Category: New Artists Old Songs


Mailbag Mayhem: New covers of
The Beatles, Beyonce, Teenage Fanclub, The Grateful Dead & more!

August 11th, 2016 — 9:56pm





How lovely to return from two weeks in the folkfields soaked in sun and song and find the mailbag bulging with transformative takes on songs we love. We’ve sifted through and found the very best of a set that covers the gamut from tender indiefolk and solo singer-songwriter fare to bluegrass, roots, and Americana; now read on for some very new coverage from a diverse set of international artists working in and around the folkways – all recorded or released in the last few weeks, and all very much worth your time.


Revolver turned 50 last week; in its honor, a set of mostly Brazilian artists have spent the week performing songs from the album for a mostly-live project called BH Beatle Week, and the results are just divine. Our favorite project contribution: this bright, dreamy, gently psychedelic cover from contemporary folk duo Lindsay and Isaac (and friend Vini), perfect for wistful summer’s end. See also Junk, recorded back in January by the same trio of artists – a beautiful, tender rendition of Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles lullaby.


Indie-slash-antifolk singer-songwriter Regina Spektor, who has been pretty quiet since her last release in 2012, covered the Beatles recently, too, for the soundtrack of new animated feature Kubo and the Two Strings. Fittingly tinged with neotraditional Japanese instrumentation over orchestral strings, the cover, which hit the ether over the weekend, is both stirring and strange, a fitting match for a film that promises much, and seems poised to deliver.


Wisconsin-based, classically trained multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter and CLD frequent flyer Anna Elizabeth Laube sent along this Beyonce cover almost a month ago, but it’s well worth bringing forward: hushed, beautiful, and truly folk, with unexpected horns and a pulsing vibe that soothes and sways. At this point, we’d listen to Laube the sing the phone book; that she’s managed to wring such depth and dynamic tension from such an unusual source is both typical and praiseworthy.


New on Noisetrade, this previously unreleased Teenage Fanclub cover serves as 1/4 of a sampler EP re-introducing the world to the throwback California country sounds of Detroit “guitar-pop” band The Legal Matters. And what an introduction it is, too: perfect for those last lazy summer afternoons, and sure to please fans of The Jayhawks, The Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, and other folk-pop radio hitmakers that still populate classic rock radio.


Released in June but now rising to the top, Don’t This Road Look Rough And Rocky, the “focus” track of Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind, was put up on Youtube at the end of July: like much of this collection of old-timey “cheatin’ and hurtin’ songs” from BC-based septet The High Bar Gang, it’s a slow piece, and gentler than the Flatt and Scruggs original. But it’s the high-driving energy of traditional album opener Silver Dagger, a translation that owes much to Dolly Parton’s 1999 take on the song yet with a bright and busty energy all its own, that grabs us and pulls us in, hard and grinning, to spin and whirl.


It’s been a while since we last featured contemporary Hudson Valley singer-songwriter Susan Kane here on these pages, naming her sly, bluesy take on the Grateful Dead classic Loser as one of our top 20 coversongs of 2012, but we’re thrilled to have her back on the radar with two new Dead covers and a set of potent originals that reveal a rich and eminently human inner world through the superimposition of the mundane and the magic. An acoustic Americana album with guest musicians galore, new album Mostly Fine is enjoying a soft release; snag it now via CD Baby before folk radio beats you to it.


Just three albums into a promising career, London ex-pat vocalist and composer Joanna Wallfisch is hard to categorize, but everything’s good about near-perfect new CD Gardens In My Mind, which yaws wide as it swings from a playful, stuttering barrelhouse pianojazz title track to lush world-and-classical folk a la Jean Rohe (Satin Grey). Though mostly comprised of vibrant, contemporary originals, the album also includes a crooner’s soft pianopop Tim Buckley cover and this completely deconstructed string-quartet take on All I Want that just blows our mind…and then does it again, in a gorgeously layered, looping a capella reprise of the same song that leaves us aching and breathless.


Most folks move from folk to Broadway, if anything. But with debut album Somebody, Ryan Vona – who appeared there in folk musical Once, and currently stars as Joey in the Cirque Du Soleil musical Paramour – isn’t so much moving backwards as he is forging ahead into new territory in pure, potent voice. New single The Letterbox is an earnest, playful newgrass revelation, with an adorable video featuring an animated grasshopper in a paper bag world; add in an arrangement of Danny Boy which dances around the “original” tune composed by his ancestor Rory Dall O’Cahan, and we’re pleased to welcome him to the folkways with open arms and accolades.


  • VIDEO: Lucy LaForge, Katie Ferrara, Kaitlin Wolfberg: Dreams (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
  • VIDEO: Lucy LaForge & Evan Blum: Just A Friend To You (orig. Meghan Trainor)

Last but certainly not least, we close today with a pair of darling YouTube covers from Lucy LaForge, the whimsical indie frontwoman of Lucy & La Mer who has already brought us such joy this year through covers of Tainted Love and Bad Blood. Dreams, a raw, ragged, sparse and oh so sweet new Fleetwood Mac cover, was mixed on the same board as Rumors, the seminal 1977 album which brought us such well-covered delights as Go Your Own Way, The Chain, Dreams and Gold Dust Woman; as a bonus, it also features fellow LA-based artist Katie Ferrara, whose absolutely delightful cover of Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes featured here just a few weeks ago in our flavor-laden Popsicle Mix. Add in one of the sweetest boy-girl uke covers I’ve heard this year, and it’s easy to see why we’ve fallen in love.






Comment » | Mailbag Monday, New Artists Old Songs, Tube Thursday

New Artists, Old Songs: Introducing
St. Beaufort, Andrea Silva, Roniit, Jen Lane, Freddy & Francine and more!

June 11th, 2016 — 2:48pm

The mailbag’s been a bit backed up, but we’re always glad to consider both accidental encounters and unsolicited work here at Cover Lay Down, especially when it reveals such gems as today’s New Artists coverfeature. Read on for click-and-stream covers of Dylan, Lucius, The Cardigans, Jackson Browne, Big Star, Radiohead, Angus and Julia Stone and more in a set that ranges from dear, delightful countrified twang to dark electro and antifolk, with stops in Appalachia, rural Britannia, experimental piano rooms, tableside bar sessions, and the singer-songwriter’s coffeehouse along the way.




beauWell-traveled international folk/bluegrass trio St. Beaufort, who has been crossing borders on the fest and concert scene in and around Denmark, England, Germany and Switzerland since their debut EP release in 2013, bridges the gap between Appalachia and the contemporary scene like nobody’s business. They also meet regularly around the table in Berlin with a special guest and a bottle of whiskey to film a song for YouTube; it’s usually a cover of some classic folk tune, and like this rollicking fake-out featuring New Mexico friend Trevor Bahnson sent to us in honor of Dylan’s 75th birthday, it’s generally wonderful, offering an intimate and joyous glimpse into folkways as the folkways should be.




Red Diesel smallThere’s tradfolk at the core of Pilgrim’s Way, too; sure enough, most of the songs on their 2016 sophomore release Red Diesel are dug from the European tradition. But there’s a few great surprises here, too, as the band transforms more popular songs from Paul Simon and String Cheese Incident into gentle ballads with strings and guitar and piano and the potent brogue of founding lead singer Lucy Wright, who has since moved on from the band. Here, some serious reinvention turns Boy In The Bubble into a slippery, unsettling, mournful ballad, while traditional reel Boston City straddles the pond, adding jawharp and harmonica to a more traditional Celtic hoot and holler for great effect.




For more experimental tradfolk in the tradition of the Unthanks, Kate Rusby, and other unravellers of the Northern UK tradition, look no further than Glasgow’s Wildings, a newly-formed female trio of piano, fiddle, flute and voice whose two well-chosen takes on old songs The Beggarman and Handsome Cabin Boy straddle The Bellamy Suite, a 15 minute multi-movement tour de force at the core of their self-titled debut – commissioned by Live Music Now Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland and inspired by painter John Bellany’s lifelong connection to the sea – that leaves us aching for more.




