Category: Festival Coverfolk


Festival Coverfolk, Redux:
Emerging Artists at Falcon Ridge Folk Fest (August 1-4, 2013)

July 5th, 2013 — 7:05pm





Two consecutive features on the same festival might seem like overkill under ordinary circumstances. But Falcon Ridge Folk Festival released their alphabetized list of Emerging Artists just after we shared our previous feature, and I’m utterly floored by the amount of talent and craftsmanship included therein. Today, then, we come back to the Hillsdale, NY fields to share a few samples from the ranks of the up-and-coming. Enjoy!

The Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge is quite well-respected in the music world: it’s quite competitive, and for fans, it’s a great way to test out new acts on the rise. But there’s something special about this year’s roster. For the first time, it features both a number of artists who have been on my “must see” list for a while, and several whom we’ve featured here before, including country-folk artist turned singer-songwriter Amy Black, “roots and branches” stringband Annalivia, Tall Heights, a duo from the Boston area who have shown up on my YouTube radar several times, and urban newgrass quintet Roosevelt Dime, who we first championed way back in 2008.

Other artists on this year’s list are relatively new to me, though many come highly recommended. New find Darlingside, for example, a “string rock quartet”, promises a heady sound, with layered indiefolk harmonies and instruments from cello to mandolin over the beat. Irreverent folk reinventors Bobtown sport an eclectic folk band energy with influences that range from punkgrass to funky gospel and folkpop. Young progressive bluegrass quintet Cricket Tell The Weather are featured at a number of trusted festivals this summer, and have played with Rushad Eggleston, co-founder of Crooked Still, which is itself a strong recommendation.

And although trends in the past few years have resulted in a group that skews heavily away from solo artists, a number of strong solo singer-songwriters appear on the list, from 2013 New Folk Finalist Bethel Steele to excellently impish local heroine Carrie Ferguson, from dark and raw-voiced New Jersey caller Jonah Tolchin to Maine-based acoustic coffeehouse rising star Connor Garvey, from NYC folkpopper Rachael Sage to midwestern folkrocker Jacob Latham. I’m especially happy to have discovered Amanda Pearcey, a great choice for the folkpop set, in researching this second-round feature: her new album, streamed in full below her homepage, featuring a voice reminiscent of Ani DiFranco, and a slow burn of a Rolling Stones cover.

I’ll stop there, lest I end up leaving someone out. But by definition, each of the 24 who has made it to the showcase bears serious consideration. Here’s the total list, in alphabetical order; if you’re up on your own local scene, and live in the continental US, odds are good you might recognize a few names yourself.

Amanda Pearcy (Austin, TX)
Amy Black (Somerville, MA)
Annalivia (Boston, MA)
Bethel Steele (Boston, MA)
Bobtown (NYC)
Brad Yoder Duo (Pittsburgh, PA)
Carrie Ferguson (Northhampton, MA)
Connor Garvey (Portland, ME)
Cricket Tell the Weather (New Haven, CT)
Darlingside (Boston, MA)
Doug Allen (Stamford, CT)
Doug Kwartler (Boston, MA)
Jacob Latham (Bloomington, IN)
Jonah Tolchin (Princeton, NJ)
Martin Swinger (Augusta, ME)
Michael Braunfeld (Philadelphia, PA)
Noble Hunter (Brooklyn, NY)
Phil Henry Acoustic Trio (Rutland, VT)
Rachael Sage (NYC)
Reverend TH McGlinchey (Philadelphia, PA)
Roosevelt Dime (Brooklyn, NY)
Tall Heights (Boston, MA)
The Bones of J.R. Jones (Manilus, NY)
The Boxcar Lilies (Greenfield, MA)

Artists selected for the Emerging Artists Showcase play two songs each on mainstage on Friday between noon and 4:30; the hill is generally well-attended, and if CD sales at the “merch tent” are any indication, most artists pick up more than a few fans. But happily, the showcase isn’t the only chance you’ll have to see your newest music crush. Most artists who play Friday stay on for the weekend to play the campgrounds and vendor booths, in casual stop-as-you-can sessions and at hilltop songcircle “tent venues” run by coffeehouse promoters.

