Category: Mixtapes


Valentine’s Day Present: Love, Ongoing
(Plus five Valentine’s Day mixtapes from the CLD archives!)

February 14th, 2014 — 2:29pm





My plans to zip over to my wife’s workplace with flowers and lunch for a Valentine’s Day surprise were overtaken by a double snow day this year, turning what might have been a romantic moment into a promise unfulfilled, leaving me without a single heart to offer save my own.

Happily, true love doesn’t fade so fast, nor does it depend on any particular trinket. Love is in every moment, if you know where to look, and choose to embrace it, and be grateful.

Every morning as I leave for work, I kiss my wife, and speak love into her day before she wakes. Every night, in the darkness, I whisper my love to her as she sleeps warm beside me. Every day I thank the universe that after over half a lifetime together, there’s still beauty and love in my life.

In her honor, then, and yours: a set of coverfolk love songs released in the last year or two, followed by links back to five mixtapes and features from our Valentine’s Days past. For love is in all ways complicated, always forever and ever new. May you find comfort and hope here, and everywhere, on this most romantic of days, and every day that follows.


Valentine’s Day Present [download here!]



Valentine’s Days Past

2 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk, Mixtapes

20 Questions: A Coverfolk Mixtape
in celebration of a life of wonder and amazement

February 13th, 2014 — 2:03pm





To be a public school teacher in the new millennium is to be under constant scrutiny, both as a self-critic and from outside. Though the true outcomes of great teaching are essentially unmeasurable, new state-mandated evaluations pick at the edges of sheer competency and compliance by attempting to measure that which can be collected or seen.

The result is a doubling-down of stress and time, with so many hours per day given over to documentation and meetings that our time planning for and delivering instruction becomes threatened. Gone, it seems, is the teachable moment; gone, too, is the depth that brings love and true understanding: if a lesson cannot stand on its own, look like it was supposed to on paper, and correspond directly to at least one question on the state-written test that follows, the black mark will haunt forevermore.

In response, teachers are leaving the profession in droves: hardly a week goes by without yet another teacher’s early retirement condemnation going viral. In my own school, almost a fifth of our faculty has disappeared for warmer, more friendly climates since the school year began. The rest of us live in constant fear, frayed at the edges and cut to the core: too overwhelmed to do anything well, and constantly concerned that we have missed something that might make or break our careers.

But I am young enough to think I am invincible, or at least, unwilling to go without a fight. And so, despite my insistence that excellence should be evident in any moment, I found myself overthinking this Wednesday’s planned observation. And because I am ever the iconoclast, at my best on the edge, I planned something fun, if risky: a lesson on how poets use questions to call attention to the limitations of understanding, starting with Shakespeare’s Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day, and concluding with an activity analyzing Langston Hughes’ A Dream Deferred.

For students who have failed, and are failing. Who come to school sometimes, entering two thirds of the way into class with a swagger and a yell that distracts and disrupts, or stay home because it is too cold, or they missed the bus again. Who have been sullen, and distracted. Who have watched a score of of their classmates drop out, or just stop coming, until we hardy few – the three or four or six who show up most days – find ourselves leaning over a common table, pulling out our hair, putting away the phones over and over again, dancing around the truth as the hourglass sand threatens to drown us all.

thinkerI talk a good game in the hallways about how the new evaluation tool we use in my district: about how the tool is sound, but an inconsistent and aggressively biased application of it is a major focal point of the terror and frustration we feel as teachers. But it is also true that the threat of observation can prompt a healthy, deliberate attention to detail and self-reflection, a sort of critical, vocational soul searching which, when it works, can push us to be our best. It is a social scientist’s Heisenberg principle, in which the act of being observed changes the subject, using pressure to turn coal into diamond.

Over the last week, as I began to pay more precise attention to my practice in the class, and as our population has finally become stable, there was a change in the air. Sure, the kids and I still fought to stay on task, an activity more like wrangling cats than truly teaching. But they started asking questions in ways that reveal minds turning over, about my relationship to poetry, and about the poems themselves. And the shift towards poems that share their language and cultural lineage – of Pablo Neruda, and Martin Espada – seemed to prompt the beginnings of ownership, as if knowing that poets spoke their languages, too, was a key to the magic that evaluation tools call “student-centered learning”.
And when it works, it really works.

Yesterday, the stars aligned.