Jen Lane‘s new album This Life Of Mine, released in February, contains just one cover, but it’s a strong introduction to the work of this Saskatchewan singer-songwriter: clear-as-a-bell acoustic twangfolk stylings complete with sweet, warm, wistfully gentle alto vocals, a cowboy’s harmonica and dobro, country kickdrum, and a sixties picker’s hand on the guitar that seep into you like summer’s dappled sunlight. Bonus points for Jen & John, a gentle 2014 duo EP with John Antoniuk that includes solid folkrock covers of J.J. Cale and Ryan Adams.




Independent songwriter and visual artist Roniit comes from Colorado but sounds like she emerges raw from your darkest dreams. Check out this piano cover of The Cardigans’ Lovefool, with its aching layers of octaved voices and an echoing fragility, clear and resonant, that wraps the smooth mysticism of Enya with a postmodern Rachmaninoff darkness inside a delicious indiepop world, for the perfect introduction.




Found in a random Bandcamp dive and immediately cherished, Nicolas Sales and Lydia Rose Turino‘s one-shot duet album Everything, All At Once is delightful and diverse, with shades of everything from smooth Burt Bacharach vibes to dark and unsettling indiepop. Small Hands, originally recorded by reclusive alt-rock artist Keaton Henson, echoes the early days of the high-production post-grunge indie world; their hushed, indiefolk cover of Jackson Browne’s These Days evokes Elliott Smith while beating out the other Nico’s cover for perfect Wes Anderson soundtrack placement sound.




Tape hiss and drowned, whispered vocals on Cherry Patty, a homegrown 4-track covers EP, typify the deconstructionist anti-folk aesthetic of autumn-autumn, another Bandcamp find who self-records her fragile bedroom recordings in her home in Minsk, Belarus. Original titles like while i was sleeping you were almost dead and covers that take on The Moldy Peaches and a pair of tracks by Angus and Julia Stone only reinforce her alliance and taste.




Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 2.26.41 PMSometimes the good stuff finds you; sometimes, as in the case of these chilled, shimmering takes on Radiohead’s Exit Music (For A Film) and John Cale’s Big White Cloud from slow-core chanteuse Kingscrossing, you find it yourself – in this case, on a wander through the coversongs community over at Reddit. A quick reach-out to the artist reveals that Kingscrossing, aka 30 year old Swedish singer-songwriter Emelie, used to be in post-rock band Killers Walk Among Us; now it’s just her and the piano, and although she’s only been putting out tracks for a month or so, both the covers and originals on her Soundcloud page are a revelation.





asilvaA ringing, reverb-drenched take on well-covered Elliott Smith tune Between The Bars and a raw, Smith-like interpretation of a song originally by Colombian band Oh’LaVille show both the range and promise of emergent indie-primitive singer-songwriter Andrea Silva, Columbian-born herself but now based in Los Angeles. The former starts sparse and solo, and builds to a rich electrofolk sound; the latter sports an equally potent home recorded acoustic vibe that drowns tired voice in a haze of guitar. Ready yourself for shivers.





freddyFinally, if you liked Reid Jamieson last week, you’ll love Freddy & Francine, aka Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso, who showcased at Folk Alliance this year and are slated to release new record Gung Ho, an Indiegogo-funded masterpiece, in just hours. Precisely articulated, with swooping harmonies and a simple strum, the stormy on-and-off-stage West Coast couple presents a fine Americana soul that echoes the work of post-millennial indiefolk duo act The Civil Wars in the studio, and the raw intimacy of the stage – which first brought them together in 2008 for a production of Hair – in such one-off performances as this luscious 2015 take on Lucius’ Go Home.





Always ad-free and artist-centered, Cover Lay Down has been exploring the modern folkways through coverage since 2007 thanks to supporters like you. Coming soon: new tribute albums and cover compilations from 2016, plus our annual Falcon Ridge Folk festival preview with songs of and from old favorites Tom Rush, Patty Larkin, Peter Mulvey, The Mike & Ruthie Band and more!

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New Artists, Old Songs: Rising Stars Reinterpret
Randy Newman, Sia, Soft Cell, Adele, The Magnetic Fields & more!

March 5th, 2016 — 9:16pm

The virtual mailbag bursts at the digital seams with new submissions, and some of it is quite good, indeed. Today, we return to a perennial conceit to frame the festivities, celebrating new, newfound and still-emerging artists from Dublin to Nashville as they pay homage to their roots, their peers, and the popular. Enjoy – and as always, follow links to purchase and pursue your favorites, the better to patronize the arts, and support the folkways.



mikebeneckeLA singer-songwriter Mike Benecke may have gotten his start touring with punk and indie bands, but as press comparisons to Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Alexi Murdoch after the release of his 2012 self-titled EP suggest, his solo work strips away the grunge and grime, revealing a beautiful, slow, intimate and rich dreamfolk, with sparse clear-as-a-bell layers of smooth, haunting bass, keys, and pedal steel gently supporting an acoustic core of fingerpicked, resonant strings and an honest hoarseness in the voice that aches like wolves in the near distance. This Randy Newman cover, an outtake from brand new debut LP Call The Waves, is a Cover Lay Down exclusive, and it’s a hell of a teaser: an apt, quiet echo of an early urban morning that carries the song exquisitely.


lucyandIndie artists Lucy & La Mer caught our attention with their equally dreamy, pulsing take on Soft Cell classic Tainted Love, the sole cover from sweet folk pop EP Little Spoon, a uke-and-synth-driven collection flush and twee with bells, horns, and fingersnaps and lightly bouncy, wryly honest melody lines and lyrics just aching for a happy indie film montage. The black and white body-positive burlesque-troupe video they’ve just released to promote the song offers a response to recent sexual harassment issues in the music media; like the music itself, it’s decidedly steamy with a satirical bite, simultaneously discomforting and dear.



12308761_920841827951715_685359104699812121_nI keep meaning to get to a Single Song Sunday feature for Magnetic Fields classic The Book Of Love, which we’ve featured in several incarnations here on the blog since our inception in 2007. As a closer for Dubliner Gavin James‘ debut Bitter Pill – an otherwise haunting solo pop album that invites easy comparison to James Blunt and Ed Sheeran, due to drop on Tuesday – the song offers a soaring, echoing muse on the nature of love itself from an artist already filling clubs and halls on both sides of the proverbial pond, and surely on the cusp of something even bigger.



Beyond-The-Rain-Album-Cover-307x307I imagine discovering Gillian Welch and David Rawlings was a bit like this: the gentle rise and fall, the etherial voices, the subtle harmonies, the purity of sound and sadness, the precision of tone, and the tiniest hint of primitive blues drone underneath it all bringing deep solace to the soul. Such is Beyond The Rain, the first major label album from duo Quiles & Cloud, produced by Grammy-winning banjo player and artist Allison Brown on the strength of two fan-funded releases, four years on tour in a VW hatchback, and the most stunning arrangements of the canon I’ve heard yet this year: an album of endless reward that will still leave you yearning for more.



Decidedly young NYC folkpop four-piece Morningsiders hasn’t even finished recording their own debut, but they’re already rising fast on the strength of a single single after it appeared in the pilot for new Amy Poehler Hulu vehicle Difficult People and subsequently rocketed to the top of the Spotify charts. This living room Sia cover that follows it is raw and resonant, a band still facing inward as it defines its sound; it’s also a true blue delight, transforming a pop original into something gentle and comforting, intimately performed with fiddle, stand-up bass, guitar and harmonies around a single microphone.


Morningsiders: Reaper (orig. Sia) [2016]



Mandolin and bass “gutter-folk” duo Driftwood Soldier hasn’t just covered folk standard John Henry, they’ve translated it into the modern age, reframing the song as a commentary on racist corporate greed, and the titular larger-than-life character as a wage slave scion of the modern white-collar world. The chunky, funky sound they adopt here echoes that of last year’s debut Scavenger’s Joy, a wonderfully bouncy, grungy, organic collection chock full of growled vocals, howling slackstrings, and percussive found materials (including coffee cans and suitcases) that evokes both history and reinvention, with hints of early Deadhead experimentation, Leon Russell’s soul, the field recordings of Robert Johnson and Lead Belly, and the sparse, harsh deconstruction of Morphine.


