Category: Mixtapes


And Both Shall Row: A Wedding Anniversary Mix

August 18th, 2017 — 11:27pm


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The kids are away at summer camp. It’s Friday, which matters, now that school is starting up again.

And it’s the 18th of August, which matters most. Because today is our anniversary, and as much as we are going grey, ours is a love that is worth the work.

My wife has named this anniversary as the one where “our marriage is finally old enough to drink”. She also claims we met the first day of college, though I remember another night, when we played that game of Pictionary, and stayed up until the sun rose again for the very first time.

Either way: it’s been a long time. And I would do it again, in a heartbeat.

It’s good to have something to share, and someone to share it with. It’s good to have a partner in crime, happy to be a Mary Magdalene to your Jesus even when she’s a stranger at your party, willing to sit in a hayfield sewing and then resewing a hat for your crazy garden gnome costume.

It’s good to have this, and a thousand moments, really: harmonizing in empty churches; the duck in the bathtub; Disney World in a drizzle; the Christmas Eve where we drove out into the cold and ended up across state lines, eating gingerbread and drinking wine in the last open bar for a hundred miles, just to put a ring on her finger, even though we had picked it out together.

And I am grateful for all of it, and the chance to be grateful every morning when I wake, and find her by my side once again.

For this, and the longing to be together and stay together through these last few years of sickness and health, and the early years of motion and uncertainty. This, and the hard work of marriage-as-verb, the constant reflection and sharing and listening that we have learned to do better, at least, as time goes on, and life lays opportunity at our feet. This, and the polished gold seams, the thousand places where we have been tested and tried together, and healed more beautiful than before, like one of those Japanese bowls.

This, and the home we hold, committed to light, laughter, and the spirit of adventure, or so it says on the ketubah, and oh, on most days, it’s still the perfect trifecta, the top of the roller coaster, the cornerstone of a love deeper than the dark.

Because this I remember: 21 years ago today we made ham sandwiches with the rabbi. Your sister fainted holding the chupah. Your grandmother set fire to the reception table. My friends got high in the parking lot.

And then, when the last guest had wandered into the sunset, we went home together, you and I, to the house we had lived in before, above the swan pond. And the next morning, we drove off into the bright new dawning day, comfortable and joyful in silence and in conversation, ready for every next adventure.

May there be a thousand more.



5 comments » | Mixtapes

Vacation Coverfolk: On the Trail of Social Justice
(songs of place and protest from Montgomery to Memphis)

June 30th, 2017 — 5:10pm


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Yes, it’s been a while since we turned up here, and there’s much to celebrate as we slowly return to the mailbag of the last two months, including transformative re-recordings from new artists and well-loved voices, crowdfunded campaign-driven albums promising the best of honest folk and acoustic coverage, tributes to the dearly departed, and more.

If I have been busy elsewhere, it is due in no small part to a growing mindfulness as I renew my commitment to the work of worldchanging, in my increasingly intertwined roles as a practitioner and worship leader in an engaged Unitarian Universalist congregation on one hand, and as an English teacher in a Title 1 urban high school on the other. And although the prompt to travel originally came through my spouse, who was looking for some company and an adventure on the way back from an equally transformative conference, it is this twinned sense of connection to the world around me – the vocational and the spiritual; the service and the service – that brought me to and through the last week, sustaining me deeply in mind and spirit as we traveled North from Louisiana, with stops at a series of sites and settings essential to the long struggle for all Americans to be and feel safe, free, and able to access the world-as-it-should-be.

So join us today as we dip into the experience in literary slideshow, with a set of covers tender and torn in their address of the pliancies and pilgrims of social justice work in our beloved nation. And then stay tuned, as the summer surrounds us, and the waters of music flow like the Mississippi, strengthening and serving our hearts and our minds alike.


standing-on-the-side-of-love-phoenix-768x511Lights dim and the landing gear rises on the plane to New Orleans. People all around me turn pages and flip screens, and it occurs to me that that I am both gladdened and saddened by the realization that planes represent a concentration of literacy, given how much the picture depends on affluence, and reinforces long-distance travel as a privilege unavailable to my rising 11th graders and their peers. Me, I’m reading James McBride’s The Color Of Water, in preparation for teaching it in the fall: making notes in the margins and savoring the internal dialogue of reader and text as McBride alternately confronts the nuances of growing up black with a mother who hid her history of whiteness in a veneer of standoffishness, and dances around those images, providing powerful nuance to the national dialogue of race, belief, and identity through character and connotation.

