Gone Folkin’
(A Mixtape for the Meanwhile)


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We’re off for our annual pilgrimage to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival from now until August 4: ten precious days camping, volunteering, and frolicking with friends and family in our mutual home away from home, the best, most comfortable arts-and-music-driven intentional community we’ve ever found.

As we noted in our earlier feature on this year’s Fest, the artists roster this year is excellent, with Aoife O’Donovan, The Duhks, Roosevelt Dime, Brother Sun, The Grand Slambovians, and more on our don’t miss list; since then, the artist-run Lounge Stage – a pre-fest stage hosted by the boys from Pesky J. Nixon on July 31 from 5-11 – has announced a number of great acts we’re excited to see up close, from Spuyten Duyvil, John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler and Darlingside to RJ Cowdrey and Caitlin Canty, while Budgiedome has added Cover Lay Down fave Kristin Andreassen and Connor Garvey to their latenight post-stage schedule for Friday. Maybe we’ll see you there.

Our absence also means yet another slight hiatus here at the blog, of course. Campsite rules enforce a no-phones policy for good reason. After 17 consecutive festivals, our time in the fields each year is not just a sybaritic pleasure, it’s also a necessary trial. Being fully present there (and fully absent here) clears the head for another school year, and it sends us back bubbling with life and rejuvenated joy at the state of folk music.

But we’d not leave you emptyhanded. Instead, today, a leavetaking in coverfolk: a slow, lazy mix tape of goings and goodbyes, from sorrowful lament to the hopeful promise of return. As always, if you like what you hear, click on the links beside each track to follow the artists you love to the fields and the forests of your minds and hearts.

Goodbye, Farewell: A Coverfolk Mixtape [zip!]



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2 comments » | Mixtapes

Double Dippers, vol. 3: Singer-songwriters visit & revisit
Donovan, The Beatles, Gram Parsons, Woody Guthrie and Paul Simon!


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Born of an exercise in archival data-mining, our Double Dippers feature series finds us focusing on artists who pay tribute to favorite songwriters through coverage twice over, in two distinct phases of their careers. Our interest, as always, is in the ethnographic lens on craft and culture: if covers serve as artifacts that expose the substance of artistic evolution, then the return to a common songbook is especially illuminating, both as an exploration of maturity and experimentation, and in the way it reinforces an individual artist’s claim to a particular musical lineage or heritage.

Previously, we took the analytical approach to paired homage from Mark Erelli, Richard Shindell, Amos Lee, Lucy Kaplansky, and Old Crow Medicine Show (Vol. 1), and an all-female cast of Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Red Molly (Vol. 2), as they explored the works of their peers and progenitors. Today, we continue our dig into how songs and songwriters are shaped by song and soundscapes with double-dip coverage from Rickie Lee Jones, Billy Bragg, Evan Dando, and Crooked Still alumni Aoife O’Donovan and Tristan Clarridge.

    Rickie Lee Jones has reinvented herself several times in a long and storied career, with tours through R&B, pop, and jazz standards along the way. But the difference has never been so vast, nor so starkly presented as it is when comparing her covers of sixties folk icon Donovan. Jones’ chipper retro-coustic folkpop take on Sunshine Superman, recorded for the hip mid-nineties television show Party Of Five, bounces with the sheer joy of its reconsidered era; her more recent effort, from the Ben Harper-produced triumph The Devil You Know, a hushed, stripped and solo album we celebrated in our 2012 year’s end review, is haunted, raw, ragged and slow, a broken whisper with timeless fragility.


    Long before Woody Guthrie’s sister and executor tapped him to join up with Wilco for the Grammy-winning Mermaid Avenue project, Billy Bragg was already a workingman’s folksinger, with a canon and craft that owe as much to the pre-revival labor movement folkbranches as they do to the post-punk political songbooks of The Clash and The Smiths (both of whom he’s also covered on studio releases). Though his work with the Guthrie notebooks on the Mermaid Avenue sessions is more posthumous collaboration than an incidence of coverage, Bragg has covered his anti-establishment tribal progenitor several times in the studio. These two tracks, recorded a quarter century apart, are quite representative: almost three decades of production dynamics distinguish the pair, and Bragg’s weariness seems to have become a driver of rhythm in the intervening years, but the bare-bones approach common to both songs, and the political nature of each, reveal nothing so much as how true Bragg’s colors really run.