Driftwood Soldier: John Henry (trad.) [2016]



Twenty-something L.A. Edwards comes to us thanks to our recent double-feature on Tom Petty; the young Californian songwriter is a protege of Heartbreaker Ron Blair, and his manager made the connection and sent along this cover. We’re grateful, too: L.A. (aka Luke Andrew) was raised on Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Cat Stevens, but after years on the road with his brother as a duo after dropping out of high school at 15, his most recent output – as heard in this and other tracks from his recent live YouTube series The El Nino Sessions, and in this stunning four-part Soundcloud collection – is encore-ready folk rock with just the right hint of alt-country, rich in high-baritone-and-tenor harmonies and spare in all other ways, like a perfect next-generation combination of Ryan Adams, Simon & Garfunkel, and Petty himself.


L.A. Edwards: If I Needed You (orig. Townes Van Zandt) [2016]



Adele covers are going to be big this year, for sure. But singer-songwriter Ryan Larkins, who placed third on CMT show Can You Duet in 2009, offers something special: a relatively faithful solo cover of a deep cut from her newest album that demonstrates crystal clear vocals and guitar skill and, in doing so, shows just how easily Adele’s heartache translates across gender lines. Pair it with a gorgeously hushed, soulful, slide-and-pick take on old gospel hymnal standard Pass Me Not played on an old 60′s Silvertone flat top guitar, note that this pair of covers represents a single week’s output for the Nashville-based Christian acoustic folk-rocker, and keep an eye out for more from this incredible, incredibly versatile still-rising star.


Ryan Larkins: Million Years Ago (orig. Adele) [2016]



Ryan Larkins: Pass Me Not (orig. Fanny Crosby) [2016]



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down delves deep into the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

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New Artists, Old Songs: 2016 Rising Stars
(with The Oh Hellos, Elle King, Elouise and more!)

January 10th, 2016 — 3:00pm





We’re finally ready to look ahead to 2016, with backburner entries bubbling in the works featuring single-artist songbooks through acoustic and folk coverage and a resurrection of some wonderful songs to celebrate next Saturday’s Unity House Concert with intimate, graceful singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot.

Today, then, let’s begin our forward-looking exploration by ringing in the new with news of the now – a broad celebration of folk and roots artists with careers on the rise, from the dark and gothic to the delicate and sweet. Read on to learn more about Elouise, The Oshima Brothers, Mia Rose Lynne, The Oh Hellos, The Orphan Brigade, The Button Collective, Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, the folkier side of Elle King, and more!



Formed complete with a soundtrack-composers-turned-album-makers mythos, new “blackgrass” collective Elouise plays a primitive, angsty, menacing form of folk that uses vintage Appalachian string instruments and gear to squeeze the raw pain out of the psyche through song.

And yes, it’s as good as that makes it sound.

Tipped off by a tense, scratchy Christmas cover of Silent Night that was anything but calm and bright, we had to go looking for more. Their forthcoming debut, the aptly-named Deep Water, drops early in 2016, and we’re eager for it: check out this beautiful whole-cloth deconstruction of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, and a pair of traditionals reborn as stunning gothic hymns, to hear why, and then click through for originals of equal delight on their website.


Speaking of taking on the tradition, here’s two vastly different versions of Paddy’s Lamentation, a Canadian tune from the 1870s that made its way to Ireland and has since been recorded by Mary Black and Sinead O’Connor, that together provide a study in range and reach in the world of up-and-comers.

The first, released in November on debut full-length Soundtrack To A Ghost Story, comes from indie folk band The Orphan Brigade, who bring us exactly the simple tour de force of haunting melody and atmosphere that history buffs could have anticipated: the band, named after a group of Confederates from Kentucky who suffered heavy losses during the war, recorded the album in an infamous house deep in Kentucky well-stocked with the ghosts of the Civil War, and it sounds like it.

Meanwhile, Australian folksters The Button Collective, who together live their sound by helping crew a 107 foot, two-mast schooner every few months, and whose new four-song EP The Lonesome Sea shows a same smashing, rollicking, heavy-on-the-downbeat sea-folk influence, take a substantively different turn on the same tune, with fiddle and flute and squeezebox and drum and a tip of the hat to the same side of the tradition that drove the sea shanty into the world of punk rock. Thanks to Timber and Steel, as always, for helping us stay on top of the Aussie folkworld, this time with a track-by-track read on the EP from frontman Brodie Buttons.



There’s only one cover on Dear Wormwood, the October release from Texas-based brother-and-sister duo The Oh Hellos, and it’s a bit of an anomaly, a classical instrumental piece from the public domain turned into a gypsy barnraiser on the lathe of modern folk rock. But the album it contains is delightful: a catchy, sweet-to-resolute journey through a psyche tracing the dissolution of a relationship, framed as a series of letters and couched in a comprehensive soundscape that will linger in your ears for days. Regular readers may recognize the band from a few Christmases ago, when we featured their wonderful holiday EP; their debut dates back to 2012, and just over 50 thousand likes on their Facebook page make “new artist” labels a stretch, but we’re still watching the meteor rise, and so should you.

Bonus points for Johnnycake Street, a fledgling all-female four-piece string band, who covers The Oh Hellos like a shy southern cul-de-sac on this brand new video-sourced take on Hello My Old Heart, just the first of several covers on a YouTube page that is still just starting out. Discovered via the team at Billsville House Concerts, who feature amazing national touring acts in their Manchester, VT living room; even if you don’t live near enough to make it to a show, their schedule alone provides a potent who’s who of other voices to watch carefully.



Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 2.31.49 PMJamie Oshima‘s roughcut cover of Ed Sheeran’s Tenerife Sea came to our attention – and ultimately found its way onto our Best Singles of 2015 mixtape – thanks to a mention from fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger, whose year-end emails are always chock full of wonderful things. But where Tenerife Sea suffered from amateur recording quality, and this gleefully looped slowpop take on Happy from Jamie and his brother Sean leaned more on youthful, amateur exuberance, this new Passenger cover represents a huge jump forward for the sibling pair: pure as silk, and just as dear, with gentle harmonies and guitars and a perfect tonality for a song which celebrates the mystery of youthful encounters with the heart.



MWMB-BWWe started feeling the buzz for Missouri-based mother-son duo Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear midway through last year, thanks to a wonderful mid-summer debut that led to prime coverage on both local and international public radio – and rightfully so: though sibling harmonies are common enough in the folk marketplace, parent-child harmonies are much less so; even then, they typically form as one-shot or occasional matches featuring second-gen artists from Sam Grisman to Lucy Wainwright Roche backing up more famous parentage, not emerging artist pairings in which the son is the songwriter, though he learned his stagecraft from watching mom perform covers in local coffeehouses.

But the joy here is in the song, not the situation. Once the novelty of the generational pairing wears off, we’re left with a strong impression of tenderness and talent, with warm, soulful vocals and skillful hands on the guitar from Madisen and Mama Ruth, whose closeness shines through the music and its intimate one-take production. Even if all we could find by way of recorded coverage from the soul-folk duo was a February 2015 take on Fleetwood Mac from a SiriusXM session, this is their year, I think.


Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 2.27.06 PMElle King is on the rise, for sure, with two Grammy Nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song after last year’s excellent (and platinum-selling) Ex’s and Oh’s. But those familiar with her produced alternative sound, as in her rockin’ take on Tom Petty’s American Girl, may not have realized that she is at heart a student of the folkways, using banjo as a compositional tool, and producing bluesy stripped down covers like this one, from SiriusXM’s Alt Nation.


Finally, simple, sincere California-grown and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mia Rose Lynne hasn’t done much in the way of coverage in the studio, but a holy host of sweet, ringing, hopeful bedroom covers on her YouTube page make for a depth of canon and influence sure to delight and lead us to sophomore album Follow Me Moon, which drops this Friday and is already being touted as a tour de force by UK Folk Radio. The singer-songwriter is often compared to Allison Krauss and Joni Mitchell, but the nuances here are lustier, and more her own, as heard and seen in last year’s cover of I Will – which Krauss has covered with much more fanfare and much less delicacy – and further takes on Fionn Regan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, and other bittersweet balladeers of modernity.

  • Mia Rose Lynne: Be Good Or Be Gone (orig. Fionn Regan) [2015]

  • Mia Rose Lynne: I Will (orig. The Beatles) [2015]



Cover Lay Down shares ethnographic musings and coverfolk throughout the year thanks to the kindness and support of patrons like you. Give now, and receive an exclusive 38-track mix of unblogged folk covers from 2014-2015!

