Category: (Re)Covered


(Re)Covered: New coverage from old friends
John Statz, Caroline Herring, Poor Old Shine & more!

February 18th, 2014 — 1:08pm

There comes a time in every New England winter where the endless snow begins to weigh heavy on the soul, threatening to crush the heart. Hope sputters as we teeter on the edge of resignation. Every weather report is like a curse. Spring becomes but a dream.

But it’s school vacation, and for a teacher, this means time: for children’s play, for catch-up chores, and then, finally, for the self. I’m writing poetry again, and the soundtrack is fine indeed, here alongside the roar of the pellet stove, new music snug and alive against the whispering silence of a world deadened by white.

Which is to say: the mailbag is stuffed to overflowing with the good stuff again, and we’re pleased as punch to finally have a chance to steep in it all. Today, then: news and new tracks from some of our favorite artists of yesteryear, with a second set to follow towards the end of the week. May their vibrant energy serve as a perfect antidote to the numb, dumb eternity of February.

Caroline Herring was an early favorite here on the blog, an anomalous southern voice on the Massachusetts-based Signature Sounds label whose 2007 album Lantana chilled us so powerfully with its haunting portrayals of character and place, and its perfect balance of serenity and emotional investment, that we could not help but reach out for our very first interview in celebration of follow-up CD/EP set Golden Apples Of The Sun/Silver Apples of the Moon, with its fine covers of Cyndi Lauper, Kate Wolf, and Lefty Frizzell.

The literate singer-songwriter’s newest project I Will Go Into The Day, which dropped January 11, is nominally a children’s album, one that wholly succeeds in its attempt to “set to music the magic and wonder of childhood, and celebrate the joys of imaginative play”; as long-time proponents of kidfolk, we’re excited to steep in it on those merits alone, and eager, too, to share the album’s two covers – a sweet children’s choir version of traditional song John The Rabbit and a translated take on 1940s yiddish composition Donna Donna that transforms the tune cleanly into a powerful Appalachian lullaby. But we’re equally thrilled to find this natural antidote to the bleeps and distances of the technological life simmering with more for the mature and discerning ear, with songs that call like wistful sirens to adult nostalgia and centeredness even as Herring’s gentle guitar and warm alto warble soothe at the surface.

    Caroline Herring: Donna, Donna (orig. Sholom Secunda)

    Caroline Herring: John The Rabbit (trad.)



Thanks to some sweet harmonies, timeless originals from mournful to majestic, and reverent, pitch-perfect takes on Norman Blake’s Church Street Blues and Townes Van Zandt’s Loretta, Our Lady of the Tall Trees, the debut album from “new old-time” singer-songwriters and master instrumentalists Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, was one of our favorite releases of 2012; their subsequent set at Freshgrass was the highlight of our weekend, and we said so here, in a feature that seems to have been eaten by our subsequent move from one server to another. Their brand new sophomore effort I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands finds the pair comfortable with their sound: masterful licks from mandolin, banjo and guitar twine with that lonesome duo sound exquisitely on ballads and kickers alike, making the album a fine follow-up with range and resonance, an equal mix of cowboy folk and true blue bluegrass from one of the most duly and well-celebrated young duos on the scene today. Check out upbeat original Livin’ In America, lonesome heartbreaker Down In The Lonesome Draw, swinging fiddle-and-mandolin waltz version of Louvin Brothers classic Lorene, and more over at their webpage, and then snag the album via Bandcamp.

    Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: Green Pastures (trad.)

    Cahalen Morrison & Eli West: Voices of Evening (orig. Alice Gerrard)



It’s rare for us to come back to an artist so soon after first discovery. But as noted in our most recent New Artists, Old Songs collection back in January, Molly Tuttle isn’t just a co-lead vocalist and guitar/banjo player for The Tuttles with AJ Lee, she’s also a budding Berklee-trained talent of her own – and her sets with both the Berklee Bluegrass crew and with her own sidestage trio at last weekend’s Joe Val Bluegrass Fest had the crowds nodding and smiling, leaving us looking for more. Happily, Tuttle proves her mettle and then some with a five-track self-titled duo EP released in early February with trio member and fellow Berklee-trained fiddler John Mailander, now available via Bandcamp, featuring lilting coverage of Joni Mitchell, traditional bluegrass tune Moonshiner, a fine original set from Molly and John, and a surprisingly sweet, robust take on country music singer-songwriter Keith Whitley’s I’m Over You that channels Kasey Chambers’ best country heartbreak.

