Category: Back To The Source


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

Back To The Source, Vol. 1: MOJO Magazine
(32 covers from twelve years of tribute albums)

August 28th, 2016 — 2:59pm


mojocollage


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 and the pop-up microstudios of Dutch field recorder Onder Invloed.

Back To The Source, our newest feature concept, dives deep into these wells, seeking to celebrate and reveal just what makes their waters so prolific and life-sustaining. We kick things off today with a look at MOJO, who in just over a decade has produced dozens of tributes to seminal albums and artists, sealed lovingly in plastic alongside their monthly music magazine; read on for beautiful interpretations of seminal songs from Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, and more, plus more Beatles covers than you could ever imagine.


I love used CD stores, where a quick skim of the liner notes can reveal treasures previously unnoticed or unheard, and rarities abound, from live local radio compilations to label tributes long out of print. And so, a few weekends ago, in a last gasp effort to enjoy the waning days of summer, we found ourselves in Brattleboro, VT, where Turn It Up records has recently relocated to new digs. I begged a few minutes from the end of a great meal, and headed for the stacks.

And there, in the three for five bucks tray, was a treasure trove: someone’s entire collection of Mojo Records CDs.

It was an incomplete set, to be sure – about 5 year’s worth, of a total collection that so far spans a dozen. But I walked away with ten separate tribute albums, most otherwise impossible to find. And after steeping in them for two weeks, it was just too good not to share.

A little history here: Mojo Magazine has included a free CD with almost every issue since late 2004; not all tackle covers, but many do. Two-disc set Beatlemania, which emerged in September of that year, and Cash Covered, released that November, were the first covers compilations to appear as part of a series that yaws wide enough to define the broad tastes of Mojo itself, where punk, soul, pop and indie all have their place in the pantheon, and authenticity is the name of the game.

For the first few years, Mojo’s CDs tended to compile previously recorded material, maybe with a brand new track or two; the joy here was in the collection and organization, which generally trended towards a broad genre spectrum held together marvelously, resulting in a growing cache of eminently listenable long-plays. In more recent years, Mojo has included a number of bespoke CDs in their collection, with songs solicited and recorded exclusively for their projects. Either way, their taste is impeccable: it is these collections, in fact, which have introduced me to The Staves, Neville Skelly, Jeb Loy Nichols, and other up-and-comers, while renewing my love for Woodpigeon, Phosphorescent, Yim Yames, Sam Amidon, Emily Barker, Thea Gilmore, Jim White, and many more artists pushing the envelope beyond easy genre categorization.

In the end, as a collection, the Mojo tribute CDs stand almost unparalleled – a fitting beginning for a new feature series, and a great way to celebrate the magazine and its tastemakers as they continue their search for the source in the songscape. Read on for our favorite, folkiest tracks from a close-to-complete chronology of cover albums, from that Beatlemania set to Blonde on Blonde Revisited, last month’s delight of a Dylan tribute.


Mojo Magazine’s Best Covers (2004-2016)
A Cover Lay Down Mix
[zip!]



Always artist-friendly and ad-free, Cover Lay Down has been covering the changing landscape of music since 2007 thanks to the continued efforts of sources like Mojo…and the kindness of readers like you. Donate today to help us keep the servers spinning, and receive our undying thanks, PLUS a mixtape of otherwise unblogged rarities!

1 comment » | Back To The Source, Mixtapes, The Beatles, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Signature Sounds: A Local Label Turns 20 in Style
(with new cover albums and a Chris Smither tribute!)

November 22nd, 2014 — 2:05pm



Cofounder Jim Olsen outside label Signature Sounds in Northampton, MA


After two decades as a go-to source for some of our favorite singer-songwriters, local label Signature Sounds has earned our respect and gratitude a hundred times over even as their catalog of folk, roots, Americana and acoustic indie soulpop has come to the national scene. First conceived as an extension of the Signature Sounds recording studio established by Mark Thayer in the mid-eighties, the label, which released its first album – a holiday sampler – in 1984, also runs our new favorite folk venue (The Parlor Room, a delightfully intimate venue in Northampton where one can browse and purchase from the entire Signature Sounds catalog) and sponsors one of our very favorite roots festivals (the Green River festival, where I first discovered Jeffrey Foucault, Mark Erelli, Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch, and Erin McKeown): all just icing on the anniversary cake, a marker of their homegrown expansion and a harbinger of more to come.