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New Artists, Old Songs: The Berklee Bluegrass Edition
(with Grey Season, Honeysuckle, The Lonely Heartstring Band & more!)

November 17th, 2015 — 6:04am


640px-Berklee_College_of_Music_Ensemble_Building


We’ve shouted from the rooftops about the Berklee College of Music throughout our 8 years here at Cover Lay Down: through features and featurettes on the careers of young and emerging students and grads like Laura Cortese, Sierra Hull, Chasing Blue, Hannah Read, Emily Elbert, and Emma Beaton; through exploration of the coverage and songbooks of popular Berklee alumni Gillian Welch, Susan Tedeschi, Patty Larkin, Aimee Mann, Natalie Maines, Bruce Cockburn, and John Mayer; through the school’s annual appearances at the Grey Fox and Joe Val Bluegrass Festivals, where we’ve been privileged to catch other artists, such as guitarist Courtney Hartman of Della Mae and Stash Wyslouch of The Deadly Gentlemen, in other incarnations and combinations as they formed their own style.

We’ve even touched on Berklee twice in November, via features on recent graduates Matt Nakoa and Molly Tuttle: Nakoa, who will play our Unity House Concert series on November 21, honed his singer-songwriter, guitar, and keyboard skills there; the video we shared of Berklee grad Molly Tuttle’s quartet The Goodbye Girls was recorded at BIRN, the college’s internet radio station.

But sometimes a deeper dig reveals still more gems. Today’s three featured-first newcomers, Grey Season, Honeysuckle, and The Lonely Heartstring Band – all discovered while sifting through student performances on the Boston school’s incredible YouTube archives – show further clean and clear evidence of success for the college’s continued good work at the bleeding-edge intersection of academia and the grassier side of the folkways via the American Roots Music program. They’re joined by Mile Twelve, a band of current students on their way up the bluegrass ladder, and followed by two bonus featurettes, both a bit beyond bluegrass but equally strong, thanks to a few peripheral sources close to the college. Kudos, as always, to Berklee for a program that is both exceptionally well run, and worth following closely.





greyseasonDon’t be lulled into complacency by the a capella verse that begins this amazing cover of Mama, You Been On My Mind; the song is about to explode into punkgrass, with a tinge of janglepop and more than a hint of country rock, thanks to 5-piece folk rock band Grey Season, a quartet on speed who recorded their debut full-length Time Will Tell You Well last year at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, NY, opened for Alabama Shakes, The Avett Brothers, and Hozier this September at the Boston Calling festival, and will send you a download link to Undercover, a full album of hard-edged covers of songs from Merle Travis, Father John Misty, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and more, for an email sign-up.

And wow, do we recommend both albums, especially for fans of that fertile soil where grungy Americana, roots music, grassy country, and folk rock meet. Their resurrection of Rod Stewart’s Maggie May has shades of The Band, the Beach Boys and Springsteen; their potent versions of old standards Dark as a Dungeon and Mary and the Soldier are lighthearted and rich with harmony, and their take on Up On Cripple Creek is a modern update for the electro-acoustic set which cranks the playful, funky energy of the original up to eleven. Meanwhile the band’s driving banjo-and-bass take on Richard Thompson classic 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is a fine punk pop masterpiece, with jangling strings, wailing electric guitar, and a full drum kit that would make them as perfect an opening act for The Dropkick Murphys as for Parsonsfield.










lhbBeatles-inspired quintet The Lonely Heartstring Band claims roots firmly in old-school full-band Appalachian and bluegrass music, and it shows in everything from their masterful harmonies to their tight, fluid instrumentation, complete with banjo and fiddle solos worth every lick.

The seven tracks on their mostly-Beatles covers EP (the inevitable product of their formative commission as an all-Beatles wedding band) far transcend the typical, but as those who have already caught them on the mainstage at Grey Fox or the Freight and Salvage know well, don’t dismiss them as just another bluegrass popcovers studio collaborative. As seen below in recent takes on Rambling, Gambling Willie and Paul Simon’s Graceland, together, their recent YouTube videos, their live shows, their Beatles EP, and an impending Kickstarter-driven album comprise a collection of performances so exquisitely clean and smooth, they serve as a virtual how-to for the modern melodic end of the grassy folk tradition, culminating in a growing body of work Bill Monroe himself would be proud to promote.












honeysuckleCurrent nominees for both Best Folk and Best Americana artists for this year’s Boston Music Awards alongside the aforementioned Grey Season, Honeysuckle takes on the bluegrass-Americana folk trio sound at its best, with wonderful raspy, slippery Appalachian-tinged vocals from singer Holly McGarry that layer exquisitely over loose banjo, mandolin, guitar, and harmonies, culminating in a truly American sound that reportedly thrilled the crowd along the water’s edge at Newport Folk Festival this summer.

Case in point: it’s hard to cover Gillian Welch well, but with not one but two great Welch covers among its original gems, their live recording from last November’s gig at the Rockwood Music Hall easily beats the spread. No covers on their equally strong studio EP Arrows, which was released last April, but we’ll be keeping an ear out for a full-length promised for Spring 2016.













We had to go beyond the Berklee archives to find Mile Twelve, but they were already on our radar, thanks to featured appearances at both last week’s New England Regional Folk Alliance conference and this year’s Freshgrass Festival, a fave festival held on the grounds of avant-garde art museum MassMOCA in the upper Western corner of our home state of Massachusetts, which brought raves from the crowd.

The band features current Berklee students playing the kind of raw, formative bluegrass that often typifies student work from the program: chock full of old standards and fresh, original compositions, technically strong but still exploratory, a little loose in all the right ways, but played with heart and joy. Tony Trischka is spot on when he notes that “Mile Twelve is carrying the bluegrass tradition forward with creativity and integrity”; after recent gigs at Ossipee Valley and Grey Fox, and a self-titled EP released just this summer containing five originals and a great cover of Carter Stanley’s Our Last Goodbye, the sky, as they say, seems to be the limit. Where they’ll go from here, no one knows – just a year ago, most of these kids were performing in another band, as seen below – but for now, both Mile Twelve and its individual players are well worth watching.












They’re barely bluegrass, but this pair of Joni Mitchell covers, discovered in an offshoot video archive maintained by college radio station BIRN, were certainly intriguing enough to tack on as a coda. The older of the two, an oddly moody, eminently creative cover of You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio, features Molly Tuttle herself on Guitar and lead vocals; the other, posted just a few weeks ago, features fiddler and current Berklee student Adam Iredale-Gray of newly-discovered Canadian folk band Fish & Bird, which we hope to feature soon on its own. And the intrigue? Though there appears to be no overlap in personnel between the two, both are nominally performed by the Berklee Joni Mitchell Ensemble, from which we infer that the moniker refers to a project, not a band.










Finally: Bonus points for following the threads all the way to this past Spring’s YouTube Hack project, which challenged Berklee students to learn, record, produce and distribute a finished video product in just 36 hours from start to finish – and revealed covers of Whitney Houston and Canadian electro-pop artist Lights among the ruins when the project was complete. We’ll just leave these two surprisingly good (but decidedly not bluegrass) videos here, shall we?








Looking for more evidence of Berklee College prowess, and willing to wander beyond the blue? Spend an afternoon digging through Berklee’s growing YouTube archives, with separate playlists of student originals, covers and arrangements, and the Visiting Artists at Berklee archives, a fascinating collection of over 100 videos with Jazz, Bluegrass, Big Band, Latin, Pop, World and new classical arrangements from the likes of Del McCoury, Victor Wooten, and Alejandro Sanz alongside some truly inspirational speeches and interviews with and from Jimmy Page, Annie Lennox, and more.


Comment » | New Artists Old Songs

New Artists, Old Songs: from indiefolk to bluegrass
with Willie Watson, S. Carey, Cereus Bright, RUNA & more!

July 12th, 2014 — 4:56pm

Our long hiatus this Spring bred a huge backlog of great music; both desktop and mailbag are stuffed to the limit, and there’s enough open tabs on my browser to support weeks of features. We’ll start digging in to new tribute albums, a huge set of new videos and studio tunes from some of our favorite artists, and more over the next few weeks as we prepare to leave for our annual folk festival tour; today, we skim the cream of the crop to reveal some wonderful new and new-to-us artists covering Amos Lee, The Bee Gees, The Everly Brothers, TLC, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Airplane, tradfolk and more!

