Category: The Sea The Sea

The Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos (2017)
Living room covers, live cuts, in-studio sessions & more!

January 1st, 2018 — 5:29pm


By its very nature, the cover celebrates iteration over song. And our Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos collection was originally envisioned as a way to acknowledge that, by celebrating in their “native medium” those performances which truly lose something essential when what we see is separated out from what we hear – an approach which favors live and in-studio performances over produced videographic content, and generally eschews the promotional post-recording “music video”.

How we celebrate this specific source and its coverfolk has come in and out of fashion here at Cover Lay Down, growing from a single category in our Year’s Best Coverfolk Albums features as recently as 2013 to a two-parter, with separate features for our top Coverfolk Video Singles and The best cover sessions, sets, and series, in 2015. This year, any attempt to commodify just “the native ones” is further complicated by the facts that a) we’re much later than usual, and b) despite previous-year concern that stripping the visuals from these multimedia texts potentially undermines their in-the-moment intent, we did it several times this year, most often in service to themed features where the startling-yet-intimate eye-candy atmosphere of a video might interrupt or even overwhelm the tonal focus of the writing itself.

In turn, although we tried to stick to those which stood on their own as audio-only, our trend towards flattening videos into Mp3s seems driven by a prioritization of the personal over the critical here on the blog as life grows ever more complicated, and what was once a twice weekly behemoth has become a less frequent but – we hope – in many ways a more deep ethnographic exploration of the ways in which the folkways influences both artists, and us. But this, too, is not so much a problem as an artifact of what we do, exactly: to live as a coverblogger is, after all, to embody the give-and-take ownership between artist and listener, both on a mass scale and on a very personal one.

Call it an artifact of context over convenience, then. Although a few performances we originally discovered on video (including great cuts from YouTube-to-TV stars Holly Henry and Janet Devlin, frequent-flyer and indie-slash-electrofolk genre-crosser Nataly Dawn, a lovely series of 10 covers of Canadian artists presented in honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary by Bailey Pelkman, and a wonderful Outkast cover from vocal popgroup Pentatonix’ departed bass-man, all of whom will appear in our Best Singles Mix) do in the end stand up just fine as audio-only cuts, we still believe that, in the ideal sense, the very design of at least some subsection of the vast array of ‘tube-sourced recordings that populate the sharing sites beg to be experienced in their native medium. For now, anyway, and for this year.

And so – while we finish curating our Best Coverfolk Singles Mixtape of 2017 (which we intend to release soon!), and wait for the last guests to wake up, eat breakfast, and depart from for our annual early-bird New Years party – Cover Lay Down proudly presents our very subjective favorite videographic performances of 2017, an amalgamated mix of 13 favorite singles and coverset selections. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

The Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos, 2017

Kina Grannis: When You Come Back Down (orig. Nickel Creek)

Kina Grannis is welcome and well-celebrated here on Cover Lay Down; she was one of the very first YouTube stars, and one of our first YouTube discoveries. But Grannis has been on fire this year, releasing a mix of sparklingly well-produced single-shot video covers that trend towards the polar ends of coverage, the undone and the redone: this year’s gems include stripped-down recasts of rap and pop tracks such as Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, Jimmy Eat World’s In The Middle, and Khalid’s Young Dumb & Broke, and softer folk and indie sources such as Bob Dylan (Blowin’ In The Wind), Etta James (At Last), and Sting (Fields of Gold), which, although closer in tenderness to the originals, nonetheless leave us breathless. Here, in her final cover of the year, she takes on our favorite Nickel Creek song, joyfully and with eyes half-closed, as always – and we’re glad, indeed, that she knows it, and has the chops to do it so well.

