Category: Aoife O’Donovan


Double Dippers, vol. 3: Singer-songwriters visit & revisit
Donovan, The Beatles, Gram Parsons, Woody Guthrie and Paul Simon!

July 20th, 2014 — 8:39pm


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Born of an exercise in archival data-mining, our Double Dippers feature series finds us focusing on artists who pay tribute to favorite songwriters through coverage twice over, in two distinct phases of their careers. Our interest, as always, is in the ethnographic lens on craft and culture: if covers serve as artifacts that expose the substance of artistic evolution, then the return to a common songbook is especially illuminating, both as an exploration of maturity and experimentation, and in the way it reinforces an individual artist’s claim to a particular musical lineage or heritage.

Previously, we took the analytical approach to paired homage from Mark Erelli, Richard Shindell, Amos Lee, Lucy Kaplansky, and Old Crow Medicine Show (Vol. 1), and an all-female cast of Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Red Molly (Vol. 2), as they explored the works of their peers and progenitors. Today, we continue our dig into how songs and songwriters are shaped by song and soundscapes with double-dip coverage from Rickie Lee Jones, Billy Bragg, Evan Dando, and Crooked Still alumni Aoife O’Donovan and Tristan Clarridge.

    Rickie Lee Jones has reinvented herself several times in a long and storied career, with tours through R&B, pop, and jazz standards along the way. But the difference has never been so vast, nor so starkly presented as it is when comparing her covers of sixties folk icon Donovan. Jones’ chipper retro-coustic folkpop take on Sunshine Superman, recorded for the hip mid-nineties television show Party Of Five, bounces with the sheer joy of its reconsidered era; her more recent effort, from the Ben Harper-produced triumph The Devil You Know, a hushed, stripped and solo album we celebrated in our 2012 year’s end review, is haunted, raw, ragged and slow, a broken whisper with timeless fragility.


    Long before Woody Guthrie’s sister and executor tapped him to join up with Wilco for the Grammy-winning Mermaid Avenue project, Billy Bragg was already a workingman’s folksinger, with a canon and craft that owe as much to the pre-revival labor movement folkbranches as they do to the post-punk political songbooks of The Clash and The Smiths (both of whom he’s also covered on studio releases). Though his work with the Guthrie notebooks on the Mermaid Avenue sessions is more posthumous collaboration than an incidence of coverage, Bragg has covered his anti-establishment tribal progenitor several times in the studio. These two tracks, recorded a quarter century apart, are quite representative: almost three decades of production dynamics distinguish the pair, and Bragg’s weariness seems to have become a driver of rhythm in the intervening years, but the bare-bones approach common to both songs, and the political nature of each, reveal nothing so much as how true Bragg’s colors really run.


    We made a case for the folkier side of Evan Dando way back in 2008; Dando’s path from Boston grunge to stripped down singer-songwriter perfectly parallels my own shift in sensibility as I approached middle age, so we’re especially fond of his work in any form. Rather than representing the artist at his heroin-folk best, or, contrariwise, with the fuzzy electrified underground tones of his beloved Lemonheads, these two Gram Parsons covers show a versatile middle ground, with gritty overtones of Americana and California Country Rock that befit the songs’ genre origins. (As a bonus triple-dip, Dando’s 1998 bootleg recording of Parsons’ Streets of Baltimore is quite good, too, if more raw and tender than the two presented here.)


    I’ve got Aoife O’Donovan on the brain this week, thanks to an upcoming set on Friday, August 1st at the best little folk festival in the American Northeast; I’ve never seen her live in solo mode, but like so many others, I’ve been in love with that gorgeous voice for years. Aoife O’Donovan’s cover of Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones is a sweet bootleg piano ballad from her school days, originally released on MySpace, but it’s a great early showpiece for her particular talent, with hints of all the power that she would refine and reveal in her decade with Crooked Still; American Tune, from Crooked Still’s 2011 swansong EP Friends of Fall, shows the rich fruits of her journey: nuanced, etherial, and free, with mastery in spades.


    As a bonus, since technically, it’s not his own voice, but the instrument that most closely approximates the male voice, which he brings to the table: Though founders and frontpersons Aoife O’Donovan and Greg Liszt generally get the lion’s share of recognition for their seminal work with Crooked Still, cellist Tristan Clarridge, who was with the band for several years before they declared an official hiatus in 2011, has arranged and covered The Beatles songbook twice over, too: on that same Friends of Fall album, and with his neo-traditional string-and-dulcimer trio The Bee Eaters, who recorded this slow-burning gem on their 2009 self-titled album.



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Comment » | Allison Krauss, Aoife O'Donovan, Billy Bragg, Crooked Still, Double Dippers, Evan Dando, Rickie Lee Jones

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest 2014 (July 31-Aug 3)
with Aoife O’Donovan, Roosevelt Dime, Darlingside, The Duhks & more!

July 3rd, 2014 — 4:42pm


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This year marks our twentieth consecutive year at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and although we go as much for the community as the music these days, it is a sign of the festival’s continued success in presenting a stellar, diverse line-up that even as my wife works on airing out the camper, I find myself eagerly compiling a list of don’t-miss acts – and finding plenty of fodder for it.

We’ve said so much about this festival in past years; in some ways, it seems redundant to begin again for a seventh time. As I noted last year, “Falcon Ridge…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,” with a perfect mix of familiar folk festival standbys, famous guests, and “great new acts from the expanding indie-traditional genre space to complement the familiar faces, and honor the vibrancy of modern folk.”