Four students showed up on time, or close to it, and to begin with, became poets, finding distinction in writing and sharing our own little poems, before moving on to the small set of poems I had chosen for their question marks and little else, making for a treasure hunt for tone and literal meaning that was more engaging than usual.

Two more arrived, and their timing was perfect, for once – in transition between idea and poem exemplar, so that they could find themselves quickly. They read poems proudly, and found brave comfort in their ability to make metaphor come alive, vivid in their heads.

And then, the six of them found recognition in critical analysis of Langston Hughes’ A Dream Deferred. They remembered that Hughes was plainspoken, and frustrated with racial identity in 1930s Harlem, and looked for that meaning in the similes of the poem; they embraced the ambiguity of figurative language, and thought about dreams, and raisins dying black in the sun.

And the poem came alive for them, unlocking its secrets. And they said so, and smiled, and showed us, me and the administrators lurking in the background, that they could articulate – haltingly at first, and then with more confidence – how, and why, and where.

And the bell rang. And I thanked them, and collected their work.

And sat, stunned, while the administrators slipped out, and my next class came in, catcalling and chaotic, ready to learn.

And then, afterwards, the one who sometimes comes, and cannot focus, and uses his big unassuming grin to avoid learning, found me in the hallway during lunch, and proudly showed me the thick book of Countee Cullen poems he had found in the library, and asked if I could give him a note to get back in to find more.

And later, he brought his friend, the Latino boxer, the one who refused to put pen to paper from September to December, and sat with his arms crossed or on his phone, and spun in his chair, defiant, though he knew how to see the meaning behind the words better than anyone in the class. And he said Mister, the library doesn’t have that Neruda book you talked about last week, but they did have this other one, and it’s really cool, it’s got the spanish on one side and the english on the other, and I promised I would find him more.

Your kids really understand poetry, said my evaluator when I passed her in the hallway at the end of the day.

And in my heart, I became the teacher I always wanted to be.

Now it is Thursday, a snow day. I sit on the porch in the cold and think about poetry, and words; the way literature can bring us together, and the way it can kindle the heart. Because I could not stand it, I stopped teaching from fear, and started teaching from love. In response, my 6 little irregulars finally discovered what literature is for, and why it is so much a part of being alive. And though we will need to work to keep them in this place of love, I think – for one shining hour – it made them students, in the true sense of the word, pleased to question, and find answers, and pleased, too, with their ability to do so.



As always, steeping too long in work has left me in too deep to move on quickly. My head swims still with questions, because of how deeply we considered them in our poems and analyses, because we were able to come to the higher order ones together. And I find myself pondering the world, and my place in it, after a day where everything went right, in a place where for so long I have been neither free nor safe.

And so we turn to the question as theme. And why not? As a rhetorical device, the question is broad, both in expression and purpose: it can show us ambiguity, or reveal depth and detail; it can call attention to mystery or meaning; it can reverse, or reinforce, even as it closes the gap between author and text.

And as it is in poetry, so is it in song. The selections we present below in this weekend’s coverfolk mix run the gamut from the rhetorical to the genuinely curious, from plaintive to pensive, from reflective to redirective. But all empower the listener to seek answers that may not always be clear, or even present. All offer new insights and understanding, that we may be who we are, at our best, by knowing the world. All remind us that questions are nothing to fear, but something to embrace, a natural consequence of being alive, and engaged.

May wonders never cease.



3 comments » | Mixtapes

The Working Life: Employment songs, covered in folk
by Slaid Cleaves, Joshua James, Gillian Welch, Todd Snider & 16 more!

January 11th, 2014 — 3:23pm





Re-entry into the working life is always tough after the holiday break, but this year has been a bit harder than most. The school where I work is struggling more than ever, trying to implement new methods and structures on the fly after being labeled failing by the state. The trickle-down effects of stress and sheer substance can make teaching less the usual tightrope, and more of a juggling act with too many balls in the air, where each choice made to serve one mandate means taking time and energy away from another, until terror becomes normative. And the turn-around time is incredible, with strategies taught to teachers in a professional development session this past Wednesday being observed in classes on Monday, even as we prepare students for district-written midterm exams received only Tuesday, and due midweek, that contain concepts and vocabulary no one knew to teach until we saw the tests themselves.

