning the towers began to fall: sole captain of a prep school video collection, and proprietor of the largest viewing space on campus. And so it was that the students came to me, one by one and together, by class and by cluster, as the word spread from teacher to teacher; so it was, indeed, that I ended up presiding over a grand experiment in media literacy, as the hour passed, and the cycle of not-news – that long hour of uncertain newscaster conjectures that accompanied the static, repetitive footage on every channel – took over the broadcast universe on that fated day.

As I noted last year [2010], though we would not know until much later, we lost one of our own that morning: Chris Carstanjen, a sweet, geeky compatriot from the IT department, an almost-friend whose first drinking date we had scheduled for the following weekend, before he boarded that flight for California and never made it past downtown NYC. But what I remember most was the stunned silence of a hundred students or more, who in that moment, that sacred hour, were being born as the Terror Generation, though they would not know the deep societal scars which they would carry for a long, long time, if indeed they are still thoughtful enough to know now.

I remember, too, the Dean of Students and I deciding, finally, to turn off the screen, in the face of those somber and endless images and faces; to make a short and surely unmemorable speech about how the absence of news was not news, and commandeer the offices of librarians as impromptu counseling spaces for those who were scared, especially those who had parents and relatives in NYC and in the towers themselves, especially those who came from Muslim cultures and Muslim families, and seemed to understand, however vaguely, that they had suddenly become targets for other students’ confusion.

I remember feeling pride, for a moment, that I had managed to remember my calling in the face of disaster. And then I remember a long flash of shame, that I had somehow managed to make the day about me, thus cheapening the true scope of the disaster.

After that, I don’t remember anything at all. In my memory, it is as if turning off the television turned off the universe, too.

And ever since then, the world has been different. And I will always harbor a secret guilt, just like yours, that the world we rebuilt in the months and years that followed was not the same, even though we know, of course, that it could not have been.


Flash forward a decade, and here we are: one among a million paying tribute to the day the towers slowly fell. The world is faster, now, and more divided – two trends which spin into each other like two sides of a gyroscope, pulling at our psyches. I commute 40 minutes every morning to work with students for whom disaster is always personal and everpresent: homelessness, street violence, unemployment, the looming promise of dead-end futures. Some days it seems the only thing they own is their image, and who can fault them, then, for being so brash and sassy, peacocks with razor talons, angry at the world and taking it out on themselves without even realizing it.

I don’t know where to look for the the scars in this new generation, and I’m not sure I’d see them if I did. But their hardened hearts sadden me, sometimes.

There will be a moment of silence, come Monday’s morning announcements. And my students will speak into the air, loud against the voice of authority, unlistening and disconnected to their culture and each other, even as I am silent, and thinking of Chris, and of the moment I turned on the TV on the movie theater screen, and the smoking hole of culture flashed itself into my brain.

I can hear it, even now.


It’s been seven years, now, since I left the prep school; seven years since we lived side by side with the kids in the dormitories, and shared the pain and joys, the proms and punishments of night and day with the smart and well-bred, the resourced and the right-raised. But I often think of that day when I’m in my inner city classroom, working with the children of the downtrodden, the recent immigrants who don’t speak English, the hopeless – all categories of children whose pain is everpresent and real, and who would never have sat in silence, or even identified with the children of the towers.

Teachable moments are the lifeblood of the vocation, and I’m proud, I suppose, that we turned the TV off that day. But there is nothing so powerful as silence shared, as stunned communion. Nothing so powerful as a generation who grows up to see airport patdowns as normative rather than violation. Nothing so powerful, indeed, as the nexuses themselves, about which we try to say too much, and never truly find the words to speak of.

And so today we mourn the losses: of Chris, yes, and his airborne compatriots; of the parents and families of those who passed in fire and fall, impact and explosion – but also of the innocence of once-students now dispersed to the winds, some of them already struggling to raise children of their own. On one hand, they are and ever will be the children of privilege. On the other, they will always be the first generation, the youngest to truly understand what the world has become, without another, older sense of what it replaced.

To them, this new world is normal, for it is all they ever had.

Whether that makes them blessed or cursed is a matter for debate. And some days, I wish I knew, for it seems like it should matter very much indeed.

