Category: Artists


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

November 25th, 2017 — 8:51am


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

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

October 7th, 2017 — 9:37am


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)

September 4th, 2017 — 9:44am





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

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

July 21st, 2017 — 4:07pm

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

July 18th, 2017 — 4:23pm


frffcamps


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

Covered In Folk: Aretha Franklin
(Seminal songs from the Queen of Soul)

July 10th, 2017 — 3:36pm


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My father’s record collection is split into two halves, each on its own side of the stereo cabinet: on one side, folk and Americana; on the other, blues and soul. But for most of my life, it’s been Memphis, Chicago, and New Orleans which leave the sleeve so often: Ray Charles, The Staples Singers, Marcia Ball…and the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.

Legitimately born of a Memphis preacher man and an accomplished piano player and vocalist – all of which would find its way into her powerful gospel style – Aretha was an interpreter, not a songwriter. Listed first on Rolling Stone’s countdown of the greatest singers of all time, she released over 40 albums since her 1961 self-titled debut, and hit number one on the Billboard charts 20 times between 1967 (I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)) and 1985 (Freeway of Love), even though the majority of the songs we most associate with her work were either originally penned for others in the genre, or performed by them first.

But the Queen of Soul earned her name by making these songs her own. Although song co-author Carole King’s Tapestry take on (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman is historical, it follows Franklin’s in both history and the pantheon. Her version of The Weight, released the year after The Band’s original, charted much higher in the US market, and helped sustain the song’s presence as a future soundtrack staple for films set in the sixties. Before it was hers, Until You Come Back To Me was recorded first by songwriter Stevie Wonder, though not released until afterwards. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves was originally written by The Eurythmics as a duet with Tina Turner, who was unavailable. And perhaps most significantly, Respect – a pleading meditation on aspirational breadwinner masculinity in the hands of Otis Redding – became an anthem of empowerment in Aretha’s throat, thanks to the spelled-out chorus and genderbent lyrical approach; that her flourishes survive in essentially every cover known to humankind says all it needs to about her definitive success.

Appropriately, then, today’s set is a mixed bag: some classic, some transformed; some soulful, some stripped and broken. There’s country in here, as might be expected, given how much crossover already exists between the eminently American genres, but there’s also soft piano balladry, chamberfolk, contemporary popfolk and more, sourced from a hodgepodge of YouTube sessions and studio craft, as befits homage to a respected artist whose reach and influence have been so vast. And it’s all wonderful, in tribute to a true-blue queen still performing – and going strong – at 75. Enjoy.


Aretha Franklin, Covered In Folk [zip!]



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(Re)Covered: New Folk From Familiar Faces
Eef Barzelay, Red Molly, Rayna Gellert, The Sea The Sea, and more!

July 2nd, 2017 — 1:54pm

Yes, folk fans and coverlovers, we’re back in earnest after what has become a typically spare slide into Summer for a deep dig into the mailbox and social media sources that have accumulated over the past few months: a look at the recent work of artists we’ve celebrated here before today, and – later this week – a celebration of newcomers and new-to-us rising stars as they send forth their own coverage into the void.

Read on for new and noteworthy covers of Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Patty Griffin, Spin Doctors, the tradfolk canon, and a swansong performance from the dearly departed Jimmy LaFave. And, as always, if you like what you hear, click through to purchase from and support the musicians we feature, the better to guarantee the continued production and evolution of soul-touching music in a world too-often in need of its transformative power.


eef-barzelay1Regular readers know: we’re huge fans of prolific one-time Clem Snide frontman Eef Barzelay here at Cover Lay Down, featuring him back in 2011 with a mega-post on the artist’s journey, returning to him often for Best Of The Year mixtape standards from Jane’s Addiction to Elizabeth Cotten, Crowded House, The Shirelles and more. New two-track release Fan Chosen Covers (Songs We Hate), a shorter-than-average chapter an ongoing series of fan-selected favorites, offers a hazy, wistful and weary take on Breakfast At Tiffany’s that represents his best work as a lo-fi interpreter of the soul; the paired Spin Doctors cover takes a little longer to love, but it’s worth it for its playful, pensive rearrangement of a song stripped of its grief and anger.



