Archive for June 2013


Festival Coverfolk, 2013:
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s 25th Anniversary, August 1-4

June 29th, 2013 — 11:02pm





I think we’ve written about The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival every year since our origin, making this a record-breaking sixth feature article on the same damn festival. But 25 years, two site changes, and one micro-burst tornado since its founding, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 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.

As I’ve noted before, my affection for the fest is deepened by my involvement in its infrastructure: as Crew Chief of Teen Crew, married to the co-chief for Sign Painting, we arrive a full weekend early to work, and watch with awe and wonder as the open fields are transformed slowly into the home we love, and opened to the equally appreciative masses, even as the sight lines shrink. It is our haven, our Jerusalem, after 17 years of consecutive festivaling. We’ve even raised our children there, in ten day intervals in what we half-jokingly refer to as our real homestead.

But it’s not just us, and it’s not just the volunteers who feel the closeness. Outside of our embedded camp with its white picket fence, the festival ebbs and flows with the tides of wanderers and fans. All night, the hills echo with campfire sessions and songwriter swaps. I know there is love in each circle. And those who join the fray come back, to be welcomed with open arms.


As with many festivals, Falcon Ridge has teetered on the edge of uncertainty in recent years. The move to the first weekend in August is both an attempt to avoid the weather that nibbles away at sustainability, and to cancel out any conflict with other neighboring festivals, such as Newport, which might have found favor with an overlapping fan base.

By universal consensus, however, this year’s 25th anniversary celebration pulls out all the stops. Strong past-favorites returning for the anniversary run the gamut, with well-traveled solo singer-songwriters Dar Williams, Ellis Paul, Eliza Gilkyson, Susan Werner, Vance Gilbert, Dan Navarro, and Mary Gauthier coming home to lead off a stunning roster that also includes everpresent psychedelic folkrock bands The Grand Slambovians and The Kennedys, formed-at-Falcon-Ridge trio Red Molly, tradgrass pickers Chester River Runoff, the high-energy sounds of folkband Spuyten Duyvil, and half of long-disbanded fest faves Moxy Fruvous.

And kudos to organizers, who continue to bring in great new acts from the expanding indie-traditional genre space to complement the familiar faces, and honor the vibrancy of modern folk. I’m especially looking forward to hearing Poor Old Shine, an acoustic Americana quintet whose late 2012 live album sports a vibe not unlike that of the Avett Brothers and The Low Anthem combined with The Mammals and The Band, and who earned their place on the mainstage through top audience honors in the 2012 Emerging Artist’s Showcase, alongside equally potent trio The YaYas and the gentle harmonies of Gathering Time. Also high on the don’t miss list: The Stray Birds, a sparse fiddle-and-guitar-led tradfolk trio whose harmonies are sweet and light, and who have garnered no small amount of indie cred in the last year for their newest self-titled album, a timeless, aching piece of work that hasn’t left my CD changer in months, and Roosevelt Dime, who we celebrated here way back in their early days and ours, and who will be playing the entirely festival-independent but always welcome “pop-up” Lounge Stage on Thursday atop 10 Acre Field alongside a stellar all-day pre-fest line-up.

There’s always something to discover at Falcon Ridge, of course. Kids are welcomed with playtents and sun, crafts and all-day musical acts and jugglers; themed and cover sets at the workshop stage promise song-swap intimacy and sing-along choruses. The vendors and musicians are part of the community, and genuinely happy to be there – a rarity at larger festivals, sadly.

Some of my very favorite acts were introduced to me at Falcon Ridge, from Crooked Still to Joe Crookston, from Eddie From Ohio to Moxy Fruvous. Some of my very best friends and companions live there, too. It’s the place we love, and we’d love to have you join us, if you can. And even if you can’t, enjoy this year’s preview mix.



Download the entire 21-track Falcon Ridge 25th Anniversary Preview mix!