    We made a case for the folkier side of Evan Dando way back in 2008; Dando’s path from Boston grunge to stripped down singer-songwriter perfectly parallels my own shift in sensibility as I approached middle age, so we’re especially fond of his work in any form. Rather than representing the artist at his heroin-folk best, or, contrariwise, with the fuzzy electrified underground tones of his beloved Lemonheads, these two Gram Parsons covers show a versatile middle ground, with gritty overtones of Americana and California Country Rock that befit the songs’ genre origins. (As a bonus triple-dip, Dando’s 1998 bootleg recording of Parsons’ Streets of Baltimore is quite good, too, if more raw and tender than the two presented here.)


    I’ve got Aoife O’Donovan on the brain this week, thanks to an upcoming set on Friday, August 1st at the best little folk festival in the American Northeast; I’ve never seen her live in solo mode, but like so many others, I’ve been in love with that gorgeous voice for years. Aoife O’Donovan’s cover of Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones is a sweet bootleg piano ballad from her school days, originally released on MySpace, but it’s a great early showpiece for her particular talent, with hints of all the power that she would refine and reveal in her decade with Crooked Still; American Tune, from Crooked Still’s 2011 swansong EP Friends of Fall, shows the rich fruits of her journey: nuanced, etherial, and free, with mastery in spades.


    As a bonus, since technically, it’s not his own voice, but the instrument that most closely approximates the male voice, which he brings to the table: Though founders and frontpersons Aoife O’Donovan and Greg Liszt generally get the lion’s share of recognition for their seminal work with Crooked Still, cellist Tristan Clarridge, who was with the band for several years before they declared an official hiatus in 2011, has arranged and covered The Beatles songbook twice over, too: on that same Friends of Fall album, and with his neo-traditional string-and-dulcimer trio The Bee Eaters, who recorded this slow-burning gem on their 2009 self-titled album.



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Comment » | Allison Krauss, Aoife O'Donovan, Billy Bragg, Crooked Still, Double Dippers, Evan Dando, Rickie Lee Jones

Kickstarter Covers: Tomorrow You’re Going
(help Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky make a covers album!)





We generally eschew artist ranking here at Cover Lay Down, but you never forget your first – and in this case, it speaks volumes that our very first feature back in September of 2007 introduced Richard Shindell’s incredible, quintessential covers album South of Delia, citing it as an album so powerful and vast in scope and sequence, it prompted us to start the blog in the first place. Just a few weeks later, we did a full feature on Lucy Kaplansky, too, touting that inimitable voice, and celebrating the woman who had so captured our hearts at the Clearwater festival, we had no choice but to snag her whole catalog to date at the merch tent, and subsequently steep ourselves in it through the long drive back home to Massachusetts, and for incessant months afterwards.

The evidence is clear from our origin, then: though we cherish the new and the post-millennial here at Cover Lay Down, their very presence at our humble beginnings confirm Kaplansky and Shindell’s places atop our lifetime list of favorite singer-songwriters. News regarding new projects, releases, or tours from either of these two sensitive, literate, and sublime musicians is ever an opportunity for celebration, and – as long time readers already know – we’ve been pleased to revisit them several times since 2007, in acknowledgement of each new release and collaboration.

But although Lucy and Richard in solo mode are always a wonderment, any opportunity to hear them work together is a special treat. And happily, here, too, one need not look far to find fodder for delight.

Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell’s work together dates back to the beginning of their careers, in the early eighties, when both were emerging artists in the Greenwich Village Fast Folk coffeehouse scene, and Kaplansky was the go-to harmony singer for an entire movement. Since then, though Shindell now makes his home south of the Equator, and Lucy continues to live in her native New York City, it is quite common to find them sharing stage and studio – and thanks to their long-time friendship and a mature sense of innate, entwined performance, the combination is always a delight. Those inimitable harmonies can be found on any number of “solo” recordings for the pair; in fact, the majority of albums from each artist feature the other on background vocals. Add in other collaborations, such as their performance together at a Harmony workshop at the 2007 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and their great work with Dar Williams on the late nineties one-shot trio covers project Cry Cry Cry, and it’s no wonder their entwined voices haunt our playlists.

Which is all to introduce the wonderful news that yesterday, old friends and long-time collaborators Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell kicked off a campaign to fund an entire album of new covers entitled Tomorrow You’re Going. And in response, we’ve collected a full set of their previous collaborations, culled from studio albums and live performances, that proves just why we believe their newest project is destined to be something very, very special.


kaplansky_shindell_1Clearly, others relish the thought of Kaplansky and Shindell coming together for a full album, too: just 24 hours after the campaign opened, they’ve already reached their initial fundraising goal. But don’t let the project’s rapid climb to sustainability stop you from supporting its fulfillment. “Stretch goals” for the project include broader press promotion and production, and an expansion of the subsequent tour that makes it that much more likely that you, too, could see the pair together in your own town or city. The give-aways here are darling, and typical of Richard and Kaplansky; read together, they comprise a vision of a tour together in which in every town, they’ll sing for, guitar shop with, and dine with donors and friends.