redmollyFormed in the hills of our very favorite folk festival, Americana/Roots trio Red Molly worked their way from campfire trio to mainstage darlings via crowd support and collaboration, and that includes some from us, too. I once spent a memorable Sunday afternoon with bass-and-vocalist Laurie and fellow one-time mainstage maven Eliot Bronson under a tent with some cold beers, brainstorming songs for what would be the next Red Molly album before rushing towards mainstage for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s famous closing sing-along. And we’ve hosted Molly Venter and her husband Eben Pariser of Roosevelt Dime in our house concert series; I play Hold It All, the song she brought to the group in her first year, when I need to cry.

Most recently, we’ve contributed via Pledgemusic to the trio’s upcoming swan song set – a final Red Molly EP, and still in-process solo albums from each of the members currently active. And why not? We’re just suckers for fine three part harmonies here at Cover Lay Down – and for great covers, which run through the Red Molly recorded canon as a mighty river. And all pledgers, no matter what level, get the full set and setlist from a never-released two-set Red Molly show recorded right off the Freight & Salvage soundboard. Here’s a strong countrified contender for our 2017 Best Of The Year singles mix from One for All & All for One, that aforementioned EP, where two originals and equally potent covers of Lori McKenna, Cole Porter, and Julie Miller make for a sweet and worthy set overall – plus an older cover from Eben and Molly, just because we love it so.



theseax2Newly-expanded into a foursome for their upcoming tour, folk act The Sea The Sea – who we’ve also hosted in concert twice as a duo – deftly reinvents within the sparse, airy side of modern percussive indie-folk, as heard and shown exquisitely in this live-take springboard cover of Dylan/Nico standard I’ll Keep It With Mine – a wonderful addition to a growing canon of deep, sensitive, sentimental songcraft from the newly-married friends who form the core of the band. Bonus points here for a very old but beloved take on Chris Smither’s No Love Today from Chuck E Costa himself, back in his pre-Mira days, recorded from alongside the soundboard by yours truly as part and parcel of hosting duties; be sure to check their tour schedule, especially if you live and around the CT/MA/NY region, to see how far he’s come with his beloved at his side.

    The Sea The Sea: I’ll Keep It With Mine (orig. Bob Dylan)


    Chuck E Costa: No Love Today (orig. Chris Smither)



raynaOne-time Uncle Earl fiddle-player Rayna Gellert‘s 2012 release Old Light: Songs from my Childhood & Other Gone Worlds stunned us so much, we named it The Year’s Best Mostly Covers Album, citing “how effectively Gellert packages and presents a perfectly-balanced mix of the traditional and the newly-penned in her triple-threat role as arranger, lead performer, and producer” and calling it “so unified in its timelessness, it’s often hard to tell which are the old tunes, and which the new.”

Now after a few appearances here (most recently for a sweet one-take tradfolk video with Kristen Andreassen that featured in this year’s Best Coverfolk Videos), the Appalachian stringband-trained songstress is back with Workin’s Too Hard, a tender-to-tempest seven track album that came out in January and has been sitting happily on our backburner and in rotation ever since. Disc-closer I’m Bound For The Promised Land, one of a pair of traditional numbers on the small but precious collection, is an apt exemplar of both her sound and her old-meets-new sensibility: a barn-burner blur of electric and acoustic strings, supported by a brisk train-chugging brush-and-kickdrum and forefronted by a vocal holler perfect for the prose and presence.



ktferI was disappointed to miss seeing Katie Ferrara in person during our recent trip to California; the newcomer, who we first featured for her delightful cover of Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes in a flavorful mix shared during a spate of popsicle-making last July, busks and bar-hops regularly in and around her native LA, and broadcasts regularly from these venues, offering us an unusually clear and vibrant window into the evolving heart, soul, and work of a singer-songwriter on the rise as she refines her craft. This summer’s addition to her recorded output is a well-produced, subtly sensational, and eminently summery doozy of a Creedence cover, released just this week and easily sustaining our support; to offer yours, hit up a show or the usual social media spaces to download and purchase her convertible-top-down folk-pop powerhouse EP Dream Catcher.