I miss them, those kids. I wonder about them, too. If I knew how to define okay in this instance, I’d ask them if they were, and if they remembered.

But I’m not sure I’d believe them, no matter what they said.


1 comment » | Reposts

Amos Lee Covers:
John Prine, John Denver, Sam Cooke, Dylan, Madonna & more!


amosleemag


Amos Lee came into my life just in time to rock my second child to sleep, making it easy to mark the eleven years since Arms Of A Woman hit me in the heart like a slow motion bullet. Since then, the soulful singer-songwriter has become a go-to guy for series of strong tribute albums and covers collections – making him an easy candidate for a Cover Lay Down artist feature that gathers in 18 of our favorite live and studio covers for a set that’ll tear your heart out.

Lee was a latecomer to the craft; he received his first guitar in college, and worked as an elementary-level schoolteacher and bartender in his native Philadelphia before deciding to dedicate his life to music at the age of 25. But once determined, his rise to fame was rapid and resoundingly celebrated. Early opening act gigs for BB King and Mose Alison and a demo submission to jazz-and-more label Blue Note Records in 2004 led to tours with Norah Jones and Bob Dylan the following year, and a self-titled debut whose songs found rapid-fire exposure on a multitude of House, ER, Parenthood, and other TV shows and commercials known for showcasing the new, hip indie marketplace.

No one was surprised when Lee’s 2011 album Mission Bell, with its stark landscape, restless momentum, and guest appearances from Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Priscilla Ahn, Pieta Brown, and Sam Beam debuted at the top of the Billboard charts. The man had made his mark, and subsequent tours with everyone from Merle Haggard to Adele would only cement his influence in the post-millennial world.

In many ways, though, Amos Lee’s rapid rise was foretold by his music. It’s hard not to love Lee upon first listen; arguably, the man has more soul in his vocal delivery than anyone else in his generation and genre. But dig deeper, and his true mastery becomes clear: there’s subtle, nuanced delivery and arrangement here, and a deceptively simple way with a lyrical hook that owes as much to the formative influence of early acoustic soul balladeers like Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers as it does to the muddy, raw Delta bluesfolk at the heart of the American folkways, the gritty sounds of John Prine, and the sparse contemporary jazzfolk sounds of Joni Mitchell and labelmate and contemporary Jones.

The result is consistent: an elegantly honest portrayal of deep emotional truths, crisp and achingly framed, in clear, deep, and emotional performance; a collected output of six full-length albums of original songs, one live album, that original Blue Note EP, and a sequence of guest appearances and one-shot coversongs that evades easy genre categorization even as it stands out for its originality, its craftsmanship, and its soul.

So click below to download studio covers of John Prine, Bob Dylan, Fred Neil and Madonna, an iTunes session Neil Young/Ween two-fer, collaborations with The Wood Brothers and Calexico and Iron & Wine, and the best, clearest live covers we could find, from soulful solo takes on Sam Cooke and The Commodores to majestic in-concert versions of November Rain and Fat Bottomed Girls. Come, see why Amos Lee’s interpretation of John Denver’s Some Days Are Diamonds, originally shared here in 2013, is the single most played song in our collection. Come, fall back in love with us.



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down has been exploring the folkways through cover songs since 2007 thanks to the generous support of readers like you. Coming soon: our annual Fall fund drive, plus a look at new tribute albums and compilations from the end of the summer!

1 comment » | Amos Lee, Featured Artists

Back To The Source, Vol. 1: MOJO Magazine
(32 covers from twelve years of tribute albums)


mojocollage


Great covers come from a myriad of sources. But the coverlover’s collection is founded on a finite set, where coverage runs fast and free: deep wells that sustain us, pouring forth the volumes that pepper our mixtapes and shore up our artist-centric features, from “homage houses” like Reimagine Music and American Laundromat Records to ongoing YouTube tour-stops like AV Undercover and the pop-up microstudios of Dutch field recorder Onder Invloed.

Back To The Source, our newest feature concept, dives deep into these wells, seeking to celebrate and reveal just what makes their waters so prolific and life-sustaining. We kick things off today with a look at MOJO, who in just over a decade has produced dozens of tributes to seminal albums and artists, sealed lovingly in plastic alongside their monthly music magazine; read on for beautiful interpretations of seminal songs from Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, and more, plus more Beatles covers than you could ever imagine.