As I have said here before, I love my chosen career; love the students, and the noble struggle of reaching them; love the satisfaction of a curriculum well constructed, and those moments where teacher and students are in the zone, and epiphanies are made. But I love my family, too. And the drag that this year is putting on my best self outside the classroom is all the more apparent after two weeks on and off the road with them, with its constant reminder of how much love there is when we have each other to cherish.

Some songs about work, then, to mourn and maintain the necessity, and acknowledge the way it tears at the spirit to leave home in the darkness every day, and come home in another darkness, too late and too tired to give our best to ourselves and our families. Many are scavenged from a similar set originally posted in August of 2008, designed as a soundtrack for the job search that led me to this inner city school in the first place, but it seems fitting to uncover them, and share them anew, even as we add to their grace and gravity. For no matter how lucky we are to do what we love, there are always times when the weariness gets to us, and all we can do is sing.




Cover Lay Down spreads the gospel of folk through coversong thanks to donors like you. As always, if you like what you hear here, please consider purchasing music from the artists we feature. After all, if it weren’t for our patronage, the music makers would be out of a job, too.

2 comments » | Mixtapes

The Year’s Best Coverfolk, Vol. 2: The Singles (2013)
(b-sides, deep cuts, & more one-shot coverage)

December 30th, 2013 — 11:11am





As we noted in Vol. 1 of our year’s best series, we eschew the hierarchical here at Cover Lay Down, preferring celebration to criticism. This is especially true of individual tracks – there’s so much good out there, we could spread the gospel every day, and never run out of moods or music.

Even in our own niche, at the intersection of coverage and folk – where every song is part of the folkways, and every one represents a search for new meaning and new emotion in songs heard sweetly – there is more than we can ever celebrate. But at the end of the year, there are a few songs so dear, so precious, so perfect, that we work to remember them always. And sometimes, rather than struggling to put into words just why a particular song hit us so powerfully, it is time to let the songs speak for themselves.

Music soothes the savage breast, and this year was more savage than most. The songs which we have saved and savored are a hodgepodge heavy with songs which saved us in our darkest hours, and those which spoke to and for our bruised and broken hearts, helping us remember that we were not alone even as we abandoned the blog for weeks on end. Here, too, are songs which brought us joy when we needed it most. And here, too, are the songs which amazed us, and those that simply brought the world to a standstill, stoping our hearts at their bold beauty.

Our annual Best Coverfolk Singles mixtape, then, from tradtunes to obscurities to folk, pop, rock, and country favorites: 36 covers in all, and every one sublime. It was, after all, a very good year for coverage.


The Year’s Best Singles: A 2013 Coverfolk Mix [zip!]




Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, spread the word, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking.

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 will go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all giftees will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special 26-track gift set of alternate favorites and rare 2013 covers otherwise unblogged. Click here to give.

3 comments » | Best of 2013, Mixtapes

Celebrate ALL The Christmas!
Coverfolk Mixes from Christmases Past (2008-2012)

December 10th, 2013 — 5:58pm





The season is well upon us, and the snow is falling on the trees, making a white world of what was green and brown. After school, the wee one takes the sled out; though the scant inch or two that’s fallen is too soft for traction, she seems happy enough playing on the driveway. And I am happy, too: at the fire which warms our house, and the blankets which beckon beside it; at the freedom of an afternoon shut in by snow; at the happiness of children at play.

Like the snow – and like the fleeting calm that permeates its moments – holiday favorites tend to fall, stick for a week or two, and then melt away; though their ephemeral nature makes them precious, so, too, do the songs of every season fade too easily into the haze of memory, like Dylan’s blur of childhood Christmases in Wales. And yet just as one season’s gems hardly represent the total canon of any of the artists we feature, to spend one’s time going back and forth between the public pap of the radio dial and this year’s newest holiday soundtrack is to dwell on the popular and new – a trend which neither honors the stillnesses of the season nor the comfort of its rituals and traditions.

This week and next, our coverfolk advent calendar will feature a seasonal set of new artist EPs, and single-shot videos and streaming tracks to make the spirits bright; as always, we urge pursuit of all artists through and after the holidays, that the present might lead to support and fandom, the better to keep the fires of folk alight. For now, though, we’ve dug through the archives to bring you our Christmases past – a set of seasonal mixtapes from the secular to the sublime, and the silly to the sane, curated and shared here on the blog between 2008 and 2012. Enjoy the archives, and may the spirit of the season find you in good health and good humor.