As a bonus: a discussion of best Falcon Ridge musical moment on the FRFF Facebook Page reminded me of this collaborative Cat Stevens cover, filmed live from mainstage in 2007. Perhaps we can convince Dar and Gandalf to stage a repeat performance this summer. You won’t know if you don’t go.





2 comments » | Festival Coverfolk

Monday Mixtape: Going To The Zoo
(Wild animal coverfolk from Eye of the Tiger to Fly Like an Eagle)

June 24th, 2013 — 9:45pm


zoocub


Eight years ago this summer I found myself in Philadelphia for an afternoon with nothing to do. I had come down on a small plane to the city for a prep school job fair, and the pickings had been slim; I had walked the historical district, but this was a last chance of sorts before what would turn out to be three months of vagabond joblessness with a toddler and a newborn in tow, and it was clear what lay before me. I needed something more essential to cool my fears.

And so I took myself to the zoo. Because there’s nothing like pondering the base questions of the universe while marveling at the way we cage some critters and not others of equal majesty, while squirrels scamper in and out of the giraffe enclosure begging for a taste of your popcorn.

I try to go to the zoo in every city I visit, and I’ve been to quite a few: Frankfurt, nestled up against posh apartments overlooking the rhino; Omaha, which sports the world’s largest indoor desert; Amsterdam, with its guinea pigs and raccoons prominently displayed, reminding me that one countries’ pets and vermin are another countries’ exotic ex-patriots. I love zoos. I love their design: their open air walkways, their winding rain forests and cool nocturnal passageways. I love that good zoos serve as conservationists and caretakers of the lame and the orphaned, leveraging their edutainment value for science and society. And of course, I love the animals, each worthy of its own wonderment and awe.

And so it was that the very first eternal morning of summer arrived today, with Mama at her new job, and the Wee One up at her grandparents in Vermont. And so the elderchild and myself found ourselves at the Forest Park Zoo in nearby Springfield – an intimate venue, and hot, but full of wonders, from parrots whose whistles pierced the ear to an adorable fourteen-month old lion cub chewing at the legs of its teenage keeper. My own baby, now approaching the tween years, got to hold a tiny two week old pygmy goat, and asked if we could have an aardvark, because they really are cute, after all.

We caught a movie afterwards, and a chinese buffet. We drove home talking about animals, and telling each other our favorite jokes to pass the time, just the two of us. And when we pulled into the driveway, my little monkey claimed tiredness, and excused herself for the tube, leaving me with thoughts of where to go next into this endless summer, and thankful for both the father-daughter bond itself, and the time to strengthen and savor it.

This playlist, a broad indie-to-tradfolk set built around the animal kingdom and its various wild denizens, is dedicated to her; though it may be too mature for her ten-year-old tastes, the seeds we sow for these our children must be deep and carefully planted. So may they one day serve as a re-introduction of sorts to another kind of sharing, previously pushed through carefully constructed bedtime mixtapes and our now-archived kidfolk collections. May you enjoy them, too.



Download our whole Zoo Mixtape in one convenient file!


Bonus Video Track

Flying Colours: At The Zoo (orig. Simon & Garfunkel) [2013]


They say it’s all been happening at the zoo…

1 comment » | Mixtapes

Double Dippers, Vol. 2: Singer-songwriters visit & revisit
Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, The Beatles, Paul Simon & Greg Brown!

June 20th, 2013 — 1:16pm


640_vinyl


Welcome back to Cover Lay Down, where we remain in the midst of a short fund-raising drive to support the server costs and sundries which allow us to serve our core mission of connecting artists and fans like you. Thanks to an early surge of donors, we are now paid up through the next couple of months, but we’d rather not come to you with hat in hand so often; if you, too, appreciate the work we’re doing, and can find it in your heart to toss a few coins in the busker’s hat, we’d be eternally grateful.

