Covered In Christmasfolk, 2017 (Vol. 1)
New Releases from Radiofolk to The Hymnal





If it’s going to be Christmas this early, then the music better be pretty damn good. Happily, there’s some solid festive folk in the air, from Kate Rusby’s newest carols-and-more release to archived live performances from Aoife O’Donovan, Ruth Moody, and Dougie MacLean to a perfect roster of modern, traditional, and holiday ballads and barnburners. Today, we dig into the early holiday mailbag, coming clean with the first major snowfall of the season and a moody, marvelous set to ring in the crispness of Christmas.




Richard Thompson’s robust New Year’s anthem We Sing Hallelujah was a frequent earworm this year, thanks to a delightful live performance of the song by Low Lily at our own Unity House Concerts on the cusp of the season last December. And it seems I’m not the only one stuck on the song: new covers of the song appear on Kate Rusby’s newest carols-and-more release Angels & Men – her fourth Christmas album – in typically sweet and celebratory fashion, with rich and swelling horn-and-string instrumentation evoking a frozen landscape, and as a chanty, chains and all, to ground O’Hooley & Tidow’s earnest, majestic holiday album Winterfolk Vol. 1.



Ryanhood‘s new holiday affair On Christmas hit Bandcamp just days before the high-energy Tucson, AZ folkpop duo was announced as Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2018 Most Wanted Returning Artists, news as bright and warm and bubbly as their live shows, not to mention their new versions of Sleigh Ride and Charlie Brown classic Skating. Chock full of joy, this adept collection of classic two-string instrumentals, original holiday songs that sound like instant classics, and a pair of unusual choice covers – Leigh Nash’s Christmas Falling and Audrey Assad’s Even The Winter – is a seasonal delight well worth deeper exploration.



His Eye Is on the Sparrow: A Collection of Hymns, the new release from Tennessee harmony-driven Christian female mountainfolk duo Alathea, funded through crowdsourcing and a partnership with the Appalachia Service Project, isn’t specifically for the holidays. But the hymnal swings inevitably towards the story of the birth regardless, and so among such ringing gems as His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Amazing Grace, Wayfaring Stranger, and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, this adopted Christmas anthem serves as a perfect complement to the duo’s two previous Christmas releases.



At worst, the threshold banter of Frank Loesser’s Baby, It’s Cold Out Side takes on a patina of shame in 2017. But this just-released countrified version of the song – a pond-crosser from Houstonite band Jess & the Bandits featuring special guests from the UK Country scene – is a fire under the boots, a honkytonk romp through a familiar song of the season that revives the playful innocence of the age, when demure was the name of the game, and a little protest was a true-blue mating ritual.



Tense and luscious, slippery and hopeful, Swedish neofolk singer-songwriter Sofia Talvik’s sweet take on one of our very favorite simple carols is culled from When Winter Comes, a gorgeous 2017 collection of remastered and reimagined cuts from a decade-long practice writing and releasing a free Christmas single every year. Like the song, the album is a true gift, pensive and dark yet full of inspiration and heartache, a highly recommended centerpiece for hearth and table.



Spare, masterful arrangement and angelic vocals from Berklee singer-songwriter, vocalist, musical theater producer and all-around popfolk prodigy Emma Charleston make for a pitch-perfect O Holy Night on a single released via YouTube and recently premiered on The Huffington Post. Add in her summer performance of Joni Mitchell’s holiday classic River, and you’ve got a pair that proves Charleston’s holiday spirit and performance prowess all at once.


Finally, if there was ever any doubt about the influence of long-time New England folk DJ Brian O’Donovan, this year’s archive release from 15 years of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, an annual Boston-area WGBH production which draws on Celtic, Pagan, and Christian traditions to celebrate the music of the season, proves it enow. Daughter Aoife – yes, that Aoife O’Donovan – kicks off the stellar collection with a sweet, soulful ballad from Lorenna McKennitt, followed by standout performances from Ruth Moody, Dougie MacLean, Solas, and more, that pay apt tribute to the legendary folk archivist, curator, and host, and offer the next best thing to being there this year with Jenna Moynihan, Liz Knowles, Haley Richardson and an all-star cast.



Always artist-friendly and ad-free, Cover Lay Down has been serving the folk community for a decade thanks to the generous support of readers like you. Follow us on Facebook, and stay tuned for more great coverfolk, including at least one more celebration of the songs of the season, and our annual celebration of the year’s best cover and tribute albums, singles, and coverfolk videos, as December continues!

Comment » | Holiday Coverfolk

Back To The Source, Vol. 2: Patreon
(On supporting the muse in an age of commercialism)


patreon


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, Beehive Productions, and the pop-up microstudios of Dutch field recorder Onder Invloed.

Our Back To The Source features dive deep into these wells, seeking to celebrate and reveal just what makes their waters so prolific and life-sustaining. Today, in honor of Small Business Saturday, and as a follow-up to yesterday’s semi-annual guide to Buying Local in a Global World, we pick up the threads with a look at Patreon – a truly artisanal subscription-only source for coverage and originals alike – and covers of Fleetwood Mac, Khalid, Neil Young, Terre Roche, Iris Dement, Townes Van Zandt and more from the content-creators who bring forth the goodness there.


Shop_Small_Logo_2015More than anything, the Patreon model reminds me of the Renaissance. Where the Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms we celebrate focus on a single product – generally an album, and often one which is already written or recorded – the Patreon model asks those who truly support an artist to commit to their ongoing production, making each of us a Medici in miniature, as if e pluribus, unum was a way to skip the state altogether, and go right to an artist’s doorstep, cash in hand.

These are not competitive models, of course. Artists who use Patreon use it to test out new ideas, to dream; those same artists, when considering a more formal product of album-scale, are likely to turn to Kickstarter to raise funds, for any or all of the various steps in the process – recording, mixing, promotion, even touring – which support the development of such a product. And both models involve faith and trust; although both promise product and reward, ultimately, crowdsourcing depends on an innate instinct towards paying it forward, not back.

But where Kickstarter campaigns are ultimately project-centric, Patreon is the most stable solution currently in play for those who want to support humans being human, in the most creative sense. Because in Patreon, you pay by the product – committing in advance to a dollar or three every time the artists shares something new – and that incentivizes artists to produce regularly, which may well be one reason why artists turn to it.

And what do you get for your subscriber’s commitment? Mostly, a deeper look into the artist as artist…and a wonderful, ongoing set of unexpected delights, both musical and otherwise, as the months progress.

