Category: Lucy Wainwright Roche

Double Dippers, Vol. IV: Singer-songwriters visit & revisit
Paul Simon, Modest Mouse, Gram Parsons, The Band and Dougie MacLean!

July 24th, 2016 — 10:58am


It’s been two years and one huge archive crash since we last revisited our Double Dippers series, in which we focus on artists who pay tribute to a favorite songwriter through coverage in two distinct phases of their careers. Our interest, as always, is in the ethnographic lens on craft and culture: if covers serve as artifacts that reveal the substance of artistic evolution, then an individual artist’s return to a common songbook is especially illuminating – both as an exploration of maturity and experimentation, and in the way it reinforces that artist’s claim to a particular musical lineage or heritage.

Previously, we took the analytical approach to paired homage from Mark Erelli, Richard Shindell, Amos Lee, Lucy Kaplansky, and Old Crow Medicine Show (Vol. 1), Kasey Chambers, Shawn Colvin, Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Red Molly (Vol. 2), and Rickie Lee Jones, Billy Bragg, Evan Dando, and Crooked Still alumni Aoife O’Donovan and Tristan Clarridge (Vol. 3) as they explored the works of their peers and progenitors. Today, we continue our dig into how songwriters are shaped by song and soundscapes with double-dip coverage from six distinct artists working in and around the world of folk and roots: Mark Kozelek, Whiskeytown, Susan Werner, Shawn Colvin, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Kallet, Epstein, and Cicone.

    Recorded in two subsequent incarnations of dreamy indie singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek‘s evolution from bandleader to solo act, more than anything, these two tracks show steadfast commitment to a career built at least partially on transformative coverage – before recording Modest Mouse homage Tiny Cities with Sun Kil Moon, the band released an entire album covering AC/DC; he has also contributed multiple tracks to one of our favorite John Denver tribute albums, and taken on the likes of KISS, Paul Simon, Genesis and The Cars. Eleven years later, Kozelek, now known for his ability to strip a song down to its bare essentials, has lost none of the scarred beauty of his particularly intimate slowcore approach as he matures into himself; the significant difference here is the even more spare arrangement which typifies atypically piano-driven collection Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites, a stunning new release featuring guest vocalists galore, sure to feature in our end-of-year wrap-up of the Best Cover Albums of 2016.

    Shawn Colvin‘s second covers album Uncovered – released 21 years after Cover Girl, her first covers collection, wormed its way into our heart – double-dips twice, returning to the work of both Tom Waits and The Band’s Robbie Robertson. Both cover pairings are good, though Colvin’s turn towards Adult Contemporary between these two poles of her career remains evident; as with her double-take on the Beatles songbook, her return here “bear[s] the scars and strengths of that journey, though…the high production value and carefully nuanced vocals shine almost blindingly bright.” Which is to say: we like Uncovered, which was recorded with less pomp and circumstance than some of her mid-career radio-ready hits, a lot more than we expected to; in its best moments, like her subtle, slow take on Acadian Driftwood, it reminds us of the intimacy and innocence of Colvin’s earliest, rawest work, and as such, merits a second dip into her career.

    Ryan Adams is known in the coverworld for his slow reframing of Wonderwall and his triumphant retake on Taylor Swift album 1989; outside of that world, it’s hard to find a more perfect debut album than Heartbreaker. But before he was a solo artist with a penchant for covering everything from metal to pop, Adams fronted short-lived but highly influential alt-country band Whiskeytown, which covered Gram Parsons several times as they evolved from grungy post-country rockabilly to the more delicate side of the No Depression universe just before Adams and fellow founder Caitlin Cary spun off into the void. Adams has taken on Parsons plenty since – his live covers of Sin City and Streets Of Baltimore are great country ballads; his 1999 in-concert duet with Gillian Welch is legendary – but it’s the distance between these two cuts that best models how he got from here to there.

    The occasional trio of Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein and Michael Cicone have released just three albums since first coming together in 1981; we featured the last upon its release in 2008 with a celebration of Cindy Kallet’s overall output, and grew up on the first two, celebrating them in our formative years as a guidepost to a strain of hearty heartstrong vocal-led folksong particular to the New England coast, with echoes of shanties and the shapenote traditions, and the earthy delights of UK folksingers such as the Scottish MacLean. Final album Heartstrings, a return to the fold, is as tender and reminiscent as you might expect, although strong in its own right – but though recorded just five years apart, the subtle rumblings in the folkstream which would send much of the most honest forms of folk underground as folk radio turned towards Adult Contemporary show at the seams in the range between these two earlier songs.