Reading slowly, savoring moment and meaning, is not all that natural to me; generally, I read for pleasure, voraciously, and am known to finish a book in an evening. But we are here, my wife and I, on a pilgrimage. Our aim is to meet up in the South to discover this dialogue together after an exhausting school year, driving slowly through the history of the social justice movement in America, with planned stops in Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Memphis, and at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati before heading homeward to recover our children. And, in the end, my reading, deeply thought-provoking and grounding, still mostly unfinished, makes a perfect metaphor for the experience that followed.

We start, fittingly, on Sunday, at the morning service for this year’s Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, which my wife has been attending in her role as Director of Religious Ed for our beloved UU congregation in Springfield, MA. The hall is vast, and the clarion call clear: ours is a spiritual path that calls us to love and action, continuing the good work of commitment and dialogue in service to attaining global justice in many areas, from ecology to economics, with race, gender, and class consciousness at the forefront. The service includes a reading of Naomi Shihab Nye’s Gate A-4, a powerful poem of hope and immigrant identity, which I taught last year; mention is made of two men whose sexuality is both irrelevant and noteworthy, IT professionals who serve the UU community, who were attacked the previous night in the French Quarter. The collection plate goes to Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, an organization working to challenge and change the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues our inner cities. We give what we can, and sing with tears in our eyes the hymns of commitment and claim amidst thousands.

From there to Montgomery, Alabama, where Maya Lin’s Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial fountain is a UU chalice in the afternoon sun at the foot of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the giant footsteps in the crosswalk which mark the approach to the statehouse steps loom large as history in front of the Baptist church where King and others led the charge for justice. It is quiet here, being Sunday, and quieter still as we drive in reverse the long march path to Selma, where much of the town is boarded up and broken, reminding us that no matter how far we have come forward since black leaders and their white allies crossed the bridge into violence and chaos, we still have a long way to go.


Prison-Prayer-2The next day, Birmingham, where the streets radiate out from a once-bombed church and Kelly Ingram Park, a one-time central staging ground for protest and now a well-curated space featuring statues of children huddling before firehoses and snarling dogs. We walk the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail in the morning heat, tracing the original paths of marches on power both government and retail, making our slow and pensive way through sidewalks lined with plaques and textbook-familiar photographs, experiencing the expected temporal tension as 1963 comes to us superimposed over a shaded modern reality. Back in the park, a homeless woman named Beatrice, who hugged me earlier for offering her two cigarettes instead of one, sings hymns heartily into the morning air as we take our leave.

Memphis follows, where a well-designed museum experience at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, takes us slowly and with exquisite detail through the rise of the civil rights movement and culminates starkly in the rooms where MLK was transformed from leader to martyr for the cause. The National Civil Rights Museum is a deeply powerful place, with the time and space given to the shooting itself well-separated from the main site, which focuses on the long and arduous path of the proverbial movement, and features the voices and artifacts of that path adeptly and powerfully. But it is the small moments and discoveries that stand out, in the end: the low-placed photographs, almost an afterthought, that show the white mother of five who gave her life to the march from Selma to Montgomery, shot in her car for her role in ferrying march participants through a political bottleneck that allowed only 300 marchers through a long stretch of the narrow highway; the second-paragraph text that, in showing how a careful and methodical use of non-violent tactics among police and government in one site along the path to rights and justice slowed down the charge towards equality in those areas, reminds us that the use of such strategies is neither evidence of righteousness, nor exclusive to the side of love.

I am struck, especially, by tensions between then and now: by the young black men that occupy the open stools alongside serious-faced mannequins at the sit-in exhibit, texting and playing games on their phones, seemingly oblivious to the ironic gravity of the moment; by the laughter of the young patrons who line up to catch a glimpse of the balcony, and speak through Mahalia Jackson’s powerful voice as they approach. Later, stark racial divisions among the staff at the Beale St. barbecue joint we visit on our way out of the city – the constant patter of the white waitstaff as they hop from table to table, the black men manhandling heavy platters of ribs and catfish in the open kitchen, and the Latino males that emerge infrequently from the back to check on and gather up dirty dishware – will resonate that much more deeply for our path to the table.