RUNA header WEBOn their new covers-and-traditionals album Current Affairs, Irish-Americana Roots band RUNA offers a powerful ethnomusical journey through the songs of Kate Rusby, The Child Ballads, the American labor movement, the gospel hymnal, traditional Gaelic reels and lullabies, and other hotspots in the evolution of the contrapuntal UK-American roots tradition.

Two 2013 Irish Music Awards, including one in the traditional category, prove their mettle, I suppose. But theirs is no mere retelling: the album is fresh and vibrant, a perfect-pitch collection that falls smack dab between comfortable folkpop and high-energy Celtic while transcending easy cataloguing – a nod to the diverse heritage of a Philadelphia-based five-piece band that features Dublin-born guitarist/vocalist Fionán de Barra, young Texas-style fiddler Maggie Estes White, Philly bandleader/vocalist Shannon Lambert-Ryan, and two percussionists (Galway mandolin/banjo and bodhran player Dave Curley and Montreal-based folk percussionist and current Northeast Regional Folk Alliance chair Cheryl Prashker). There’s nary a low point here, but RUNA’s gorgeous cover of Amos Lee’s Black River is the catchiest song I’ve heard in months; stay tuned for an Amos Lee feature in the coming weeks, too.




ChristopherBellDespite inevitable comparison to Ben Sollee, Christopher Bell isn’t just another cello-playing singer-songwriter: he’s also a multi-instrumentalist and engineer, of his own songs and of others, with a creative process that has, of late, included heavy looping, synthesizers and beats, and a sense of whimsical re- and deconstruction. The result is a “sparse, otherworldly pop” that teeters on the edge of alternative, electrofolk and grunge, mesmerizing and new with elements of many genres even as it supports an entirely consistent and eminently singable songcraft.

His much sparser-sounding 2009 cover-your-friends Cover EP is hard to find, and his Harry Nilsson/Bach mashup, while a potent live performance revelation, dates from last April. But Bell’s recent Paul Simon cover is playful and wry, a great representative sample of his current work; find the latter on his newest album Fire via Bandcamp, and then stick around to peruse the archives.



    Christopher Bell: One/Cello Suite III (orig. Harry Nilsson/Bach)




scarey4If you knew Bon Iver long before we covered his songbook last week, you know S. Carey; he’s the drummer and vocalist who learned Bon Iver’s first album by ear, approached the Wisconsin superstar backstage before a concert, proved his chops, and ended up a staple member of the band that very night.

Though he is relatively nonchalant about process, describing the creation of his first album as an accident of experimentation and single-shot recording, Carey has also emerged as a singer-songwriter in his own right, and although his 2 albums and an EP are clearly in the same tradition, they are decidedly not derivative. This new Pines cover, posted on Soundcloud as a tour kick-off towards the end of June, is tender and delicate, as hushed, haunting and hollow as a Paul Simon tune, and ready for media placement in the next Wes Anderson movie or Zach Braff project. Highly recommended; file under “balls of brass, voice of an indiefolk angel”.




Willie Watson isn’t exactly an unknown, either: as a founder and core member of Old Crow Medicine Show, he’s made a name for his band as one of the premier members of the new old-timey folk revival camp. His solo debut, the aptly-titled Folk Singer, Vol. 1, is a call to even older forms of performance, and a stand-out candidate for Best Traditional Folk album in our end-of-year series: a delicate, spare series of covers and traditional songs, stripped down to the raw and intimate essentials of one man, one instrument, and a voice that evokes a hundred years of source material from the blues and folk canons. Bonus points for Watson’s cover of Everly Brothers classic Take A Message To Mary, a teaser which predated the album by a month or so.





New Knoxville folk band Cereus Bright plays alternative unplugged-style singer-songwriter songbook fodder like they mean it – as in the below, a majestic, dark and stormy string orchestra and mandolin-driven Bee Gees cover released to promote their recent tour that comes off as only slightly tongue-in-cheek. And people seem to like it; though their previous output comprises but a single 2013 EP, with the release of this cover, theirs has become a rapidly-rising star that has taken them to MTV, Paste, Relix, and a grand summer tour. Via email from drummer Luke Bowers, who knows his audience and its taste: new coverblog Cover Me Badly shared this back in May, too.




And speaking of new artists: here’s a Spotify playlist of covers from a few select artists, each of whom is slated to perform two songs each at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest as part of the Emerging Artists showcase on Friday afternoon from noon to four. Overall, the showcase features 24 rising stars; selecting every cover on this year’s master list of artist recordings nets us a reasonably representative sample, with Liz Frame and the Kickers’ echoey Americana take on Somebody To Love, the uptempo stringband bluegrass of Tumbling Bones, Zak Smith’s ragged Americana folk rock balladry, a piano lounge singer’s jammin’ jazz take on No Scrubs from Avi Wisnia, and more to love. (PS: For more about the festival, which takes place the first weekend in August, check out our Falcon Ridge Folk Festival preview!)


Comment » | New Artists Old Songs

New Artists, Old Songs: from indiefolk to bluegrass
with Stampede Road, Mountain Man, AJ Lee, Brandi Ediss & more!

January 25th, 2014 — 2:36pm

I’ve been too deep in the songs up in my head these past weeks, trying to call up old fragments and refrains in memory while sitting in silence marred only by the whirring pellet stove and the faint and constant ring of tinnitus. But this is a practice that is wholly the wrong way ’round: music is meant to be heard and sung, not merely echoed in the brain; we are shamed at the realization, and determined to make amends.

And so we pursue a corrective action: a dig into the mailbag, the artist blogs and facebook pages, and the various components of the digital rumor mill to celebrate the emergent coverfolk of folk, roots, and Americana artists both known and new with a New Artists, Old Songs feature today, and the promise of news to come of recordings and releases from other, more familiar voices as winter marches ever onward.

Read on for covers of Dylan, the Dead, Low Anthem, John Denver, Blondie, Traffic, tradfolk and more from new artists Stampede Road, Mountain Man, The Tuttles with AJ Lee, Brandi Ediss, and Holy Moly and the Crackers. May your ears, too, take pleasure in the new sounds, even as we cherish those in our hearts and heads.

stampedeAll I know about Edinburgh-based folk band Stampede Road is what they sent me, which wasn’t much: a pair of streaming split singles on Bandcamp, and nary a website to be found. But the lo-fi session cover of The Low Anthem’s OMGCD that accompanied the missive from this newly formed quartet led by singer songwriter Graeme Duncan is beautifully raw, intimate, timeless and weary. And following the threads to more produced tracks White Rooms, Night Terrors, and brand new 2014 single Old Town, recently featured on Largehearted Boy and Captains Dead, reveals a shimmery overlay of reverb and harmony that adds richness and flavor in the studio, making for a dreamy, delicate Appalachian-flavored folkpop with just enough originality and quirkiness to suit the indie ear.



mountainmanFans of First Aid Kit and labelmates Deer Tick and Dolorean will love this recent John Denver cover from all-girl indie group Mountain Man, with its layered voices and gentle, melodic acoustic guitar. All of us love that Mountain Man, a trio of young twenty-something singer-songwriters who met at Bennington College, and were essentially dormant in the last few years after touring around 2010 debut Made the Harbour, appear to be back on the radar for more precious, precocious quietfolk in the months and years to come, both as a band, and with solo and side projects from members Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath, who continue to share news of recordings and shows with Hiss Golden Messenger, Megafaun, Feist, and other well known names from the indie community on the Mountain Man Facebook page. Here’s hoping for more as the year goes on.



Skafolk isn’t a thing, but if it were, first in line for kudos and Grammy nominations this season would surely be Newcastle based band Holy Moly and the Crackers, who add celtic fiddle flavor and a Jamaican beat for a brooding cover of tradtune Ain’t No Grave to close out their upcoming three-track EP Lilly, a “re-imagining” of three traditional folk/blues songs that evokes eras of whiskey and guns on modern punk folk steroids. The band, who play “a lively, moonshine mix of Romani, Americana and contemporary British ‘folk’n’roll’”, claim broad influence from the likes of Woody Guthrie, Gogol Bordello, and Laura Marling; others hear The Pogues, Billy Bragg, and The Waterboys, too, and you can hear it all here, in some great live covers and originals on YouTube, and in full album First Avenue, which can be purchased directly from the band on their website.