Most importantly, the success of this project really does depend on us: Shindell’s framing of crowdsourcing’s direct fan appeal as a quid pro quo replacement for music sales lost to the digital age is both an apt and eloquently stated argument for microfinancing models, and a signifier of his own clear and persistent vision of how to make music viable for artists and fans alike in an age far-flung from their Fast Folk magazine origins.

By definition, the covers on Tomorrow You’re Going are not yet available, at least in studio-recorded form. But, as noted above, there’s at least another album’s worth of recordings featuring the two out there already. Today, we collect the lot, reshuffling our favorite covers from Shindell and Kaplansky to focus on 16 tracks that feature the voices of both together – some nominally released under one artist’s name, and others, such as a couple of dual-marquee pairings recorded live at various festival stages, and a few tracks from Cry Cry Cry, more officially from the pair in partnership – and the end result is a beautiful playlist, and a beautiful teaser for their next great collaboration to boot. Listen, enjoy, and then head over to Kickstarter to pledge your support and pick your reward for Tomorrow You’re Going.


    Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell cover… [zip!]


Comment » | (Re)Covered, Kickstarter Covers, Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell

New Artists, Old Songs: from indiefolk to bluegrass
with Willie Watson, S. Carey, Cereus Bright, RUNA & more!

Our long hiatus this Spring bred a huge backlog of great music; both desktop and mailbag are stuffed to the limit, and there’s enough open tabs on my browser to support weeks of features. We’ll start digging in to new tribute albums, a huge set of new videos and studio tunes from some of our favorite artists, and more over the next few weeks as we prepare to leave for our annual folk festival tour; today, we skim the cream of the crop to reveal some wonderful new and new-to-us artists covering Amos Lee, The Bee Gees, The Everly Brothers, TLC, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Airplane, tradfolk and more!

RUNA header WEBOn their new covers-and-traditionals album Current Affairs, Irish-Americana Roots band RUNA offers a powerful ethnomusical journey through the songs of Kate Rusby, The Child Ballads, the American labor movement, the gospel hymnal, traditional Gaelic reels and lullabies, and other hotspots in the evolution of the contrapuntal UK-American roots tradition.

Two 2013 Irish Music Awards, including one in the traditional category, prove their mettle, I suppose. But theirs is no mere retelling: the album is fresh and vibrant, a perfect-pitch collection that falls smack dab between comfortable folkpop and high-energy Celtic while transcending easy cataloguing – a nod to the diverse heritage of a Philadelphia-based five-piece band that features Dublin-born guitarist/vocalist Fionán de Barra, young Texas-style fiddler Maggie Estes White, Philly bandleader/vocalist Shannon Lambert-Ryan, and two percussionists (Galway mandolin/banjo and bodhran player Dave Curley and Montreal-based folk percussionist and current Northeast Regional Folk Alliance chair Cheryl Prashker). There’s nary a low point here, but RUNA’s gorgeous cover of Amos Lee’s Black River is the catchiest song I’ve heard in months; stay tuned for an Amos Lee feature in the coming weeks, too.




ChristopherBellDespite inevitable comparison to Ben Sollee, Christopher Bell isn’t just another cello-playing singer-songwriter: he’s also a multi-instrumentalist and engineer, of his own songs and of others, with a creative process that has, of late, included heavy looping, synthesizers and beats, and a sense of whimsical re- and deconstruction. The result is a “sparse, otherworldly pop” that teeters on the edge of alternative, electrofolk and grunge, mesmerizing and new with elements of many genres even as it supports an entirely consistent and eminently singable songcraft.

His much sparser-sounding 2009 cover-your-friends Cover EP is hard to find, and his Harry Nilsson/Bach mashup, while a potent live performance revelation, dates from last April. But Bell’s recent Paul Simon cover is playful and wry, a great representative sample of his current work; find the latter on his newest album Fire via Bandcamp, and then stick around to peruse the archives.



    Christopher Bell: One/Cello Suite III (orig. Harry Nilsson/Bach)




scarey4If you knew Bon Iver long before we covered his songbook last week, you know S. Carey; he’s the drummer and vocalist who learned Bon Iver’s first album by ear, approached the Wisconsin superstar backstage before a concert, proved his chops, and ended up a staple member of the band that very night.

Though he is relatively nonchalant about process, describing the creation of his first album as an accident of experimentation and single-shot recording, Carey has also emerged as a singer-songwriter in his own right, and although his 2 albums and an EP are clearly in the same tradition, they are decidedly not derivative. This new Pines cover, posted on Soundcloud as a tour kick-off towards the end of June, is tender and delicate, as hushed, haunting and hollow as a Paul Simon tune, and ready for media placement in the next Wes Anderson movie or Zach Braff project. Highly recommended; file under “balls of brass, voice of an indiefolk angel”.