More sit-in statues in Nashville and Louisville, though mostly by accident; our final goal is really Cincinnati, where the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will offer both a historical look at the emancipation and suffrage of slaves, women, Native Americans, and other populations and groups in the United States, and an exploration of the various ways in which these conditions still exist today in places around the globe, through sex trafficking, indentured servitude, and forced labor, all of which plague the universe, and demand our action and our attention. I take many photographs of text: The Gettysburg Address is on our reading list for next year, as is King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail; pairing these is no accident, and although I am wary of turning class into a “what I did on my summer vacation” slideshow, I am eager to consider how to make these texts, and the others we will engage in, deeply meaningful to my students through their relevance to their own shared world.

But not just yet. Now we are here: it is summer, and the grass grows high off the porch upon our return. Our homecoming finds us renewed in spirit and determination, but we know, too, that processing such an exploration of self and society properly takes time and contemplation.

For now, then: a soundtrack of song, covers all, that covers all, from the protest music of the continuing revolution to the more modern tracks of place and time that allude to the continuing struggle to be present, productive, and free.

May we be a people so bold, and so deliberate. And if peace is not to be ours in our lifetime, may we go to the mountaintop nevertheless, and do the good work that brings us ever closer to the promised land.



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down will celebrate its 10th anniversary on the web this September thanks to the music-makers, the promoters, and YOU. Want to help keep CLD alive and streaming? Donate here and receive a very special mix of our favorite unblogged and exclusive coverage from 2015-2016!

Comment » | Mixtapes, Vacation Coverfolk

Covered In Tradfolk: New Takes on Old Songs
with Jayme Stone, Hannah Read, Allysen Callery, Leftover Cuties & more!

February 24th, 2017 — 3:39pm


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Because we are a folkblog first, the essential question of whether the performance of traditional song is an act of coverage is treated as trivial here at Cover Lay Down. Indeed, as alluded to in our 2013 feature on the Child Ballads, and in Single Song Sunday features on O Death, Wayfaring Stranger, Barbara Allen and The Water Is Wide, songs so old as to have lost their origin act as the prototype for our exploration of the depth and breadth of the folkways as they continue to stretch and evolve.

Someone has to have written these, of course; neither lyric nor melody springs from the cotton of whole cloth. Songs do shift as their culture grows around them, especially those originally carried by memory and not notation, but it strains the boundaries of reason to suppose that rhyming quatrains used to emerge from the air. But in the case of songs marked not standard but traditional, by definition, the mutation through versioning is so strong, the songs belong truly to the ages, to be identified by region rather than author. And this, in turn, makes of their reinvention an ideal opportunity to meet our mandate: to discover the performer through their interpretation of the familiar, and in embracing that comfort, to discover the new through the old.

There’s some wonderful tradfolk on rotation in our ears these days, from last year’s oops-we-missed-it super-collaborative Songs of Separation project, which brought together ten well-known female folk musicians from Scotland and England (with Karine Polwart, Eliza Carthy, and Hannah Read among them) for a tribute to their own ancient traditions, to Across The Waters, a newly-released full-length traditional album by Glastonbury’s Nathan Lewis Williams & Caelia Lunniss, and the upcoming sophomore album from Jayme Stone’s Folklife project, this time with a focus on the songs of the American sea islands and mountains.

Add in a recently-discovered Child ballad from UK storyteller and folk explorer Christine Cooper and her lovely 2011 5-track traditional EP, and an older live cut from Rachel Newton, whose most recent traditional album was celebrated in our Best Covers Albums of 2016, then cross the pond again for a cut or two from the American gospel hymnal from Americana icons The Stray Birds and an upcoming debut EP from new Mexico City-based band Peregrino, much-beloved tracks from ‘ghost folk” fave Allysen Callery and fiddlefolk duo 10 String Symphony, a mystical rebuild of Scarborough Fair from Sacramento banjofolk minimalist Hannah Mayree, a hopping bluegrass number from Beehive Productions recorded live at the Caramoor American Roots Music Program in Katonah, NY, and a heavily-modified Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies from Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri‘s fine and intimate all-covers Valentine’s Duets series, recently rereleased for their well-stocked and easy-to-justify Patreon patronage project, and you’ve got a fine set indeed, with links to both artists and song origin, just for fun.