Several of these acts, in fact, including Roosevelt Dime, Darlingside, Bethel Steele, Connor Garvey, and Tall Heights, will appear on Thursday at the Lounge Stage, an unofficial platform run by previous Most Wanted Emerging Artists Pesky J. Nixon and friends, before the official festival stages go online; the roster is being leaked slowly over at the Lounge Stage Facebook page, but I’ve been given a sneak peek, and can attest to the great talent and high level of name-recognition therein. Already-announced performers also include Gathering Time, The Ya Yas, and Honor Finnegan (who toured together last month as the 2013 Falcon Ridge preview tour), crowd favorites Putnam Smith and ilyAIMY, folk duo Goodnight Moonshine (whose live debut last year was hosted by our very own Tree Falls Productions), and party-in-a-folkband Spuyten Duyvil, pictured above in a triumphant if rainy performance on Mainstage a few years ago. Last year, the Lounge Stage attracted over 400 patrons; it’s like having a small festival embedded inside a large one, and you’ll find me there for much of the day.

But I digress – the point here is to get y’all excited enough about the festival itself to make the trip for their 25th anniversary year. So scroll on for a few covers from a small but representative sample of this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists, hit up our earlier entry for mainstage artists galore – and then head over to this Spotify list to hear full albums and more from the emerging crowd.



Cover Lay Down shares new features and coverfolk sets twice weekly thanks to the support of patrons like you. Coming soon: a CD-release party with The Deadly Gentlemen, and more from the overstuffed mailbag!

2 comments » | Festival Coverfolk, New Artists Old Songs

Festival Coverfolk, 2013:
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s 25th Anniversary, August 1-4

June 29th, 2013 — 11:02pm





I think we’ve written about The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival every year since our origin, making this a record-breaking sixth feature article on the same damn festival. But 25 years, two site changes, and one micro-burst tornado since its founding, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 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.

As I’ve noted before, my affection for the fest is deepened by my involvement in its infrastructure: as Crew Chief of Teen Crew, married to the co-chief for Sign Painting, we arrive a full weekend early to work, and watch with awe and wonder as the open fields are transformed slowly into the home we love, and opened to the equally appreciative masses, even as the sight lines shrink. It is our haven, our Jerusalem, after 17 years of consecutive festivaling. We’ve even raised our children there, in ten day intervals in what we half-jokingly refer to as our real homestead.

But it’s not just us, and it’s not just the volunteers who feel the closeness. Outside of our embedded camp with its white picket fence, the festival ebbs and flows with the tides of wanderers and fans. All night, the hills echo with campfire sessions and songwriter swaps. I know there is love in each circle. And those who join the fray come back, to be welcomed with open arms.


As with many festivals, Falcon Ridge has teetered on the edge of uncertainty in recent years. The move to the first weekend in August is both an attempt to avoid the weather that nibbles away at sustainability, and to cancel out any conflict with other neighboring festivals, such as Newport, which might have found favor with an overlapping fan base.

By universal consensus, however, this year’s 25th anniversary celebration pulls out all the stops. Strong past-favorites returning for the anniversary run the gamut, with well-traveled solo singer-songwriters Dar Williams, Ellis Paul, Eliza Gilkyson, Susan Werner, Vance Gilbert, Dan Navarro, and Mary Gauthier coming home to lead off a stunning roster that also includes everpresent psychedelic folkrock bands The Grand Slambovians and The Kennedys, formed-at-Falcon-Ridge trio Red Molly, tradgrass pickers Chester River Runoff, the high-energy sounds of folkband Spuyten Duyvil, and half of long-disbanded fest faves Moxy Fruvous.