I love used CD stores, where a quick skim of the liner notes can reveal treasures previously unnoticed or unheard, and rarities abound, from live local radio compilations to label tributes long out of print. And so, a few weekends ago, in a last gasp effort to enjoy the waning days of summer, we found ourselves in Brattleboro, VT, where Turn It Up records has recently relocated to new digs. I begged a few minutes from the end of a great meal, and headed for the stacks.

And there, in the three for five bucks tray, was a treasure trove: someone’s entire collection of Mojo Records CDs.

It was an incomplete set, to be sure – about 5 year’s worth, of a total collection that so far spans a dozen. But I walked away with ten separate tribute albums, most otherwise impossible to find. And after steeping in them for two weeks, it was just too good not to share.

A little history here: Mojo Magazine has included a free CD with almost every issue since late 2004; not all tackle covers, but many do. Two-disc set Beatlemania, which emerged in September of that year, and Cash Covered, released that November, were the first covers compilations to appear as part of a series that yaws wide enough to define the broad tastes of Mojo itself, where punk, soul, pop and indie all have their place in the pantheon, and authenticity is the name of the game.

For the first few years, Mojo’s CDs tended to compile previously recorded material, maybe with a brand new track or two; the joy here was in the collection and organization, which generally trended towards a broad genre spectrum held together marvelously, resulting in a growing cache of eminently listenable long-plays. In more recent years, Mojo has included a number of bespoke CDs in their collection, with songs solicited and recorded exclusively for their projects. Either way, their taste is impeccable: it is these collections, in fact, which have introduced me to The Staves, Neville Skelly, Jeb Loy Nichols, and other up-and-comers, while renewing my love for Woodpigeon, Phosphorescent, Yim Yames, Sam Amidon, Emily Barker, Thea Gilmore, Jim White, and many more artists pushing the envelope beyond easy genre categorization.

In the end, as a collection, the Mojo tribute CDs stand almost unparalleled – a fitting beginning for a new feature series, and a great way to celebrate the magazine and its tastemakers as they continue their search for the source in the songscape. Read on for our favorite, folkiest tracks from a close-to-complete chronology of cover albums, from that Beatlemania set to Blonde on Blonde Revisited, last month’s delight of a Dylan tribute.


Mojo Magazine’s Best Covers (2004-2016)
A Cover Lay Down Mix
[zip!]



Always artist-friendly and ad-free, Cover Lay Down has been covering the changing landscape of music since 2007 thanks to the continued efforts of sources like Mojo…and the kindness of readers like you. Donate today to help us keep the servers spinning, and receive our undying thanks, PLUS a mixtape of otherwise unblogged rarities!

1 comment » | Back To The Source, Mixtapes, The Beatles, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Mailbag Mayhem: New covers of
The Beatles, Beyonce, Teenage Fanclub, The Grateful Dead & more!





How lovely to return from two weeks in the folkfields soaked in sun and song and find the mailbag bulging with transformative takes on songs we love. We’ve sifted through and found the very best of a set that covers the gamut from tender indiefolk and solo singer-songwriter fare to bluegrass, roots, and Americana; now read on for some very new coverage from a diverse set of international artists working in and around the folkways – all recorded or released in the last few weeks, and all very much worth your time.


Revolver turned 50 last week; in its honor, a set of mostly Brazilian artists have spent the week performing songs from the album for a mostly-live project called BH Beatle Week, and the results are just divine. Our favorite project contribution: this bright, dreamy, gently psychedelic cover from contemporary folk duo Lindsay and Isaac (and friend Vini), perfect for wistful summer’s end. See also Junk, recorded back in January by the same trio of artists – a beautiful, tender rendition of Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles lullaby.


Indie-slash-antifolk singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, who has been pretty quiet since her last release in 2012, covered the Beatles recently, too, for the soundtrack of new animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings. Fittingly tinged with neotraditional Japanese instrumentation over orchestral strings, the cover, which hit the ether over the weekend, is both stirring and strange, a fitting match for a film that promises much, and seems poised to deliver.