Willie Watson isn’t exactly an unknown, either: as a founder and core member of Old Crow Medicine Show, he’s made a name for his band as one of the premier members of the new old-timey folk revival camp. His solo debut, the aptly-titled Folk Singer, Vol. 1, is a call to even older forms of performance, and a stand-out candidate for Best Traditional Folk album in our end-of-year series: a delicate, spare series of covers and traditional songs, stripped down to the raw and intimate essentials of one man, one instrument, and a voice that evokes a hundred years of source material from the blues and folk canons. Bonus points for Watson’s cover of Everly Brothers classic Take A Message To Mary, a teaser which predated the album by a month or so.





New Knoxville folk band Cereus Bright plays alternative unplugged-style singer-songwriter songbook fodder like they mean it – as in the below, a majestic, dark and stormy string orchestra and mandolin-driven Bee Gees cover released to promote their recent tour that comes off as only slightly tongue-in-cheek. And people seem to like it; though their previous output comprises but a single 2013 EP, with the release of this cover, theirs has become a rapidly-rising star that has taken them to MTV, Paste, Relix, and a grand summer tour. Via email from drummer Luke Bowers, who knows his audience and its taste: new coverblog Cover Me Badly shared this back in May, too.




And speaking of new artists: here’s a Spotify playlist of covers from a few select artists, each of whom is slated to perform two songs each at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest as part of the Emerging Artists showcase on Friday afternoon from noon to four. Overall, the showcase features 24 rising stars; selecting every cover on this year’s master list of artist recordings nets us a reasonably representative sample, with Liz Frame and the Kickers’ echoey Americana take on Somebody To Love, the uptempo stringband bluegrass of Tumbling Bones, Zak Smith’s ragged Americana folk rock balladry, a piano lounge singer’s jammin’ jazz take on No Scrubs from Avi Wisnia, and more to love. (PS: For more about the festival, which takes place the first weekend in August, check out our Falcon Ridge Folk Festival preview!)


Comment » | New Artists Old Songs

Summersongs: Coverfolk for the Lazy Season


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A teacher’s summer in smalltown New England goes by like an infinity of lazy, hazy afternoons. Midweek and weekend blur together like the hours: we forget what day it is, and laugh when we check the mail on Sunday.

Most mornings I find myself here on the porch in the late morning sun, laptop and coffee and old dog at my feet, before the wife and kids wake into the heat of the day. Maybe later we’ll pull the other camper up and freshen it up for festival season; maybe not.

Yesterday we took the kids to Six Flags, and it rained just in time to cool us down. We found a darling new Italian place for supper afterwards, and stuffed ourselves on homemade pasta and cannoli. And then, although it was late and the kids were tired, we sang in the car the whole way home, gleeful and alive, the four of us off for the summer, and together.

We are more than lucky. We are blessed: by the smalltown and its July fourth parade, the barbecues with friends while the kids splash happily in the newer, bigger pool, fireworks at Old Sturbridge Village and the tailgate party afterwards in the dark, while the fireflies blink in the bushes.

A summerset, then, from ragtag and rousing to soft and sentimental folk, with Kris Delmhorst’s sultry Cars cover, The National and St. Vincent’s indiepop, a soulcoustic Jason Mraz taking on a Seals & Crofts classic, and Teddy Thompson’s tender torchsong in tribute to Kate McGarrigle along the way. Plus Mark Kozelek’s delicate and dreamy heavy metal coverage, Ana Egge’s lush folkpop, Lisa Loeb’s rockin’ kidscamp take on the theme song to Meatballs, and more. Because every summer needs a soundtrack, and it’s been five years since we posted one here.



Summersongs: a coverfolk mix [zip!]


Previously on Cover Lay Down: Our Single Song Sunday feature on Gershwin classic “Summertime”.

2 comments » | Mixtapes

Covered In Folk: Bon Iver
(Lotte Kestner, Kina Grannis, Passenger, Catherine A.D. and 16 more!)





It is unusual, to say the least, for us to come to a Covered In Folk feature to take on an artist whose total output officially includes but two full-length albums, a four-track EP, and a handful of appearances on tribute and compilation albums. But love him or hate him, there’s no denying the influence Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, has had on the independent music scene and its listeners since the revelation of his 2007 debut For Emma, Forever Ago – a reinvention and rebirth, as if a decade or more of previous artistic output as a bandmate, and as a solo artist under his own name, predated his very existence.