    Molly Tuttle and John Mailander: Morning Morgantown (orig. Joni Mitchell)

    Molly Tuttle and John Mailander: I’m Over You (orig. Keith Whitley)



Midwestern singer-songwriter John Statz, who named his last release for the single cover among its potent narrative portraits of granite and field, was one of our favorite discoveries of 2012, and the proof, as always, is in the pursuit: since then, we’ve dug deeply into his back catalog, picking up older albums from his formative years, fallen in love with the longing and despair he brings to his live take on Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2, and found depth in his plainspoken poetry and joy in his celebration of the world as it is, leaving us eager to help spread the gospel.

Statz recently holed up in a Vermont snowstorm to record a new album, with fellow Wisconsinite and Cover Lay Down fave Jeffrey Foucault on board as producer and back-up musician; after catching the pair together at Northampton venue The Parlor Room in December, and recording a couple of covers to boot, we’re eager, indeed, to hear the results. But those looking for an early fix need look no farther than 12 August, a live duo album from Statz and fellow midwestern folk troubadour and honest storyteller Josh Harty that drops today. Minimally produced, with a live session sound that celebrates the intimacy of song and place, the album features gentle performances of originals from each artist, plus covers of Greg Brown, John Prine, and more; head over to Bandcamp for streaming, digital download, and physical copies.

    Josh Harty & John Statz: Paradise (orig. John Prine)

    Josh Harty & John Statz: Worrisome Years (orig. Greg Brown)




Finally, at least for today: they may have earned their place on the mainstage through top audience honors in the 2012 Emerging Artist’s Showcase, but their impromptu hour-long set in the sunwarmed vendor area at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival simply blew us away, with a cover of Ophelia, a couple of traditional barnstormers, and a small set of raw originals delivered with a combination of explosive energy and unceasing craftsmanship that both reinforced and transcended earlier comparisons to the Avett Brothers. Now, fresh off an onstage gig as the musical accompaniment for the American Repertory Theater’s winter production of Robin Hood, neotraditional Americana stringband Poor Old Shine are back home in their native Connecticut, and back on our radar with two holiday homages: a haunting Blind Willie McTell tune filmed by flashlight in a California cabin last Halloween, and a brand new Valentine’s Day delight that transforms 80′s Huey Lewis and the News soundtrack hit The Power Of Love into a loving living-room slowdance featuring their cosmic blend of old-time instrumentation and footstomping wail, trading off lines and harmonies like The Band in their very best bootleg days. Back To The Future, indeed: I’d say these guys are going places, but all I see is up.

    Poor Old Shine: The Power Of Love (orig. Huey Lewis and the News)


    Poor Old Shine: Lay Some Flowers On My Grave (orig. Blind Willie McTell)



Looking for more Cover Lay Down in your life? “Like” our Facebook page for new coverfolk from CLD fave Al Lewis, ongoing updates from the blog and beyond, and more bonus streams and videos shared as we find ‘em. And stay tuned for a second round of new 2014 releases and one-shot cover tunes from more artists previously celebrated here, including great new discoveries from Cheyenne Mize Marie, Amy Black, Juliana Richer Daily, and Charlie Parr.

1 comment » | (Re)Covered, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Caroline Herring, John Statz

Revisited: Mary Lou Lord Covers
Lucinda Williams, Jason Molina, Big Star, Pink Floyd & more!

October 13th, 2013 — 10:22pm





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

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

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



February, 2008

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


    Mary Lou Lord Soundcloud Covers [2012-2013]



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

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

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


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


1 comment » | (Re)Covered, Mary Lou Lord, Reposts

New Artists, Old Songs (Re)Covered
Part 1: Kelley Ryan, Mikaela Davis, Angel Snow, & The Big Bright revisited!

