Archive for May 2016

(Re)Covered: New Coverage From Old Friends
Allysen Callery, Coty Hogue, Amber Rubarth, Reid Jamieson and more!

May 30th, 2016 — 3:36pm

Our ongoing (Re)Covered series finds us touting new and newly uncovered releases from folk, roots, bluegrass and acoustic artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down. Today, we delve into the mailbag with news and new coverage from “new primitive” songwriter Allysen Callery, tradfolk reinventionist Coty Hogue, orchestral folk artist Amber Rubarth, Vancouver crooner Rein Jamieson, YouTube fave Juliana Richer Daily, and beloved local folksinger and friend Mark Erelli taking on REM, Lorde, Prince, Gordon Lightfoot, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen, The 1975, the Appalachian canon and more!

Allysen Callery – a self-taught New England rising star and fingerpicker whose website proudly and accurately describes her oeuvre as “quiet music for a loud world” – first popped up on our radar in 2013, thanks to a “haunting recast” of one-time Single Song Sunday standard Long Black Veil that offered apt comparison to the very best of Sandy Denny. Since then, Callery’s star has continued to rise as her canon grows; her delicate will-o-the-wisp reinventions have featured in two consecutive year’s end “Best Of” mixtapes, we shared her recent, perfect take on Marissa Nadler in February of this year as part of our celebration of Volume 3 of Red Line Roots’ Locals Covering Locals series; we loved her tiny, precious 2014 UK folk radio session, and we’re working to get her in for a Unity House Concert soon. New CD The Song the Songbird Sings, with its ringing echoes of the 60′s British psychedelic folk revival, offers perfect proof of why we’re so thrilled to hear more, with tightly crafted, elegantly performed originals and a stunning Gordon Lightfoot cover that holds us close with dark urgency in a frozen wasteland.

It’s been 4 years since we featured American roots singer-songwriter and banjo player Coty Hogue, a fave of Alice Gerrard and others in the neotrad countryfolk school, on the release of her live album When We Get To Shore, a mostly-covers-and-traditionals album performed in front of a studio audience with fellow Bellingham musicians Aaron Guest (vocals/guitar) and Kat Bula (fiddle/vocals); since then, she’s been pretty quiet, other than a few live-tracked solo YouTube releases well worth passing along. But Hogue is back with Flight, a brand new release featuring the same core trio of players plus guest appearances from Cover Lay Down fave bluegrass duo Molly Tuttle and John Mailander and IBMA multiple award winning bass player Missy Raines, and it’s a revelation, with intimate, lightly grassy takes on Fleetwood Mac and Lucinda Williams, a tight, joyous live sound, and a fine set of catchy, fluid compositions and arrangements perfect for a gentle morning pick-me-up porch session.

Though still primarily known in and around his native Vancouver, singer-songwriter Reid Jamieson is a frequent flyer here at Cover Lay Down thanks to a grinning, gorgeous way with the songs of others and an especially prolific penchant towards interpretation: he’s previously published an album of Elvis songs and dozens of single-shot coverage tracks; in 2011, we offered his tribute to the songs of 1969, recorded for his wife’s birthday, as a release-day exclusive.

Reido’s newest homage Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection takes on the songs of Leonard Cohen lovingly and gleefully, and we’ve been stuck on it since it dropped in March. Like most of his work, it is deceptively light; the intros hit like Caribbean elevator music, and Reido’s husky tenor is sweet and plaintive as always. But there’s a huge diversity here, and something truly triumphant about the brightening of sound in songs like Suzanne, which tingles with robust steel drum rhythms and spousal harmonies, the driving countrified romp of Tower Of Song, and Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, which gets turned on it’s ear, transforming the somber, pensive original into a bright and upbeat trainsong, chugging along light and lively with perfect layers of overdubbed harmony, gentle guitars and brushes. Elsewhere, ukes, brushes, and fiddle hold sway, adding flourishes and finishing touches to a sweet, sweet EP from somewhere under the sunniest of cowboy skies.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.11.47 PMAmber Rubarth came to our attention via a 2011 collaboration with Threeds, an oboe trio whose mellow Little Feat cover still offers solace in our darkest days. Now, ten years into a career ready to explode, the award-winning small-town California-born, weary-yet-clear-voiced singer-songwriter comes back to us with Scribbled Folk Symphonies, a nuanced and richly orchestrated singer-songwriter’s tour de force, featuring apt and adept plucked string quartet urgencies under soaring-air vocals on REM standard Losing My Religion and self-effacing Elliott Smith fave I Didn’t Understand, and we’ve been hooked since its April release.

Rubarth is already crowdsourcing next album Wildflowers In The Graveyard, a slightly more conventional contemporary popfolk guitarslinger’s lyric-driven, high-production collection of songs written around the theme of renewal and ripe for a big autumn release; support it for previews and more. But first, check out her new covertracks plus* an older but no less warm and wonderful Carter Family cover below from Rubarth’s bandcamp sampler, and then purchase Scribbled Folk Symphonies to steep in an album that already stands as one of the great folk albums of 2016.