The intimacy Patreon provides manifests in many ways. Most artists include commentary on their songs, offering deeper insight into both product and process as they share throughout the year. Many release raw, unrefined tracks as they come, a look behind the curtain. Many more offer collaboration, as evidenced by the below playlist, Rebecca Loebe’s recent use of her own Patreon account to announce her upcoming trio tour with Grace Pettis and Betty Soo via a wonderful cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, and the delightful collaborative work of Nataly Dawn and Lauren O’Connell which populates both of their own individual Patreon spaces. Some offer live access, and other special sundries, too – Kina Grannis, for example, does monthly “Coffee Date Hangouts” for her patrons; Rachel Ries (aka Her Crooked Heart) offers portrait drawing and cooking classes alongside demos, live sessions, and – most recently – unfinished harmony arrangements of songs by Feist, Arthur Russell, and others for her new community choir Kith and Kin.

And then there’s the knowing: that patronage matters, in that it allows the artist to make art. That instead of leaving them to eke out a living dreaming, you are making the dreams realizable.

Patreon isn’t all covers, of course. But with very few exceptions, the artists we’ve discovered or rediscovered through the crowdfunding platform release coverage as part and parcel of their ongoing engagement. And so, today, we present sample Patreon-sourced coverage from some of our favorite artists, many seen and heard here before, from old hats to the newest of the new – and all, by definition, just the tip of a deep iceberg of authentic, artist-sourced delights.

If you truly like what you hear, we hope you’ll pick one or several and commit yourself as a patron to the artists of Patreon. Or perhaps, since it is the giving season after all, you’ll consider gifting a subscription for a friend and fellow music lover eager to grow closer to the core of the productive process?

Either way: may the music play on.



Cover Lay Down was founded in 2007 as an entirely ad-free and artist-centric space for exploring the folkways through modern folk and roots coverage…and is proudly chugging along ten years later thanks to the support of readers like you! Click here to find out how to lend YOUR support to our ongoing pursuit of the best in acoustic coverage!

Comment » | Back To The Source, Nataly Dawn

Give A Little Bit: On Buying Local in a Global World
(A Cover Lay Down Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving)


DJ Music Wallpaper (7)


We’re holed up in rural New Hampshire for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, thirteen of us cousins and in-laws from both sides of the family sprawled across the quaint rooms that populate a one-time inn turned rental property complete with woodsmoke fireplaces, stone walls, picket fences, and a half-frozen pond below the deck, keeping us nowhere near the mall culture that surely swims with frantic angst far from these Frostian environs as Black Friday takes its toll.

Here our locavore tendencies run rampant, with microbrew IPAs and our favorite small-batch maple ryes and brandies on the sideboard ready for a third tasting session tonight, and the braided bread, summer pickles, hard cheeses, and harder salamis purchased from the farm stand down the street on Wednesday before the world turned mad. Here we play trivia games and read by the fire, holding love close as our various dogs and children play by our feet. We linger in our pajamas as we revisit old discourses. And though we know, out there, strife and selfishness runs rampant, it is as if the world were back to normal, somehow – at least until Saturday comes, and we must venture out again into the world.

This is not a political blog. Since our inception in 2007, however, we have done our part at Cover Lay Down to fight back against the subtle tyrannies of the consumptive society. Our insistence on offering links to purchase and stream music from sources closest to the hearts and wallets of the artists themselves, and our refusal to provide ads on this space, stem from an articulated desire to “walk the walk” of ethical consumption. And because a blog is dialogic, so do we also, from time to time, step up onto the soapbox to speak out specifically on why, and how, to better support the local and the intimate – a position befitting a blog whose ethnomusical mandate explores the coincidence of sharing-through-coverage and the communal purposefulness of folk.

Today, then, for the fourth iteration, we take the time to provide our own antithesis to the buy-everything-now message that seems to typify the ever-lengthening holiday season in the Western world by offering a 2017 edition of our anti-commercialist, pro-artist gift giving guide for the holidays – a harbinger of things to come after almost two months of sparse sabbatical – and the promise of a more focused Patreon feature to follow, celebrating the new farm-share equivalent for musicians which continues to intrigue us as we search evermore for ways to support and sustain the work and craft of the musical artist in the new millennium.

Read on, then, for a reworked and revitalized treatise, plus an updated list of methods and mechanisms for supporting the local and the soul-serving this giving season…and, of course, a few songs to get you into the spirit. And then join us again later this weekend, as we scour the surface of Patreon for your inner-circle listening pleasure.



Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 12.41.05 PMBlack Friday is duly noted for causing havoc and stress in the mass marketplace. But if we greet its well-intentioned antithesis Buy Nothing Day with suspicion here at Cover Lay Down, it is because there is nothing inherently anti-commercial about merely deferring product-purchase if we still plan to make it to the mall eventually.

Concerns about the way big business undermines and eats away at the profitability of direct creator-to-consumer relationships are real and valid, of course. But to see consumption as all or nothing is problematic: those who quite literally refuse to buy things unwittingly undermine their own communities, for example, by cutting into taxes for schools and roads, and by destroying the ability of neighborhood artists and local community retailers to survive doing what they love.

Happily, however, there’s a whole spectrum of opportunity outside of the false dichotomy of Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day. And the answer isn’t buying nothing – it’s buying local.

We’ve long championed buying local here at Cover Lay Down. We frequent local farmer’s markets and crafts fairs; we buy apples from orchards, and beer from the brewery; we keep maple syrup and honey that was harvested by friends. In our musical purchases, we try to buy at shows, as this tends to provide the most money for artists, and helps support local venues; we’ve posted about library finds several times, too, and celebrate regional labels and artists wherever possible.

But in the digital age, buying local means not only supporting your local shops, producers, and buskers – it also means supporting the small, the immediate, the independent, and the community-minded. As such, wherever possible, the links which we offer alongside our downloadables and streams go directly to artist websites and other artist-recommended sources, the better to respect the rights and ongoing careers of creators and craftspersons everywhere.

Which is to say: we’re about authenticity and sustainability here, a set of concepts deeply entwined with the organic and acoustic music we celebrate. With that in mind, here’s some suggestions for how to honor the community sentiment which stands at the foundation of folk music, even as you look for ways to show your appreciation and love this holiday season.