To be fair, no small modicum of Bon Iver’s claim to hipster fame is grounded in its perfectly twee backstory: a three month post-breakup solitude in a Wisconsin cabin, with mononucleosis and a small set of recording equipment, produces an itch to compose, from which the heavily layered album tracks emerged wholesale and complete like a ten commandments of the Indie age. Delicate as a demo, For Emma would ultimately be distributed in a small batch to blogs, who raved Bon Iver’s way to small label distribution, television placement, and best-of-the-decade listings in Stereogum, Metacritic, and other major tastemaker publications online and off. This, in turn, would lead to a second self-titled album in 2011, recorded with others as a band of the same moniker, that received Grammy wins for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album, became Pitchfork’s #1 album of the year, and cemented the bearded artist’s place at the top of the hipster heart.



boniIntricate, authentic, deep and enveloping, the music Vernon has composed under the Bon Iver name is deserving of its critical reception. As a songwriter, Vernon favors the poetic, with longing and angst communicated through a litany of observations which come off as something between metaphor or vision; he’s been compared to Robert Creeley, which in this poet’s heart says something about a trend towards clear imagery and a particularly vivid use of figurative language. It is telling, indeed, that our set today includes coverage of almost every Bon Iver song ever recorded; something about these songs catches the heart, mind, and soul.

But although his lyrical authenticity is duly touted and taken on by his indiefolk peers, Vernon’s power as Bon Iver is more truly in the process, and the sound it creates: one that begins with wordless melody, which he listens to and then adds words to to match the syllabic nature of the music. This signature “music first” approach to arrangement and performance grounds his songs deeply in their rhythm and melody, elevating them past the limitations of live solo performance and demanding performance that generally includes a full band and sing-along audience choir.

The sound of Bon Iver – that shimmery overdubbed breathiness, evoking the haze of mono and isolation – dominates the canon, making for lyrics that are themselves part and parcel of the sonic atmosphere. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, to find that sound so often a primary driver of coverage, with that inimitable layered falsetto finding similarly soaring, echoing voice in versions from a score of artists growing up and finding their own success in the indiefolk scene. The merely unadorned solo isn’t rare, but it seems somehow startling, even as it finds and exposes a simpler beauty in the songs and melodies themselves.

Our favorite cases of each populate our 20-song tribute set today. Join us, as the loneliness and heartache of Bon Iver finds voice in the other, and then stick around for a bonus EP-length set of Bon Iver covering his own peers and influences.



COVERED IN FOLK: BON IVER [zip!]

  • HATS: Re:Stacks

    Scottish indierock brothers John & Garry aka HATS put a driving drumthrum-and-piano heartbeat behind sibling harmonies for stunning atmospheric effect, a gorgeous tension that never truly resolves.
  • Enna: Michicant

    A glitchy cover, heavy with lead and gold. German musician Enna also covers Flume; of the covers assembled here, it’s closest to the original, but sweet nonetheless.
  • Dress Rehearsal: Beth/Rest

    Quite lo-fi; retro-primitive, with a hint of grunge guitar bridge lending an edge like the Lemonheads at their lightest. Check out more of Dress Rehearsal‘s living room covers and originals at bandcamp.
  • Fort DeClare: Beach Baby

    Young amateur Fort DeClare stunned us back in 2010 with this delightful bedroom approach to lo-fi indie electrofolk, with thick, layered atmosphere and gentle repetitive elements.
  • Juliana: Calgary

    Previously celebrated rising star Juliana Richer Daily – who now goes by her first name only – turns in an emotional yet relatively faithful singer-songwriter take on an undersung favorite.
  • Amarise Carreras: Roslyn (orig. Bon Iver w/ St. Vincent)

    New Noisetrade discovery Amarise Carreras plays gentle lo-fi covers as endearing and raw as Karen Dalton or Vashti Bunyan – a perfect fit for this Twilight saga soundtrack original.
  • Chamberlain: Lost In The Woods (orig. Kanye West ft. Bon Iver)

    An indiecoustic soul number which builds into a jam, as befits this Kanye/Bon Iver collaboration; expect to see this track pop up again on a future Covered In Folk: Kanye West feature.
  • Daughter: Perth (orig. Bon Iver) vs. Ready For The Floor (orig. Hot Chip)

    A lush, shimmery mash-up that crosses jazz, trance, and dreampop lines – sparse for the genre, perfect for the close of today’s Bon Iver covers collection.



Looking for more Bon Iver? Though he is reportedly reluctant to perform his own songs without the richness of vocal harmony and band, Vernon does some pretty sweet covers himself. Today’s Bonus Tracks feature the Wisconsin artist taking on the folk canon both new and old, live and in-studio – a strong introduction to his original, inimitable style.