    Katie Ferrara: Hey Tonight (orig. Creedence Clearwater Revival)



jlf-picFinally, in tribute: We first featured Texas/Oklahoma singer-songwriter stalwart Jimmy LaFave way back in January of 2012, celebrating his hoarse and tender way with a Dylan song, the Guthrie legacy, dustbowl peers Joe Ely and Townes Van Zandt, and more. At the time, we named our discovery a revelation “to the historically-grounded poetry and achingly vivid performance of… one of the most respected songwriters and interpreters in his field”; his take on Not Dark Yet, which we’ve reposted below alongside a favorite Jackson Browne cover released since that original round-up, remains in our top ten Dylan covers of all time, and I think you’ll hear why from the very first line.

Jimmy’s passing in May after a particularly short and poignant bout with cancer left behind a legacy of life and leavetaking covered exceptionally well by Lonestar Music Magazine in its most recent issue. His death is punctuated by much love from his peers in the crossover country/folk Red Dirt community and beyond, immeasurable sadness, a final tribute performance encore broadcast live on Facebook by fellow traveler Eliza Gilkyson that chills to the bone, and high hopes for an unusually powerful tribute set at this summer’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, where he was scheduled to headline; we’ll be sure to attend, and hope to see you there, too, in celebration of a live lived well in song and sadness.


    Jimmy LaFave and Friends: Goodnight Irene (orig. Lead Belly)



1 comment » | (Re)Covered, Clem Snide, Jimmy LaFave, Rayna Gellert, Red Molly, The Sea The Sea

Take It Easy: California Coverfolk
with covers of The Doors, Sublime, Dawes, Jane’s Addiction & more!

April 23rd, 2017 — 9:50pm


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We’re just back from Spring Break in and around Los Angeles, where the weather was fine, indeed, after months of cold rain and thaw in our chosen home New England. When we left the garden was just buds bulging on the tips of the first green stems; California, by contrast, was in full bloom, thanks to an unusually rainy winter, and we were grateful, indeed, to find the world sunny and hot in the late mornings and afternoons, and just cool enough in the evening to keep from shivering in our shirtsleeves.

My students think LA is exotic; I thought I knew better, having been several times in the past couple of decades, both times as the first stop in a meandering drive up the coast towards San Francisco and Oregon. But this time around, we came to settle in, with an Air B&B house in the canyons, on a suburban settlement down the street from my father’s first cousin, and I think we did it right by avoiding the city. Exquisite lunches on the beach and the Malibu pier; venison steak up in the hills at an authentic 150 year old stage coach stop surrounded by bikers and the warm amplified sounds of an amateur cover artist; mornings at the zoos, the Aquarium of the Pacific, the sprawling gardens of Pasadena; lunch on the beaches and piers, and a shot at the steampunk thrift shops in Ventura; Harry Potter World on a Tuesday, and a final Friday afternoon hot and high in the desert hills at the Wolf Connections sanctuary, surrounded by the scrub of an alien landscape.

At home, the mailbag bulges with promise and the hint of summer releases. Tomorrow, the workweek begins anew, with the usual stresses and strain of the impending summer; lesson plans and grading have taken me to this afternoon, providing but little respite to write here. But here on the porch in the afternoon sun, the daffodils blooming at my feet, it’s hard not to want to just soak in the sunshine, with a bank of light coverfolk as the soundtrack to our last remaining hours.

And so we return to our Vacation Coverfolk series on the eve of the ever-intruding real world with a last gasp at Los Angeles through the songs of cross-continental coverage: a whole universe of folk artists taking on a chronology of songs penned and originally performed by bands and artists born, bred, or discovered in and around the city of angels. May they bring Spring softly, planting the surf, the sand, the hills, and the boulevards in the rich new soil of your own sunshine dreams.