2008



2009



2010



2011



2012


Comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, Mixtapes, Reposts

Christmas Cheer Coverfolk:
Seasonal Songs of Drinking, Revisited

December 5th, 2013 — 2:14pm





An unexpected week in the hospital with the chronically ill elderchild has temporarily postponed what was intended to be a triumphant return to regular blogging. But last night, she was well enough to come home, and to exclaim sleepily with delight at our neighborhood alight with the trees and pageantry of Christmas as we drove though the darkened streets. And I am delighted, myself, to note that 80 years ago today, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and ratified, ending national Prohibition, and paving the way for a return to the Christmas tradition of drinking with good company – a ritual sorely lacking in the sterile halls of even the most friendly in-patient ward.

And so a hastily-constructed thematic feature, previously lost to our server troubles last winter, is reborn.

Join us, as we lift a glass to the season and the day with a decidedly mixed-bar set of songs celebrating home, family, and holiday drinking. We’ll be back next week with some new and classic coverfolk cheer as we continue our celebration of Christmas 2013. May God bless us, every one.



Download the Cover Lay Down Drinking at Xmas mix in one convenient zip file!

1 comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, Mixtapes, Reposts

Give A Little Bit: On Buying Local in a Global World
(A Cover Lay Down Holiday Gift Guide)

November 29th, 2013 — 3:50pm


Sale


Monday the wee one came home frustrated that her class has been chosen to sing “Joy To The World, My Shopping’s Done” in this year’s school holiday pageant. They made it about getting things, she said, but holidays are supposed to be about giving and being together. And so we sent a timely note to school, excusing her from the pageant and all related planning activities. And the very next day, in art class, while the rest of the class glued price tags and fake dollar bills to their decorative paper pageant hats, my daughter cheerfully constructed a hat for the girl who was absent.

We’re proud of our child for working to live out her principles. We are proud, too, of her ability to see and articulate their incidence, and to seek reassurance and help to practice them effectively and without confrontation. And we are thrilled to find, just hours later, that the new Pope’s papal platform – one founded on denouncing trickle-down commercialism, and the renunciation of its detrimental social effects – marks our child as prescient, indeed.

But as parents, we are also, unabashedly, proud of ourselves. For the expression of the spirit of commerce in its myriad forms is great and everpresent, and its antithesis few and far between, in our larger society. If the expression of discomfort at its practice came from anywhere, it came – in large part – from us.

This is not a political blog. Since our inception in 2007, however, we have done our part at Cover Lay Down to fight back against the subtle tyrannies of the consumptive society. Our insistence on offering links to purchase and stream music from sources closest to the hearts and wallets of the artists themselves, and our refusal to provide ads on this space, stem from an articulated desire to “walk the walk” of ethical consumption. And because a blog is dialogic, so do we also, from time to time, step up onto the soapbox to speak out specifically on why, and how, to better support the local and the intimate – a position befitting a blog whose ethnomusical mandate explores the coincidence of sharing-through-coverage and the communal purposefulness of folk.

Today, then, for the second year in a row, we take the time to provide our own antithesis to the buy-everything-now message that seems to typify the ever-lengthening holiday season in the Western world by offering a 2013 edition of our anti-commercialist, pro-artist gift giving guide for the holidays – a harbinger of things to come after almost three months of sparse sabbatical. Read on for last year’s treatise, plus an updated list of methods and mechanisms for supporting the local and the soul-serving this giving season…and, of course, a few songs to get you into the spirit.



Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 12.41.05 PMBlack Friday is duly noted for causing havoc and stress in the mass marketplace. But if we greet its well-intentioned antithesis Buy Nothing Day with suspicion here at Cover Lay Down, it is because there is nothing inherently anti-commercial about merely deferring product-purchase if we still plan to make it to the mall eventually.

Concerns about the way big business undermines and eats away at the profitability of direct creator-to-consumer relationships are real and valid, of course. But to see consumption as all or nothing is problematic: those who quite literally refuse to buy things unwittingly undermine their own communities, for example, by cutting into taxes for schools and roads, and by destroying the ability of neighborhood artists and local community retailers to survive doing what they love.