    Her live performances and albums hew closely to the solo singer-songwriter model, with a masterful command of voice and style, and confidence and humor on stage. But Susan Werner – a classically trained composer and vocalist, and a true follower of the “album as album” school of songwriting – has reinvented herself for almost every studio release since establishing herself as a folksinger in the mid eighties. Recent collections include an atheist’s gospel album and a collection of songs exploring the voice of the modern farmer; her next collection will reportedly take on the culture and rhythms of a newly-reopened island nation, and the samples we’re heard live have been amazing. As such, the vast difference between these two Paul Simon songs is easily explicable: the former is a beautiful, maudlin piece typical of her early work in the contemporary vein, the latter, which matches a Simon & Garfunkel song to a Vivaldi-esque string setting, is a live take from the tour following 2009 release Classics, a potent genre-crossing covers collection which set standards of the sixties and seventies against precisely identified classical stylings.

    Finally, a second take on the Simon & Garfunkel songbook, this time from second-generation fringepop folk artist Lucy Wainwright Roche, paired in both cases with mother Suzzy of the Roches. Both covers are amazing, although arguably, it’s the first, a last-track coda on Lucy Wainwright Roche’s 2010 studio debut Lucy, which fills our head for days after we listen, haunting and taunting us with its rich sonic landscape. But what a difference six years makes, as the urgency of the full-length debut fades back into the soaring, delicate harmonies and ringing strings that typified Lucy’s first few tiny EPs, each one as precious as the next. If there was ever any question that Lucy is as potent a force in her own right as brother Rufus or father Loudon, this pairing should settle it.

Always artist-centric and ad-free, Cover Lay Down has been exploring the folkways through cover songs since 2007 thanks to the kind generosity of patrons like you. Want to help? Give now to support our continuing mission, and we’ll send you an exclusive mix of unblogged favorites from 2014-2015 – along with our undying thanks!

Comment » | Double Dippers, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Mark Kozelek, Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Susan Werner

(Re)Covered: The Omnibus Edition
w/ Molly Tuttle, Red Molly, Nataly Dawn, Lucy Wainwright Roche & more!

November 7th, 2015 — 9:10am


We’re back in the saddle again after a long hiatus, and though the music archives are toast, the desktop is piled high with new covers from old favorites. And so we start anew with a feet-first installment of our perennial (Re)Covered series, which revisits previously featured artists through the lens of ongoing coverage: an omnibus of tasteful folk treatment of songs by Taylor Swift, Lorde, Bob Dylan, John Hartford, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel, Cake and more that yaws wide from bluegrass to indiefolk, from tender to tempestuous, from the sharp and sassy to the sweet and sublime.

Bluegrass darling and recently crowned Flatpicker Magazine cover girl Molly Tuttle, who we first encountered on our way to the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival a few years ago, is still rising fast, as evidenced by both this sweet on-air video of the well-covered John Hartford classic Gentle On My Mind recorded for Music City Roots in mid-October, and public reception to her upcoming debut full-length, which has already topped 100% in its Pledgemusic campaign with over a hundred days left to go, and patronage gifts still available (We recommend the digital album and streaming concert combo package, a twenty dollar two-fer). She’s currently on tour down south with her band The Goodbye Girls, opening for The Milk Carton Kids; check ‘em out together now, because Tuttle won’t be an opening act for much longer.

Last featured via a pair of Gillian Welch covers in our fledgeling Double Dippers series in June of 2013, Americana/Roots folk trio Red Molly is technically on hiatus after a strong, gritty 2014 release, and subsequent tour, and a new baby born to member Molly Venter and her partner Eben Pariser of acoustic “steamboat soul” band Roosevelt Dime. But that didn’t stop them from dropping a new pay-as-you-will track just today, recorded live back in April: a beautiful, unusually rich harmony-drenched take on Caledonia, a song which we covered in a tribute to Dougie MacClean back in 2011. Our pro-artist bent here pushes us to link to, rather than post, the pay-as-you-will track, the better to support a living wage for the artists we love; here’s an overdue favorite from The Red Album in its easy stead.