1. Give the gift of recorded music. Cover Lay Down stands behind every artist we blog, and many of our regular features, such as our New Artists, Old Songs series, focus on new and newly-reconsidered music and musicians worth sharing with friends. So browse our archives and your own, and then buy CDs and downloads for friends and family direct from artist websites, independent artist-friendly labels like Signature Sounds, Compass, Waterbug, Bloodshot, and Sugar Hill Records, promotional houses like Hearth Music and Mishara Music, and small artist collaboratives and fan-fueled microlabels like Mason Jar Music, Obsolete Recordings, Yer Bird, Northplatte, and Asthmatic Kitty. Or, if you prefer to centralize your shopping, skip the chain stores and internet behemoths that undermine local mom-and-pops and pay mere pennies on the dollar, and shop instead at your local struggling music shop, Bandcamp, CD Baby, or even Etsy.

2. Give the gift of time and presence. It’s good to get out with friends, and shared experiences make the best kinds of gifts; by linking directly to artist web pages, we make it as easy as possible to check out tour dates. Support your local coffeehouse or small venue by booking a table or row for you and your loved ones. Take a child to their first concert, and open up their world to the immediacy and intimacy of live performance. Take a friend, or a group, and open them up to a new artist’s work. Or host a successful house concert, and invite friends, the better to share the artists and music you love. And if you’re in the American Northeast region, or just know someone who lives near Springfield, Northampton, Hartford, the Berkshires, or Worcester, why not plan on joining us December 9 – either yourself or by proxy, through the gift of live concert – for Cover Lay Down’s 10th anniversary celebration: an intimate mostly-covers show with Mark Erelli celebrating the pre-release of his new all-covers album MIXTAPE, featured here in October.

3. Give the gift of access. Spring for a gift subscription to Daytrotter for the music lover in your life, and let them download years worth of studio sessions and stream exclusive live sessions from a broad set of musicians. Or sign them up for Concert Window, which offers multiple live online concerts every night from some of our favorite folk venues and artist living rooms, and where two-thirds of profits go to those musicians and venues. The live performances and sessions which these subscriptions net can be viewed alone, or shared with a friend over a beer on the couch – and the virtual concert is especially apt for friends housebound by physical limitation, geographical isolation, or preference.

4. Give the gift of artistic sustainability. As noted above, we’ll be turning in a full feature on Patron, the newest subscription-only model on the web and perhaps the most sustainable way to support the ongoing work of the artist-as-developer, in the next day or three as a complement to today’s reworked repost. But other crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pledge Music help artists make art, too, and donations in someone else’s name are always a nice gift – it shows you’re thinking of them, and it honors the connection you share through music. And just as donating to your local radio station can net you a free mug, crowdfunding comes with the promise of product – a reward you can redirect, if you give in someone else’s name.

So browse the folk categories at Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pledgemusic, or ask around for recommendations on what to support. Some examples we’re excited to share this year: Popfolk goddess Jill Sobule is back in the studio after 9 years, looking for our support for Nostalgia Kills, an album of autobiographical short-story originals designed to prove that great artists can still produce potent songcraft after 40; pledge gifts at various levels include a comprehensive digital catalog of Sobule’s studio originals, duets, and live cuts, a night at the Museum of Natural History, a personal theme song, and private songwriting sessions over Skype. Philly-based neo-Celtic duo House Of Hamill, whose as-yet-untitled sophomore album is written but needs to be recorded with our help, offer a wonderful tee-and-hoodie design, a crazy night in NYC, and a chance to play on the album itself alongside the usual music in hard-and-soft-copy as incentives. Childsplay, an ongoing non-profit project featuring instruments exclusively crafted by Bob Childs and a cast of world-renown professional players, whose early recordings with Aoife O’Donovan and others so thrilled our listeners here at Cover Lay Down in their previous iterations, is looking for your support for their seventh and final album with Irish singer Karan Casey as Childs and company wind down what has become a stalwart of symphonic presentation of traditional American, Canadian, and Irish folk traditions.

Over at Indiegogo, long-time stalwart of the revival folkscene Reggie Harris (who, along with Greg Greenway, will be bringing their deep discussion and music of growing up white and black in the South to our Unity House Stage this January) seeks support for his first solo album after 40 years of touring with partner Kim Harris as a duo; I’ve heard some of these politically charged yet ever-so-intimate songs – both covers and originals – in the late-night tents at Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, and highly recommend both the support and the output. At Pledgemusic, impending delight from 10 String Symphony’s Generation Frustration, a neo-traditional album-to-be whose lush, fiddle-driven soundscapes haunt listeners with the angst and determination of the Millennial generation, appropriately offers home-roasted coffee and original instrumentals alongside more typical recordings and tees in the mix for pledgers. And if it’s more delicate indie-folk you’re looking for, then lend some support to the ghostly soundscapes of The Jellyman’s Daughter, a rising duo from Edinburgh, UK, whose rich, lush cello-and-voice-driven album Dead Reckoning hews close to the source, with offers of heavyweight vinyl, stickers, music lessons and handwritten lyrics alongside songs crafted for performance in stone churches and graveyards.

5. Give the gift of promotion. This one is mostly about giving the artists themselves some of your hard-earned time and energy, but artists need gifts, too. So like artists’ Facebook pages, and show others in your feed what you are listening to, the better to spread the word. Join a street team, and volunteer (by yourself or with a friend, as a fun gift date) to help sell CDs, hang posters, or man the door at local coffeehouses and clubs, thus freeing artists to spend their time playing, meeting the crowd, and sustaining their own fan base. Start a blog, for you or a friend, or donate to support one in their name.

6. Stay tuned. Looking for something a little more concrete in the way of coverfolk recommendations? Willing to wait for a few more weeks to decide which albums to purchase for your loved ones and friends? Just as we’ve done for the past five years, Cover Lay Down will be sharing our “best of 2017″ by mid-December; the items on those lists constitute our highest recommendations, and function as a concise gift guide for the coverfolk lover in your life. And if it’s holiday music you’re looking for, just wait until next week, when we kick off our coverage of this year’s seasonal releases…

Until then, here’s a short set of relevant covers to get you in the gift-giving spirit.

Comment » | Donate, Holiday Coverfolk, Kickstarter Covers, Reposts

Kickstarter Covers: Mark Erelli’s MIXTAPE
with covers of Don Henley, The Band, and more!


Mark-Erelli


Regular readers may recall that we hold a special place in our hearts for Boston-based singer-songwriter and sideman extraordinaire Mark Erelli, who recorded his 2001 album The Memorial Hall Recordings in a stately Civil-War-era edifice in our little town, and returned a decade later to grace us with our own little house concert. Indeed, we’ve written so much about Erelli here at Cover Lay Down since our humble beginnings ten years ago – most recently for his double-dip coverage of Dawes, a posthumous homage to Prince, and his previous covers album, a tribute to folk icon Bill Morrissey – it’s hard to know where to begin again.