Wisconsin-based, classically trained multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter and CLD frequent flyer Anna Elizabeth Laube sent along this Beyonce cover almost a month ago, but it’s well worth bringing forward: hushed, beautiful, and truly folk, with unexpected horns and a pulsing vibe that soothes and sways. At this point, we’d listen to Laube the sing the phone book; that she’s managed to wring such depth and dynamic tension from such an unusual source is both typical and praiseworthy.


New on Noisetrade, this previously unreleased Teenage Fanclub cover serves as 1/4 of a sampler EP re-introducing the world to the throwback California country sounds of Detroit “guitar-pop” band The Legal Matters. And what an introduction it is, too: perfect for those last lazy summer afternoons, and sure to please fans of The Jayhawks, The Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, and other folk-pop radio hitmakers that still populate classic rock radio.


Released in June but now rising to the top, Don’t This Road Look Rough And Rocky, the “focus” track of Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind, was put up on Youtube at the end of July: like much of this collection of old-timey “cheatin’ and hurtin’ songs” from BC-based septet The High Bar Gang, it’s a slow piece, and gentler than the Flatt and Scruggs original. But it’s the high-driving energy of traditional album opener Silver Dagger, a translation that owes much to Dolly Parton’s 1999 take on the song yet with a bright and busty energy all its own, that grabs us and pulls us in, hard and grinning, to spin and whirl.


It’s been a while since we last featured contemporary Hudson Valley singer-songwriter Susan Kane here on these pages, naming her sly, bluesy take on the Grateful Dead classic Loser as one of our top 20 coversongs of 2012, but we’re thrilled to have her back on the radar with two new Dead covers and a set of potent originals that reveal a rich and eminently human inner world through the superimposition of the mundane and the magic. An acoustic Americana album with guest musicians galore, new album Mostly Fine is enjoying a soft release; snag it now via CD Baby before folk radio beats you to it.


Just three albums into a promising career, London ex-pat vocalist and composer Joanna Wallfisch is hard to categorize, but everything’s good about near-perfect new CD Gardens In My Mind, which yaws wide as it swings from a playful, stuttering barrelhouse pianojazz title track to lush world-and-classical folk a la Jean Rohe (Satin Grey). Though mostly comprised of vibrant, contemporary originals, the album also includes a crooner’s soft pianopop Tim Buckley cover and this completely deconstructed string-quartet take on All I Want that just blows our mind…and then does it again, in a gorgeously layered, looping a capella reprise of the same song that leaves us aching and breathless.


Most folks move from folk to Broadway, if anything. But with debut album Somebody, Ryan Vona – who appeared there in folk musical Once, and currently stars as Joey in the Cirque Du Soleil musical Paramour – isn’t so much moving backwards as he is forging ahead into new territory in pure, potent voice. New single The Letterbox is an earnest, playful newgrass revelation, with an adorable video featuring an animated grasshopper in a paper bag world; add in an arrangement of Danny Boy which dances around the “original” tune composed by his ancestor Rory Dall O’Cahan, and we’re pleased to welcome him to the folkways with open arms and accolades.


  • VIDEO: Lucy LaForge, Katie Ferrara, Kaitlin Wolfberg: Dreams (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
  • VIDEO: Lucy LaForge & Evan Blum: Just A Friend To You (orig. Meghan Trainor)

Last but certainly not least, we close today with a pair of darling YouTube covers from Lucy LaForge, the whimsical indie frontwoman of Lucy & La Mer who has already brought us such joy this year through covers of Tainted Love and Bad Blood. Dreams, a raw, ragged, sparse and oh so sweet new Fleetwood Mac cover, was mixed on the same board as Rumors, the seminal 1977 album which brought us such well-covered delights as Go Your Own Way, The Chain, Dreams and Gold Dust Woman; as a bonus, it also features fellow LA-based artist Katie Ferrara, whose absolutely delightful cover of Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes featured here just a few weeks ago in our flavor-laden Popsicle Mix. Add in one of the sweetest boy-girl uke covers I’ve heard this year, and it’s easy to see why we’ve fallen in love.






Comment » | Mailbag Monday, New Artists Old Songs, Tube Thursday

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