Category: House Concerts

Unity House Concerts Presents: Matt Nakoa
(November 21 @ The UU Society of Greater Springfield)

November 9th, 2015 — 8:00pm


Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield. Concerts are held in our wooded sanctuary, and feature a combination of well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

Our 2015-2016 series features a diverse set of artists, including past shows with The Sea The Sea (September) and Mary Lou Lord (October), upcoming shows with Mike + Ruthy (December) and Joe Jencks (March), and our next offering, on November 21st, with young singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa, a Berklee-trained artist with a soaring, soulful folkpop voice sure to leave you breathless.

Matt NakoaDiscovering Matt Nakoa is like discovering air. A stunningly talented musician eminently comfortable in his skin, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter is so engaging in live performance that we stopped him the moment he walked off the Lounge Stage at this summer’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest to ask him to play our concert series – and subsequently went on to catch him six more times during the same weekend.

What’s the big deal here? For starters, Nakoa rocks, sometimes quite literally. His vocal turn on an impromptu Led Zeppelin set this summer alongside psychedelic folkrock wizards The Grand Slambovians, shared in last week’s omnibus (Re)Covered feature, rivaled the original. And, as you’ll see and hear below, his work with The Brit Pack – “the most epic semi-fictitious brit-rock cover band ever” – is searing, and the covers of Radiohead and Roxanne that he has recorded with them are spot on interpretations, transcending the facility and force of their adaptation.

But don’t let his willingness to tread the harder edge fool you. Nakoa’s trio work with fellow folk travelers Brad Cole and Robinson Treacher is catchy and percussive, bright and sunny enough to get a crowd on its feet. And, as seen in the several tender in-studio covers below from Fox Run Studios, Matt Nakoa’s got an ear for high harmony that is truly out of this world.

In sum, Matt Nakoa is a musical adept, one of those well kept secrets you just can’t help but celebrate: intimate and genuine, one of those rare performers who can simultaneously bare his soul and welcome you inside. His growing songbook is rich with metaphor and poetry, sung in praise to a complicated, emotionally present world that envelops the listener, even as his coverage runs towards the beautiful and the lighthearted. The result – on keys or guitar, in acoustic mode or full production – is an emergent body of work that is sweet and soulful, playful yet wise, with a mature depth of observational lyric and an incredible emotional range that runs from soaring to bittersweet.

Nakoa has performed in the White House and India, and is currently opening for Tom Rush on tour; we’re lucky, indeed, to have found and booked him before he gets too big for the coffeehouse circuit. Check out the videos below, dig deep into his albums at his website, then catch Matt Nakoa at a venue near you.

Matt Nakoa: Tainted Love (orig. Soft Cell)

Matt Nakoa, Jared Salvatore, and Eric Schwartz: Dancing In The Dark (orig. Bruce Springsteen)

Matt Nakoa and Eric Schwartz: I’m Only Sleeping (orig. The Beatles)

Matt Nakoa: Arise, Arise (orig. Jean Rohe)

Matt Nakoa and The Brit Pack: Roxanne (orig. The Police)

Matt Nakoa and The Brit Pack: Just (orig. Radiohead)

Matt Nakoa: Moondance/Fever (orig. Van Morrison/Peggy Lee)

Non-profit and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down posts regular features on artists and songwriters as part of its continuing mission to ply the experience of coverage as a comfortable space for discovery. As always, we encourage you to follow the links above to hear more from and about the artists we feature, the better to support and sustain the arts, the artists, and the folkways.

And, if you live within driving distance of Springfield, Massachusetts – just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hartford, Northampton, Worcester and the Berkshires – join us November 21 for a very special evening with Matt Nakoa…and then book now for our December 4 show with Americana roots duo Mike + Ruthy, who we previously hosted in our intimate carriage house concert series back in the Spring of 2013. No reservations necessary; Facebook confirmations greatly appreciated.

Comment » | House Concerts, Matt Nakoa

Mary Lou Lord @ Unity House Concerts
(October 24 @ The UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA)

October 24th, 2015 — 10:19am

A repost of a repost as we slowly regain our footing here at Cover Lay Down after a year of stress and strain – including a comprehensive crash of all musical archives, continued family illnesses, floods, fleas, and mold issues in our home, and a growing workload that exemplifies the current cultural disaster that is the teaching profession under siege.

Yes, it’s been a ridiculously challenging time, and we’re not back for good just yet – but having just inherited both a wonderful UU coffeehouse series and a new computer to blog about it, I can’t help but offer an 11th hour celebration of Mary Lou Lord, an artist near and dear to our hearts, who plays TONIGHT at Unity House Concerts alongside her daughter Annabelle Lord-Patey, whose career appears to be starting with a slow and delicate burn sure to give her claim to fame in her own good time. Stay tuned for more, albeit slowly, as we rebuild our archives, and for more Unity House news as we present Matt Nakoa November 21 and Mike + Ruthy December 4…and enjoy the love below in the meantime.