But MIXTAPE, Mark’s newest project, now in its final days of a crowdsourced campaign over at Kickstarter, offers the perfect coincidence for our love of both Mark Erelli and the celebration of song and culture through coverage. And so, today, we turn once again to one of our very favorite artists, in the hopes that you, too, might lend your patronage to its release.




mixtapeThough his original recordings are themselves both revered and well-covered by his peers and fans, Mark Erelli’s penchant for covers is well-known in the folkworld. His long-standing and always-worth-checking Mp3 of the Month series, released through his website, has long fed our hunger for great live and lo-fi demo recordings, and currently features a wonderful live take on Roy Orbison’s Crying; his work with bluegrass-tinged collaborative Barnstar! gave us raucous, rollicking takes on Dawes, Josh Ritter, and more. His soft and mostly-solo acoustic lullabies album Innocent When You Dream, recorded originally as a gift for family and friends, is tender and sweet, perfect for the mellow hours with or without children. And we celebrated Milltowns, his 2014 tribute to Bill Morrissey, as a warm, deep, surprisingly poignant tribute to a legendary singer-songwriter featuring multi-instrumentalist and performer-and-interpreter extraordinaire 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 – all artists we’ve featured on these pages before.

MIXTAPE, which will not officially drop until January of 2018, adds something new and exciting to these collected works: a tribute to both that broader, diverse culture that influences us, and to his perennially sold-out Under The Covers concert sessions, hosted at Club Passim in Cambridge by Erelli and a host of famous friends each December for the past 14 years, that have for years offered joyous celebration of the songs and songwriters that have influenced them, their cultural upbringing, and their craft.

Recorded live at Great North Sound Society up in Maine with a small group of friends (and fellow members of Josh Ritter’s band), all indicators suggest that MIXTAPE is a comprehensive fulfillment of the promise of catchy songcraft, tender and gleeful homage, and deft, detailed, delightful musicianship that has come to represent the hallmark of Erelli’s career and coverage. The tracklisting, which includes songs from the Grateful Dead, Phil Collins, Neko Case, Patty Griffin, Arcade Fire, Solomon Burke, and more, is a temptress, indeed; his cover of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, a haunting, soulful studio track released earlier this week over at Cover Me, and the live video of the recording session for The Band classic Ophelia, which you can hear and see below, lend substance to that promise, and fuel our excitement.




Mark’s own words regarding this high-energy take on Ophelia are especially revealing, and fit neatly with both our celebration of the impending collection and of our ongoing exploration of the ethnographic function of coverage as integral to the communality of the folkways:

When I think of how music should ideally sound —soulful, melodic, restrained virtuosity over a serious groove — I keep circling back to The Band. I’m not sure that anyone, anyone, has done music better than this group on its first two records. On this masterpiece from their later years, I wanted to evoke a bit of all those things I love most about playing music. A lofty goal for sure, but Ray Rizzo’s rimshot-heavy groove and the New Orleans bounce in Sam Kassirer’s piano took me most of the way there. That’s Jake Armerding, 14-year veteran of the annual Under The Covers shows and fellow Barnstar! member, tearing it up on the fiddle.

In short, then: we’re eager to hear MIXTAPE in full, especially because the above-mentioned tracks, and all previous indicators, suggest that the Kickstarter campaign – now in its last six days – is not kidding when it refers to the album as a true opportunity to hear Mark Erelli’s potent, inimitable voice unleashed.

But to truly unleash MIXTAPE, Erelli needs our support.

So click on through to the Mark Erelli Made You A MIXTAPE Kickstarter to lend your patronage now, before the clock runs out. Snag a patronage gift, from signed and downloadable copies of the album in your mailbox two whole months before its official release to bonus covertracks, out of print records, bootlegs, concert tickets, cover song recordings of your choice, and more.

And then, while you wait for your album and patronage incentives to arrive – since we’ve shared so many of Mark’s own covers before – click back through a foursome of our previous features on Erelli’s coverage below, the better to anticipate the gift that MIXTAPE represents.


Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 9.12.58 AMBut first, a total bonus: We are thrilled to announce that Mark Erelli will be helping us celebrate Cover Lay Down’s 10th anniversary with a pre-album-release show at our very own Unity House Concerts in Springfield, MA, on December 9, just a week before his 14th annual Passim show with bassman Zachariah Hickman and fiddle player Jake Amerding. We’ll be announcing ticket sales in the next few weeks on our Facebook page, so stay tuned; Mark has promised to use the set as an opportunity to test out some of his newest covers for this year’s Passim sets, so the coverage should be thick on the ground.

As an extra incentive to our readers and fans, all who contribute to Mark Erelli’s MIXTAPE Kickstarter at the $25 level or above will receive an exclusive invitation to an appetizers-and-drinks reception before the show, and a soundboard recording of three carefully-chosen covers from that show, with our grateful thanks for your support of both the artist and his art.



Previously on Cover Lay Down:


Looking for more? Today’s bonus tracks feature a sextet of contemporaries taking on the Mark Erelli songbook.



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down celebrates ten years on the web this year thanks to the ongoing support of readers like you.

Comment » | House Concerts, Kickstarter Covers, Mark Erelli

Covered In Folk: Steely Dan
(RIP Walter Becker, 1950-2017)





I’ve always felt rather connected to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the core and founding membership of long-time classic rock staples and multiple Grammy winners Steely Dan. Like them, I dropped out of Bard College; like them, my tastes run vast, past the boundaries of genre, and through it, to where the intricacies of meaning shrink down to playful, tight nuance, layered complexity, and more than a little dissonant swing.

Too, though their heyday started while we were still too short to care, the band’s influence on my own generation cannot be denied. Theirs is the accidental summer soundtrack of our youth, the pop and crackle of a car radio, the windows rolled down and the sun streaming in. The sharp horns and sharper arrangements from the yard sale records that kept me up at night before I knew what to do with it all, like The Little Prince and the sharp taste of espresso. The thoughtful, innovative playlist for our long miles driving North through unknown country, equal parts soul, rock, jazz, pop, and something new: a music deliberately designed to celebrate and serve the alienated, discomforted soul.

So to honor guitarist, bassist, composer and co-arranger Becker, who passed yesterday at 67 due to an undisclosed illness and was still touring as recently as last Spring, I went looking for coverage. And more than anything, I found it hard to find.