Looking for more? We’ve got two bonus tracks today, both nominally authored – the first a Bandcamp Frenchwoman’s amateur version of a popular Appalachian tune generally viewed as by Ola Belle Reed but also claimed as an original hymn by the Church of Latter Day Saints, the second a brand new live recording of a song y’all will surely recognize, originally of disputed authorship and first recorded towards the beginning of WWII – but both often attributed and treated as American standards. Check ‘em out, download the entire set, and then click through as always above and below to purchase the music, the better to support the continued effort of those who channel and celebrate the folkways in all their myriad forms.


Comment » | Mixtapes, Tradfolk

Teach Your Children Well: A Coverfolk Mix
In Celebration of The National Teach-In (February 17, 2017)

February 12th, 2017 — 4:32pm


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Sundays mean lesson planning, in the world of public school teaching. And so, although white-out conditions outside my cozy living room window suggest another snow day tomorrow, I’m looking ahead to Friday, where – in solidarity with those currently calling for a general strike – a few fellow schoolteachers and I are spearheading a National Teach-In in response to ongoing policy concerns which we see as harmful to truth, public education, common decency, and the dignity of our students and their families.

Because a well informed electorate cannot be taken advantage of by “alternate facts”. And because as educators, we believe it is our duty to develop that informed electorate within our own communities.

Historically, teach-ins are a form of civil disobedience, in which professors stand outside the canon, plying their status and knowledge on behalf of the counterculture. But in a very important way, regaining our footing by reclaiming our classrooms and hallways as strongholds of truth and justice is a restorative act, not a political one.

Teaching about the three branches of American government, and their checks and balances, are as innate to the History curriculum as the history of protest song, and its effects and effectiveness. Exploring popularity polls and gerrymandering are perfect pursuits for the Math teacher required by administration to make connections to the real world as they teach. Covering climate change, resource management through pipelines, and other issues currently on the ground in the Sciences is cemented into the pathways we must follow. Art and Music owe themselves to explore the way in which their forms are and have been utilized to speak truth to power, in our past and in our present.

Indeed, arguably, to NOT integrate the larger on-the-ground issues of our time and temperament into the classroom is to abdicate our responsibility to the highly-politicized infrastructure in which teaching and learning currently stand.

To join the Teach-In, then, becomes merely a matter of tweaking the pacing guide, and then delivering a lesson mindfully and joyfully, knowing that others across the nation are doing the same. And if it feels subversive, then perhaps that merely means that this is what teaching should feel like.


And so – since the Common Core Standards which guide my practice as an English teacher mandate that I prepare my students to “Analyze…[the] particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature” – I will spend this Friday with my students analyzing the promise of the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, and move from there to explore the particular standpoints and imagery of a series of poems by immigrants and second-generation Americans struggling with their identity, before they engage in clarifying and exposing their own cultural perspective and its expression through the creation of poems, essays, posters and more.

And so, today, here and now, we offer a set of topical songs which speak to the potential of the classroom to truly prepare students to engage politically and deliberately in a world drowning in alternate facts and social media echo chambers – both in celebrating its success, and in admonishing its failure.


There are plenty of songs with school-as-setting out there in the universe; we’ve covered them before. There’s a few songs, too, which reference learning, and the academy itself. But today’s parameters are narrow: songs which speak specifically to the act of teaching, either for its relevance to the real, in preparing our next generation for the social and civic world, or – more frequently – for its failure to connect students to that which matters most. And thanks to the crowdsource, we’ve come up with just enough for a fine mix of coverage.

So listen, and rejoice in the fact that even in the midst of a world driven by metrics and testing, there are still enough of us who remember that the essential purpose of education is prepare our students to take on the mantle of critical, deliberate, imaginative world leadership, and are determined to maintain our classrooms as spaces where mindfulness, critical thinking, and social justice aren’t just welcome, they’re part and parcel of our daily practice.