When we last checked in on Mary Lou Lord, she seemed to be on permanent hiatus following a 2005 diagnosis with a rare vocal cord affliction, though an appearance at SXSW the following year suggested she was still open to possibility. But the pixie-faced singer-songwriter who rose from the subways of Boston to indiegrunge fame through a combination of raw talent and close relationships with both Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith has been on the move lately, co-founding Girls Rock Camp in Boston, embarking on a new kickstarter-driven album, hosting open mics, and playing alongside her talented teenaged daughter Annabelle in a recent live tribute to Elliott Smith alongside Rhett Miller, Chris Thile, Bob Dorough, and others that was featured in The New Yorker.

More generally, Lord’s Facebook feed is a daily dose of awesome, a delightful combination of raw human observation and the loving curation and celebration of a number of amazing musical legacies both past and present, from Joni Mitchell and Smith himself to mutual faves Elizabeth Mitchell, Haley Bonar, Teddy Thompson, and First Aid Kit. Though she is still recovering from a serious fall off a fire escape last month, that didn’t stop her from making major news in Stereogum after an “epic” Facebook response to Courtney Love’s terrible rendition of Big Star hit Thirteen wandered into a more general response to Love’s tendency to claim in public interviews that Lord snuck onto Kurt and Courtney’s porch to kill their cat – a thoughtful, emotional, coherent use of social media that only cemented our faith in the woman’s resilience, and made Courtney seem even more insane, as if such thing were possible.

As Lord noted at her recent live performance, she doesn’t perform much anymore, and a small but growing set of Soundcloud covers, including takes on Jason Molina, Dylan, and Richard Thompson, reveal an artist still struggling to vocalize, though the resulting strain has a rare intimacy, and reveals charm of its own. But if this is a comeback, we’re all for it. Read our original feature, check out our newly-expanded list of covers – including a stunning Lucinda Williams take from her newest album – and follow Mary Lou Lord on Facebook to keep up with the resurrecting career of a well-deserving superstar.

February, 2008

As far as I can tell, the only major distinction between modern folk and a certain sort of indie music seems to be how the artists choose to produce and use instruments on their songs. And though you won’t find this sort of fuzzed-out guitar on the other folkblogs, the way the modern singer-songwriter mentality seems to find voice in both indierock and folk fascinates me.

But production isn’t what makes folk, and even if it were, the distinction is often fluid. The small but growing cadre of indie artists who perform in both folk and alt-rock modes owe no small debt to a select group of artists — Evan Dando, Lou Barlow, Tanya Donelly, Jeff Tweedy, Ben Gibbard and others — who have, over the years, moved easily across the bridge between the two forms. But these artists, in turn, owe the very existence of that bridge to other, lesser-known forerunners, like Elliott Smith and Daniel Johnston, who spent their entire careers building the bridge for them to cross.

As part of our ongoing exploration of this curious relationship, today we feature one underappreciated artist who is more often found among the indierock, but who has claimed folk credibility from the start: Mary Lou Lord, folksinger and cover artist.

I was a high school student in Boston during Mary Lou Lord’s busker days, and not an apt or diligent pupil; I often skipped class to head off down the T into Harvard Square with friends. Given our relative age, then, and her own preference for playing along the Red Line, I suppose I must have passed by Lord a couple of times. But back then, my ears were full of post-punk grunge, and she was just another streetcorner kid with an acoustic guitar, a ragged approach, and an innocent, little-girl voice. By the time she started recording alongside the best of the growing post-punk world, I had already moved on.

The heavy fuzz and feedback of much of her production puts the bulk of Mary Lou Lord’s recorded work squarely in line with early nineties alt-rock; if you’re looking for her in your local indie record store, you’ll find it alongside the pre-grunge of artists like The Lemonheads and Juliana Hatfield. But like Beck, Lord has always had a folk heart, and worn it proudly. Though she’s famous for her catfights with Courtney Love, she toured and recorded with Elliott Smith, and opened for Cover Lay Down fave Shawn Colvin. By identifying herself with those artists and others, Lord categorizes herself as an artist straddling the bridge between singer-songwriter folk and the indie world.