*tracks removed by label request

Though our recent 15-track tribute to Prince made no claim to comprehensiveness, it would be even harder now; since the artist’s passing last month, musicians from across the artistic genre map have come forth to pay their own tribute, and several new favorites have emerged – including a fine live take on signature song Purple Rain from prolific Boston-based singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, recorded at a recent album-release party at Club Passim, and released via his long-standing and always-worth-checking Mp3 of the Month series. Add in a previous month’s live take on Blake Mills’ Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me, and you can see why we’re such big fans of Erelli, whose sideman work with Lori McKenna and Paula Cole and continued work as both a solo artist and a member of newgrass supergroup Barnstar! continue to earn him duly deserved accolades on and beyond the coffeehouse circuit, and whose new, clear-as-a-bell album For A Song is currently sweeping the folk charts on the strength of its stunning countryfolk title track.

Finally, for the popfolk set: Upstate New Yorker and YouTube amateur Juliana Daily, whose versatile, sweet and intimate voice we’ve featured regularly on these pages, took top honors for Best Coverfolk Video Series in our 2015 round-up on the strength of a lovely set of living-room covers recorded in support of a Kickstarter album; here she is back again to prove her chops with an aching, wonderfully sparse one-guitar, multiple-voice take on an alt-rock tune-turned-ballad with Bryce Merritt that benefits from tight production, earnest performance, and a hint of whimsy.

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Marissa Nadler covers:
Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath & 16 more!

May 21st, 2016 — 3:30pm

The pretty, melodic, harmony-and-lyric-driven music that so often typifies the coffeehouse set permeates our love for the folkworld here at Cover Lay Down. But exploring the margins has its benefits, too. Indeed, one of the things I love about folk is its broad diversity: no matter what mood you desire, no matter what purpose you need music to serve in your ears and your soul, folk has something for you, if you’re willing to listen.

And so I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient folk music these past few weeks – a perfect pairing for an unsettled world, where inner city teaching and my children’s ongoing health struggles keep me ever on the edge of adrenalin exhaustion. And as I shift through the various twigs and brambles of this often obscure acre, one voice keeps rising to the surface: that of Marissa Nadler, who has carved out a niche all her own, one that is definitive and daring, potent and achingly beautiful.

Although born, raised, and still based in the Boston area, Marissa Nadler is more usually associated with the hipstery dreampop and indiefolk worlds than the Boston singer-songwriter crowd. Her third major studio release Songs III: Bird on the Water won her recognition as “Outstanding Singer-Songwriter of the Year” at the 2008 Boston Music Awards, beating out a young Josh Ritter two years after Paste named him one of their 100 greatest living songwriters, but label-sharing with Jose Gonzalez, Father John Misty, and David Lynch, and garnering award nominations and accolades alongside Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, and others from the soft, experimental fringes of the new folk, gives stronger evidence for her placement in the spectrum that has come to define folk in the 21st Century.

Like so many of her experimental brethren, Nadler is an artist first and foremost, formally trained in obscure illustration styles, bookbinding, and encaustic painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, and still keeper of an ongoing store of oddities at do-it-yourself site Etsy; seemingly, the same love of the old and the weird has led to refinement and redefinition as her career has evolved. Although most of her earlier work in the musical realm centers around sparse guitar and voice, adorned only slightly by lo-fi outsider accompaniment from New England experimentalists like cellist Helena Espvall, her sound on Little Hells, which followed Birds III, and was rated highly by the Pitchfork and Paste crowd, represented an expansion of sound beyond the freak-folk into something which pitched and yawed from dreampop and back again through the use of sustained organ and harmonium, circular drumming, and other production techniques that simultaneously amplified, clarified, and bloodied the gauze of her core sound.

New album Strangers – Nadler’s sixth, which dropped yesterday – continues this expansion, offering a richer, lusher mix than usual, with decidedly electronic synths and beats that lift Nadler’s etherial voice, lending it a sense of urgency heretofore unheard. But nothing can obscure the essential, delicate beauty that Marissa Nadler brings to her craft. Like her previous collections, the result is haunting and dreamy, primitive and echoey, a full set of expansive meditations built on her perennial, pensive sentimentality, the bassline drone that typifies her self-taught syncopated style on the strings, and that delicate, airy voice that slides through the staff like a bird gliding on the wing.

Although first and foremost a singer-songwriter attuned to every aspect of creation, in keeping with the way that her visual work calls back to older forms, Nadler has also peppered her career with coverage, digging into songs that reveal a broad range of genre influence.

A single Leonard Cohen favorite appears on Songs III, but more usually, a tendency to keep these covers separate from her originals has made many of them rarer: Nadler self-released two full covers collections via Etsy in 2010 and 2011, but both are out of print; she has appeared regularly on some of our favorite multi-artist tributes over the past decade, taking on the songs of Odetta, Judee Sill, Radiohead and Jason Molina alongside other fringe and freakfolk luminaries, but many of her older covers are from albums and demo collections which are also obscure.

These covers are sublime nonetheless, making year’s end lists at the usual indieblogs, and showing up in various Cover Lay Down songbook features through the years. From early and mid-career reinventions of Cohen, Neil Young, Springsteen and Duran Duran to more recent underground releases of new, narcotized takes on Danzig and Black Sabbath, Elliott Smith and Father John Misty, they reveal new depths in songs both heard and unfamiliar.

And the covers just keep coming, in the form of slow, spooky Halloween-release Soundcloud singletons and website exclusives that dredge Nadler’s personal demos and living room archives and drag them into a bleary, intimate light. Taken together, as a set, our favorite 21 covertracks offer a strong introduction to both Nadler herself, and the ambient folk tributary she represents, where the world is often hazy and unsettling, but the future is bright indeed.

Marissa Nadler Covers [zip!]

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