I suppose this should be no surprise: covering Steely Dan offers no small challenge to the folkworld. We’re talking about a collaboration that produces intimidatingly complex landscapes beyond the ken of most cover artists; a name brand whose high-lexile lyrical wordplay, like that of John Ashbury (a mentor of mine at Bard, who also passed yesterday) and the rest of the New York School of poets so en vogue at Bard College during all our shortened tenures, serves as percussive instrument as much as – and sometimes more than – a carrier of sizzling, irony-laden, image-heady narrative; a band aptly described as “the most sonically sophisticated pop act of the 21st Century“, fully in control of its faculties.

Add to this the band’s tendency to name their songs simply, making them hard to search for, and the result is a lean but no less stunning tribute in postmillennial acoustic and roots transformations, ranging from Wilco‘s faithful turn on Any Major Dude to familiar jazzfolk from Rickie Lee Jones and Jemma Mammina to live bluegrass settings from Mountain Heart and The Barefoot Movement, with the ragged, grungy treacle of British throwback folkrock foursome Turin BrakesRikki Don’t Lose That Number, instrumental gypsy Jazz from New York electric violinist Joe Deninzon, deceptively crisp chamberfolk from Heartscore with Jamie Rivera, a truly amateur but no less loving solo acoustic cover from YouTuber Enormously Small, and – just for good measure – Nik Hunt, The National Pool, and Michael Rand‘s decidedly weird and entirely different deconstructions of Do It Again, Home At Last, and Reelin’ In The Years.

Somewhere, Walter Becker is explaining chords to the heavenly choir, their heads nodding in rhythm as they listen. May they sing as precisely for him as they did on his records, and in our dreams.


Any Major Dude: The Songs Of Steely Dan
A Cover Lay Down Tribute Mix
[zip!]



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down celebrates its tenth year in the ether this month with grateful thanks to our donors, our readers, and the musicians that make it all happen. Stay tuned for mailbag marvels, Kickstarter previews, new covers and tribute albums, and more as September stretches out before us!

Comment » | Covered In Folk, RIP, Steely Dan

Friday, In The Fall: A Triptych Concludes


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Cover Lay Down will celebrate its tenth anniversary on the web this month, and behind the scenes, we’re just starting to gather in news, fragments, and new and beloved tracks for a series of September features honoring the folkways that got us here, and keeps us moving ever forward, as culture and community.

But today, as I sit on the porch watching the sun come up through the still-green trees, I find myself not yet ready to dive into the songs and artists that have sustained us, and helped us stay sane and present through the rise and fall of life as it comes.

Instead, I’m still thinking about Aida, after meeting her husband and infant at Thursday’s somber wake. About my own marriage, now the same age as Aida was when she passed on from this world. About all the times I have written here about the stress and triumphs of the students I teach, and our struggle together. About my father, and our Saturdays across the state. About my children, and their ongoing struggle with their imperfect bodies, and the stress that brings them pain.

I’ve been thinking about history, in case you couldn’t tell: mine, and the earth’s, especially the way the nights turn colder this time of year, and it’s Autumn again, kids laughing and learning how to learn. The elderchild and her sister are back in school, a day at a time; my own work is deeply satisfying, though ever imperfect, and always exhausting. My Drama class takes their first tentative steps bravely, stretching and walking into neutral as they prepare for a term exploring body and voice as the tools of the trade; my Advanced Placement students dive in to rigor, testing their capacity, and my own, as we raise the bar for rigorous analysis of speeches and essays.

Somewhere past these trees, our little rural town is holding its annual yard sale. Sidewalks and driveways once covered in the detritus of the tornado that ripped through our homes sport furniture and books, lamps and tools, restored to shabby, weathered glory, ready for use in another home. Life happens, and here we are, sifting through it, thinking ahead about what we might need as we take then next steps in our continued journey.

We’re rising to the challenge of the world that needs it. We’re dancing about architecture, and making it work. We’re navigating the impeded waters, singing. The not-so-wee one went home early from school on her second day, but she made it, and that’s something. The elderchild finds a small group in the lunchroom, determined to stay out of the drama she sees in her adolescent cohort, lest it distract from her academic development. My father hangs his pictures in the dining room, six months after moving in to his new assisted living apartment. The kid who locked the laptop cart lock to his backpack comes respectfully, without headphones, to ask to be released. He still won’t stay the entire block. But he came again today, and he’ll come again tomorrow, too.

Here. We’ve made it to the end of another week, the end of the endless summer once again. Let us dwell not in words, save those which are sung in reverence and glee. Let us speak our piece and move on, in honor of the respite we’ve earned a hundredfold. Let us celebrate the fruits of labor, and the work it takes to get there: the hard work of play, and letting go, to be present in the moment, and the music, and the self.

Happy Labor Day, dear readers. May your work, too, be employed joyfully, when it comes.


2 comments » | Mixtapes

Passages: For Aida, And A Thousand Stars


aida


Aida was an outlier in my very first English class, a summer school test-run after years teaching media and instructional technology. Bright, beautiful, articulate, and quietly confident at just thirteen years old, she didn’t really belong in the remedial program, but she had lost most of a year to hearing issues and poor health, and now, recovering from implant surgery, she was mostly just there for the credit, to justify her existence in high school.

So while other students struggled to focus, to read, and to care, Aida wrote volumes, and shared with me the fruits of her blossoming awareness and skill. I gave her my copy of The Poet’s Dictionary, and spoke quietly to her in passing and after class about sestinas and pantoums, rhythm and language as a path to the self. She could talk literature and heartache with a wisdom far beyond the capacity of most adults I know. And that smile was the sweetest ever – grateful, knowing, wry; one that lingers in the memory, even now.

I’ve taught thousands of students in over two decades in education. In a very real way, I’ve loved them all. But once a year or so, if you’re lucky, you get a couple of students that connect on a much deeper level – the kind of kids you happily break the rules for, and drive them to work in the shampoo warehouse on the other side of the city because you just want a chance to chat with another bright, vibrant human being, and to be a part of their climb out of the city, to the stars.

Aida wasn’t the first of these kids, and she wasn’t the only one from her year – being a class advisor tends to bring you closer to the cohort, I think. But she was something special all the same. Hers was a smile that could light up a room, one that never faded, and always seemed authentic. Even in sorrow or stress, she was positive and proud. Her cheerful, unapologetic arrival at prom, solo and shimmering and hours late after her hair took too long to come together, lives as a high point in my year. Watching her walk across the stage three years ago as a graduate made my heart jump.

And today, struggling to define that inimitable something, I know that more than almost any student I have ever had, a shining star among thousands, Aida knew herself joyfully, like a natural-born Buddha, having discovered earlier than most that hers was truly a self worth knowing, and worth waiting for.