But every year is something special at Falcon Ridge, and this year promises to be a gold mine. Today, then, a short set of updates from some past favorites coming to Dodd’s Farm for summer 2014; if we’ve done our job well, you’ll be itching to join us in the fields on Hillsdale, NY the first weekend in August to see these don’t-miss artists plus John Gorka, Cheryl Wheeler, Christine Lavin, Brother Sun, Spuyten Duyvil, Tom Paxton, The Boxcar Lillies, Connor Garvey, Tracey Grammer and more.



We tracked Crooked Still carefully throughout the long life of this blog, and noted their move towards solo and other projects recently as this 2011 feature on the band’s first decade – but bookmarking such gems as the utterly beautiful 2011 solo take on a Richard Thompson classic below left an ache for founder, bandleader, and driving force Aoife O’Donovan, and we’re thrilled to find her on the performer’s list.

Indeed, even as her sweet, airy voice finds itself in collaboration with the likes of Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, Kate Rusby, Elizabeth Mitchell, Sam Amidon, and other favorite artists over the past few years, I’ve been dying to see Aoife live and solo, and probably longer than most; her long-awaited debut album Fossils, which dropped this past year, has been duly feted as a tour de force, but we’ve been fans of that breathy voice since our inception. If her appearance on Prairie Home Companion back in January is any indication, this it-girl of the neo-traditional movement is going to be the belle of the fest; I’ll see you in the front row.

    Aoife O’Donovan: The Lakes Of Ponchartrain (trad.)


    Aoife O’Donovan: Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (orig. Richard Thompson)




We fell in love with Roosevelt Dime‘s acoustic jug band steamboat soul way back in 2009, thanks to a beautiful Americana-style single-shot Radiohead cover on their debut album Crooked Roots. Since then, we’ve followed their progress closely, and become close; we were thrilled to host the band overnight for a campsite jam last summer on site at Falcon Ridge, and honored to have the chance to present the very first public performance for Goodnight Moonshine, string-player and singer Eben Pariser’s side project with Red Molly member Molly Ventner.

The new year brings some changes to Roosevelt Dime – a slight shift in line-up, a featured Most Wanted set at the upcoming Falcon Ridge Folk Festival after winning last year’s Emerging Artist Showcase, and a fuller, more polished sound courtesy of Full Head of Steam, a jazzy, toe-tapping March release that sticks in the feet and the ears. Boston area folks interested in a week-before-the-fest teaser should snag tickets now for the band’s Club Passim show July 25th in support of Full Head of Steam; attendees will receive a free copy of the album, which is a serious bonus. Three traditional tracks from the album bring the funk for now.




Like Roosevelt Dime, Darlingside will be all over Falcon Ridge this year; Most Wanted artists are scheduled for multiple song workshops in collaboration with other artists; some of the very best collaborations I have ever seen take place at the open-air workshop tent. Regular readers may remember that this band wowed us at the Lounge Stage, the all-day Thursday artist-run festival-within-a-festival that Falcon Ridge has taken under its wing, with an amazing acoustic take on Smashing Pumpkins hit 1979; since then, their recent cover of Joni Mitchell-slash-CSNY Woodstock, with local darling Heather Maloney, made the New York Times, bringing fame and hopefully some modicum of momentum to the eclectic folkpop band.

Of course, Darlingside has been around for a while yet, and as with many new favorites, a dig into the archives can be fruitful, indeed. I found this older video cover searching for coverage from this year’s emerging artists; Caitlin Canty, who also tours with Jefferey Foucault and will be one of the 20 acts in this year’s Friday afternoon showcase, is the real deal.

    Darlingside ft. Caitlin Canty: Volcano (orig. Damien Rice)


    Darlingside ft. Heather Maloney: Woodstock (orig. Joni Mitchell)


    Darlingside: 1979 (orig. Smashing Pumpkins)




Wherever psychedelic jamband meets mythological folk rock, The Grand Slambovians (aka The Slambovian Circus of Dreams) hold sway, and for good reason: their late night Falcon Ridge mainstage sets are the world’s best summer party under the stars; their dance tent sets are legendary roof-raisers, their at-bats under the summer sun each year at the Beatles cover workshop are always a sing-along treat; their 2007 cover of Peace Train with Dar Williams and John Gorka remains one of our favorite Falcon Ridge moments. The music video for crowd favorite Alice in Space they made on-site last year, released this March to much fanfare, offers a glimpse into the madness; if you look closely, you can catch me in the crowd shots, bouncing around with abandon. This gentle, languid electro-folk Leonard Cohen cover comes from the same set, but even their tender side is part of the ride: don’t bother bringing a chair to your own trip to Slambovia – just a glowstick suit, plenty of water, and all the energy you can muster.

    The Grand Slambovians: Suzanne (orig. Leonard Cohen)




I actually blogged about The Duhks before this blog was born, listing their cover of Tracy Chapman’s Mountains of Things as one of my favorite songs of 2006 here in the waning days of the prep school existence, and returning for a comprehensive look at their first half decade in a 2008 feature (The Duhks cover Sting, Tracey Chapman, Gillian Welch et. al). Now, several line-up changes and 13 years since their inception, the eclectic acadian-creole folkrock collective from Winnipeg emerges from a two-year recording hiatus still at the top of their game, hitting “the Ridge” on the strength of a crisp, bright, and totally rockin’ new album produced by CLD faves Mike & Ruthy, with title cut and a traditional number below. Bring on the joyful noise.


    The Duhks: Mountains of Things (orig. Tracy Chapman)




Ready to join us August 1-3 at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival? Head over to their website for more, including tickets, a complete line-up, vendor list and site map!

4 comments » | (Re)Covered, Aoife O'Donovan, Darlingside, Festival Coverfolk, Roosevelt Dime, The Duhks

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