    Holy Moly and the Crackers: Mississippi Moonlight (orig. Buffalo Skinners)


    Holy Moly and the Crackers: Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie (orig. Bob Dylan/trad.)


    Holy Moly and the Crackers: Cocaine (trad.)



This year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival is just around the corner, putting us in mind of mandolins and stand up bass, and creating a context which leaves us especially happy to have found The Tuttles with AJ Lee; we’ve a long history of championing young tradfolk and bluegrass artists here at Cover Lay Down, and these kids have been wowing the bluegrass circuit and beyond, garnering ovations and awards since their formation in 2008. Both band and co-lead vocalist Lee are up for “Best of” awards at the Northern California Bluegrass Awards tonight, where bandfather Jack Tuttle, who teaches bluegrass and old-time instruments of all types, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of his well-respected work, including his guidance and leadership of this current lineup. But the kids are the true driving force here: stunning singer-songwriter and picker Molly Tuttle, whose trio will appear on the Joe Val sidestage, is finishing up her last semester at Berklee this year; younger brothers Sullivan and Michael demonstrate chops and agility beyond their years; sweet yet hearty-voiced mandolin player AJ Lee, who is still finishing high school and trends towards Grateful Dead covers on tour, has been aptly compared to Alison Krauss or Sarah Jarosz, both of whom, we should remember, got their start as early. Listen, and we think you’ll hear the magic, too.

    The Tuttles with AJ Lee: Ripple (orig. Grateful Dead)


    The Tuttles with AJ Lee: Sugar Moon (orig. Bob Willis)


    AJ Lee: Tomorrow Is A Long Time (orig. Bob Dylan)



Finally, thanks to the ever-discerning Mary Lou Lord, who has a knack for finding and touting the best new voices, for passing along coverage from Brandi Ediss, an alto on the knife-edge of alternative pop and singer-songwriter folk who sweetly interprets beloved songs into a mellow-tinged wash of sound and riotous video effects on a weekly basis. The finished results, produced at home with digital tools or in collaboration with facebook friends from afar, sound like a band and a half, with a warm, decidedly retro california tone and luscious, sighing vocal layers sure to delight; download a bunch over at Bandcamp, and subscribe to her YouTube page for more originals and coverage in the same sweet vein.

    Brandi Ediss: Love Is Making Its Way Back Home (orig. Josh Ritter)


    Brandi Ediss: Dear Mr. Fantasy (orig. Traffic)


    Brandi Ediss: Kodachrome (orig. Paul Simon)


    Brandi Ediss: Call Me (orig. Blondie)


    Brandi Ediss: I Wish I Was The Moon (orig. Neko Case)



Looking for more streaming coverfolk throughout the week? Join the Cover Lay Down facebook page, where we’ve recently posted new coverage from YouTube stars Kina Grannis, Daniela Andrade, and Kiersten Holine!

2 comments » | New Artists Old Songs

New Artists, Old Songs:
new and emerging folks to watch in 2014

January 2nd, 2014 — 2:12pm

The disorganized life leaves us still discovering bookmarks left behind in the detritus and lost drafts of 2013. But outside there is snow, and inside, fire; the tree still twinkles, and the holiday continues. The family is on vacation, leaving us solo and pensive And there is peace, for a few more days yet, until the worldspring is wound, and we set out into the wind and weather to once again take on the mantle of right action among the stress and chaos.

And there is music here, too, for how can we be silent when our hearts are singing? Being snowed in for the next day or two offers a great opportunity to celebrate and clean house with another edition in our ongoing New Artists, Old Songs feature series. Read on for covers of The Cure, Rickie Lee Jones, Jason Isbell, Gram Parsons, Big Star, Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, Noah Gundersen, and more from Emma Swift, Ian Johnson, Liz Frencham, Chris Ross, and The Ephemeral String Band – a quintet of recent discoveries worth a closer look-and-listen.



emma2As noted earlier today on our Facebook page, we seem to have misplaced Emma Swift’s delightfully sweet Gram Parsons cover when compiling our Best Coverfolk Singles of 2013 mixtape. Mea culpa: Swift, an Aussie radio broadcaster and music journalist turned Americana and altcountry songwriter, relocated to Nashville recently after deciding to pursue songcraft and writing more thoroughly, and she’s already captured our heart several times over through her loving coverage. Her take on Waylon Jenning heartbreaker Dreaming My Dreams With You is slow, syrupy altcountry, dripping with pedal steel and twang, but she’s equally adept at transforming Big Star’s Thirteen as she is taking on others from the country side of the world, including Parsons (A Song For You), Townes (Tower Song), 70′s altcountry group Cowboy (Please Be With Me), and downunder countryman Paul Kelly (Little Decisions). Follow her thoughts on her blog, and track her Facebook page, for more as her career on the road continues to blossom.


    Emma Swift: A Song For You (orig. Gram Parsons)




ianThis one probably should have made our favorites, too, if it hadn’t gotten lost. But oh, what a discovery: a gorgeous living room cover of Noah Gundersen’s Dying Now from North Country singer-songwriter Ian Johnson that belies the casual, beer-fueled session which brings it to life; utterly stunning, haunting indiefolk, with soft layers of harmonies and a brand new resonator guitar ringing in Gundersen’s hymn, making for a cover ripe for the likes of I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. I probably should have heard of Johnson before, though perhaps his penchant for harder-edged, anthemic, rocking Americana on his 2011 album When I Go kept him from our sights. But this bonus Tom Petty cover wouldn’t be out of place on Grey’s Anatomy, either, proving his mettle as soft indiefolk interpreter, and making for a delightful find, indeed.


    Ian Johnson: Dying Now (orig. Noah Gundersen)


    Ian Johnson: I Won’t Back Down (orig. Tom Petty)




Liz Frencham Live_2_LushpupAs a stand-up-double-bass and voice solo artist, Liz Frencham is a bit bare-bones for easy genre categorization. But the Jazz-trained singer-songwriter’s pedigree is impeccable: a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium, she’s been at the heart of several internationally-known bluegrass-infused and folkfusion bands and collaborations; her 2005 solo debut Jericho, with its haunting fiddle-and-guitar ballad title track, was a finalist for the ‘Presenter’s Choice’ award at the 2007 Australian Folk Alliance Convention. More significantly, she’s caught our ear on Soundcloud, where she hosts numerous beautiful originals and a set of covers, each equally sparse and joyous, from One – The Living Room Sessions (Vol 1), her mid-2013 Digi-EP of solo double bass/voice covers, with jazzfolk takes on songs by KT Tunstall, Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Sia, and the Cure’s Lovecats as a prowling scat solo piece. As a bonus for coverhounds looking to dig a bit deeper, we’ve also provided a teaser from her equally strong, equally hard-to-categorize live duets album You & Me Vol. 1.





mutualloveI’ve been meaning to write about the “oldtime fiddle tunes and sister harmony singing” of The Ephemeral Stringband since I was stopped short by their busk session on the streets of Northampton, MA early last year. And now’s the time: even when they kick into high gear, as in the middle track below, the old shape note hymns and simple tradtunes Maggie Merrett, Maggie Shar, and friends interpret on their interchangeable banjos and fiddles are loving and gentle, like the sun-warmed sidewalks where I found them, or like Sam Amidon for the lullaby set, perfect for a snowy day in New England by the fireside. A recent gig opening for Dom Flemons of The Carolina Chocolate Drops in October raises hope of more to come, and simultaneously confirms their credibility and prowess in treating dearly the old songs with equal parts fragility and strength.

    The Ephemeral Stringband: Mutual Love (trad.)


    The Ephemeral Stringband: Sugar Babe (trad.)


    The Ephemeral Stringband: I’ll Not Be A Stranger (trad.)