And if you are a teacher, or just know one, please share this post, or the National Teach-In Facebook page, with every teacher, student, and parent you know – both to help us spread the word about Friday, and to stand in solidarity with those who know that knowledge is power…but that only wisdom is liberty.


Teach Your Children Well: A Coverfolk Mix
…now available in handy zip format!



Artist-centric and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the makers, the mailers, and YOU. Tune in as the winter continues for new tributes, cover compilations, and coverfolk singles from 2017, plus resurrected features on Jeffrey Foucault, Randy Newman, and more!

Comment » | Mixtapes, Teaching

Immigrant Songs, Covered In Folk
(A non-partisan mixtape for the comfortable and the afflicted)

January 29th, 2017 — 7:31pm





I’ve often said this is not a political blog, but that’s not really what I mean. Folk music cannot help but be political; it is political at its roots, not just in its branches. Woody Guthrie’s fascist-killing guitar is a means to an end; the ends he shares are more apparent in a broader statement, often attributed to Woody but more likely borrowed from a newspaper writer of his generation, that the purpose of folk music is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. But no matter the origin, it is true, of music and of folk: the tenets of social justice are entwined so deeply in the folkworld, to pretend otherwise would be a failure of coverage.

But I am not just a folkblogger. I am also a practicing Unitarian Universalist, who believes fundamentally that love will prevail. And I am a true descendent of Ellis Island, born of a line of immigrant Jews who came to this country as teenage refugees themselves, the sole members of their families pushed out just in time before the Nazi party rose to power and swallowed the rest of our shared family tree.

I live in Massachusetts, both home of the Salem Witch Trials, and a Commonwealth known for harboring religious persecuted minorities since 1620. I serve my community as a member of the school board, the better to help establish norms and priorities which will best cover the spread of vocational and civic possibility in a community that trends 60/40 towards blue-collar, independent-contractor Republicanism that appreciates the high school musical but doesn’t always recognize the merits of the liberal arts mindset among us, or in our schools. I teach English and Media Literacy in an urban setting not just because it is what serves my soul or pays the bills, but specifically because it serves my sense of patriotic duty to develop the civic, questioning mind in those populations historically underrepresented in the halls of power – not to feed it the pablum of any particular creed or standpoint, but to engender, to the extent I am able, the articulation of thought in service to right dialogue in the generation of my children, and beyond.

And then, in the increasingly rare moments of peace, I turn to this virtual soapbox, and share the joy of communion in music and culture-sampling that is folk coverage. And sometimes, because the songs are speaking, that means harboring the fugitives: in this case, songs crafted – and performances – to afflict the comforted, as Guthrie so wisely yet so probably did not speak, after all.

There are a few of you out there who sent partisan responses to our last post; there are, surely, a few reading this who will willfully misunderstand, and follow suit. But this is not a liberal blog, save that we celebrate the transformation of both song and of culture, as their arc bends towards justice. These attempts to shift the conversation here to partisan discussion will go unshared, and un-responded to, though I am ever regretful that there are those out there who cannot tell the political from the partisan.

For mine is not political work, and this is not a partisan blog. It is, in the end, a folkspace: a patriotic platform, proudly American, where those who sing intimately to power are welcome, regardless of their party affiliation.

Just like in my classroom, all opinions are wanted here, so long as they are offered respectfully. Just like at the school board table, we work in service to the dialogue, and its participants, not to its contents or conclusions. And no matter your beliefs or your actions, if you are doing so peacefully, and proudly, and mindfully, and joyfully, then you are one of us.

All are welcome here, just like in America. You, and you, and you and me. For all of us, everywhere, are native to this world we share. And in a very true way, all of us are descended from immigrants – all of us together, and each one of us alone.


Immigrant Songs, Covered In Folk

2 comments » | Mixtapes

Arise! Arise!
Coversongs for change on the edge of a new era

January 21st, 2017 — 2:28pm



Vermont folk artists come together for a performance of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land


My students were more restless than usual yesterday. And though it’s tempting to conflate their behavior with the unrest and uncertainty that has surrounded President Trump’s ascension, and the ending of an era for another, more humble President, one that looked more like them than ever before, I know better. In the inner city, students spend what little energy and attention they can muster on the lowest tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; end-of-term hopelessness, mingled with the daily grind of poverty and impossibility, is enough to explain their malaise, and empathize with it enough to double down on the markers of care and comfort I work to bring to my daily practice with each of them, and with all.