On our end, as part of the rejuvenation efforts that we commit to each year as summer arrives, we’re picking up the pace with a set of new and favorite thematic approaches to the ethnographic exercise of tracking craft and culture through coverage. Our newest feature series finds us focusing on artists who pay tribute to favorite songwriters through coverage twice over, in two distinct phases of their careers. Previously, in our inaugural edition, we took the analytical lens to homage from Mark Erelli, Richard Shindell, Amos Lee, Lucy Kaplansky, and Old Crow Medicine Show; today, we find an all-female cast of Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Red Molly exploring the works of their own peers and progenitors, revealing along the way the substance of their own artistic evolutions.

    We introduced Aussie alt-country firebrand Kasey Chambers through coverage way back in our first few months on the web via her tender, raw, tear-enducing take on Crowded House hit Better Be Home Soon. But Chamber’s penchant for coverage pre-dates our own: her wailing version of Lucinda Williams’ Changed The Locks may not come off as folk, but it has been a staple of her set since the turn of the century, and for good reason, as multiple live recordings can attest to. And the recording of Lucinda’s Just Wanted to See You So Bad from her early days with Chambers family band the Dead Ringer Band is delightful on its own merits, with a potent country beat and a lighthearted youthfulness of its own that’ll make you want to two-step.


    Red Molly – a trio formed in the wee-hour campfire hills of Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and long celebrated by its membership – channel the fan coverage of the fields more than anything; in addition to a single-album Mark Erelli double-dip on 2011 release Light In The Sky, they’ve covered Gillian Welch four times on three albums, and Susan Werner twice again, making them easy pickings for our series. The retirement of founding member Carolann Solebello two years ago, and the subsequent addition of one-time opening act Molly Venter, was bittersweet, but it also marked a key moment in the band’s ongoing evolution from raw and real to pure and sweet; though it’s somewhat anomalous in a folk canon, it’s their a capella version of Dear Someone that best reveals the shift in blend, especially when put up against their earliest live harmonies.


    Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin‘s move towards Adult Contemporary both before and since 1998 Song of the Year and Record of the Year Grammy wins for Sunny Came Home has taken her far from the tiny stage of Cambridge, MA folk club Passim where I first saw her in my high school days, and farther, still, from her origins in the Greenwich Village Fast Folk crowd alongside Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and others often touted on these virtual pages. Her two Beatles covers bear the scars and strengths of that journey; though in each case, the high production value and carefully nuanced vocals shine almost blindingly bright, the slow, layered minor-key atmospheres of I’ll Be Back stand in stark contrast with the melodic pop promise she revived for In My Life.


    If the point of this series is to show artistic evolution over time, then selecting two covers released in the same year seems anathema to our cause; better, perhaps, to try to justify Ani DiFranco’s Which Side Are You On as a cover of Pete Seeger greatest hit despite its origin in the union-supportive work of Florence Reece, and compare her 2011 title track with the less acoustically challenging tack she took in 1998 in covering My Name Is Lisa Kalvelage, another of Seeger’s political anthems, on a two-disc tribute to the godfather of participatory sing-along banjofolk. But the equally politicized Ani DiFranco has long embraced her folk roots, and hearing Ani live has always been a wholly different experience from hearing her studio work: though it’s rarer, today, to hear the edgy folkrock sharpness she brought to her earlier albums, we still get the same little girl wryness, with the slow ebb and flow of rhythmic elements making way for something more fluid and experimental, perhaps even less stable, on stage, as in the 2002 DVD release cut above. That Greg Brown himself is known for the wink-and-nod approach makes his songbook and her performance a perfect pairing, too.


    Amy Ray and Emily Saliers met in elementary school, started playing together in high school, and took the name Indigo Girls while attending Emory University together in the eighties; given their shared history, it would be odd indeed if their influences did not overlap significantly. But their choices of song are especially notable here in exploring the nuanced revelations of the double-dip: though the later coverage calls back to Simon’s youthful duo work on the fringes of his own early pop experimentation, its high production, cheerfully upbeat tone, and driving folk-pop momentum aptly represent the duo’s later turn towards the celebratory in sound and sentiment, standing in strong contrast to the hoarse, stripped-down suffering that so characterized their early work.