Speaking of Bluegrass, and Joe Val: we’ve shared plenty from newgrass quintet the Infamous Stringdusters since discovering them in 2006, when they were asked to fill in for bluegrass supergroup The Grascals on the winter festival mainstage at the last minute, celebrating their well-chosen covers as they emerged, from Police classic Walking on the Moon to John Mayer’s 3×5. These days, though we’re still waiting for a studio version of their cover of Lorde’s pop hit Royals, we’re thrilled with their new EP Undercover, which – true to its title – offers a five-piece set of well-covered delights from Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, each one warm in tone, each one rich in masterful bluegrass instrumentalism. Check out the studio recording process for Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright below.

This year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest came nigh in the midst of familial and technological chaos, leaving me unable to blog about it for the first time in ages. But the coverage lingers, thanks to hardy fans and the exquisite and cheerful board and recording skills of Scott Jones, who captures the performances at the pre-fest Lounge Stage – a fest within a fest hosted by the boys from Pesky J. Nixon, who incidentally have just wrapped up their own second covers album, fittingly titled Red Ducks 2.

Below, download frequent Falcon Ridge faves We’re About 9 taking on Radiohead under the big Lounge Stage tent, peep at Pesky J. Nixon’s mainstage take on Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door featuring Brother Sun and Susan Werner, and then stand back – way back – for the amazingly energetic Led Zeppelin coverset that closed the workshop stage this year, featuring rising star Matt Nakoa on vocals and psychedelic folk rockers The Grand Slambovians on everything else. We’ll have more coverage from the masterful Matt Nakoa later this week; for now, if you just can’t get enough, another great set of Pesky J. Nixon coverage and originals from their record release party last weekend is now available on the ‘tubes.

A wistful, innocent cover of one of my all-time favorite Cake songs? Count me in, thanks to Nataly Dawn, aka the female half of viral vid sensation Pomplamoose, who performs here with Lauren O’Connell under the moniker My Terrible Friend, and plans to keep doing so, thank god: the week-old track is subtle and stripped down, retaining the tender intimacy we cited when Pomplamoose’s Tribute To Famous People covers album tickled our fancy way back in 2010. Add a sultry, soulful cover of Wild Horses released just this weekend, featuring a duet with Nataly’s mom – a tribute to the hours they spent together harmonizing on the song in her childhood – and if you weren’t a fan before, you will be now; Follow Nataly to check out equally sultry recent coverage of Waters of March (with Carlos Cabrera), Billy Joel, and more, and to pick up more as they hit the tubes.

We’re huge fans of Lucy Wainwright Roche here, ever since featuring her early work in our very first Folk Family Feature on the Wainwright/Roche clan way back in 2007, and again in a Rising Stars (Re)Covered feature in 2010. But we’re especially eager to hear more of Songs in the Dark, the impending duet album from Lucy and sister Martha Wainwright, whose musical paths intersect less often, in part because Martha’s inheritance is more ribald, while Lucy’s is more attuned towards the rich harmonies of her mother’s side.

In keeping with the Wainwright, Roche, and McGarrigle families’ deep sense of how songs come to define us, the songs here matter much: carefully chosen to reflect the canon of songs sung to them as children, the list includes several children’s lullabies, as well as tracks by their mothers Kate McGarrigle and Suzzy Roche, and their shared father Loudon Wainwright III. And the combination is unexpectedly potent, echoey indiefolk for the most part: in this Simon and Garfunkel cover – the first release from the album – Martha’s heartier alto stabilizes the sound, while Lucy’s whisperier, lighter voice floats above thick layers of guitar and droning reeds and bass: a sultry temptress of a song, leaving us wanting more, more, more.

Finally: with over a million hits per track on YouTube alone, we’re clearly late to the party on Ryan Adams‘ full-album homage to Taylor Swift’s seminal 1989 album, but we’d be truly remiss if we didn’t acknowledge just how much the record has stuck in our ears. Adams, an early featured artist on the blog whose covers and songbook we last revisited as part of our semi-annual Carolina Coverfolk series, has an unusual knack for transforming songs from far-off genres; here, he brings the angst and emotional turmoil lurking under Swift’s pop hits to the forefront, and the result is a cohesive, magical set well worth the pursuit.

Bonus points for a tongue-in-cheek metacommentary cover from Father John Misty aka J. Tillman, who claims to be covering “the classic Ryan Adams album 1989″ in the style of The Velvet Underground (and pulls it off perfectly) in his sardonic take below.

3 comments » | Infamous Stringdusters, J. Tillman, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Molly Tuttle, Nataly Dawn, Red Molly, Ryan Adams

Back to top