Though our archives remain in limbo after our recent server troubles, new works and projects from artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down continue to spring forth into the ether and into our ears. Today, we add to the growing canon of delights with news of ongoing and newly-released projects from several yesteryear favorites, starting with an exclusive label-approved stream from Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein’s classical-meets-folk collaboration Night.
The lush, layered take on gospel tune Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from North Carolina-bred/NYC-based singer-songwriter Tift Merritt was one of many standout tracks on last year’s post-Hurricane Sandy benefit album The Storm Is Passing Over, easily strong enough on its own to find its way to our Best Tributes and Compilations Of 2012 feature as an album exemplar. And although I haven’t otherwise said so before, Merritt is a favorite, with a voice that rings of Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris, a wont for lyrical prescience that speaks of loneliness and longing beautifully, and an overarching wisdom and weariness that lay waste to my heart.
But if Merritt’s previous works have been strong Americana, Night, the new collaboration from classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and nearly-legendary recording artist slash public radio host Merritt, is a vast and vindicating tour de force of artist and genre crossover. One third classical exploratives, one third folk-driven originals, one third hybrid coverage from a variety of popular sources, and 100% stunning, Night makes the journey from Wayfaring Stranger to Purcell, Bach, Schubert and Brad Mehldau via Billie Holliday’s Don’t Explain, a set of classical variations on Leonard Cohen, and a Patty Griffin-penned title track deeply personal, truly integrated, and sweetly soaring, giving us a whole and holistic album that collapses boundaries and sticks to the soul. Though it’s hard to pick a favorite track, the folk tunes call to us powerfully; listen below to an exclusive sweet-and-soulful Johnny Nash cover that may well be my favorite track of the year so far, plus a trio of older favorites from Merritt herself, then head over to Soundcloud to hear shortened samples of the rest.
- Tift Merritt & Simone Dinnerstein: I Can See Clearly Now (orig. Johnny Nash)
(from Night, 2013)
Up-and-coming Charleston, SC indie/folk/rock pair Shovels and Rope wowed us at the end of last year, too, with a layered, molasses-slow nu-folk take on Elvis Costello via Nick Lowe classic What’s So Funny ’bout Peace Love and Understanding that found feature placement on our Best of 2012 Mixtape. Now comes the good news that the husband-and-wife duo will release a two-track covers single on April 2 as part of Jack White’s Blue Series, continuing a meteoric rise to hipster fame; the single will sport the below sparse yet spry boogie-woogie piano take on Springsteen’s Johnny 99 on one side, and Tom Waits’ Bad As Me on the b-side, and while the result seems to be more jukebox fodder than folk, we’re not complaining one bit. Purchase now, vinyl-philes.
- Shovels & Rope: Johnny 99 (orig. Bruce Springsteen)
(from Johnny 99 7″ single, 2013)
- Shovels & Rope: (What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace Love and Understanding (orig. Brinsley Schwartz)
(from Soundcloud, 2012)
We featured Jones Street Station back in our early months as a blog, when they were merely the Jones Street Boys, describing their debut Overcome, which still finds regular replay in car and living room, as “lo-fi alt-country bluegrass music with a hint of midnight trainsongs and fireside song circles, a dollop of happy roots rock, and the pure infectious joy of making plumb great music.”
But boys become men, and Perennials, the project which is currently occupying their time, is a mature and masterful move towards adulthood for a band just emerging from its formative years. In it, the Brooklyn-based band is writing, recording, and releasing a new song a week for an entire year, with all proceeds going to your choice of twelve featured charities-of-the-month. (This month’s featured organization, for example, is CampInteractive, which “empowers inner-city youth through the inspiration of the outdoors and the creative power of technology”; others include lifesaving GLBQT lifesaver The Trevor Project, women’s support organization Rosie’s Place, volunteer coordinators Evacuteer.org, and music-and-culture non-profits such as The Old Town School of Folk Music and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.)
The scope of the project is matched by its professionalism: these are no mere demos or living room recordings, but fully realized pieces by a collaborative that has been making music together for years, making the value well worth the gift. And with the project months in, and all but the below tradfolk breakdown lush original works in the vein of Wilco or The Civil Wars, a small donation to a worthy cause nets you hours of music to love and cherish.
- Jones Street Station: Walls of Time (orig. Monroe/Rowan)
- Jones Street Station: Twilight (orig. The Band)
- Jones Street Station: Tall Buildings (orig. John Hartford)
(from Overcome, 2007)
Finally, our 2012 feature on virtual alterna-fest Couch By Couchwest touted the SXSW alternative as a joyous concept done well, and we’re thrilled to find that this year’s festival, which ended last weekend, was no exception, providing yet another opportunity for an international audience to avoid the elements, skip the lines, and drink their own cheap beer while watching scores of one-song sets in the comfort and/or squalor of their own living rooms.
The now-archived CXCW 2013 features a huge mix of roots, rock, bluegrass, country, Americana, and folk from the usual cross-section of amateur and professional participants; we can’t possibly share them all here, so check out a few favorite coverfolk takes from Steve Messina of Blow Up Hollywood, Irish singer-songwriter Grainne Hunt, Floridian acousti-country quartet Have Gun Will Travel, Sally Morgan of NPR fave tradfolk band The Black Twig Pickers, California girl Melody Walker, and CXCW faves Demolition String Band…and then click on over to check out five pages of cover-tagged videos from American folk icon Gretchen Peters, Kevin Russell of The Gourds, and many more, plus over three hundred original performances from this year’s festival contributors.
- Steve Messina: Bittersweet Symphony (orig. The Verve)
- Grainne Hunt: I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You (orig. Tom Waits)
- Have Gun Will Travel: The Rainbow Connection (orig. The Muppets)
- Demolition String Band: Loving Cup (orig. Rolling Stones)
- Sally Morgan: Your Long Journey (orig. Doc Watson)
- Melody Walker: I’m Only Sleeping (orig. The Beatles)