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down shares new songsets and ethnographic musings bi-weekly thanks to the kind support of readers like you. Here’s how to do your part:

  • Support the continued creation of music by purchasing artists’ work whenever possible.
  • Spread the word to friends and family by joining our Facebook page and clicking “like” on a favorite post.
  • Share the wealth by sending us your own coverfolk finds and recordings.
  • Donate to Cover Lay Down to help defray server and bandwidth costs.







Comment » | Ani DiFranco, Double Dippers, Indigo Girls, Kasey Chambers, Red Molly, Shawn Colvin

Flower Communion, 2013:
On giving back, and taking it home

June 18th, 2013 — 2:36pm





It’s pledge time once again, folks – and so we come to you with hat and flowers in hand to ask for your support. Read on to see how you can help Cover Lay Down serve its core mission, and come away with our eternal appreciation, and a bouquet of floral coverfolk sure to thrill the senses.

Traditionally the last Sunday service before a Universalist Unitarian parish moves to a lay-led summer, the Flower Communion celebrates the contributory nature of the UU community by bringing the blooming world into the church at its last, and then letting it go back out again as we ourselves turn to the world of social justice and peace-making. The beauty and diversity of life – of our own, and of the land – is present in the rich cornucopia of the green-stemmed bounty. And by bringing flowers from our own gardens, and then taking home those of another, we pay tribute to the found and foraged nature of our practice, and of our spiritual selves.

The ritual is easily explicable: we all bring flowers, and by midservice, the dais is covered with color and scent – an even mix of found and wild sources, and the cultivated and garden-born, reflecting the organic mix of seeds and sprouts that comprise the source-cobbled praxis of our “faith where we find it.” We bless the flowers, and ourselves, and line up to pick a single stalk or clustered bloom to take with us for the summer; we sing a song of the spirit, and drift off into the fellowship hall for cake and summer goodbyes, flowers in hand and fellowship in hearts.

It’s nice to have a ritual that reminds us of the way our tiny lives are part of the passing of the seasons, their beauty ours, and their bounty shared. And as it is in church, so it is here: our little space on the web is not merely a published sequence of song, but a shared nexus of give-and-take, the songs themselves flowing back and forth through us, making us whole, and making us one. A music blog, too, is a communion, as is the experience of listening we give to each other.


I wrote the above in 2010, and the sentiment stands: I love the Flower Communion, and the way it serves as a metaphor for the communion of folk and the folk of communion. But this Sunday morning, the dynamic new change-agent minister with the ear for infrastructure reminded me of the second symbolic exchange inherent in this ritual – the taking of the communal flowers, and the way they represent how we carry the community with us into our lives. And I am minded afterwards: communion requires sharing and accepting the gifts that community brings.

And so we come to you, as we do occasionally, to pass the collections plate, that we might sustain ourselves a little better in the coming months.

I’ve said it before: Cover Lay Down remains ad-free and artist-centric, but paying for private server space to serve this community at its current scale isn’t free. I find myself often reluctant to come right out and ask for donations, especially this time of year, when my busyness outside these virtual walls peaks, but the coffers are bone-dry, and the bills due; as it is in any community, so it is with this one: without you, Cover Lay Down is nothing. The blog itself, with its mixed-bag cornucopia of blooms, thrives because we all come to put ourselves in, and if it offers you just one hundredth of the strength and joy it sustains for its author, then our investment is well-served, indeed, and I am grateful for any gift you can give in sustaining us through the summer.

If you’d like to donate to Cover Lay Down, just click the button below – we take PayPal and credit cards, and every penny goes to server costs and filesharing, that we may continue to serve our mandate to connect fans and artists through song, and in doing so, help do our part to ensure that folk, acoustic, and roots music remains vibrant and alive.

In return, we offer our eternal thanks, the warm satisfaction of the community supporter and patron, the continued recreation of the community itself, and our shoulders ever at the wheel of folk itself, working for its eternal viability.