The songs that Lord has chosen to cover over her two-decade career speak volumes about which artists she considers her musical peers and forefathers, and here, too, we find a curious connection with the folkworld. In and among the Magnetic Fields and Big Star covers, we find covers of Smith and Colvin, indiefolkie Daniel Johnston, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, and even oldschool pre-folkie Elizabeth Cotten. Clearly, this is a woman who listens to folk music on her own time, recognizes good songwriting regardless of original instrumentation, and takes them where she can find them.

Here’s a few of my favorite Mary Lou Lord coversongs which hit that spectrum, and then some. Most are solo acoustic, delicate and coy, but don’t be scared by the occasional guitarfuzz; this is, at heart, a form of folk. Heck, if feedback was all it took, Dylan wouldn’t be a folkie anymore, either.

    Mary Lou Lord Soundcloud Covers [2012-2013]

It’s hard to link to the collected works of Mary Lou Lord; her recorded output remains scattered across several indie labels, some of them short-lived. But some of her back catalog is still available, and it’s chock full of folk covers.

Folk fans are probably best served by starting with the cover-heavy Live City Sounds, a hard-to-come-by acoustic album with several Richard Thompson covers which sounds like the streets where I once passed Mary Lou Lord in her busking days. Alt-punk label Kill Rock Stars also still carries a split bill EP and a couple of compilations.

Though her newest album seems not to have been released yet – she leaked the new Lucinda Williams track last year herself after it started getting play on media outlets – those looking for a more recent treasure trove would be well served to bookmark Mary Lou’s Soundcloud page, which has a growing mix of living room coverage and old found studio sound, including some mid-nineties tracks of her goofing around with Elliott Smith.

Bonus tracks? Sure – here’s a couple more Big Star coversongs in the same grungefolk vein. Dando’s cover is one of my favorite coversongs ever, hands down. And doesn’t Mary Lou Lord sound like a female version of Elliott Smith?

2 comments » | House Concerts, Mary Lou Lord

Unity House Concerts Presents: Jean Rohe and Jay Mankita
(January 17, 2015 @ UU Society of Greater Springfield)

January 12th, 2015 — 1:55pm

Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a new folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield.

Concerts are held in our own wooded sanctuary, and feature a combination of well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

Our 2014-2015 season features artists from the Northeast, including Meg Hutchinson (October), The Gaslight Tinkers (March), and our Winter show, a co-bill with Jean Rohe and Jay Mankita, two artists who speak truth to power with beauty, grace, and poise.

My first encounter with the visionary songs of Jean Rohe this summer at a side stage at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival was so stunning, it left me in tears; I had to leave the tent, and so I missed the rest of her tiny in-the-round set.

Approaching Jean again during the festival and asking her to join us at our fledgeling UU Coffeehouse series this year was a no-brainer, especially after her full band wowed the crowd in their Emerging Artist Showcase set the following day on the mainstage. Waiting six months to hear her again has been the hardest part, but pulling the threads of the digital and recorded output has helped fill the void.

“A sure-footed young singer-songwriter” (NY Times) with a “unique musical voice that sounds like a love song for a world imperiled” (Albany Times Union), Jean Rohe captivates audiences with her intelligent well-crafted narrative songs and a unique, multilingual aesthetic fusion of traditional and modern folk, world beat, and jazz that speaks truth to power in equal measures of beauty and mysticism. The Brooklyn-based artist joins us fresh off her first European tour, accompanied by long-time collaborator and producer Liam Robinson on accordion, guitar, and voice, and we’re thrilled to have them both.

Even if you can’t join us, check out Jean’s carefully curated collection of albums and videos, especially 2014 release The End of the World Show, which one fellow musician at Falcon Ridge named their favorite album of the year. The album won three Independent Music Awards, and deservedly so: from its playful multi-stage packaging to the rich, layered, precisely arranged music it contains, the record is a gem, thick with found sound and poetry, international folkrock and world beat melodies, accompanied by crisp bowed strings and a full rhythm section. Similar praise goes to Lead Me Home, a sultry, subtle, potent and playful folk-meets-bossa-nova release from 2008 that includes several covers of popular Brazilian songs from the seventies among its set – and though it’s no cover, I can’t help but include the video of my favorite Jean Rohe original, the powerful National Anthem: Arise! Arise!, in today’s short set.

    Jean Rohe: National Anthem: Arise! Arise!

    Jean Rohe & Rogerio Boccato: O Morro / A Love Supreme (orig. Antonio Jobim / John Coltrane)

Jean is joined by Massachusetts-based American singer-songwriter and guitarist Jay Mankita, an artist well-known and well-lauded on the global stage for his earth-friendly, Grammy-nominated collection of kids albums and songs, and the messages of social justice and environmental consciousness they promote through playful, often hilarious sing-along rhythm and rhyme. (Rohe herself sang Jay’s lyrics as an introduction to her infamous anti-McCain speech at her New School graduation ceremony in 2006, making this a pairing too tempting to pass up.)