Happily, however, there’s a whole spectrum of opportunity outside of the false dichotomy of Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day. And the answer isn’t buying nothing – it’s buying local.

We’ve long championed buying local here at Cover Lay Down. We frequent local farmer’s markets and crafts fairs; we buy apples from orchards, and beer from the brewery; we keep maple syrup and honey that was harvested by friends. In our musical purchases, we try to buy at shows, as this tends to provide the most money for artists, and helps support local venues; we’ve posted about library finds several times, too, and celebrate regional labels and artists wherever possible.

But in the digital age, buying local means not only supporting your local shops, producers, and buskers – it also means supporting the small, the immediate, the independent, and the community-minded. As such, wherever possible, the links which we offer alongside our downloadables and streams go directly to artist websites and other artist-recommended sources, the better to respect the rights and ongoing careers of creators and craftspersons everywhere.

Which is to say: we’re about authenticity and sustainability here, a set of concepts deeply entwined with the organic and acoustic music we celebrate. With that in mind, here’s some suggestions for how to honor the community sentiment which stands at the foundation of folk music, even as you look for ways to show your appreciation and love this holiday season.


1. Give the gift of recorded music. Cover Lay Down stands behind every artist we blog, and many of our regular features, such as our New Artists, Old Songs series, focus on new and newly-reconsidered music and musicians worth sharing with friends. So browse our archives and your own, and then buy CDs and downloads for friends and family direct from artist websites, independent artist-friendly labels like Signature Sounds, Compass, Waterbug, Bloodshot, Red House, and Sugar Hill Records, promotional houses like Hearth Music and Mishara Music, and small artist collaboratives and fan-fueled microlabels like Mason Jar Music, Yer Bird, Rarebird, Northplatte, and Asthmatic Kitty. Or, if you prefer to centralize your shopping, skip the chain stores and internet behemoths that undermine local mom-and-pops and pay mere pennies on the dollar, and shop instead at your local struggling music shop, Bandcamp, CD Baby, or even Etsy.

2. Give the gift of subscription. It is still a matter of debate in the music community whether the proliferation of digital streaming services is bad, potentially career-smothering news for artists. But some artists offer “backstage passes” or “VIP” access to their art and its craft, and the benefits – which can include exclusive demo tracks, concert streams, early access to new studio work, and deep discounts – are generally worth the cost. Last year’s favorite model, Jake Armerding’s Music Is Food CSA project, provided a monthly virtual “box” of song and artwork for just a dollar a month; this year, the trend has turned to projects in which patrons themselves have a voice in the creative process through feedback and demo-testing. For those ready to take the plunge, we recommend El Dorado, a subscription service from Clem Snide founder Eef Barzelay in which patrons receive and inspire a new, exclusive 3-5
song EP each month, and pay-what-you-feel projects from Merry Ellen Kirk, Jess Klein, and others at Patronism.org, which offer access to their entire body of work, alongside opportunities to become an active part of the creation process as new songs emerge.

3. Give the gift of access. Spring for a gift subscription to Daytrotter ($32/year) for the music lover in your life, and let them download years worth of studio sessions and stream exclusive live sessions from a broad set of musicians. Buy them a Skype session with a favorite folk musician, such as Denison Witmer, who turned to the medium in order to spend more time with his wife and newborn son. Or sign them up for Concert Window, a free-for-trial service which offers live concerts almost every night from some of our favorite folk venues, and where two-thirds of profits go to musicians and venues. The live performances and sessions which these subscriptions net can be viewed alone, or shared with a friend over a beer on the couch – and the virtual concert is especially apt for friends housebound by physical limitation, geographical isolation, or preference.

4. Give the gift of time. It’s good to get out with friends, and shared experiences make the best kinds of gifts; by linking directly to artist web pages, we make it as easy as possible to check out tour dates. Support your local coffeehouse or small venue by booking a table or row for you and your loved ones. Take a child to their first concert, and open up their world to the immediacy and intimacy of live performance. Take a friend, or a group, and open them up to a new artist’s work. Or host a successful house concert, and invite friends, the better to share the artists and music you love.