It’s a volatile time in America. Yesterday’s destructive attacks on the symbols of high capitalism kept me up late; last week’s cabinet hearings did, too. Our discourse is fragmented, and too often tinged with anger, even as, across the globe, we raise our voices in hopeful determination, even as we worry that only we are listening to ourselves.

I’m not marching today; though we had originally hoped to make it to Boston, family illness, kids far behind in their coursework, and end of term grading weigh heavily on the mind and soul. We are not ashamed, for living out loud in America proudly and well is as important as protest, in the end. But we are tracking, carefully, those who are: in Washington, Boston, New York; in smaller communities across the nation. Their smiles and pink hats fill our Facebook feed; their joy and purpose flowing like a mighty river in video posts and status updates as they converge on the centers of their communities, and raise their signs.

Our spirit is lifted as America unfolds before us. There is hope here, the candlefire of the determined spirit magnified a millionfold as the power of the people, gathered together, burns bright.

There’s new songs on the backburner, an undiscovered coverfolk country on the horizon. But today, we put aside the new and novel to embrace history in our midst with a soundtrack of sorts, with songs determined and patriotic, melancholy and uplifting in equal measure.

May those who march today find their journey light, their voices heard, their stamina great and their conviction strong. May love prevail across this great land we love.




The Avett Brothers take on George Harrison’s Give Me Love



Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down thrives thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.

So do your part: listen, love, share, 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, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.

Comment » | Mixtapes

Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix

January 7th, 2017 — 2:03pm


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If the holidays are over, then so is our respite from the day-to-day of work and school. No longer does the cold and snow bring hopes of friends and good cheer; instead, it drives us inwards: to our minds and our houses, the detritus still lingering after the burning of the old year.

We were going to see my father in Boston today, but the snow is coming: as much as a foot, out where he is. Here in the rural middle of the state we’re on the edge of the storm, looking at a shut-in day by the pellet stove, writing lesson plans and playing charades with the family while the blizzard whirls outside the window.

A day by the fire, then. And appropriately so, for it’s the time of year where we hunker down, huddling against the cold.

We’ve shared several relevant coversets over the years: on snow itself, and on the nondenominational seasonal songs so easily showcased among the holiday, thanks to a resonance with the hopeful spirit of the season.

But there are also wintersongs that are quiet, still, notes and voices resonating hollow against the shimmery white world, their voices soaring into empty, grey skies. In which each new day adds but a minute of daylight, not fast enough to slow the pace of deep introspection. In which Spring is present at a distance: a dubious promise, made muffled by the snow.

Themes of withdrawal and stillness typify the songs of this, the second season of winter. The longing for light we hear in these sounds is less golden, less joyful; more wistful, more weary. There is comfort, here, of a sorts, knowing that such states are temporary. But it is one that we must bring, ourselves, to complete the emotive loop.


Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]



Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down continues to thrive thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.

So do your part: listen, love, share, 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, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

The Year’s Best Coverfolk Singles (2016)
A-sides, b-sides, deep cuts, one-shots and more!

January 1st, 2017 — 7:21pm


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And so the old year passes once again. And in our ears, there is music, echoing for all to hear.

In previous “Year’s Best” features, we’ve prefaced our final musical offering with an attempt at data analysis – a sort of state of the folkways address, as glimpsed through the lens of coverage.

This year, other than to note that there’s a good lot of tradfolk in the mix, we’re skipping the formalities of trend and tribulation. Instead of trying to make sense of what is ultimately as much a private act as it is a collective one, we’ll let the genre speak for itself, and focus in on the song.

Because at year’s end, we find ourselves holding a full deck: 52 well-loved tracks, one for each week; each one a winner on its own, and nary a joker in the bunch.

Taken as a set, this curated collection shows the margins of folk, and its underbelly; yawing wide and deep, it runs and rambles, confronting and comforting with the manic, the maudlin, and everything in between.