    White Freight Liner (orig. Townes Van Zandt)




chrisrossFinally, I’ve had my eye out for Jason Isbell covers these last few months, with the intent of fronting a coverset sometime this year once we hit critical mass; if you know a great cover of/from the alt-country singer-songwriter, we’d love to hear it. In the meantime, I can’t help but share this quartet of Isbell covers from Maine-based singer-songwriter Chris Ross, including a broken-down Alabama Pines, a dark, tense Live Oak, and a quite solid take on Drive By Truckers song God Damn Lonely Love, penned by Isbell during his time with the band in the mid-naughts. Ross may be new at the game – he’s released but two albums, in 2011 and 2012 – but he knows how to ply his strengths to great effect: his weary voice and intensity match pitch-perfect with Isbell’s songbook, and in his YouTube covers of fellow rasp-voiced celebrants Bon Iver, Springsteen, and Ray LaMontagne; his original compositions are equally raw and timeless, speaking of and to a dusty wisdom of years belied by his under-30 exterior, and he’s just been nominated for Songwriter of the Year at The New England Music Awards, where he’s in some pretty solid company.


    Chris Ross: Alabama Pines (orig. Jason Isbell)


    Chris Ross: Live Oak (orig. Jason Isbell)


    Chris Ross: Elephant (orig. Jason Isbell)


    Chris Ross: God Damn Lonely Love (orig. Drive By Truckers)



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.

2 comments » | Emma Swift, Jason Isbell, New Artists Old Songs

New Artists, Holiday Songs 2013:
Christmas coverfolk samplers, streams, and YouTube singles

December 21st, 2013 — 2:43pm





Just past the wreaths and windows a bout of unseasonable Solstice warmth melts the New England snow from once-glistening treetops, opening the outdoors to a final foray into woods and shopping malls as we prepare the home and heart for Christmas Day itself. Inside, the tree is up, the halls decked with boughs and mistletoe; at night, when the kids are finally in bed, we nestle snug on the couch and lift our glasses of wine and nog to toast the lights that twinkle in the darkness.

As ever, nostalgia carries us into the last gasps of the season like an old friend, accompanying us on our rounds as we wind down our shopping to shed the stresses of the year and season. The kids clamor for their favorite songs, and the heart sings for the songs of our own childhoods. But by now, many of us have exhausted the familiar carols that play ad infinitum in our ears as we bustle to find our center, our moments of peace.

For your gift-wrapping pleasure, then, our final holiday feature of the year: a stocking stuffed full of young artists on the rise, plying the intensity of the season with carols designed to catch the ear and prompt further exploration. Listen as these new and newfound Noisetrade samplers, Bandcamp and Soundcloud streams, and YouTube visions give new voice to the beloved songs of Christmas.


Newfound favorites The Western Den are a young ambient folk duo prone to narrative lyricism, hauntingly beautiful arrangements, and gentle, etherial harmonies; the pulsing carols on their tiny 3-track Midwinter EP are an apt introduction to their work, with organic instrumental undertones from brass and strings that mix with their sweet voices, piano, and guitar to frame a myriad moments that soothe, silence, and soar. But we are equally floored by their ongoing celebration of nature and community, as evidenced by the year-round celebration of their peers in the Boston folk scene, and the plethora of photos taken among the leaves of every season, that fill their Facebook page. In the case of the Midwinter EP, these trends manifest in context as much as they do in craft: a pay-as-you-wish download, hand-sewn fabric sleeves for hardcopy, and the donation of all EP proceeds to UNICEF to aid children in the Philippines affected by the recent typhoon, surround their aural honesty with cherishing light, making the collection a perfect introduction to their breadth and beauty.





There’s irony aplenty in this true-blue Americana version of White Christmas from bluegrass quartet Wood & Wire, performed outdoors in their shirtsleeves just last week at the Zilker Holiday Tree for local radio station KUTX’s Austin Music Map project, which aims to build an “interactive portrait” of the vibrant music scene in a city where the snow never falls. The hum of the crowd that surrounds them as they play the grounds lends a vibrancy to their touching rendition of the Christmas classic even as beards, bass, banjo and mandolin ground the song in its southern setting.




NYC-based Nina Yasmineh trends towards lush indiepop, lovingly delivered and layered with longing; though the bold, pulsing piano that populates her 2013 debut EP Seven Years kept her from finding footing in the folkworld, it’s a joy nonetheless, aptly celebrated by a number of blogs upon its release this Summer. Happily, however, this year’s Christmas cover is eminently folk, with echoey vocals over a frozen landscape of sparse, slow-plucked guitar that totally transforms Mariah Carey’s bombastic dance-around into something wistful, gentle, and still.





Celebrated YouTube starlet Daniela Andrade was the only artist to appear twice in the Top 40 radiopop coverset we compiled earlier this year; we’ll not dwell too much on her now, as we’re expecting to revisit her work in the next few weeks as part of our upcoming Best Of 2013 features. But her newly-released “homemade” Christmas EP – available in download form, or streamable as a video series – showcases just why we’re so delighted to have found her, with intimate performance, whispery-sweet vocals, and the sexiest Santa Baby you’ll ever hear, a perfect teaser for the good things to come.





Not all of our old, familiar carols are played sweet and light, of course – and not all should be, either. Those looking for a holiday more fully grounded in grungy, gritty roots-rock will be well-served by the syrupy, sultry ballad Canadian band Del Bel makes of John Prine classic Christmas In Prison, which turns the tune into a Day of the Dead lament with heavy, heady electric bass and guitars, wailing whiskey vocals, and a fallen angel choir of saxophones and horns. Press materials here are right on target, quoting bassist and composer Tyler Belluz as saying that he “found a depressing Christmas tune and made it more depressing.”





In addition to writing chamber, orchestral and choral music for concert and film, Connecticut composer and singer-songwriter Jonny Rodgers performs and records his own songs with a combination of electronic loops, guitar, and tuned wineglasses. The combination of glasses and strings works especially well on Every Mother’s Child: 3 Songs For Christmas, making for relatively traditional interpretations of three hymns that glisten and shimmer like tinsel in the air. In keeping with the project’s title, half of the profits will go to Project Night Night, which donates tote bags filled with a blanket, a book and a stuffed animal to homeless children living in shelters; “making sure that every mother’s child has sweet dreams, even if they’re living in trying circumstances.”





Last but never least, Tuscaloosa, Alabama singer-songwriter Joshua Hilliker and vocalist Heather Hester recorded and released their Merry Christmas EP last year, but our discovery in the midst of this year’s annual Noisetrade exploration brings comfort and joy aplenty, even if there’s little to learn about the artist’s history or craft here (Hilliker’s webpage redirects back to Noisetrade itself). Still, strong arrangement and sweet performance tell a tale of their own: Joshua and Heather’s Away in a Manger is sublime; this take on African-American spiritual Everywhere I Go (more often listed as Somebody Talking ‘Bout Jesus) simply blows me away.

For comparison’s sake, two other EPs – also released last year, but newly-found – provide a breadth of comparison. Adam Townsend’s Give & Get EP, recorded with his wife to raise money and awareness for homeless kids and teens via GA-based charity StandUp For Kids, offers weary, homegrown sentiment for the holiday homestead. Meanwhile, Floridian singer-sonqwriter Josh Gilligan’s Christmas EP, which benefits Blood:Water Mission’s fight against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa, trends more folkpop, but his new brush-and-horn arrangement of Away In A Manger, with its echoes of Calexico and other indie Americana bands, fits the contemporary folkscene sweetly. All three EPs are available for free, but as always, donate if you can, the better to support artists (and, in Gilligan and Townsend’s cases, their chosen beneficiaries) well worth celebrating.




Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our readers – may your days be merry and bright! We’ll be back in the next few days with the first volume of our annual two-part review of the best coverfolk albums and singles of 2013!

Comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, New Artists Old Songs, Soundcloud Saturday

New Artists, Old Songs Week, Vol. 1: Streaming coverage from
Jeremy Squires, Allysen Callery, Al Lewis, Mia Dyson, Virgin Soldiers & more!

September 7th, 2013 — 1:32pm

At the core, like most music blogs, Cover Lay Down aims to be a venue of exposure, that nurtures and sustains the continued viability of the folk and acoustic genres by helping connect artists and fans through the comfort of tribute and interpretation.

This week, in a set of consecutive features in service to that goal, we turn once again to our sources for the new – the mailbag, the merch table, and our favorite folk and cover bloggers – to celebrate the works of several still-emerging artists whose recent coverage has found its way into our hearts, even as their songchoices and soundsettings reveal the particulars of their growing identities as artists.