Passenger: A Change Is Gonna Come (orig. Sam Cooke)

The thirteen coversongs that comprised Passenger‘s Sunday Night Sessions – a set of video occasionals, with takes on Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Tracy Chapman, Bill Withers, Don McLean, Joy Division and more, recorded and filmed on location as the artist and his band toured the world – comprise a would-be hands-down favorite this year in our annual look at the single-artist cover series. The songs have since been recast and released as a ten-track streaming-only covers album, and it was mighty tempting, indeed, to include the album in our Best Coverfolk Albums rundown earlier this week – but the site-specific energy of these covers are so potent an addition to their musicality, in the end, we saved them for fuller feature here.

Tallest Man On Earth: Both Sides Now (orig. Joni Mitchell)

The Light in Demos is a pensive and deeply personal acoustic video project after our own heart, produced, written, directed, recorded, shot and edited entirely by Swedish artist Saras Per Kristian Matsson, also known as The Tallest Man on Earth. Eight songs in, the set includes six reworked and unfinished originals which bring new life and resonance to the growing search and songbook of one of our favorite musical explorers, and two covers: A Nick Drake familiarity, and this, “the best song in the world”, performed barefoot and with ringing reverb that brings a layer of stillness and eternity to both song and setting.

Twisted Pine: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (orig. The Beatles)

Announced just last week as recipients of one of Club Passim’s newest Iguana Music Fund grant recipients, Boston-based production-house Red Line Roots’ Old Spruce Sessions are recorded largely in found spaces, in off-stage moments borrowed from touring artists. Unlike their previously-celebrated Locals Cover Locals collections, a Bandcamp-sourced product chock full of predominantly singer-songwriter and small folk duo-and-trio performances, their video series is heavy on the earthy and organic, chock full of bluegrass and old-timey stuff; lo-fi delights worth celebration include a multitude of up-and-coming artists’ originals, Billy Strings’ backstage take on Cocaine Blues, and two Beatles covers: a gentle take on Norwegian Wood filmed in the attic of a rural Vermont town hall, and this tense, terrific wonder from deconstructed bluegrass quartet Twisted Pine, recorded in the fields of this year’s Green River Festival.

Darlingside: 1979 (orig. Smashing Pumpkins)

We’ve shared versions of this cover before. And we’ve loved video of it, too, such as this 2015 Kitchen Sessions performance, which arguably maintains a bit more in-the-moment fast-paced energy. But this one is balanced and pristine – the perfect, grungy-yet-polished final cut we’ve been waiting for since we first heard Darlingside’s arrangement of this Smashing Pumpkins tune raw and barely rehearsed in the fields of Falcon Ridge, where we first discovered the band, perhaps the perfect ambassadors for what well may be the newest branch of folk. Subscribe to Under The Apple Tree for more strong video coverage, too, including a potent full-band posthumous cover of Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ from Robert Vincent, a slow and gorgeous three-part harmony take on Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and a beautiful live take on Dire Straits tune Brothers In Arms from Xander & the Peace Pirates which almost, almost, took the place of the above.

Walk Off The Earth: Shape Of You (orig. Ed Sheeran)

Though they’re more an acoustic rock band than a folk act, the cheerful, playful work of Hawaiian video project Walk Off The Earth, whose work is almost always designed to be seen as much as heard, has thrilled us before – see, for example, their lovely cardboard video for Malvina Reynolds song Little Boxes, which we raved about five years ago, and last year’s sunny version of The Chainsmokers’ Closer. This year, tightly choreographed, highly percussive and energetic performances continued to be the norm, and along with a campfire tribute to Tom Petty, this Ed Sheeran earworm is one of their best. With over twelve million views on YouTube already, you’ve probably heard it before – but it’s catchy, gleeful, and worth hearing again.

Katie Ferrara: Tangerine (orig. Led Zeppelin)

We featured LA busker and bar-singer Katie Ferrara back in July, celebrating her “convertible-top-down folk-pop powerhouse” EP with “a well-produced, subtly sensational, and eminently summery doozy of a Creedence cover” that matched in-studio recording shots with dreamy images and video from a recent flight from Miami. But there’s something lovely and intimate about Ferrara’s new Lemon Cat cover sessions, appropriately filmed against a yellow background, and all from December. Click through for more, including an electric take on Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low, and – as if to justify our late entry into the universe of 2017 – her sultry version of Aerosmith’s Crazy.