For my part, I can note only that the long struggle to stay current in the midst of inevitable life-chaos ends in June, as it always does. Going into summer provides more opportunity to populate these pages; schoolteachers can stay up later in the warm month, and their time is, if not entirely leisurely, then at least more flexible, and less dense; neither church nor choir flag my fortune as they feed the soul.

And so the liminal period that is summer comes, its arrival marked by the dual dispersement of school and congregation. We stretch, and sink into our chairs; we sleep late, and share, and are merry, at our very best. And the flowers bloom all summer. And the music never ends.



Flower Communion Coverfolk (2010)



More Flower Communion Coverfolk (2013)



Thanks, all, for everything you bring to this space: for your eyes and ears, and your hearts, and your comments; for liking us on Facebook, so that others might come; for the support you bring each artist, and for even considering lending your financial support to this little folk-lovin’ corner of the web. And just as the communities you love benefit from your gifts, may you take from their bounty, and carry them with you.





2 comments » | Mixtapes, Reposts

New Artists, Old Songs (Re)Covered
Part 1: Kelley Ryan, Mikaela Davis, Angel Snow, & The Big Bright revisited!

June 9th, 2013 — 4:17pm

The myriad blessings of music blogging include promotional outreach from fledgling artists, and though not all are to our taste or temperment, a surprising number have turned out to be diamonds in the rough – leaving us humbled and privileged to have been among the first to share and celebrate so many emerging singer-songwriters of promise and poise over the years.

This week, in a very special two-part thirtieth-or-so anniversary issue of our ongoing New Artists, Old Songs series, we check in on the continued rise and maturity of several musicians first featured here for their earliest work in the world of coverage – all one-time rising stars whose staying power and continued invention is evident in their ongoing careers.


Singer-songwriter and long-time frontwoman for grungy California sunshine rock band astroPuppees Kelley Ryan was in perfect-pitch popfolk mode when she came to us back in early 2010 with a Beck cover and a vibe that echoed his folk album Sea Change on her solo debut Twist. Three years later, her ear for the catchy hook remains solid, and we’re happy to see that continues to be garnering her the respect she deserves: her version of Monkey To Man, with its jangly, jumping Rickie Lee Jones meets Mary Lou Lord and Juliana Hatfield vibe, will appear alongside a crowd of equally on-the-rise artists on the ready-to-drop 50-track Elvis Costello tribute album Beyond Belief, a project to benefit the Mr. Holland’s Opus foundation.

    Kelley Ryan: Monkey To Man (orig. Elvis Costello)



Previously on Cover Lay Down



Mikaela Davis’ solo harp-driven cover of Sufjan Stevens came to us as a one-shot ‘Tube Thursday post, putting it technically outside the New Artists feature set. But Davis, a Rochester, NY native who attends The Crane School of Music at SUNY, has since finished and released her self-titled debut album, a gorgeous collection that echoes with instrumental atmospheres, melodic tensions, and experimental indie sentiment, inviting easy comparison to indie harpist progenitor Joanna Newsome, and justifying any look back.

If the studio work proves anything beyond talent and craft, it is that Davis is no imitator: her voice is clearer and more concrete than Newsome’s, and her sentiment more pop. But her folkier side fills out nicely in her continued YouTube coverage – both in solo mode, as in the crystal-clear Elliott Smith cover first released back in October, and in live collaborations arranged for an equally atypical combination of instruments, as in the below take on Norwegian Wood recorded live last Sunday at the Bug Jar, which adds sitar and drumkit to the harp and voice for an immensely satisfying, completely psychedelic, and ultimately unsettling reinvention that flows smoothly from 4/4 mysticism to a tight jazz waltz bridge.

    Mikaela Davis: Norwegian Wood (orig. The Beatles)


    Mikaela Davis: Twilight (orig. Elliott Smith)



Previously on Cover Lay Down


If covers albums are a coverhound’s bread and butter, collaborations formed for the purpose of coverage are our just desserts: sweet with anticipation, occasionally cloying or overgenerous, but sheer delight if balanced well with bitter coffee and sincere sentiment. And so we reported on new collaboration The Big Bright with baited breath when they first emerged on the scene towards the end of last year, noting our familiarity with Ollabelle founders Fiona McBain and Glenn Patscha, and our strong affection for fellow reinventor and self-professed “neo-noir singer/songwriter” Liz Tormes – and were thrilled at the beauty in their paired arrangements of INXS and Tears For Fears, leaving us eagerly awaiting more.