I last saw Aida in person purely by accident, a year ago this week; she was working as a cashier at Target to pay for school; we were there to buy school supplies for my classroom, and for the kids. Afterwards, as before, social media provided an opportunity to watch her from a distance, as the precocious, beautiful child I had first encountered continued to grow, into an increasingly articulate and determined career-minded adult, spouse, and very recently, just this summer, a mother, loved by and loving to so many of us.

But in the end, Aida’s health was her undoing. A car crash with her infant son a few weeks ago left her shaken and in pain, and stirred up old injuries. For a while, she was recovering, alive and proud of her struggle, as always. And then, this morning, we awoke to the news that after a seizure, Aida had passed in the night.

There’s a video on Aida’s husband’s Facebook page from just three days ago, a short clip featuring her beautiful son, wailing for mama while her father coos reassuringly behind the camera. Aida was alive when this was filmed, just working – on the last course for her degree, on her health, and on her ever-changing beauty, a rare trifecta among our inner city youth. Forever, that clip, and every other artifact of Aida’s life that lives on in so many of us, will break my heart.

I owe Aida so much, and I think I never told her. She was the right kid, in the right place, at the right time: the one who reminded me, way back when I needed it most, that teaching has both love and friendship in it, even – maybe especially – in the darkest of communities, and the most sullen of crowds. She will forever exemplify the positive attitude, kindness, and grit I wish of every student I teach. I will treasure the memory of that smile forever, even if it were not all I have to remember her by – that, the company of her friends and schoolmates, and the space on the bookshelf where my Poet’s Dictionary used to live.

May there always be those among us us who bring us joy, however brief, and remind us that we are in the right place in the world. May those we serve go from this life as they found us in it: alive and kicking, determined and bright, at peace with the world even as they push themselves for more.

May we love, fiercely, those who bring out our best.

And may there always be Aidas, that we may remember ourselves.



8 comments » | Mixtapes

And Both Shall Row: A Wedding Anniversary Mix


jbowl


The kids are away at summer camp. It’s Friday, which matters, now that school is starting up again.

And it’s the 18th of August, which matters most. Because today is our anniversary, and as much as we are going grey, ours is a love that is worth the work.

My wife has named this anniversary as the one where “our marriage is finally old enough to drink”. She also claims we met the first day of college, though I remember another night, when we played that game of Pictionary, and stayed up until the sun rose again for the very first time.

Either way: it’s been a long time. And I would do it again, in a heartbeat.

It’s good to have something to share, and someone to share it with. It’s good to have a partner in crime, happy to be a Mary Magdalene to your Jesus even when she’s a stranger at your party, willing to sit in a hayfield sewing and then resewing a hat for your crazy garden gnome costume.

It’s good to have this, and a thousand moments, really: harmonizing in empty churches; the duck in the bathtub; Disney World in a drizzle; the Christmas Eve where we drove out into the cold and ended up across state lines, eating gingerbread and drinking wine in the last open bar for a hundred miles, just to put a ring on her finger, even though we had picked it out together.

And I am grateful for all of it, and the chance to be grateful every morning when I wake, and find her by my side once again.

For this, and the longing to be together and stay together through these last few years of sickness and health, and the early years of motion and uncertainty. This, and the hard work of marriage-as-verb, the constant reflection and sharing and listening that we have learned to do better, at least, as time goes on, and life lays opportunity at our feet. This, and the polished gold seams, the thousand places where we have been tested and tried together, and healed more beautiful than before, like one of those Japanese bowls.

This, and the home we hold, committed to light, laughter, and the spirit of adventure, or so it says on the ketubah, and oh, on most days, it’s still the perfect trifecta, the top of the roller coaster, the cornerstone of a love deeper than the dark.

Because this I remember: 21 years ago today we made ham sandwiches with the rabbi. Your sister fainted holding the chupah. Your grandmother set fire to the reception table. My friends got high in the parking lot.

And then, when the last guest had wandered into the sunset, we went home together, you and I, to the house we had lived in before, above the swan pond. And the next morning, we drove off into the bright new dawning day, comfortable and joyful in silence and in conversation, ready for every next adventure.

May there be a thousand more.



7 comments » | Mixtapes

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest (Aug 3-6)
Part 2 of 2: The Emerging Artists Showcase & The Lounge Stage

Tuesday’s 22-track coverset featuring the diverse set of folk, world music, and roots artists slated to perform at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest in beautiful New York farm country at the foot of the Berkshires was grand, but mainstage isn’t the only scene at Falcon Ridge. Our second shot this year focuses on a pair of other artist cohorts: The Emerging Artists Showcase, which runs from noon to 4:30 on Friday on mainstage, and the Lounge Stage, a pop-up “festival within a festival” which takes place from 4-11 on Thursday under the Dance Tent. Enjoy – and as always, follow links back to learn more about each artist, even if you can’t make it to this year’s festival!


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Falcon Ridge 2013 Emerging Artists Roosevelt Dime play an impromptu set on the midway – an excellent strategy to win fans and please the crowd beyond the Friday showcase.


Simply stated, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Grassy Hill Emerging Artists Showcase is well known in the industry as a highly competitive proving ground: a jury-chosen selection of 24 artists on the cusp of national name-brand recognition, many of whom arrive with little more than local support and a single album or EP in their pocket, who take over mainstage for a pair of songs each as the festival begins its official performance schedule. At the end of the festival, attendee surveys poll the crowd on who they’d most like to see again; the top three vote-getters are asked to come back the following year for a mainstage Most Wanted Song Swap, ensuring a loving welcome for those who stand out among the crowd.

To be fair, there are factors out of artists control which can influence favoritism. Later placement in the line-up, and the occasional rain shower midway through the afternoon, for example, have an influence on who sees who. But truly, the showcase is just the beginning of the journey towards greater recognition and love. Artists who push their presence beyond the stage itself – into the pop-up radio station vendor venues, and the late-night campsite circles and mini-stages such as The Big Orange Tarp, Budgiedome, and Pirate Camp, with their folk radio DJ and promoter MCs, which attract and present in scheduled form a cool mix of mainstage artists, rising stars, and special guests once the stages close down for the night – tend to be those who return.