5. Give the gift of artistic sustainability. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Pledge Music help artists make art, and donations in someone else’s name are always a nice gift – it shows you’re thinking of them, and it honors the connection you share through music. And just as donating to your local radio station can net you a free mug, crowdfunding comes with the promise of product – a reward you can redirect, if you give in someone else’s name. So browse the folk categories on each site, or ask around for recommendations on what to support. Some local examples we’re excited to share this year: folk duo The Sea, The Sea, who we have both championed and hosted locally, are currently raising funds for an official release of stunning debut album Love We Are Love; preorder, or pay up for some bonuses, and both you and your gift recipient get to help ensure that the album gets the promotion and production it deserves. Boston-based CLD fave countryfolk singer-songwriter Amy Black, who charmed us with gorgeous solo Kris Delmhorst and Loretta Lynn covers back in 2011, is eager to release This Is Home, a sophomore solo CD recorded last summer in Nashville; bonus levels here include a sweet 4-song EP of covers recently recorded in Muscle Shoals with Spooner Oldham and Will Kimbrough and a personalized video performance. Farther afield, Austin, Texas Americana scenestress Raina Rose, who funded her own Kickstarter album successfully last year, continues to tout projects from a talented network of young artists, including up and coming releases from Alexa Woodward and J. Wagner. And parents and kidfolk lovers will be especially proud to support Lullabies and Songs of Comfort, a new project in the works from tour buddies and fellow folkmamas Edie Carey and Sarah Sample which promises a sweet mix of the old and the new for all ages.

6. Give the gift of promotion. This one is mostly about giving the artists themselves some of your hard-earned time and energy, but artists need gifts, too. So like artists’ Facebook pages, and show others in your feed what you are listening to, the better to spread the word. Join a street team, and volunteer (by yourself or with a friend, as a fun gift date) to help sell CDs, hang posters, or man the door at local coffeehouses and clubs, thus freeing artists to spend their time playing, meeting the crowd, and sustaining their own fan base. Start a blog, for you or a friend, or donate to support one in their name.

7. Stay tuned. Looking for something a little more concrete in the way of coverfolk recommendations? Willing to wait for a few more weeks to decide which albums to purchase for your loved ones and friends? Just as we did last year, Cover Lay Down will be sharing our “best of 2013″ by mid-December; the items on those lists constitute our highest recommendations, and function as a concise gift guide for the coverfolk lover in your life. And if it’s holiday music you’re looking for, just wait until next week, when we kick off our coverage of this year’s seasonal releases…

Until then, here’s a short set of relevant covers to get you in the gift-giving spirit.

2 comments » | Mixtapes, Reposts

Everybody Hurts
(On discovering a child’s illness)

October 11th, 2013 — 7:25pm


Daddy and Elderchild

It came on slowly, back in May; stress would bring on stomach pain, and it could take hours for her to recover. By last week, my once willowy elderchild had lost 20% of her body weight; she was starving, but she said that she was afraid to eat, because it hurt her. And her doctors agreed: it was time to get some cameras in there, to see if we could figure out what the hell was going on.

It was still dark when we arrived at the hospital this morning. It was bright when we left. It didn’t seem fair.

There are worse things to hear, I know. But when a doctor has to make it a point of turning you away from the bed to tell you that your daughter will still be able to have children, and lead a normal life, and then starts her next sentence with “but…” it’s time to accept the fact that things have changed forever.

The tentative diagnosis is an autoimmune disease; it has a name, and its own foundation. Her medical team is sure enough for now to be putting her on pills, and seem carelessly unaware of how much pain they’re threatening her with when they suggest she can begin taking them four times a day, with food, right away. And although we’ve been told that she’ll be able to manage her condition with a combination of careful dietary habits and medication, if the doctor confirms her initial diagnosis when test results return on Wednesday, my daughter will spend the rest of her life teetering on the edge of pain.

My first child has been lucky enough to live to her eleventh year experiencing personal illness as a temporary state; in her heart and mind, there’s always been time and tides, Mama and medicine to make things better. Now, I see the growing realization in her eyes when she asks for a sandwich, and we suggest soup. I see the way the horror rises, and is quickly swallowed, so it does not come out to haunt her.

I am proud of how brave she has been today, and how prescient. My daughter is like me: we seek to understand the world, and we come to our realizations quickly. Rough seas sparkle on the horizon, and she can see them, too. But like any parent who discovers that their child will be forever hurt, I’m hurt, too.

We give so much to our children. We ply them with care and attention; thoughtful answers; gentleness; structure. We model and talk about the values that are important to us, so that they might develop generosity, curiosity, an appreciation for beauty and joy. We give them the safety of our homes and bodies, and the promise of bottomless, enduring, unconditional love.