June 9th, 2013 — 4:17pm

The myriad blessings of music blogging include promotional outreach from fledgling artists, and though not all are to our taste or temperment, a surprising number have turned out to be diamonds in the rough – leaving us humbled and privileged to have been among the first to share and celebrate so many emerging singer-songwriters of promise and poise over the years.

This week, in a very special two-part thirtieth-or-so anniversary issue of our ongoing New Artists, Old Songs series, we check in on the continued rise and maturity of several musicians first featured here for their earliest work in the world of coverage – all one-time rising stars whose staying power and continued invention is evident in their ongoing careers.


Singer-songwriter and long-time frontwoman for grungy California sunshine rock band astroPuppees Kelley Ryan was in perfect-pitch popfolk mode when she came to us back in early 2010 with a Beck cover and a vibe that echoed his folk album Sea Change on her solo debut Twist. Three years later, her ear for the catchy hook remains solid, and we’re happy to see that continues to be garnering her the respect she deserves: her version of Monkey To Man, with its jangly, jumping Rickie Lee Jones meets Mary Lou Lord and Juliana Hatfield vibe, will appear alongside a crowd of equally on-the-rise artists on the ready-to-drop 50-track Elvis Costello tribute album Beyond Belief, a project to benefit the Mr. Holland’s Opus foundation.

    Kelley Ryan: Monkey To Man (orig. Elvis Costello)



Previously on Cover Lay Down



Mikaela Davis’ solo harp-driven cover of Sufjan Stevens came to us as a one-shot ‘Tube Thursday post, putting it technically outside the New Artists feature set. But Davis, a Rochester, NY native who attends The Crane School of Music at SUNY, has since finished and released her self-titled debut album, a gorgeous collection that echoes with instrumental atmospheres, melodic tensions, and experimental indie sentiment, inviting easy comparison to indie harpist progenitor Joanna Newsome, and justifying any look back.

If the studio work proves anything beyond talent and craft, it is that Davis is no imitator: her voice is clearer and more concrete than Newsome’s, and her sentiment more pop. But her folkier side fills out nicely in her continued YouTube coverage – both in solo mode, as in the crystal-clear Elliott Smith cover first released back in October, and in live collaborations arranged for an equally atypical combination of instruments, as in the below take on Norwegian Wood recorded live last Sunday at the Bug Jar, which adds sitar and drumkit to the harp and voice for an immensely satisfying, completely psychedelic, and ultimately unsettling reinvention that flows smoothly from 4/4 mysticism to a tight jazz waltz bridge.

    Mikaela Davis: Norwegian Wood (orig. The Beatles)


    Mikaela Davis: Twilight (orig. Elliott Smith)



Previously on Cover Lay Down


If covers albums are a coverhound’s bread and butter, collaborations formed for the purpose of coverage are our just desserts: sweet with anticipation, occasionally cloying or overgenerous, but sheer delight if balanced well with bitter coffee and sincere sentiment. And so we reported on new collaboration The Big Bright with baited breath when they first emerged on the scene towards the end of last year, noting our familiarity with Ollabelle founders Fiona McBain and Glenn Patscha, and our strong affection for fellow reinventor and self-professed “neo-noir singer/songwriter” Liz Tormes – and were thrilled at the beauty in their paired arrangements of INXS and Tears For Fears, leaving us eagerly awaiting more.

Tantalizingly, I Slept Thru the 80′s, the full album of gentle New Wave Nocturnes which serves as an initial capstone for the shared love of “guilty pleasure vintage New Wave and ’80s Brit-pop” which forms the band’s raison d’etre, remains in the works, though the pre-release EP of the same name is available to New Yorkers exclusively at Little Marc Jacobs in the West Village and at live performances, and the newly-shared Walk Like An Egyptian which features on their homepage raises the bar for more sky-high. But as the tracks are completed, new video has found its way to the web, too – most recently a pair of startlingly tense, lush, echoey recordings from a Brooklyn stairwell that show the trio in fine folk harmonies and form, delivering on their promise to find the fragile in the noise, and making theirs one of the most anticipated albums of 2013.