And kudos to organizers, who continue to bring in great new acts from the expanding indie-traditional genre space to complement the familiar faces, and honor the vibrancy of modern folk. I’m especially looking forward to hearing Poor Old Shine, an acoustic Americana quintet whose late 2012 live album sports a vibe not unlike that of the Avett Brothers and The Low Anthem combined with The Mammals and The Band, and who earned their place on the mainstage through top audience honors in the 2012 Emerging Artist’s Showcase, alongside equally potent trio The YaYas and the gentle harmonies of Gathering Time. Also high on the don’t miss list: The Stray Birds, a sparse fiddle-and-guitar-led tradfolk trio whose harmonies are sweet and light, and who have garnered no small amount of indie cred in the last year for their newest self-titled album, a timeless, aching piece of work that hasn’t left my CD changer in months, and Roosevelt Dime, who we celebrated here way back in their early days and ours, and who will be playing the entirely festival-independent but always welcome “pop-up” Lounge Stage on Thursday atop 10 Acre Field alongside a stellar all-day pre-fest line-up.

There’s always something to discover at Falcon Ridge, of course. Kids are welcomed with playtents and sun, crafts and all-day musical acts and jugglers; themed and cover sets at the workshop stage promise song-swap intimacy and sing-along choruses. The vendors and musicians are part of the community, and genuinely happy to be there – a rarity at larger festivals, sadly.

Some of my very favorite acts were introduced to me at Falcon Ridge, from Crooked Still to Joe Crookston, from Eddie From Ohio to Moxy Fruvous. Some of my very best friends and companions live there, too. It’s the place we love, and we’d love to have you join us, if you can. And even if you can’t, enjoy this year’s preview mix.



Download the entire 21-track Falcon Ridge 25th Anniversary Preview mix!


As a bonus: a discussion of best Falcon Ridge musical moment on the FRFF Facebook Page reminded me of this collaborative Cat Stevens cover, filmed live from mainstage in 2007. Perhaps we can convince Dar and Gandalf to stage a repeat performance this summer. You won’t know if you don’t go.





1 comment » | Festival Coverfolk

(Re)Covered: New Coverfolk from
Tift Merritt, Shovels & Rope, Jones Street Station & CXCW!

March 24th, 2013 — 9:48am

Though our archives remain in limbo after our recent server troubles, new works and projects from artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down continue to spring forth into the ether and into our ears. Today, we add to the growing canon of delights with news of ongoing and newly-released projects from several yesteryear favorites, starting with an exclusive label-approved stream from Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein’s classical-meets-folk collaboration Night.



The lush, layered take on gospel tune Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from North Carolina-bred/NYC-based singer-songwriter Tift Merritt was one of many standout tracks on last year’s post-Hurricane Sandy benefit album The Storm Is Passing Over, easily strong enough on its own to find its way to our Best Tributes and Compilations Of 2012 feature as an album exemplar. And although I haven’t otherwise said so before, Merritt is a favorite, with a voice that rings of Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris, a wont for lyrical prescience that speaks of loneliness and longing beautifully, and an overarching wisdom and weariness that lay waste to my heart.

But if Merritt’s previous works have been strong Americana, Night, the new collaboration from classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and nearly-legendary recording artist slash public radio host Merritt, is a vast and vindicating tour de force of artist and genre crossover. One third classical exploratives, one third folk-driven originals, one third hybrid coverage from a variety of popular sources, and 100% stunning, Night makes the journey from Wayfaring Stranger to Purcell, Bach, Schubert and Brad Mehldau via Billie Holliday’s Don’t Explain, a set of classical variations on Leonard Cohen, and a Patty Griffin-penned title track deeply personal, truly integrated, and sweetly soaring, giving us a whole and holistic album that collapses boundaries and sticks to the soul. Though it’s hard to pick a favorite track, the folk tunes call to us powerfully; listen below to an exclusive sweet-and-soulful Johnny Nash cover that may well be my favorite track of the year so far, plus a trio of older favorites from Merritt herself, then head over to Soundcloud to hear shortened samples of the rest.