But taken song by song, it offers 52 chances to fall in love again with the world. And in the end, maybe that’s the more powerful reason we come here, every year, to lay the year at your feet, and begin again.

So download the entire collection here, or sample track-by-track below, as Cover Lay Down proudly presents our favorite coverfolk singles, b-sides, live tracks and deep album cuts of 2016, from indie to traditional, and all the contemporary singer-songwriter, alt-country, and acoustic poprock genres in between – with thanks, as always, to the artists, the labels, the promoters, and you, for holding us up, and in, and close, when the world keeps spinning right round, like a record.

Join us, as we rejoice in a year gone by, and welcome in the new, with the beautiful, the bountiful, and the bold – the very best coverage of a year now ended, with a whisper of what is to come from the darkened wings.



The Year’s Best Singles: A 2016 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, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking.

Got goodwill to spare? Want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers otherwise unblogged. Click here to give – and thanks.

Comment » | Best of 2016, Mixtapes

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

August 28th, 2016 — 2:59pm


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Great covers come from a myriad of sources. But the coverlover’s collection is founded on a finite set, where coverage runs fast and free: deep wells that sustain us, pouring forth the volumes that pepper our mixtapes and shore up our artist-centric features, from “homage houses” like Reimagine Music and American Laundromat Records to ongoing YouTube tour-stops like AV Undercover and the pop-up microstudios of Dutch field recorder Onder Invloed.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

Barefoot Dancing: A Cover Lay Down Mix
(with covers from Mumford & Sons, First Aid Kit, Luka Bloom & more!)

July 28th, 2016 — 12:14pm


cassiadancing


I learned to dance in the suburbs, a child caught in the web of projected dreams of high class living. Sessions took place in the front parlor of an ivied, stately mansion, record needles skipping us across the waxed wooden floors in waltzes and ballroom foxtrots as we held each other distantly, stiff in our navy sports coats, palms sweaty and awkward against the unknown sex in their disdainful white quarter-sized dresses.

Later, dance was a skill, useful for the stage and a gym credit in high school. I took jitterbug lessons in a downtown studio for a Merchant-Ivory production of Cinderella, learning to be led by older boys in wigs and stepsister dresses, watching my steps in a wall of mirrored glass. I learned the basic language of choreography, and the sideways look to be sure.

I learned, in other words, that dance was work.

Discovering dance as a joy – as a personal thing – was a revelation in my twenties, when the world of jam bands taught me to dance hypnotically, and Michael Franti and Tribe Called Quest taught me to jump. It became a joy to share in my thirties, when the children were small, and unaware that the world was watching. But something about the world of dance as a skill, to be polished and critiqued, still lingered in my brain. I had to work to lose myself in it, and it never lasted long.

And so I rarely dance these days. Oh, sometimes half-furtively, for the encore of an especially good band, from the back of the chapel. But the children are grown too old to dance with Daddy. The world is often watching, in my dreams and in my mind.


But you have to find your place in the world. And so, once a year, I go to where I feel most alive, and most comfortable in my own skin: offline and off the grid, deep in the green fields of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

And I dance.

I dance in the rain, when it comes, if it comes. I dance in the bright midday sunlight, alongside the stages. I dance under tents, darkness all around us; I bounce in the crowd as psychedelic strains and hot lights fill the air. Some years, I even try a round of contra dancing. Saturday night, my daughters and I make ourselves into glowstick figures, and dance up the aisles in the darkness. And Sunday morning, by the side of the main stage, I raise my hands and voice in agnostic praise for the Gospel Wake-Up Call as the spirit moves me out of my seat.

I’m not that good at it. I’m sure I look ridiculous, most of the time.

But it doesn’t matter, really. What matters is the dance.

So find your place and time, and dance with reckless abandon, with tenderness, with style. Dance like no one’s watching, with small children and old men and women if possible. Dance to the stars, and the bright morning sky on the last day of summer. Dance in the closet, or with the grass at your feet.

From slow dances to rockabilly two-steps. From here to there. We’ll be back again soon, refreshed and rejuvenated, limbs loose and ready to move.


Barefoot Dancing: A CLD Mix
…now available in one convenient download-able file!



Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down explores the folkways through coverage here and on Facebook throughout the year thanks to patrons like you.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

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