    The Big Bright: Only You (orig. Yaz)


    The Big Bright: Call Me (orig. Blondie)



Previously on Cover Lay Down

    The Big Bright: Don’t Change (orig. INXS)

    The Big Bright: Change (orig. Tears For Fears)



The singular artist featured atop the very first edition of our New Artists, Old Song discovery series sprung out of the ether on the strength of Fortune Tellers, an intimate, sweet collection of original songs that blew us away. Our 2008 interview even produced a manifesto for her coverage which seems to translate to her own work, too, saying that “I tend to crave a genuine credibility from an artist’s voice and lyrics –- songs in which I believe every word. If I’m able to put myself in the situation of a song and play the part, then I know it’s for real and I want to share it with others.”

Now, five years after we pulled her raw, jangly, surprisingly sparse live Bob Dylan cover from the mailbag and introduced her to the world, Angel Snow has become both a Nashville sensation and a songwriter to the stars, with three original compositions featured on Alison Krauss’ most recent album, and a reputation in the industry that has her performing regularly as a solo act (supported by Kraus’ brother Viktor), in collaboration with fellow circuit-travelers such as 2012 Kerrville New Folk award-winner Korby Lenker, and with fellow New Artists alumni Robby Hecht, with whom she performs some delightfully lo-fi and live covers as Marsha and the Martians. That it couldn’t be happening to a sweeter, more authentic person is merely a bonus.


    Angel Snow & Robby Hecht: Groovy Kind of Love (orig. The Mindbenders)


    Angel Snow & Robby Hecht: Take On Me (orig. A-Ha)


    Angel Snow & Korby Lenker: Tonight You Belong To Me (orig. Gene Austin)


    Korby Lenker & Angel Snow: Forever Young (orig. Alphaville)


    Angel Snow, Karyn Oliver, and Amy Speace: Can’t Find My Way Home / I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (orig. Blind Faith / U2)



Previously on Cover Lay Down


Like what you hear? Don’t forget to come back later this week for part 2 of our look back at the ongoing careers in coverage of Sophie Madeleine, The Far West, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, and more of our favorite once and still-emerging artists!

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Angel Snow, Kelley Ryan, Mikaela Davis, New Artists Old Songs, The Big Bright

(Re)Covered, Vol. XXIX: New Coverfolk from
Lissa Schneckenburger, Clem Snide, Nell Robinson, Arborea & more!

May 14th, 2013 — 10:32pm

New projects from folk artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down continue to spring forth into the ether and into our ears; with our archives permanently hosted off-site at The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, any opportunity to bring these beloved names and voices back into the mix is especially welcome. Today, we add to the growing canon of delights with new releases from several perennial favorites.


coversFirst featured here way back in 2008 as part of a look at the new tradfolk revival in the American Northeast, “New England style” fiddler and folk singer Lissa Schneckenburger has made several strong albums of traditional and dance music, and often performs with fellow local scenesters Laura Cortese and Hanneke Cassel as Halali, a fiddle trio which explores stringfolk traditions from around the world. A graduate of New England Conservatory, she is known among her peers as a talented artist, and a careful craftsperson and ethnomusicologist, whose recent exploration of the roots of the Downeast traditions which she first heard as a young girl growing up in Maine resulted in a two-part project, 2008 release Song and 2010 companion release Dance – highly recommended albums which bring new nuance and modern interpretation to the ballads and fiddle tunes of Appalachia and beyond.

Schneckenburger’s newest album Covers, which drops on CD June 6 but has just become available for purchase on Bandcamp, benefits greatly from her talent for deep study, revealing unplumbed depths in the transformative yet true reconstructions of a diverse set of songs that define the various radio-play generations that arose in the second half of the 20th century. But like many of her “new folkscene” compatriots, Schneckenburger also knows how to use the space between notes to her advantage – both the silences, and the resonant echoes as notes fade – and here this means heavenly, luscious transformations of songs otherwise known through the distinctive voices of Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Tom Waits, Stephen Merritt and more.