Tantalizingly, I Slept Thru the 80′s, the full album of gentle New Wave Nocturnes which serves as an initial capstone for the shared love of “guilty pleasure vintage New Wave and ’80s Brit-pop” which forms the band’s raison d’etre, remains in the works, though the pre-release EP of the same name is available to New Yorkers exclusively at Little Marc Jacobs in the West Village and at live performances, and the newly-shared Walk Like An Egyptian which features on their homepage raises the bar for more sky-high. But as the tracks are completed, new video has found its way to the web, too – most recently a pair of startlingly tense, lush, echoey recordings from a Brooklyn stairwell that show the trio in fine folk harmonies and form, delivering on their promise to find the fragile in the noise, and making theirs one of the most anticipated albums of 2013.



    The Big Bright: Only You (orig. Yaz)


    The Big Bright: Call Me (orig. Blondie)



Previously on Cover Lay Down

    The Big Bright: Don’t Change (orig. INXS)

    The Big Bright: Change (orig. Tears For Fears)



The singular artist featured atop the very first edition of our New Artists, Old Song discovery series sprung out of the ether on the strength of Fortune Tellers, an intimate, sweet collection of original songs that blew us away. Our 2008 interview even produced a manifesto for her coverage which seems to translate to her own work, too, saying that “I tend to crave a genuine credibility from an artist’s voice and lyrics –- songs in which I believe every word. If I’m able to put myself in the situation of a song and play the part, then I know it’s for real and I want to share it with others.”

Now, five years after we pulled her raw, jangly, surprisingly sparse live Bob Dylan cover from the mailbag and introduced her to the world, Angel Snow has become both a Nashville sensation and a songwriter to the stars, with three original compositions featured on Alison Krauss’ most recent album, and a reputation in the industry that has her performing regularly as a solo act (supported by Kraus’ brother Viktor), in collaboration with fellow circuit-travelers such as 2012 Kerrville New Folk award-winner Korby Lenker, and with fellow New Artists alumni Robby Hecht, with whom she performs some delightfully lo-fi and live covers as Marsha and the Martians. That it couldn’t be happening to a sweeter, more authentic person is merely a bonus.


    Angel Snow & Robby Hecht: Groovy Kind of Love (orig. The Mindbenders)


    Angel Snow & Robby Hecht: Take On Me (orig. A-Ha)


    Angel Snow & Korby Lenker: Tonight You Belong To Me (orig. Gene Austin)


    Korby Lenker & Angel Snow: Forever Young (orig. Alphaville)


    Angel Snow, Karyn Oliver, and Amy Speace: Can’t Find My Way Home / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (orig. Blind Faith / U2)



Previously on Cover Lay Down


Like what you hear? Don’t forget to come back later this week for part 2 of our look back at the ongoing careers in coverage of Sophie Madeleine, The Far West, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, and more of our favorite once and still-emerging artists!

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Angel Snow, Kelley Ryan, Mikaela Davis, New Artists Old Songs, The Big Bright

You Say You Want A Revolution
(Songs of civil unrest and political upheaval)

June 2nd, 2013 — 8:27pm





Sending good wishes and lucky charms to my brother and his wife, who moved to Turkey a year ago in pursuit of the artist’s life after a long stint in Frankfurt, and haven’t really been back to the States in years. They assure us their Istanbul neighborhood is “in a very different part of town from the main center of the protests,” but watching what little news I’ve been able to track down, it’s hard not to be worried.