Today, in praise and homage to Signature Sounds and the artists it has introduced and promoted on ever-expanding roster, we swing through a set of 2014 cover and tribute releases from the label, and add a bonus set of favorite tracks from cover albums and tributes released over 20 years in the business. Read on for samples and sentiment, and then, if you’re in the area, stop by to browse the amazing local arts scene at The Parlor Room Makers Market today and tomorrow and pick up 20% off tickets to next weekend’s birthday celebration at the Academy of Music: 4 star-studded concerts over 3 nights with Lake Street Dive, Miss Tess and the Talkbacks, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, Chris Smither, Redbird, Mark Erelli, Eilen Jewell, Winterpills, Heather Maloney, and a Crooked Still reunion – all artists featured here on these virtual pages more than once, for good reason.



Since we last wrote about them in a February (Re)Covered post, footstomping fivesome Poor Old Shine has changed their name to Parsonsfield, joined the Signature Sounds roster, and focused their approach in ways that only improve on an already exquisite neotraditional sound. Their newest EP is a playful, eclectic grab-bag of holler and harmonies, with previously YouTubed covers of old tradfolk and Huey Lewis hit The Power Of Love, a lone original (playful romp Anita Loving), and a set of newer studio recordings of tunes from the American school that bring the field to your foyer.




Link Of Chain: A Songwriter’ Tribute to Chris Smither is as much a homage to the Signature Sounds roster and its fans in the music industry as it honors the elder statesman of Northeastern American folk blues, who turned 70 last week. In the hands of Mark Erelli, Jeffrey Foucault, Tim O’Brien, Aoife O’Donovan and other familiar names on the circuit, Smithers’ songs get a masterful treatment with few low points and little sameness, offering apt survey of the label’s sound and cache all at once. Highly recommended tracks include Dave Alvin’s restrained album-opener, a typically smoky, jazz-beautiful version of Waiting On A Train from Patty Larkin, and Mary Gauthier’s chilling take on Smither standard I Feel The Same – a far cry from the funky wah wah pedal swamp blues that Bonnie Raitt used to make the song famous.




Miss Tess and the Talkbacks isn’t folk; Signature Sounds is on an electrified soulpop kick these days, thanks to the success of labelmates Lake Street Dive, whose 2014 Halloween Youtube cover of Love Shack is a poolside screamer not to be missed. But Tess’ late-2013 covers EP The Love I Have For You, which we missed last year, has a rockabilly sentiment and a country core, calling to the rootsy origins even as it frames itself squarely in modern traditions of reinvention and acoustic soul.




Winterpills aren’t folk, either, but the approach to sound on this relatively intimate new duo album hits the mark, as does the concept: totally transformed in an electronic haze by founding bandmembers Flora Reed and Philip Price while their bandmates were busy, lesser-known tracks from the alternative world and beyond specifically chosen for their potential for reinvention shimmer and strain against their original settings. The resulting album is beautiful, with songs sparse and torn, yet equally untethered and etherial.




The Sacred Shakers are a collaborative of Boston musicians, nominally led by country folk artist Eilen Jewell, whose shared love of old-time, country and blues-influenced gospel music lends itself to barn-busting performances. Discovered by Signature Sounds founder and all-around great guy Jim Olsen before they had recorded a lick, their 2014 live album on the label is like a No Depression record played on 45: upbeat, high-energy, spiritually joyful, and eminently danceable.




Signature Sounds has produced some amazing albums over the years; many of their cover and tribute albums are staples of our Cover Lay Down archival stacks. As promised, then: today’s bonus set features a treasure trove sampler from a highly recommended all-covers subsection of one of the best independent catalogs in the modern world. Click through to purchase albums direct from the source, the better to keep Signature Sounds going strong in the decades to come.

    20 Years of Coverage:
    More Cover Albums and Tributes from Signature Sounds






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1 comment » | Back To The Source, Chris Smither, Parsonsfield, Peter Mulvey, Tributes and Cover Compilations, Winterpills

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