Sensitive without sentimentality is a tough balance to find, but with deceptively simple settings, clear-as-a-bell fiddle strains and soundscapes, and a warm alto, Schneckenburger makes it seem effortless. The result is a potent mix, bright and soaring and sweet, that crosses genre borders from Americana and folk rock to traditional and contemporary folk. As a bonus, Aoife O’Donovan, bassist Corey DiMarino, and cellist Tristan Clarridge sing and play on several tracks, making this surprisingly sparse and airy album the closest thing we’ll get to a Crooked Still reunion for a while; other guests familiar to long-time readers include Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda (who also recorded and mixed the album), and Stefan Amidon, brother of Sam and founding member of new countryfolk band The Sweetback Sisters. Check out two heartwrenching favorites below (plus a bonus track from tradfolk collection Song), and then head over to Bandcamp to stream the rest and download for just 7 bucks.



fortressWe championed deepwoods folkduo Arborea back in 2010 for their “echoey, delicate, almost nufolk sound”, and previously for their powerful contribution to a 2009 Odetta tribute, but as I pointed out to guitarist and songwriter Buck Curran when he contacted me about their newest release, anything new from this married couple is good news, indeed – and sure enough, Fortress of the Sun, which was released April 30 to honor NYC label ESP-Disk’s 50th anniversary, is a wallop to the senses, with fluid movements, abstract poetics, Shanti’s soaring vocals, and enough depth and atmosphere to drown in.

Arborea’s influences are evident in their coverage – in the past, we’ve heard them take on both Robbie Basho and Tim Buckley, and several traditional folk ballads, showing the straight line between the marginalized and primitive post-modernists and the vast potential of the old ways wrought anew. And Fortress is no exception: a spine-chilling Cherry Tree Carol and a newly-penned lyric for old Irish tune When I Was On Horseback that resets the song as a history of the death of Southern Calvary General JEB Stuart near Richmond in 1864 fit right in among a collection on the knife-edge of tradition and experimental delicacy that rivals the best of Sam Amidon, Devandra Banhardt, and other indiefolk inheritors of the Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton branches of the folkworld. Order it at ESP-Disk in LP or CD formats, and your digital download of all tracks will be filling your ears and soul in minutes.

  • Arborea: Cherry Tree Carol (trad.)

  • Arborea: Blue Crystal Fire (orig. Robbie Basho)

    (from We Are All One, Under The Sun, 2009)
  • Arborea: Phantasmagoria In Two (orig. Tim Buckley)

    (unreleased single, 2009)



Clem_Snide_-_Fan_Chosen_Covers_4x4-300x300Our 2011 full-length feature on the folkier side of Eef Barzelay was a near inevitability, given the oddly broken tenderness with which the former leader of indie band Clem Snide had turned to the work of such artists as Christina Aguilera and Eddie Money since breaking up the band after after an ill-fated post-9/11 tour left him disillusioned with the industry; later that year, we named his under-the-radar EPs covering Journey and The Transmissionary Six the Best Tribute EPs of 2011, citing their ragged, heartfelt solo interpretations, and celebrating the way the latter collection provided an entry into the work of the obscure duo through coverage, and we’re happy to report that the Wayback Machine has all songs from both features linked above still live for your downloading delight.

But although nominally recorded under the old band moniker, the Israeli-born singer-songwriter’s recent pursuit of solo fan-funded coverage continues to focus and mature, and nothing provides better evidence than the surprisingly cohesive flow that takes us through Fan Chosen Covers, Pt. 2, a name-your-price collection built on songs chosen and funded individually by donors released April 30 on Bandcamp. From the almost medieval drone of All Tomorrow’s Parties to the plainspoken simplicity of Carole King & Gerry Goffin classic Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, the well-ordered sequence offers a journey through angst and pain into peace and possibility, with pensive, newly deconstructed takes on everything from the Indigo Girls, Leonard Cohen, Neil Diamond, Paul Young, and The Church in the mix. Even a slightly tongue-in-cheek version of the theme song to Welcome Back, Mr. Kotter barely disrupts the flow of earnestness. And the new melody Barzelay has written for Bonnie Raitt tearjerker I Can’t Make You Love Me is a revelation.