But no matter how or whether they get selected for the following year’s Most Wanted swap, diehards know that the next big thing is – quite probably – here before us on Friday afternoon at the fest. Artists who have performed in the emerging artist showcase and moved on to greatness include many of our favorites here at Cover Lay Down, including Darlingside, Erin McKeown, Jean Rohe, Matt Nakoa, Roosevelt Dime, Parsonsfield, Spuyten Duyvil, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Red Molly, Joe Crookston, Pesky J. Nixon, Girlyman, and more – a fine list of names, and a familiar one to those who watch the folk charts and coffeehouses.


mure2This year’s roster is unusually strong in talent, but rare in broad familiarity; as such, it behooves us not to forecast favorites. But there are a few familiar and beloved faces on this year’s list, as befits a smorgasbord – five out of 24, in fact, have been celebrated here on Cover Lay Down before, either alone or in collaboration with notable others.

Of these, two are especially familiar to Falcon Ridge audiences: Robinson Treacher, previously featured here and in the FRFF 2016 vendor zone for his trio work with Brad Cole and fest fave Matt Nakoa, an association which should garner him no small amount of interest on stage this year, and Heather Aubrey Lloyd, who is also well known to regular fest-goers for her work with one-time Most Wanted trio ILYAIMY and for solo performance at the pre-fest Lounge Stage; here, the band’s cover of Iggy Azalea’s Black Widow, recorded in 2014, offers solid evidence for why we treasure her new solo album, and her performance.

We’re especially thrilled to finally have a chance to catch NYC singer-songwriter, classically trained oboist, and composer/arranger Emily Mure live and in person after missing her first go-round at the Emerging Artists pool in 2008 (an unusually competitive year in which voting heavily favored bands and combos). Emily’s gorgeous cover of Elliott Smith’s Between The Bars made our 2016 Best Singles Mix; previously, we’d featured her delightfully orchestrated cover of Cake fave Mexico with nowhere near enough fanfare, though notably, both No Depression and Red Line Roots raved about it at the time – these two songs, alone, are enough to make sure we catch up with her, and help steer her towards the wider proving grounds beyond the stage. Her impending album Worth, a well-produced, wistful-to-wild exemplar of contemporary singer-songwriter folk, is due to drop with no small fanfare in September; we’re honored to present that album’s sole cover, a tender and utterly stunning David Bowie tribute, in today’s mix as a Cover Lay Down exclusive, with permission from Mure herself.

Two other artists come to us with other familiarity, through their recordings. Midwesterner Josh Harty made his previous appearance on CLD in 2014, in a collaboration with CLD fave John Statz that featured covers of both Greg Brown and John Prine. And The End Of America, an otherwise-unknown-to-us trio, garnered honorable mention in our Best Video Coverfolk of 2015 for a strong 6-part winter YouTube coverseries; we’ve dug deeper today for a slightly older cover of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to better feature their strong three-part harmonies.

Both our set today and the emerging artists pool it represents place these five among a strong set of peers. Notably, though, the caveats of coverage apply. Not all artists are represented here; our covers-only approach is a limiting lens, and of the original 24, a handful of artists performing this year at Falcon Ridge have no covers “out there”, or at least not those easily found. I looked hard, though, for anything to offer from John John Brown, Clint Alphin, Bruce Michael Miller, Christine Sweeney, and James Hearne, mostly because the originals posted on their YouTube pages and websites are just so damn good; as always, we encourage you, dear reader, to seek them out on your own.

A surprising number of those that did make our set feature collaboration with other artists – a generous sign, for those of us who prefer to experience our emerging artists again after hours, as they play the fields and pop-up venues into the wee hours of the festival dark with “house band” backup from the circle. Caroline Cotter, for example, a world-traveling singer-songwriter from Portland, Maine whose solo albums each focus around the folkway of a particular place, appears in trio form here, and we’ll have to wait until August to find out who, if anyone, she has brought to support her on the Falcon Ridge stage. And Letitia VanSant, a Baltimorean indie Americana artist whose sonic influences run the gamut from Hazel Dickens to Nine Simone, performs here in duet, channeling the two-voice original of a John Prine number with aplomb.

Fittingly, too, with a few notable exceptions – Mure’s cover, singer songwriter Lisa Bastoni newly-released Diane Cluck cover, which frames her return to the folkfold after a ten year hiatus, a sweet and soulful dustbowl take on Sean Brennan’s Texarkana from Monica Rizzio, a barnburner of a country bootstomper from Renee Wahl, CT-based band-man Shawn Taylor‘s grungy, bluesy folkrock Stephen Stills cover, and Mass College Of Liberal Arts student Izzy Heltai‘s gorgeous transformation of familiar O Brother Where Art Thou spiritual Down To The River – most of today’s songs find their origin in lo-fi YouTube performances, stageside captures, and other sundry non-studio sources, giving us some sense of what these artists might be like live – although intimate performance and bedroom vocals are but a teaser, and a misleading one at best, for the resonance of scalar sun and crowd that the field provides.

So listen to our artist-alphabetized list, as male folk duos Francis Luke Accord and country-and-bluegrass influenced Ryanhood take on Cat Stevens and The Beatles, respectively, turning in harmony performances that showcase their talents, while male-female pairing Ordinary Elephant comes through with an intimate banjo-and-guitar lakeside cover of I’ll Fly Away. Sit a spell, as Alice Howe strips down Sam Cooke for something delightful and sweet, and young solo artist Cubbage channels Ed Sheeran into subtlety. Enjoy, while Brooklynite Aly Tadros shocks us with an intimate unknown recorded in a tour room hotel, and countryfolk harmony trio No Good Sister challenge themselves in-studio to take on an obscurity from UK popsynth team Yaz, and come up roses.

And revel, overall, in the breadth and depth of folk, as the next generation takes the stage, and our hearts.



Falcon Ridge Folk Fest 2017: Emerging Artists Mix
—> download the mix!




lounge stage


Finally, though the Falcon Ridge Folk festival officially promotes itself as a Friday-to-Sunday affair, fest regulars know that there’s at least as much going on the day before. So be sure to hit Dodd’s Farm Thursday, August 3rd, for a local farmer’s market chock full of the best of the local bottled and corked, plus corn and dirt-grown sundries – and, of course, for the Lounge Stage, our very favorite festival-within-a-festival, which in past years has grown from an artist-collaborative production on the hill to a formal showcase that .