Always original and artist-centric, Cover Lay Down offers new themed sets, songwriter features and coverfolk finds throughout the year thanks to the kind support of readers like you. Find us on Facebook for bonus discoveries and streaming multimedia coverage, too!

1 comment » | Bon Iver, Covered In Folk

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest 2014 (July 31-Aug 3)
with Aoife O’Donovan, Roosevelt Dime, Darlingside, The Duhks & more!


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This year marks our twentieth consecutive year at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and although we go as much for the community as the music these days, it is a sign of the festival’s continued success in presenting a stellar, diverse line-up that even as my wife works on airing out the camper, I find myself eagerly compiling a list of don’t-miss acts – and finding plenty of fodder for it.

We’ve said so much about this festival in past years; in some ways, it seems redundant to begin again for a seventh time. As I noted last year, “Falcon Ridge…remains my favorite summer experience: a guaranteed go-to event that offers some of the best, most eclectic truly folk music on the circuit, in a lazy, generous atmosphere charged with joy,” with a perfect mix of familiar folk festival standbys, famous guests, and “great new acts from the expanding indie-traditional genre space to complement the familiar faces, and honor the vibrancy of modern folk.”

But every year is something special at Falcon Ridge, and this year promises to be a gold mine. Today, then, a short set of updates from some past favorites coming to Dodd’s Farm for summer 2014; if we’ve done our job well, you’ll be itching to join us in the fields on Hillsdale, NY the first weekend in August to see these don’t-miss artists plus John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Brother Sun, Spuyten Duyvil, Tom Paxton, The Boxcar Lillies, Connor Garvey, Tracey Grammer and more.



We tracked Crooked Still carefully throughout the long life of this blog, and noted their move towards solo and other projects recently as this 2011 feature on the band’s first decade – but bookmarking such gems as the utterly beautiful 2011 solo take on a Richard Thompson classic below left an ache for founder, bandleader, and driving force Aoife O’Donovan, and we’re thrilled to find her on the performer’s list.

Indeed, even as her sweet, airy voice finds itself in collaboration with the likes of Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Kate Rusby, Elizabeth Mitchell, Sam Amidon, and other favorite artists over the past few years, I’ve been dying to see Aoife live and solo, and probably longer than most; her long-awaited debut album Fossils, which dropped this past year, has been duly feted as a tour de force, but we’ve been fans of that breathy voice since our inception. If her appearance on Prairie Home Companion back in January is any indication, this it-girl of the neo-traditional movement is going to be the belle of the fest; I’ll see you in the front row.

    Aoife O’Donovan: The Lakes Of Ponchartrain (trad.)


    Aoife O’Donovan: Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (orig. Richard Thompson)




We fell in love with Roosevelt Dime‘s acoustic jug band steamboat soul way back in 2009, thanks to a beautiful Americana-style single-shot Radiohead cover on their debut album Crooked Roots. Since then, we’ve followed their progress closely, and become close; we were thrilled to host the band overnight for a campsite jam last summer on site at Falcon Ridge, and honored to have the chance to present the very first public performance for Goodnight Moonshine, string-player and singer Eben Pariser’s side project with Red Molly member Molly Ventner.

The new year brings some changes to Roosevelt Dime – a slight shift in line-up, a featured Most Wanted set at the upcoming Falcon Ridge Folk Festival after winning last year’s Emerging Artist Showcase, and a fuller, more polished sound courtesy of Full Head of Steam, a jazzy, toe-tapping March release that sticks in the feet and the ears. Boston area folks interested in a week-before-the-fest teaser should snag tickets now for the band’s Club Passim show July 25th in support of Full Head of Steam; attendees will receive a free copy of the album, which is a serious bonus. Three traditional tracks from the album bring the funk for now.




Like Roosevelt Dime, Darlingside will be all over Falcon Ridge this year; Most Wanted artists are scheduled for multiple song workshops in collaboration with other artists; some of the very best collaborations I have ever seen take place at the open-air workshop tent. Regular readers may remember that this band wowed us at the Lounge Stage, the all-day Thursday artist-run festival-within-a-festival that Falcon Ridge has taken under its wing, with an amazing acoustic take on Smashing Pumpkins hit 1979; since then, their recent cover of Joni Mitchell-slash-CSNY Woodstock, with local darling Heather Maloney, made the New York Times, bringing fame and hopefully some modicum of momentum to the eclectic folkpop band.

Of course, Darlingside has been around for a while yet, and as with many new favorites, a dig into the archives can be fruitful, indeed. I found this older video cover searching for coverage from this year’s emerging artists; Caitlin Canty, who also tours with Jefferey Foucault and will be one of the 20 acts in this year’s Friday afternoon showcase, is the real deal.