Email Eef if you want to commission a cover of your very own for a very reasonable rate, or just enjoy the fruits of other fan’s requests vicariously over at Bandcamp after checking out the samples below. And if you do download, remember to give a few bucks in return, if you can: the fan-funded model only works if those who can, do.


housegardenAs we’ve noted here before, the shift from records to digital media in the past decade has led to more fleeting affection for songs and artists, over-collection, and a tendency to shuffle – all listening and archival behaviors which many have cited as a death knell for the album. But Americana singer-songwriter Nell Robinson seems to have either missed the message, or is determined to push back against the modern. Her 2011 concept album On The Brooklyn Road, which we featured back in July of 2011, raised the bar for personal and historical exploration on a grand scale, impressing us with its perfect balance of classic country covers, sepia-toned originals, and octogenarian interview clips. And her ongoing work with guitarist Jim Nunally and others channelling the stories of soldiers with music “from the Revolutionary War to the present, interwoven with 250 years of letters, stories and poetry from Nell’s Alabama family,” offers an equally powerful experience, holistic and whole, unifying the soldier’s plight across time and space.

Now Nell and Jim return with a tribute to the garden, a lighter but no less substantive subject, and unsurprisingly, though short and sweet at 13 tracks and 33 minutes, the duo project is no less comprehensive, from its plant-and-grow seed packet CD inserts to the breadth of darkness and light channelled through the sheer joys of warm sun and wind and rain, and the metaphors of dirty hands and growth, homestead and harvest. Their voices blend like old friends on a backporch, with fingerpicking that dances and an old-timey twang that invites a smile, and shades of everyone from to Kate Wolf and Patsy Cline to The Louvin Brothers and Bill Monroe himself in the echoes that linger. And to our joy, in among the originals on House & Garden, the pair channels Dolly Parton and George Jones with such grace and gentle gravity, the old songs fitting in snugly like well-curated heirloom varietals among the new blooms and the tall, cool grasses. A bounty indeed.



DSC_1669Back in the New England scene, Boston-based band Joy Kills Sorrow – one of our favorite stringfolk bands here at Cover Lay Down, helmed by Berklee grad Emma Beaton, one of our favorite folk voices, and with new members with some serious chops on acoustic guitar and stand-up bass since we last mentioned them here – releases a grand teaser of a Postal Service cover this week as a possible leading indicator of a shift in sensibilities towards an even more raucous Americana sound on their upcoming EP Wide Awake, due to drop June 4 on preeminent local label Signature Sounds. As I noted on our Facebook page late last week, I tried taping a live version of this high-energy acoustic stringband take on Such Great Heights last summer at a bluegrass fest, and failed due to crowd noise. Happily, the newly-released version is perfectly clear and crisp, a bouncy early promise of summer delight sure to thrill fans of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. Can’t wait to hear the whole EP!


1 comment » | (Re)Covered, Arborea, Clem Snide, Joy Kills Sorrow, Lissa Schneckenburger, Nell Robinson

(Re)Covered: New Coverfolk from
Tift Merritt, Shovels & Rope, Jones Street Station & CXCW!

March 24th, 2013 — 9:48am

Though our archives remain in limbo after our recent server troubles, new works and projects from artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down continue to spring forth into the ether and into our ears. Today, we add to the growing canon of delights with news of ongoing and newly-released projects from several yesteryear favorites, starting with an exclusive label-approved stream from Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein’s classical-meets-folk collaboration Night.



The lush, layered take on gospel tune Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from North Carolina-bred/NYC-based singer-songwriter Tift Merritt was one of many standout tracks on last year’s post-Hurricane Sandy benefit album The Storm Is Passing Over, easily strong enough on its own to find its way to our Best Tributes and Compilations Of 2012 feature as an album exemplar. And although I haven’t otherwise said so before, Merritt is a favorite, with a voice that rings of Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris, a wont for lyrical prescience that speaks of loneliness and longing beautifully, and an overarching wisdom and weariness that lay waste to my heart.

But if Merritt’s previous works have been strong Americana, Night, the new collaboration from classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein and nearly-legendary recording artist slash public radio host Merritt, is a vast and vindicating tour de force of artist and genre crossover. One third classical exploratives, one third folk-driven originals, one third hybrid coverage from a variety of popular sources, and 100% stunning, Night makes the journey from Wayfaring Stranger to Purcell, Bach, Schubert and Brad Mehldau via Billie Holliday’s Don’t Explain, a set of classical variations on Leonard Cohen, and a Patty Griffin-penned title track deeply personal, truly integrated, and sweetly soaring, giving us a whole and holistic album that collapses boundaries and sticks to the soul. Though it’s hard to pick a favorite track, the folk tunes call to us powerfully; listen below to an exclusive sweet-and-soulful Johnny Nash cover that may well be my favorite track of the year so far, plus a trio of older favorites from Merritt herself, then head over to Soundcloud to hear shortened samples of the rest.