L.A. Coverfolk: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]


Comment » | Clem Snide, Laura Cortese, Vacation Coverfolk

RIP Chuck Berry (1926-2017)
A tribute in folk coverage from Cajun to the country blues

March 25th, 2017 — 7:55am


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When Chuck Berry passed last Saturday at 90, the airwaves swelled with gratitude and stories of the man who brought us the duck walk and My Ding-A Ling, did gigs as a beautician and a stint as a reform school kid on the way up, and built the genre from the freestyle of the blues, the whine of the country guitar, the simple call-and-refrain verse-chorus-verse of the folksong, the beat of a rhythm and blues nation, and the definitive string-led combo.

Finding a plethora of coverage of Berry’s canon seemed inevitable: many of the long-standing artist and performer’s greatest hits were also hits for other seminal rock and rollers, both peers and inheritors, from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and The Beatles, whose classic versions of Roll Over Beethoven and Memphis helped put them on the map in the first place. Indeed, arguably, Berry’s songs are so well covered, many of them have become truly folk, part and parcel of the vast spectrum that is the modern western songbook; it says what it needs to that Johnny B. Goode is the only rock and roll song on the Voyager spacecraft, where one day, it may well establish the Earth as a cultured rest stop for the alien mind, a truly exciting and excitable space among the heavens.

Anyone truly deserving of the name “architect of rock and roll” has enough influence to cross genre lines, too. And sure enough, Berry’s songs have found their way from punk to country, where their easily translatable lyrics and eminently playable beats bring comfort to new audiences exploring the sounds of the soul. Though many of Chuck Berry’s songs are so seminal, their transformations are hard to search for, our dip into the vast realm of folk and roots coverage here today reveals a broad influence, heavy on the real and rustic but unusually diverse in subgenre, from sultry country swing to fieldhouse rhythm and blues to contemporary fingerpickin’ folk rock, with stops in everyspace from jug band blues to crackling Cajun along the way. Guess it just proves that rock and roll will never die – at least, not so long as it continues to infiltrate the sense and sensibility of the multifaceted folkways.



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3 comments » | Chuck Berry, Covered In Folk, RIP

Covered In Folk: Anais Mitchell
(with Bon Iver, Billy Bragg, Cricket Blue & new voices galore!)

March 14th, 2017 — 2:27pm


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Vermont-slash-Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell was a fast-rising star upon her 2002 arrival to the scene, with out of the gate recognition from Kerrville’s New Folk competition and early adoption onto Ani Difranco’s record label, Righteous Babe, thanks to a strong debut recorded in a single afternoon and a distinctive knack for prescient hooks and heavy subjects couched in sweepingly intimate production and a distinctively, deceptively innocent yet complex and carefully honed voice. These days, her name-recognition runs high inside the broad boundaries of folk, and her talent is in high demand, as demonstrated by tours with Bon Iver, Josh Ritter, Punch Brothers and The Low Anthem, collaborations with Jefferson Harmer and Rachel Ries, and kudos from Pitchfork, NPR, The New York Times, and more.

If fame outside the folkworld or prodigious output were a measure of success, she would remain insulated. But although it has been three years since her last release, and five since her last of all new original work, there is something essential about Anais Mitchell right now. Just a half dozen studio albums into her career, Mitchell has become a true mover and shaker in the folkworld, cited by peers and press as central to the definitive depth and honesty that typifies the nucleus of the current folk generation.

A powerhouse out on the bleeding edge, her collaborative work, including our previously-featured exploration of the Child Ballads with Jefferson Harmer, which won a BBC Radio Two Folk Award for Best Traditional Track, is sharp. Her output – including the epic, introspective 2012 release Young Man In America, and folk opera Hadestown, which brought folk heavyweights Greg Brown, Justin Vernon, The Haden Triplets, and Difranco together to voice the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and has since been both toured with a rotating cast and turned into a New York stageshow due to return for the 2017-2018 season – reveals an artist exploring the potential of folk to speak deeply and cohesively about the world on a scale heretofore unattempted, illuminating the world of the political and the personal into sharp relief.

The proof, of course, is in the coverage, both in its richness and in its very fact. Note notables such as Billy Bragg and Bon Iver in the mix below, taking on the Anais songbook in homage and early tribute to a truly worthy songwriter and craftsperson. Take note, as well, of the flexibility of song here, as the lo-fi acoustic and the rich mix rebuilt, the balladeer and the barroom singer, the mellow and the mean, the jamband and the celtic take their turns on the canon, and come up roses.

