Category: Pesky J. Nixon


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

(Re)Covered: New Coverage from Old Friends
Roosevelt Dime, Mikaela Davis, Sierra Hull, Pesky J. Nixon and more!

February 5th, 2016 — 2:08pm

Thanks to a spate of collections, singles and deep cuts from a vast variety of folkslingers and roots-diggers, 2016 is gearing up to be a great year for coverage. Today, we delve into the mailbag with news of newly released material from folks featured here before, from the loose, percussive American roots music of four-piece bands Roosevelt Dime and Pesky J. Nixon to the tight string-driven stylings of indiefolk harpist Mikaela Davis, bluegrass prodigy Sierra Hull, and more!

We’ve been touting NYC-based “acoustic steamboat soul” quartet Roosevelt Dime since their very first Radiohead cover, featuring their most recent full-length Full Head Of Steam on the cusp of the 2014 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and noting that we’ve since befriended the boys after hosting them for beer, shade, tent-space and a campsite jam under the hot sun – and we’re still excited to find them continuing to stretch and grow at the intersection of Louisiana Jazz, bluegrass, folk, and old-school rhythm and blues. The raw energy of their new single-shot cover of Tom Petty classic American Girl, which seems to have become the in thing to cover on the banjo circuit, is just lovely, with a funky groove and a wonderful vision of America as old, timeless, and new.


Falcon Ridge favorites Pesky J. Nixon have grown and stretched since we debuted their all-covers Red Ducks album back in 2012, adding Kara Kulpa on mandolin and vocals to their already well-established, infectious, heavily percussive folk rock trio sound, and letting accordion player and keyboardist Jake Bush take a turn on lead vocals here and there alongside guitarist and singer Ethan Scott Baird. The result, as we heard last year on the Falcon Ridge stage as the foursome prepared for newly released second-round covers album Red Ducks, Vol. 2, represents both a rich expansion and a maturation for the Boston-based band, with songs such as album kick-off Let Me Down Easy, a driving, high energy romp from fellow folkscene traveler Raina Rose that plays as well in the studio as it does on stage, and potent, melodic takes on Ryan Adams, Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Gabriel, The Band, and undersung contemporaries John Elliot and Peter Bradley Adams standing out as gems among gems, earning “Red Ducks redux” our highest recommendation.



weighted+mind+sierra+hullLong-time mandolin whiz Sierra Hull is reinventing herself as a singer-songwriter, and it’s a heck of a ride: new album Weighted Mind pulls out all the stops, echoing the transformation of Alison Krauss before her with banjomaster Bela Fleck on board as producer, a star-studded cast of studio greats (including Krauss, Abigail Washburn and Rhiannon Giddens on harmony), and stunning, introspective lyrics that get right to the longing heart. There’s only one cover here (Queen of Hearts, a traditional song which Hull discovered on an old Joan Baez album, which appears here coupled with an original instrumental), but it’s a perfectly representative sample: sweet, sultry, and soaring in performance; honest and harmonic, masterful and mature in arrangement. Here’s a live take of the song recorded last year on Prairie Home Companion to whet your whistle.



We discovered the first two volumes of Boston-based labor-of-love compilation project Locals Covering Locals back in January, just a bit too late to include it in our Best of 2015 features. But right out of the gate, Volume 3 of the series, which dropped just this week, is a strong contender for this year’s best, with an aching, fluid album-closer from Dietrich Strause, gentle new primitivism from local favorite Allysen Callery taking on the Marissa Nadler songbook, and a grungy folkrock take on one of Allysen’s songs by daughter Ava alongside, standing out in another well-mixed set of otherwise new-to-us songs and songwriters.



We first featured harpist Mikaela Davis via a pair of YouTube video covers in our New Artists, Old Songs series way back in our early days, when she was still a local college student. Last week’s re-release of these old favorites and a few more as a 4-song digital covers EP via Bandcamp comes as a wonderful treat for the coverhound, with delightfully precious, surprisingly robust atmospheric takes on The Kinks (David Watts), Sufjan Stevens (Casimir Pulaski Day), Elliott Smith (Twilight), and Cass McCombs (Meet Me Here At Dawn); taken together, the four tracks, originally recorded in and around 2011-2012, showcase a broad indie influence, and serve as apt harbingers of the more nuanced and layered psychedelic folk rock-meets-chamber pop sound that typifies her more recent work as a 23 year old touring pro coming soon to a city near you as she tours both East and West coasts this Spring opening for Marco Benevento.



Finally, in other rerelease news: ubiquitous American primitive revivalist Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who we last heard in January thanks to a strong pseudonymous appearance on last year’s 3-disc tribute to early American folk revivalist Shirley Collins, remains busy heading into the year, releasing a collection of songs originally recorded for John Peel’s BBC radio sessions that includes a potent 1994 cover of Prince song The Cross – a deconstruction of a soaring, spiritual original into something eerie, urgent, and broken that, despite its age, still sounds fresh as a daisy.


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Comment » | (Re)Covered, Mikaela Davis, Pesky J. Nixon, Roosevelt Dime, Sierra Hull

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