May you, too, find joy and promise in a rising generation of folk musicians, and be moved to support their craft through purchase, patronage, and pass-along.



allysenOur 2010 Singer Song Sunday exploration of country and bluegrass standard Long Black Veil would have been well-served by this haunting recast from singer-songwriter Allysen Callery, a self-taught New England fingerpicker with a will-o-the-wisp voice whose heavy influence by her parent’s collection of British Isles Folk Revival records of the late 60′s early 70′s resonates throughout a growing number of beautiful albums, with 2011 double-EP set Winter Island and The Summer Place especially worthy of note. Callery’s style is enveloping, frail but surprisingly rich, her songs like castles in the air, all heaven and hiding places; the choruses alone give me chills. New LP Mumblin’ Sue drops next week on vinyl.


Allysen Callery: Long Black Veil (orig. Lefty Frizzell) [2013]


Allysen Callery: Young Edwin (trad.) [2011]




allewisProlific Welsh singer-songwriter Al Lewis is eminently Welsh: of four albums and 2 EPs since 2007, exactly half have been in the welsh language. But his music belies popular influences father afield, and it’s eminently accessible. The gently bouncy indiepop of Make A Little Room, off new release Battles, soothes and settles like a radio-driven summer soundtrack hit; slowed down and stripped of its poppy setting, as in this solo studio take from a Crypt Session in May, it’s beautiful, and clear as a bell. And his five-song set of equally dreamy, fluid, unadorned acoustic-with-strings covers uploaded to Soundcloud back in midsummer make for a sweet streaming EP, with a wistful Free Man In Paris, a potent Tom Waits cover filtered through Tim Buckley, and a sweet, sincere Jesus Was A Crossmaker that will endear him to folk audiences.






squiresSelf-taught North Carolina native singer-songwriter Jeremy Squires popped up on our radar several times this year with a pair of appearances on lo-fi folkblog Slowcoustic, where any artist touted twice is inherently worth a listen. Sure enough, after releasing the third in a trilogy of revelatory records designed to exorcise the demons of depression, the covers Squires has taken on in the past year – a softly melodic yet no less potent take on Sheets from Slowcoustic’s recent Damien Jurado covers project, and a pensive piano ballad transformation of a new song from Everybodyfields alum Jill Andrews perfect for fragile hipster television playback – offer equal evidence of scars and healing, even as they comfort and chill, delight and differentiate.





26Reviews and interviews suggest that Grace Basement – a folk, pop and rock project from musician, engineer, and producer Kevin Buckley, who was raised in the Irish folk community at home and abroad, and continues to perform jigs and reels in sessions in and around his adopted St. Louis, Missouri – has stripped down their approach since the heavy, heady rock quartet sound of 2007 debut New Sense. If so, the shift has been to our benefit: the banjo and handclaps that accompany the predominantly singer-songwriter fare on 2013 release Wheel Within A Wheel support an intimacy that is rare as it is revelatory; the pair of recently recorded covers which Kevin sent along, which seem to come from the same sessions, comprise a spectrum analysis, with a Bob Dylan cover that fits neatly into the No Depression camp even as its arrangement echoes historic predecessors like The Mamas and The Papas and the Byrds, and a relatively faithful solo cover of a Paul Simon favorite that balances warm, echoey edge with no small hint of harmonic excellence.






miacoloredselects-2398-682x1024From the rootsy intersection of folk, blues and rock comes Aussie singer-songwriter Mia Dyson, who tears up Lori McKenna’s I Know You with a gravely countryfolk voice and a grungy, bluesy bar-room resonator-and-drum production in a new cover (selected by a fan in her recent Pledgemusic campaign, and premiered this week via Roughstock) that echoes Kasey Chambers or Lucinda Williams at their grittiest. Four-time ARIA nominee Dyson has been on the rise Down Under for a decade, touring with the likes of Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Nicks; she appeared at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2006, but I seem to have missed her, leaving her still available to our New Artists series, and the timing is good, coming as it does on the cusp of a deliberate effort to break into the American scene with an Autumn tour around new album The Moment, which has already been duly noted as a tour de force by critics galore. Her older take on Lucinda’s Can’t Let Go, shared below as a bonus, is equally raw and resonant, though couched in only an electric guitar and that wailing voice, making for an ecstatic growl that heats us up and leaves us wanting more.




abandonedcoversThe lo-fi sounds on Abandoned Covers, an archivally-sourced collection of live and studio covers recorded under the auspices of Abandoned Love Records since their establishment in 2004, come from a small stable of four label artists on the broken side of lo-fi and experimental folk; multiple covers of Big Star and The Magnetic Fields, plus Meursault, Yo La Tengo, Modest Mouse, and Roxy Music speak aptly to a set of equally underground, alternative, and grungy influences on bands and label that collapse the waveforms of late 80s underground alternative bands such as The Bats and The Lemonheads with both the modern indiefolk movement and the slow and ragged tones of the bedroom and basement cover. Favorite finds include Austin, TX band The Lovely Sparrows, whose distinct voices and slowed approach to electro-acoustic arrangement is spare and, in its own way, quite mystical, and Virgin of the Birds, who with layered howls, drones, and electronic hums bring an atmospheric, psychedelic vibe to traditional track Fatal Flower Garden, Nico’s Evening Of Light, and Levi Fuller’s This Murder Won’t Hurt You.




avatars-000030337205-dsox4j-t200x200Tonight You Belong To Me is an oft-covered song, but there’s something about this cover from “Acoustic Americana” Chapel Hill, NC trio A Mad Affair that caught my ear. Perhaps it’s the innocence lost: brighter than most, and rich with subtly effective harmonic flourishes, theirs is a deceptively cute but ultimately mature rendition. And the cover – the only one they’ve recorded in-studio, it seems – is aptly reflective of the fine acoustic songcraft displayed on highly-recommended debut album Retro Honey Pop: the guitar, stand up bass, ukulele and occasional fiddle are tight and delightful; the hearty, warbly, clear-as-a-bell country twang of lead singer Valerie Wood worms its way into the heart; the tracks, which range from sunny, poppy tracks to mournful harmony ballads, run the gamut of classic acoustic folk and country influence, yet come up sounding fresh as a daisy.

Bonus points for a small set of living room covers over at YouTube: a latin-tinged fireside tribute to Willy Wonka filmed last February, a sultry Suzanne Vega tune from midsummer, and a sweet take on The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues posted just this week.




    A Mad Affair: Fisherman’s Blues (orig. The Waterboys) [2013]


    A Mad Affair: Pure Imagination (orig. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) [2013]


    A Mad Affair: Caramel (orig. Suzanne Vega) [2013]




8Since its founding at the hands of singer/guitarist/songwriter James Beeny in 2011, UK acoustic “Strock” sextet Virgin Soldiers has shared stages with Ellie Goulding, Joan Armatrading, and Echo and The Bunnymen – strange bedfellows, indeed. And the name that the band has given their particular strain of chamber-quartet-meets-UK-folkrock sounds like something straight out of the Flintstones. But the crossover conceit of playing contemporary music on classical instruments has broad appeal in the post-millennial pastiche world, and the BBCs sustained support of the band throughout their emergence in the past two years speaks aptly to their collective talent: the equal balance of strings, synth and guitar on Numb, a transformative Linkin Park cover released last October, is but a harbinger of the majestic sonic depth and soaring fancy of debut single Moon Song, which shot to No. 3 on the Amazon Rock Chart when it hit the airwaves in August.


Virgin Soldiers: Numb (orig. Linkin Park) [2012]


Stay tuned for a midweek second round of new and newly-found artist coverage featuring covers of The Clash, Greg Brown, The Bee Gees and more, couched in every branch of the folkstream, from Appalachian fiddlefolk to contemporary singer-songwriter fare and indiefolk; keep liking us on Facebook for ongoing previews and single-shot streams throughout the week. And thanks for your patience during our recent hiatus: it’s good to be back on the blog.




Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down shares new coverfolk features, mixtapes weekly throughout the year thanks to the support of our readers and fans; DONATE before the end of September, and we’ll regift 20% of your every dollar to Sweet Relief, a non-profit founded in 1993 to support musicians who find themselves in “untenable predicaments” due to illness or disability, in memory of Chicago singer-songwriter Matt Ryd.

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