In addition to many acts mentioned either above or in our mainstage survey – including Abbie Gardner, Joe Crookston, Kirsten Maxwell, Bettman & Halpin, and emerging artists The End Of America, Heather Aubrey Lloyd, Alice Howe, Christine Sweeney, and Ryanhood – as shown above, the Lounge Stage 2017 will feature hosts and Lounge Stage co-founders Pesky J. Nixon, Kate Taylor of James-and-Livingston sibling fame, Americana up-and-comer Cassandra House, high-energy brother-led Long Island six-piece countryfolk band Quarter Horse, Boston bluesfolk stalwart Danielle Miraglia, long-standing Falcon Ridge house band member and folkscene sideman Radoslav Lorkovic, and fest faves Jesse Terry and Greg Klyma. Most artists will perform in the round with two others – offering a chance for collaboration and artist-to-artist showcasing, and nurturing a sense of intimacy and companionship that easily counterbalances the size of what it sure to be, once more, a spill-over crowd.

All in all, Thursday’s event promises ample reason to take the extra day off from work, and arrive to the proverbial hill on August 3rd relaxed and ready to enjoy the best that summer has to offer. Here’s our final mix, comprised of those artists whose appearance at The Lounge Stage will mark their sole “official” role at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, though many will surely find their ways into the hills and campsites as the weekend stretches on. Enjoy it, and we’ll see you soon in the folkfields.



Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2017: Lounge Stage Supplemental Mix
—>download the mix!

1 comment » | Emily Mure, Festival Coverfolk, New Artists Old Songs, Pesky J. Nixon

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest (Aug. 4-6)
Part 1 of 2: Mainstage, Workshop, and Dance Stage Artists, 2017


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We’ve written so much about the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival since we began our journey here at Cover Lay Down, it seems almost trivial to try a new angle on the place we call our true home: the fields where my children have learned to ride their bikes, become potty trained, discovered and nurtured lifetime friendships, and fallen in love with the beloved, intentional community.

But perhaps that is as it should be. This will be our own 20th anniversary year helping build that beloved community. And maybe – just maybe – the fact that we’ve not missed a year in all that time says what it needs to about how Falcon Ridge feeds the soul, and rejuvenates the heart.

It’s not just one thing, either. It’s everything. The people, like family, spread out in tent streets and camper clusters across John Dodd’s beautiful hayfield, with its natural slopes and flats, and the lines of trees which bring shade in the heat of the afternoon. The vendor aisles, with their intimate pop-up singer-songwriter venues, clothing and crafts tents, and delicious homemade food vendors, from gypsy barbecue to smoothie stands. The work, of signpainting and fencebuilding, leadership training and joy-spreading, which serves the soul and the very existence of the festival as a tangible, well-organized thing. The night, with its rich abundance of laughter and campfire sounds, beckoning us home and back again, and making us feel welcome there.

And the music, of course. For although we come for the family, it is the music we stay for – that which sustains us, and justifies our presence, together in the communion of the field.

These days music at Falcon Ridge falls into tripartite form, with distinct talent pools and promise from mainstage/dance stage artists – many of whom also appear throughout the festival at workshop stages as well in sweet harmony and songsharing sessions – plus this year’s Emerging Artist talent pool, which performs Friday afternoon in a rapid-fire showcase, and performers booked for this year’s Lounge Stage, a “festival within a festival” with its own organizers and tastemasters which takes over the Dance Tent on Thursday before the main festival begins. (Artists from all groups will populate casual but pre-programmed late-night campsite sessions and pop-up venues, too – some of the best performances in the field happen under tents in the wee hours, as beloved artists take their turn in the eternal songcircle, fading in and out into the darkness beyond.)

And so, this week, in a two-part series, we dip into the primary pool, with covers where we can find them: an apt sample of the best Falcon Ridge has to offer, and – we hope – enough to bring you to dwell with us among the guitars, the greenery, and the grace. Enjoy, and perhaps we’ll see you there.



hqdefaultThe Falcon Ridge mainstage roster isn’t known for the big names of competitors like Clearwater or – God forbid – Newport; long-timers still talk about the year Ani DiFranco captured mainstage as a year where the crowds and campsites felt a little too big, and a little less safe. But that’s not the point of a festival like Falcon Ridge: those like us who have grown to love the communal celebration recognize it not as a name-brand showcase so much as an experience, in which the broad tent of modern folk music is spread before us in celebration, and honor that choice to remain close to the people, and to let the people remain close.

There are more than a few recognizable names on the line-up, of course – including Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, whose Crossing the Bar has become a bluegrass standard and a cornerstone for hospice choirs, Greenwich Village-era standbys Rod MacDonald, David Massengill, and Eric Andersen, dobro-slinger Abbie Gardner of Red Molly fame, singer-songwriter Joe Crookston, whose Supertramp cooldown is a frequent flyer here at Cover Lay Down, returning contemporary folk supertrio Brother Sun, Contra tradfolk faves The Gaslight Tinkers, and of course, psychedelic folk rock weirdos The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, whose Friday night dance tent rave scene is not to be missed. (Missing, sadly, will be Jimmy LaFave, a beloved performer and songwriter originally booked to headline this year’s festival, whose passing we noted here a few weeks ago; in keeping with the folk-as-family approach, Saturday evening’s mainstage set will be shifted to a tribute, with artists from across the roster paying homage to his life’s work and legacy, and you better believe we’ll be on hand.)

But to say that this year’s mainstage and emerging artist platforms are otherwise heavy with novelty is no bad thing. We’ve discovered some amazing music at Falcon Ridge over the years, and seen many artists in their formative periods who went on to be big, indeed, from Darlingside to Dala, Shawn Colvin to Crooked Still, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Parsonsfield.

We’re especially excited this year to encounter several artists for the very first time, including electric Celtic folkrock combo Tempest, The Adam Ezra Group, who reportedly does a great high-energy acoustic live version of I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and Upstate Rubdown, a brassy combo behind three brash and beautiful harmony voices that comes across in studio session recording like a lushly expanded incarnation of Lake Street Dive, leaving us heavy with don’t-miss promise. And we’re eager for the return of this year’s Most Wanted – Kirsten Maxwell, Bettman & Halpin, and Kipyn Martin, whose emerging artist showcase performances last year garnered top audience votes, earning them feature billing. (Low Lily, who placed first among equals in audience voting this year, will not appear, apparently due to another festival engagement; to honor them, we’ve included an exclusive cover recorded live at our own Unity House Concert Series this December in the mix below.)

In all, a comprehensive collection of singer-songwriters, acoustic bands, contra combos and genre-busting experimentalists who will hit mainstage this year, and we’re proud to present a covermix to celebrate them today. Listen, click through, and then come back later this week as we celebrate Thursday and Friday’s musical entertainment – including the Lounge Stage and this year’s Emerging Artist pool – in a single coverall post. Enjoy!


Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2017: Mainstage Mix
—> download the mix!



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1 comment » | Festival Coverfolk, Joe Crookston, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem

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