But Jay isn’t all kid’s stuff, as evidenced by the universal appeal of such “heart and soul” songs as Bread Alone, and 2004 release They Lied, and its title song, which deftly skewers the political scene of its decade but remains just as apt today. Jay’s songs for adults are equally playful, in their way, as his work for kids – see the video below, of his cover of Bob Blue’s lyric for Scott Joplin’s Pineapple Rag, for evidence of the close connection Jay makes with his audiences – and they retain their messages of social justice, environment, and community. And the breath of sentiment yaws wide, from bitter to wistful, as Jay speaks truth to power in his own accessible, fun way.

In performance, Mankita is “a musical pied piper; quick, nimble, and wonderfully crazy” (Margie Rosenkrantz, Director, The Eighth Step); his children’s show and chapel appearance last year made him a natural choice for return as we dig into our new Saturday series. But Mankita is also as humble as he is gentle. Last week, he touted Jean on his facebook page, noting that Arise, Arise will be appearing in Rise Again, the upcoming next-generation sequel to the seminal sing-along folk bible Rise Up Singing, but failed to note that THREE of his songs will appear in the collection, including From A Dog’s Stance – a delightful, wry parody of the oft-covered Julie Gold song – and Living Planet, which has already been covered by the likes of Emma’s Revolution, Kim and Reggie Harris, and Magpie.

A cover of, and a cover from, then, with our highest recommendations for Jay Mankita’s work, whether you’re a parent or just a fan of the good stuff from the sociopolitical side of the folksinger canon.

    Jay Mankita: Pineapple Rag (orig. Bob Blue / Scott Joplin)

Non-profit and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down posts regular features on artists and songwriters as part of its continuing mission to ply the experience of coverage as a comfortable space for discovery. As always, we hope you’ll consider following the links above to hear more from and about the artists we feature, the better to support and sustain the arts, the artists, and the folkways.

And, if you live within driving distance of Springfield, Massachusetts – just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hartford, Northampton, and the Berkshires – we hope you’ll join us this Saturday, as Jay Mankita’s gentle wit and biting political satire, and Jean Rohe’s beautiful, visionary lyrics and masterful melodies, find full voice in the passionate, potent collection of songs they bring to our Unity House Concert stage. No reservations are necessary; Facebook confirmations greatly appreciated.

Comment » | House Concerts, Jay Mankita, Jean Rohe

Unity House Concerts presents: Meg Hutchinson
(October 18, 2014 @ UU Society of Greater Springfield)

September 28th, 2014 — 3:29pm

Cover Lay Down is proud to announce Unity House Concerts, a new folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield. Concerts will be held roughly two Saturdays a season in our own wooded sanctuary, and will feature a combination of well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

This year we are excited to present a set of award-winning musicians from the Northeast, including Jean Rohe, Jay Mankita, The Gaslight Tinkers, and our first show of the season with Red House Records recording artist Meg Hutchinson on October 18th.

We originally went to Meg Hutchinson for healing, in the wake of a tornado that ravaged our rural New England town in 2011. Since then, after a great run that featured Mark Erelli, Mike + Ruthy, Danny Schmidt, The Sea The Sea, and more, the converted carriage house in which we hosted Meg has gone dark – but her songbook still resonates, making her an easy choice to kick off our new coffeehouse series in style.

Long lauded by critics and fans, Boston-based, Berkshires-born contemporary acoustic singer-songwriter Meg delivers music as powerful as it is gentle. A master of the introspective ballad, her albums have made the top 10 on US folk radio, and won her numerous songwriting awards in the US, Ireland and UK, including the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the Billboard Song Contest and prestigious competitions at Merlefest, NewSong, Kerrville, and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. And her seasonal tour with Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton, and Natalia Zukerman as Winterbloom has become a don’t-miss staple of the local scene.

Equally at home on piano or guitar, Meg’s pure alto is a potent carrier for her mood and message. Her influences include poet Mary Oliver, songwriters Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin, and Joni Mitchell, and mood maker David Gray, but her voice is all her own, with songs that yearn for inner peace, at once ecstatic and meditative, crafted around elegant and free-floating melodies that feel both modern and rooted. Her most recent album, Beyond That (2013), practically aches with songs – about coming home, transforming desire, and opening the heart for some greater purpose.