But solace is not succor; bad things happen to good people, and there are some things we cannot give. And so I practice the gift of withholding, saving my tears for the other side of the doors and walls that keep me from her side.

I will never again tell her that everything will be all right. But together, we will find other ways to soothe. I will carry her forever. And we will soldier on, determined and courageous, our fingers entwined, and our heads held high.

Everybody Hurts: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]


23 comments » | Mixtapes

I’m Getting Older, Too: A Coverfolk Mixtape
(from Bowie’s Changes to Dylan’s Back Pages!)

August 11th, 2013 — 10:04am


birthday_candles


Though the folk camp skews older, it is not irrelevant that I am older than most music bloggers. Age matters, in the intersecting world of music and homage which we inhabit. Our tastes are formed by the mass media clutter and the countercultural alternative scenes of our own individual youths; even as our collections diversify and improve in time, our touchstone foundations are always a product of the worlds of our teens and twenties. My formative years covered the emergence of MTV, and assume the three minute narrative as compass and companion; I think fondly of cassettes, and think in CD format better than any; though we cover Dylan and The Beatles here too, the songs that ring truest as tribute to me spring from the 80s and forward, and from my father’s record collection.

Generational grounding is a common thread here at Cover Lay Down – I have made no secret of the ways in which my own time-and-space history brings me to Mary Lou Lord, Nirvana, or Michael Jackson, to pick a diverse sample. But in truth, there are more personal reasons to muse on aging today: as of yesterday, my wife is 40, too; today we head North for an in-law’s retreat in the woods to celebrate, with friends and family, food and drink.

But although we exchange our trinkets, gratefully, gifts seem trivial: we are young at heart, and work hard in our own ways to model youth for our children, and to maintain a seemingly effortless and innate childlike wonder. Most days, that is blessing enough.

To be fair, it gets harder every year to be young. But there is compensation: as I have come to own the winding path that has led me here, I find myself pensive yet fearless in the face of further age. And being here, now, without fear and with curiosity intact helps me be a better parent, a better husband, a better teacher, a better me.

Some songs about growing older, and checking in on the changes, then – covering the gamut from pensive to protesting, from aging gracefully to railing against the dying of the night. May you cherish the moments in time you inhabit, and put them away carefully when they are through. May you, too, sing your histories and futures.

    Getting Older: A Coverfolk Mixtape [zip!]



Cover Lay Down is back from the summer folkfields with new features twice weekly! See you soon!

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Oceanfolk 2013: Covers for Sand, Surf and Sound

July 25th, 2013 — 6:20pm

Originally posted, with slight modifications, in August 2009, and again in 2011. Because it’s one of my favorite sets – and because bloggers need vacations, too.


herringriver


We’ve just got back from a short week in Truro, in the same rented beachhouse high on the dunes above the Cape Cod sound. It’s peaceful out there on the bluff: wakeless trawlers and shore fishermen, beach wanderers and bathers are few and far between, mere specks on an otherwise natural landscape that fills the sense with color: green grasses, faded yellow sand, the variable blues of sky and water.

At night the lights of Provincetown shone brightly just on the edge of the vista, a line of stars marking the difference between pitch-black sea and an invisible sky. The first year we were here a shooting star dropped towards them while I watched, as if longing to join the tourists and summer people in their shared debauchery. This year, the full moon showed its evidentiary head only once through the after-dark clouds, its tidal effect was visible in the disappearance of the dunes and meadows at dusk. I stayed up late reading the usual borrowed beachhouse paperback, the autobiography of an island lobsterwoman, and fell asleep before eleven.

The weeks ahead burn and roil on the horizon like sunset: crew chiefdom and a chance to steep in the community of music next week at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, a two week run of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at the Hampshire Shakespeare Company up in Amherst, and then back to work, with new students to greet, new courses to teach, and new classrooms to maintain from then until eternity. But sitting there on the deck in the shade of the house, the marsh below me, the ocean beyond, this browngrey hawk drawing lazy circles in the blue overhead, I was reminded once again how vital it is to sit in stillness at the edge of it all, how centering it is to squeeze peace from the last fleeting weeks of summer.

It’s a good life. Here’s a soundtrack for it.



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