    Darlingside ft. Caitlin Canty: Volcano (orig. Damien Rice)


    Darlingside ft. Heather Maloney: Woodstock (orig. Joni Mitchell)


    Darlingside: 1979 (orig. Smashing Pumpkins)




Wherever psychedelic jamband meets mythological folk rock, The Grand Slambovians (aka The Slambovian Circus of Dreams) hold sway, and for good reason: their late night Falcon Ridge mainstage sets are the world’s best summer party under the stars; their dance tent sets are legendary roof-raisers, their at-bats under the summer sun each year at the Beatles cover workshop are always a sing-along treat; their 2007 cover of Peace Train with Dar Williams and John Gorka remains one of our favorite Falcon Ridge moments. The music video for crowd favorite Alice in Space they made on-site last year, released this March to much fanfare, offers a glimpse into the madness; if you look closely, you can catch me in the crowd shots, bouncing around with abandon. This gentle, languid electro-folk Leonard Cohen cover comes from the same set, but even their tender side is part of the ride: don’t bother bringing a chair to your own trip to Slambovia – just a glowstick suit, plenty of water, and all the energy you can muster.

    The Grand Slambovians: Suzanne (orig. Leonard Cohen)




I actually blogged about The Duhks before this blog was born, listing their cover of Tracy Chapman’s Mountains of Things as one of my favorite songs of 2006 here in the waning days of the prep school existence, and returning for a comprehensive look at their first half decade in a 2008 feature (The Duhks cover Sting, Tracey Chapman, Gillian Welch et. al). Now, several line-up changes and 13 years since their inception, the eclectic acadian-creole folkrock collective from Winnipeg emerges from a two-year recording hiatus still at the top of their game, hitting “the Ridge” on the strength of a crisp, bright, and totally rockin’ new album produced by CLD faves Mike & Ruthy, with title cut and a traditional number below. Bring on the joyful noise.


    The Duhks: Mountains of Things (orig. Tracy Chapman)




Ready to join us August 1-3 at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival? Head over to their website for more, including tickets, a complete line-up, vendor list and site map!

4 comments » | (Re)Covered, Aoife O'Donovan, Darlingside, Festival Coverfolk, Roosevelt Dime, The Duhks

Covered In Folk: Jesse Winchester (1944-2014)
(with Roseanne Cash, Chris Smither, Mark Erelli, The McGarrigles +8 more!)





I started this entry towards the end of March, an early thaw that revealed a fertile earth ready for Spring even as insanity reigned in my personal life, and many drafts went unfinished. Since then, southern-born musician and songwriter Jesse Winchester has succumbed to the bladder cancer that plagued him for the better half of a decade – but the deceptively simple, direct lyrics and tunes that brought him a modicum of fame and no small counterpart of peer recognition through a long and storied career linger in the air, soothing mind and body as the world slows down to summer heat.

I first wrote about Winchester’s work over at Star Maker Machine back in 2009. Today we take the more comprehensive approach with a long-overdue Covered In Folk feature in tribute to Winchester’s songbook, featuring coverage from a company of contemporaries, including Emmylou Harris, Chris Smither, Pierce Pettis and more.


The musician’s musician, the singer-songwriter’s singer-songwriter: even as we overuse such terms through our criticism and praise, it remains both trope and truism that some of the best artists make their name through the works of others. And although he produced and released his songbook almost entirely through his own performances, Jesse Winchester is one of those artists whose name is all over the liner notes of his generation. His work has been recorded and celebrated by Tom Rush, Emmylou Harris (x2), Lyle Lovett, The Everly Brothers, Jimmy Buffett (x3), Elvis Costello, Little Feat, Wilson Pickett, and a host of well-known Country artists; many of those same stars, plus James Taylor, Lucinda Williams, Allen Toussaint and more, came together in 2012 for a tribute album after the gentle interpreter of the human condition fell ill with cancer.

Winchester deserves the attention. In his own voice, he was a contemporary polymath of genre, with folk and blues elements that cross boundaries even as they dig deep into the soul. Rolling Stone named him The Greatest Voice of the Decade after a 1977 performance that marked a triumphant return to the US after a draft-dodging decade in Quebec.

And although the bulk of his work dates back to the seventies, Winchester continued to write and record throughout his life, albeit sparingly, and in a career ever hampered by a reluctance to play the popstar game. His 2009 appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, where he performed Sham-A-Ling-Ding-Dong – a song that American Songwriter aptly called “an ode to both the triumph of true love over time and to the profundity of nonsensical doo-wop lyrics, all delivered by Winchester in a fragile croon that transmits all of the deep emotions hiding between the lines” – is a stunning example of a true master at the end of a too-short career, in a performance that brought Neko Case – and me – to tears.