Jeffrey Foucault: Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (orig. Bob Dylan)

Like a few others on this year’s Best Videos list, we shared this cut first via our Facebook page – in this case, way back in February, along with another of Jeffrey Foucault’s political covers, originally by Danny O’Keefe by way of Chris Smither, which seems to exist only on the etherial social space, and thus confounds our ability to embed it here. But these stark, faceless, sepia-toned videos from the current champion of dustbowl despair ache with angst and anger, offering perfect settings for the songs themselves. They still haunt us, and they should.

Mark Broussard: Sweet Baby James (orig. James Taylor)

A slow-release February-into-March mostly-covers session with his father Ted playing alongside him converted us, instantly, into fans of the soulful Marc Broussard – and sent us scrambling to collect the entire set, including their takes on Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Loggins and Messina classic House at Pooh Corner, and a slam-dunk version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow dedicated to a very special lost soul. Simple yet nuanced, this bluesfolk is bare and bare-bones, as it should be….and should Broussard decide, after all, to record a for-charity children’s lullaby album, we’ll be one of the first in line to help push it into the world.

Rus Reppert: Fly Like An Eagle (orig. Steve Miller)

It’s dark, and cavernous – like the deserted warehouse in which it was filmed – and maybe that’s the point. And it’s a loop cover – which, for the uninitiated, means it’s built live from the ground up, just one man and a solo guitar, and a set of pedals to control it all. For all these reasons and more, this December-filmed, February-released Steve Miller cover from West Virginia songwriter Rus Reppert absolutely, positively belongs here on our Best Videos collection; strip the visuals, and you’d lose both the darkness and the intimate immediacy of it all. Follow the threads, too, to Candyrat Records, which is chock full of utterly stunning live acoustic fingerstyle covers and originals, most without lyrics.

Upstate Rubdown: I’m Looking Through You (orig. The Beatles)

We made some wonderful new discoveries and a host of great memories at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival this year, but it was hard not to love Upstate Rubdown, a down-to-earth all-acoustic “big band” from New York’s Hudson Valley region whose music fuses folk, roots, funk, swing, and more, and every performance is a party and a half. We named this video one of our Year’s Best the moment we found it, and we don’t regret the early call one bit.

I’m With Her: Send My Love (To Your New Lover) (orig. Adele)

This bass-and-vox cover from indiefolk supergroup I’m With Her, recorded live on their American Acoustic tour over the summer, was released “on all streaming/downloading apps” as a benefit recording for Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based nonprofit that heals, empowers and employs survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. Switch out the video, though, and you’d miss both the intimacy of the performance, and the way the high, stark contrast of black dresses and blond wood stage reflects this every-note-counts homage to Adele.

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

A transformed Dylan tune filmed and recorded live mid-year by way of introduction to old friends (and now married couple) Chuck and Mira’s newly expanded foursome, still playing under the The Sea, The Sea moniker. A tight, controlled percussive sound and lush vocals that nonetheless retain the careful and sparse arrangements typical of their performance. After this fishbowl fantasy – and a lovely tree-side Concert Window session of holiday songs and carols that filled our own living room the night we brought our own tree home – we’re looking to have them back to our Unity House Series as soon as we can find a date.

Always ad-free and artist-centric, Cover Lay Down has been digging deep at the ethnographic intersection of folkways and coversong since 2007 thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, like, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive.

And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, and want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and a special blogger-curated gift mixtape of well-loved but otherwise unshared covers from 2016-2017, including exclusive live covers from our very own Unity House Concert series.

Comment » | Aoife O'Donovan, Best of 2017, Darlingside, Ed Sheeran, James Taylor, Jeffrey Foucault, Kina Grannis, Passenger, The Sea The Sea, YouTube

(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

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