Listen as others come to echo the echoes – revealing a set rich in Bandcamp discoveries, and diverse in tone and tenor, as befits the deep, versatile songbook that Mitchell offers forth. Pick and choose, or download them as a single set. And then, as always, click through to go back to the source – to celebrate, as it were, the artists who continue to circle around song, and around the whole of us, from Anais Mitchell herself to those who would braid their gifts with hers, to the betterment of us all.


    An apt introduction from folk and social justice icon Billy Bragg, whose respect for Mitchell and for the power of political song frames a transcendent performance of a song originally performed by Greg Brown as the modernized king of the underworld. Put it against the bold potency of Chi-town amateur Carey Farrell, whose slowly deepening production slowly drowns us in despair, for a hell of an opening set.


    Toronto-based filmmaker and soundtrack soundscape creator Nicole Goode records tense, echoey, glitchy cover goodness, nominally with her morning coffee. And it is mesmerizing, rough and raw and bottomless.


    New York-based “folk rock Japanese band” Robin’s Egg Blue‘s sudden turn into newgrass jamband territory turns a transitional Hadestown track into a resting point reminiscent of the psychedelic Steeleye Span era, lingering in the river of madness until it seems like the struggle will never end. Epic, indeed.


    The stand-out track from a late December covers release from Jess & Alek Deva, aka The Night Owls, “a married couple living and working in beautiful White River Junction, VT.”


    Soft tender balladry from “Boston native and New York transplant” Paola Bennet, found on a well-populated Soundcloud page that offers more from the amateur delight.


    A dreamy, echolayered take on Wait For Me, a tiny fragment from the magnum opus that is Hadestown. From Irish amateur Emma Carroll, an enigma otherwise.


    A straightforward plainsong approach to a personal favorite from Soundcloud amateur Justin Paul Ortiz. Don’t underestimate this one: the lack of adornment lays the song bare, revealing strong bones at the core.


    A simple, elegant popfolk setting from prolific Ithaca, NY singer-songwriter, activist, and mindfulness practitioner Travis Knapp‘s 9th annual covers collection evokes grand pianos and candelabras as it pays homage to the tender, confessional side of Mitchell’s early canon.


    Two Anais Mitchell covers from the stark solo Saturday morning cover recordings of Soundcloud amateur Sophia Stewart, a nuanced vocalist and solo stringstrummer well worth visiting for more.


    A slightly countrified, well-produced lullaby version of Mitchell’s transposition of two West Bank refugees: one to be Jesus, the other a forgotten Palestinian. Joyce Andersen‘s hearty, heart-filled voice makes for a perfect pairing alongside Harvey Reid’s subtle pick and slide.


    Cambridge, MA duo Parsley‘s forefront harmonies lend a dustbowl honesty to this wistful, wild cut, originally penned and performed by Rachel Ries and Anais Mitchell on their duo EP Country.


    South Carolina ex-pat Garris, now living in China and preparing for a stint as a yoga teacher in India, partners with friend Kira for a four-track EP featuring a solid Tom Waits cover and this subtle slackstring soft-track, gentle, wistful, and aware of its unrefined honesty.


    If there is such a thing as perfect lo-fi experimental anti-folk in the modern marketplace, it is embedded in The Last Clarissa’s hollow covers and recordings, each one rushed and anxious, resonant as a silo sing, and honest as the night.


    Broken, flickering life from Bryan McFarland, another amateur hard to uncover. No matter: the song speaks for itself, with low recorder and layers of lush guitar pulsing around grungy octave harmonies for a dirge-like dark despair.


    Justin Vernon at his most tender and fragile, with gentle guitar and piano in low, tinkly parallel; Vermont bluegrass duo Cricket Blue at their tightest in sorrow, singing the fear of Icarus towards the sky and sun. And so we end as we began: vulnerable to the world, and the variances and vagrancies of song and lyric in tension: the crash impending, the loss palpable, the hope everlasting.



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