  • Tift Merritt & Simone Dinnerstein: I Can See Clearly Now (orig. Johnny Nash)

    (from Night, 2013)



Up-and-coming Charleston, SC indie/folk/rock pair Shovels and Rope wowed us at the end of last year, too, with a layered, molasses-slow nu-folk take on Elvis Costello via Nick Lowe classic What’s So Funny ’bout Peace Love and Understanding that found feature placement on our Best of 2012 Mixtape. Now comes the good news that the husband-and-wife duo will release a two-track covers single on April 2 as part of Jack White’s Blue Series, continuing a meteoric rise to hipster fame; the single will sport the below sparse yet spry boogie-woogie piano take on Springsteen’s Johnny 99 on one side, and Tom Waits’ Bad As Me on the b-side, and while the result seems to be more jukebox fodder than folk, we’re not complaining one bit. Purchase now, vinyl-philes.


We featured Jones Street Station back in our early months as a blog, when they were merely the Jones Street Boys, describing their debut Overcome, which still finds regular replay in car and living room, as “lo-fi alt-country bluegrass music with a hint of midnight trainsongs and fireside song circles, a dollop of happy roots rock, and the pure infectious joy of making plumb great music.”

But boys become men, and Perennials, the project which is currently occupying their time, is a mature and masterful move towards adulthood for a band just emerging from its formative years. In it, the Brooklyn-based band is writing, recording, and releasing a new song a week for an entire year, with all proceeds going to your choice of twelve featured charities-of-the-month. (This month’s featured organization, for example, is CampInteractive, which “empowers inner-city youth through the inspiration of the outdoors and the creative power of technology”; others include lifesaving GLBQT lifesaver The Trevor Project, women’s support organization Rosie’s Place, volunteer coordinators Evacuteer.org, and music-and-culture non-profits such as The Old Town School of Folk Music and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.)

The scope of the project is matched by its professionalism: these are no mere demos or living room recordings, but fully realized pieces by a collaborative that has been making music together for years, making the value well worth the gift. And with the project months in, and all but the below tradfolk breakdown lush original works in the vein of Wilco or The Civil Wars, a small donation to a worthy cause nets you hours of music to love and cherish.


Finally, our 2012 feature on virtual alterna-fest Couch By Couchwest touted the SXSW alternative as a joyous concept done well, and we’re thrilled to find that this year’s festival, which ended last weekend, was no exception, providing yet another opportunity for an international audience to avoid the elements, skip the lines, and drink their own cheap beer while watching scores of one-song sets in the comfort and/or squalor of their own living rooms.

The now-archived CXCW 2013 features a huge mix of roots, rock, bluegrass, country, Americana, and folk from the usual cross-section of amateur and professional participants; we can’t possibly share them all here, so check out a few favorite coverfolk takes from Steve Messina of Blow Up Hollywood, Irish singer-songwriter Grainne Hunt, Floridian acousti-country quartet Have Gun Will Travel, Sally Morgan of NPR fave tradfolk band The Black Twig Pickers, California girl Melody Walker, and CXCW faves Demolition String Band…and then click on over to check out five pages of cover-tagged videos from American folk icon Gretchen Peters, Kevin Russell of The Gourds, and many more, plus over three hundred original performances from this year’s festival contributors.

    Steve Messina: Bittersweet Symphony (orig. The Verve)


    Grainne Hunt: I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You (orig. Tom Waits)


    Have Gun Will Travel: The Rainbow Connection (orig. The Muppets)


    Demolition String Band: Loving Cup (orig. Rolling Stones)


    Sally Morgan: Your Long Journey (orig. Doc Watson)


    Melody Walker: I’m Only Sleeping (orig. The Beatles)


2 comments » | (Re)Covered, Festival Coverfolk, Jones Street Station, Shovels & Rope, Tift Merritt

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