  • Tift Merritt & Simone Dinnerstein: I Can See Clearly Now (orig. Johnny Nash)

    (from Night, 2013)



Up-and-coming Charleston, SC indie/folk/rock pair Shovels and Rope wowed us at the end of last year, too, with a layered, molasses-slow nu-folk take on Elvis Costello via Nick Lowe classic What’s So Funny ’bout Peace Love and Understanding that found feature placement on our Best of 2012 Mixtape. Now comes the good news that the husband-and-wife duo will release a two-track covers single on April 2 as part of Jack White’s Blue Series, continuing a meteoric rise to hipster fame; the single will sport the below sparse yet spry boogie-woogie piano take on Springsteen’s Johnny 99 on one side, and Tom Waits’ Bad As Me on the b-side, and while the result seems to be more jukebox fodder than folk, we’re not complaining one bit. Purchase now, vinyl-philes.


We featured Jones Street Station back in our early months as a blog, when they were merely the Jones Street Boys, describing their debut Overcome, which still finds regular replay in car and living room, as “lo-fi alt-country bluegrass music with a hint of midnight trainsongs and fireside song circles, a dollop of happy roots rock, and the pure infectious joy of making plumb great music.”

But boys become men, and Perennials, the project which is currently occupying their time, is a mature and masterful move towards adulthood for a band just emerging from its formative years. In it, the Brooklyn-based band is writing, recording, and releasing a new song a week for an entire year, with all proceeds going to your choice of twelve featured charities-of-the-month. (This month’s featured organization, for example, is CampInteractive, which “empowers inner-city youth through the inspiration of the outdoors and the creative power of technology”; others include lifesaving GLBQT lifesaver The Trevor Project, women’s support organization Rosie’s Place, volunteer coordinators Evacuteer.org, and music-and-culture non-profits such as The Old Town School of Folk Music and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.)

The scope of the project is matched by its professionalism: these are no mere demos or living room recordings, but fully realized pieces by a collaborative that has been making music together for years, making the value well worth the gift. And with the project months in, and all but the below tradfolk breakdown lush original works in the vein of Wilco or The Civil Wars, a small donation to a worthy cause nets you hours of music to love and cherish.


Finally, our 2012 feature on virtual alterna-fest Couch By Couchwest touted the SXSW alternative as a joyous concept done well, and we’re thrilled to find that this year’s festival, which ended last weekend, was no exception, providing yet another opportunity for an international audience to avoid the elements, skip the lines, and drink their own cheap beer while watching scores of one-song sets in the comfort and/or squalor of their own living rooms.

The now-archived CXCW 2013 features a huge mix of roots, rock, bluegrass, country, Americana, and folk from the usual cross-section of amateur and professional participants; we can’t possibly share them all here, so check out a few favorite coverfolk takes from Steve Messina of Blow Up Hollywood, Irish singer-songwriter Grainne Hunt, Floridian acousti-country quartet Have Gun Will Travel, Sally Morgan of NPR fave tradfolk band The Black Twig Pickers, California girl Melody Walker, and CXCW faves Demolition String Band…and then click on over to check out five pages of cover-tagged videos from American folk icon Gretchen Peters, Kevin Russell of The Gourds, and many more, plus over three hundred original performances from this year’s festival contributors.

    Steve Messina: Bittersweet Symphony (orig. The Verve)


    Grainne Hunt: I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You (orig. Tom Waits)


    Have Gun Will Travel: The Rainbow Connection (orig. The Muppets)


    Demolition String Band: Loving Cup (orig. Rolling Stones)


    Sally Morgan: Your Long Journey (orig. Doc Watson)


    Melody Walker: I’m Only Sleeping (orig. The Beatles)


2 comments » | (Re)Covered, Festival Coverfolk, Jones Street Station, Shovels & Rope, Tift Merritt

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