What makes a musician’s influence so strong that his work affects his peers so well? Mostly, the ability to put into words those universal sentiments that songwriters have long struggled to make. Winchester’s work is often thick with nostalgia, and rich with first person sentiment, but it is, in the end, stunning in its simplicity, with plain lines bare and carefully constructed, pitch-perfect hidden depths that shimmer under seemingly straightforward lyrics. Listen, as his songs shine through the voices that celebrate him – from Mark Erelli’s tender folk lullaby to Chris Smithers’ stomping, driving blues, Emmylou’s inimitable balladry, and the countrygrass sounds of New Grass Revival.


COVERED IN FOLK: JESSE WINCHESTER [zip!]


Comment » | Covered In Folk, RIP

Kickstarter Covers, Vol. I: Milltowns
(Mark Erelli pays adept tribute to Bill Morrissey)

School’s out, the fireflies have returned, and the Oxycodone has finally faded from my system after a much-needed knee surgery, leaving us free and clear to begin filling pages again after months of apology. We’ll be back more regularly over the summer with news and new projects, tributes and songbook sets galore; today we dip our toes in the water with a clock-ticking palate-cleanser from one of our very favorite artists.





Happy 40th birthday weekend and kudos to well-travelled Boston-based folk musician and sideman extraordinaire Mark Erelli, who spent the last year recording Milltowns: A Tribute to Bill Morrissey, a warm, deep, surprisingly poignant tribute to a legendary singer-songwriter featuring multi-instrumentalist Erelli at his studio best and some smashing sideline work from the likes of Peter Mulvey, Rose Cousins, Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault, Anais Mitchell, & Rose Polenzani. After hearing Mark cover Bill several times over the last few years through bootlegs, live performances, and a single cover on The Memorial Hall Sessions album way back in 2002, we’re pleased but not so very surprised to declare the as-yet-unreleased Milltowns an unqualified success “born of love, respect and gratitude”, and an eloquent tribute to one of Erelli’s heroes and mentors – and proud, too, to urge support for the project via his Kickstarter page in the last few days of the campaign.

Regular readers may recall that we hold a special place in our hearts for Erelli, who recorded The Memorial Hall Sessions in our little town, and returned a decade later to grace us with our own little house concert; we’ve celebrated him several times on our pages (most recently for his double-dip coverage of Dawes), and have constantly been impressed by his work as a songwriter and performer. But this project is an especially potent venue for our fandom. The connection between Erelli and Morrissey is strong: Mark speaks eloquently of Morrissey’s mentorship on the road; both are known for their intimate portrayals of smalltown life in New England, and both have unusually strong connections to our favorite folk festival – Erelli as a one-time Falcon Ridge Folk Fest volunteer and main stage performer; Morrissey as a headline act from the very first year. And Morrissey is a long-time favorite, too – a Fast Folk alum who was a mainstay on the coffeehouse circuit until his death in 2011, with a catalog that is strong and worthy of the project.

The Milltown Kickstarter campaign hit its target yesterday, but extra funds are always needed to promote and distribute the album effectively – word of mouth only goes so far. So check out the project video above and a pair of older samples of Mark covering Bill below, head back in time to our 2011 feature on Mark Erelli, and then hit up the Milltowns project page to give what you can to support the record’s release, and receive an early digital download, plus the usual set of goodies, from signed records and back-catalog gems to copies of Bill Morrissey’s writings.


    TWO more Bill Morrissey covers from Mark Erelli’s mp3 of the Month series!



Comment » | (Re)Covered, Bill Morrissey, Kickstarter Covers, Mark Erelli, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Spring Awakening: Rabbitsongs, Covered In Folk


bunny-..._by_Essa-Al-Mazrooei600_395


Yes, it’s been two months since we last checked in with a new feature here on Cover Lay Down. And although the thaw is new here in New England, the long winter of our hours still presses upon us.

Tomorrow we’re off chaperoning the Senior Class Trip to Cape Cod; we’ll return on Wednesday, just in time to don a dress for a two-week run of Hairspray. Work beckons, come Monday, with year-end evaluations and a holy host of the usual stresses of state testing and final exams to prepare for with my students.

In the works, and almost finished, lie fertile features on new CDs and singles, tributes to Will Oldham and Jackson Browne, and the songs of Jesse Winchester, in memoriam. But today it’s Easter, an especially fitting day to rise again.

Let it be rabbits, then. Soft, warm, and reassuring, thieves and harbingers of garden and grass; symbols of growth and rebirth, and the proliferation that is sure to follow.


4 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk

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