And yet even as I hope for more reassurance, there is also awe and wonder at the myriad ways in which the universe is interconnected. For as the school year comes to a close, my Media Literacy students and I face our final exploration – a unit on Facebook and other social media, and their potentially democratizing purpose in change agency. And on beyond my brother’s timely email, here come the tweets, and the blogs and facebook groups, to once again provide ample evidence that in the digital world, the global really is the local; that even our agency is globalized, if we know how to use it.

Two years ago this weekend, our tiny rural town was decimated by a tornado, and the way in which the community came together was a case study too immediate to ignore. The year before, it was Haiti, and the ways in which social media had shown and lent us avenues of support for the destruction. Now, since we already studied Sandy’s stormy rise and aftermath in our unit on mass media, it may well be the Turkish revolution – and the Wall Street Occupation, of course – which make the grade, allowing any news from my brother from behind what many suggest is a media bottleneck to be classroom fodder, giving me a welcome avenue to work through my worry, that I may focus on sending love and support.

When the tornado came, we rebuilt; even now, with the deserted, dangerously unsafe town hall only half demolished, hope rises anew. But as song and protest go hand in hand, so does their successor, revolution – a dangerous and often deadly precursor to the kinds of reconstructive efforts that change the world forever. And so I worry – about my brother, and his wife; about my children, whose world seems so volatile, so fragile abroad even as it feels robust and Springlike here at home. And so the digital revolution holds us close to the now and the real, and a day without news seems like a lifetime. And so our mix turns to revolution itself, and the world spins madly on.



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down shares new songsets and ethnographic musings bi-weekly thanks to the kind support of readers like you. Here’s how to do your part:

  • Support the continued creation of music by purchasing artists’ work whenever possible.
  • Spread the word to friends and family by joining our Facebook page and clicking “like” on a favorite post.
  • Share the wealth by sending us your own coverfolk finds and recordings.
  • Donate to Cover Lay Down to help defray server and bandwidth costs.

2 comments » | Mixtapes

Double Dippers, Vol. 1: Singer-songwriters visit & revisit
Dylan, Dawes, Guthrie, Springsteen, John Prine, and more!

June 1st, 2013 — 3:06pm


640_vinyl


As the average promotional bio can attest, many singer-songwriters and folk artists find a spark in a small, select set of early influences; part of the process of learning to take on the mantle of your own artistry involves imitation of the formative experience. I imagine the process much like that of any fan with even a small modicum of skill on any instrument, wherein the urge to reproduce and channel prompts vocalization and handwork, first tentatively and, finally, with confidence, as we learn from the hidden masters on our stereo.

It’s not the only fount of coverage, of course. Mutual respect for an artist can just as easily prompt re-creation of the heard, so can discovery, rediscovery, or merely whim. Yet we assume that artists’ tribute clusters around a weighted crowd, with some small set of heavy hitters in the mix whose songs that artist knows by heart.

Recording those songs, however, is less often done. Towards the center of folk, formal recordings of covers trend towards the vast, not the narrow – I suppose because it risks too narrow an alliance between cover artist and originator to overcover – influence is one thing, but the curse of being “another Dylan” looms large next to its implied blessing.

And so, although we’ve seen some great single-artist tribute albums in the past few years, with the exception of a few major and prolific muso-cultural influencers – the songbook of AP Carter in the tradfolk crowd, for example, of Dylan and Guthrie in the straight-up folk camp, or of Bill Monroe, who arguably established and collated the sound that would become bluegrass, thus ensuring that his songs would be ever in the hands of those who would follow – it remains relatively rare for an artist to cover another in two different stages of their career. But it does happen, and when it does, the loss of the artistic variable of authorship makes such pairings a potent lens for exploring how an artist matures, evolves, or expands creatively.

Today, in the first of what we hope will be a multi-part exploration of such re-covered incidences and accidents, we take a deeper look at how and why through the lens of some favorite double dips.