We are thrilled to have Meg Hutchinson opening our newest musical venture, setting the stage for what promises to be a vibrant, new, community-centered program at the UUSGS, and invite you to join us, too, if you’re local to Springfield, MA (just 30-40 minutes from Hartford and Northampton). To tempt and to celebrate, here’s a few favorite covers by Meg – including a gorgeous duet with frequent touring companion Antje Duvekot and a very special Townes Van Zandt cover recorded at her first of two visits to our previous house concert series.

    Antje Duvekot w/ Meg Hutchinson: Gypsy Life (orig. John Gorka)

    Edie Carey and Meg Hutchinson: Falling Slowly (orig. Glen Hansard)

1 comment » | Featured Artists, House Concerts, Meg Hutchinson

An Intimate Evening with Mike and Ruthy
(April 6 @ Carriage House Concerts in Monson, MA)

March 17th, 2013 — 11:43pm

Our little house concert series here in rural Massachusetts has grown since we first presented Danny Schmidt in our living room in the Spring of 2009, and so has its reputation. Our current performing space, a restored hundred year old carriage house just up the road, has room for 50, and we’re eager to fill the house, the better to support artists and fans alike.

So read on for a closer look and listen to Mike + Ruthy, who we’re excited to announce will be kicking off our 2013 season. And if you’re local enough to join us for an intimate evening of song and a delicious potluck meal on the first Saturday in April, join our facebook event or email now to save your seat today.

He grew up listening to ska-punk and alternative rock radio, dreaming of becoming a songwriter on the political edge. She was raised at the intersection of folk and swing, daughter of fiddle master Jay Ungar and country songwriter Lyn Hardy. They met in NYC, just out of college, and went on to found “subversive acoustic stringband” The Mammals, one of the most popular folk rock bands of their generation. And when The Mammals split up, and they married, they spent their honeymoon in the studio, recording a debut duo album aptly called The Honeymoon Agenda.

Now, after two more full-length albums and over a decade of performance together, indie folk roots pair Mike + Ruthy, aka Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar, have established a reputation for breathtaking delivery and intimate performance, with exquisite songs and songcraft that combine catchy folk-pop choruses with honest, organic tradfolk and roots elements, played out on guitars, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, and a single microphone. Heralds of an American cultural awakening that values honesty and togetherness, prefers grit to glitz, and revels in the old-fashioned telling of a story, their most recent projects include a newly minted folk and roots festival called the Winter Hoot which brought Sprit Family Reunion, Amy Helm, Elizabeth Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Jeffrey Lewis, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and other Cover Lay Down favorites to the Ashokan Center near their home in upstate NY, a haunting posthumous Woody Guthrie collaboration which lends its title to their most recent EP, and a growing family, with parent and child generations that regularly join them on tour and on stage.

We featured Ruth Ungar in our early years as a blog, touching on her work with Michael and The Mammals, and with Aoife O’Donovan and Kristen Andreassen as “acoustic’n'harmonies” indiefolk trio Sometymes Why. But while it is true that, of the pair, it is Ruth who has the family connections, like many indiefolk musicians today, both Michael and Ruth perform and record in multiple modes, both within and beyond the boundaries of their core pairing. Indeed, the merging of his proto-rock radio grounding and her firm tradition has blossomed into a longstanding journey that ranges from soft blues to raucous tradfolk to grungy folkrock sets that frame them as exemplars of their age to critics and peers alike.

Michael Merenda often claims to see music as a way to both capture the world as a living, breathing organism, and to offer it love in the name of restoration; his three solo albums deliver on this adeptly, with outspoken lyrics delivered in a soft, breathy voice over stringwork and production that ranges from true-blue folk to more electrified roots rock fare. By this standard, their collaborative work together is a triumph: free and beautiful, true and sincere, and powerfully political, reflecting the quirky nuances of the world and resonating with the intimate selves we harbor within it. Which makes me all the more proud to be hosting Mike + Ruthy at our own concert series to kick-off our 2013 season, and to have the opportunity to tout their musicianship and performance through coverage today.

So check out our diverse set of covers below from their various incarnations and collaborations, and, as always, consider following the accompanying links to purchase their work, and support their shared mission. And then – geography and time permitting – contact us now to reserve your seat for a date with “one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos” – an event that promises to thrill your senses, raise your spirits, and delve deep into your soul.

Can’t make it to the show? Cover Lay Down shares new songsets and ethnographic musings bi-weekly thanks to the kind support of readers like you. Here’s how to do your part:

  • Support the continued creation of music by purchasing artists’ work whenever possible.
  • Spread the word to friends and family by joining our Facebook page and clicking “like” on a favorite post.
  • Share the wealth by sending us your own coverfolk finds and recordings.
  • Donate to Cover Lay Down to help defray server and bandwidth costs.

1 comment » | Featured Artists, House Concerts, Mike + Ruthy

Back to top