    Though the LA folkrock band who wrote this pair did not form until 2009, as he notes on his website, thanks to a well-considered and newly committed relationship with the band, Mark Erelli has already taken on the Dawes songbook in two very different incarnations: as a member of gleeful-sound folkgrass quintet Barnstar! and this month, in a slow, mournful otherwise-unreleased home-studio take on Moon On The Water which strips the band’s work down to guitar, faint marching drums, slow fiddle strokes, and that inimitable voice layered in chorus. Erelli is no stranger to double coverage, having released several live Randy Newman covers, and multiple tributes to friend and mentor Bill Morrissey, through his long-standing Mp3 of the Month series.


    Many have covered Dylan multiple times, but Frazey Ford’s pair beats a full house: As a founding member of Vancouver-based femmefolk trio The Be Good Tanyas, Ford was featured on 2003 Chinatown cut In My Time Of Dying; seven years later, on her debut as a post-breakup solo act, her soulful influences shine through on One More Cup Of Coffee. The versions, both transformative, share much in the way of sound, with the ragged rhythms and urgency so typical of her work and theirs, and that incredible, fragile voice, but they’re couched so differently – one layered and lush Americana, one staggered and bouncy tradfolk – it’s hard to imagine them on the same album.


    Richard Shindell’s modus operandi shifted a bit between the 2001 concert that spawned live release Courier and South of Delia, the 2007 covers album that sparked this very blog, deepening into something more rich and layered and tinged with both indie rock and pop elements that come through loud and clear in the studio. Springsteen benefits from this major lift in both cases: the relative rawness of Shindell’s live 2001 full-band Fourth of July contrasts strongly with his deconstructed Born in the USA, making of the first the perfect plaintive love song, the second a complex treatise, and the perfect politicized anti-anthem.


    Like many prolific artists of various stripe, Lucy Kaplansky has covered the Beatles several times – and Steve Earle, Cliff Eberhardt, and Bill Morrissey more than once as well. But Kaplansky’s lead vocals on Eliza Gilkyson’s Sanctuary may well be my favorite cover song of the last few years – and a permanent fixture atop my personal hope-and-heartbreak mix, which reveals just why her power as a balladeer and portraiture painter is unparalleled in the eyes of father and son. Although only two years separate the release, the cover stands in strong contrast to her take on Gilkyson’s The Beauty Way, off new release Reunion, which shows the more contemporary folk sound that Kaplansky trends towards in her own solo work.


    Though Amos Lee‘s beautifully controlled blues vocalisms stand at odds to the truly broken tone of John Prine, his debt to Prine is audible in their comparably evisceral delivery. The slow, powerful yearning of lyric and line-reading Lee inherits are especially evident in Christmas In Prison, recorded for an XPN-broadcast Aimee Mann Christmas special in 2008 – the live setting reveals more rawness – while the gentle, understated pain in the studio recording of Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, a b-side from 2005 single Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight is more consistent with the sparse intimacy that first made me fall in love with his soulful voice.


    Old Crow Medicine Show is a crowd on the new tradfolk line, but they pay due tribute to their singer-songwriter influences. Their treatment of Guthrie is especially illuminating: the first, a fast, raw and raucous 2006 take on Union Maid that finds the band in full-bore political party mode; the second, a next-year take on Deportee which may well have been solicited for the Songs of America compilation on the strength of the former, but bares scant resemblance, as it meanders like a cowboy’s slow roadsong, pushing harmonies and concertina over the pick and strum.


Looking for further coverage from the folkworld? Join the Cover Lay Down facebook page for ongoing one-shot stream and video postings throughout the week, and keep an eye open for news of part 2 of our series in the next few, featuring Kasey Chambers covering Lucinda Williams, Josh Ritter covering John Prine, Red Molly covering Susan Werner, Shawn Colvin covering The Beatles, either Colvin or Ani DiFranco taking on the Greg Brown songbook (we still can’t decide!), and more double-dipping coverage histories. Also coming soon: our semi-annual fund drive, new coverage from the mailbag, a third house concert with local favorite Meg Hutchinson, and more!

1 comment » | Amos Lee, Be Good Tanyas, Double Dippers, Lucy Kaplansky, Mark Erelli, Old Crow Medicine Show, Richard Shindell

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