Category: Tribute Albums


Spring 2013: New & Impending Tributes
Part 3: Tim Hardin & Nick Drake, Revisited

April 3rd, 2013 — 11:06pm

Last week, we kicked off our exploration of this year’s new and impending tribute albums with feature-length posts on John Denver and The Everly Brothers, both of whom are enjoying strong homage in 2013. Today we continue our series, moving on to tributes to Nick Drake and Tim Hardin, a pair of artists who lived in the shadows and died young, leaving legacies of pain and poetics still open to interpretation.

Although it sports a cutting-edge roster of both British and American indie talent, at first glance, Reason To Believe: The Songs of Tim Hardin is surprisingly mainstream, at least as tribute albums go. Indicators include the range of sound, which covers the usual “alternative” tribute genre gamut from dreampop to grunge to neo-folk, and the fact that the album itself is named after the singer-songwriter’s most familiar song, with a title track that does little more than rehash earlier alt-country covers from Ron Sexsmith et al.

But looks can be deceiving – especially when considering an auditory medium – and the fact that we’re still coming back to this tribute despite a mid-February release speaks to the fact that, as a comprehensive package, Reason To Believe transcends its limitations, just as its honoree did, toiling in relative obscurity after an early stint at Woodstock until his untimely death at age 39. Cuts from Okkervil River (a languidly buzzy It’ll Never Happen Again) and The Phoenix Foundation (a richly layered and pulsing piano-and-vox ballad Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep), for example, offer appropriately up-to-date atmospheric explorations of what were originally envisioned as sparse acoustic songs, grounding the overall album in a tone which calls to mind both Neil Young’s more abstract soundtrack work and Fleet Foxes’ majesty, causing more popular pages from Hardin’s songbook such as a post-rock If I Were A Carpenter to come off as barely recognizable transformations that challenge us to rethink and re-imagine.

The folkier cuts on the album linger. Mark Lanegan’s Red Balloon and Alela Diane’s How Can We Hang On to a Dream, especially, capture the fragility of Hardin’s original work without disrupting the moody, maudlin flow; both are included here, with encouragement for readers to buy the album to hear them in context. For comparison’s sake, we’ve also included older covers of Hardin’s work from Okkervil River and Lanegan, the aforementioned Ron Sexsmith tune, a broken version of the same from Rickie Lee Jones’ triumphantly fragile covers album of 2012, and a cover of Hang On To A Dream by down-to-earth britfolk songstress Kathryn Williams which has long been a personal favorite. To hear more coverage, and read more about Tim Hardin and his legacy, head back in time to the Wayback Machine, where to our immense surprise, the 17 tracks originally posted in our 2012 Tim Hardin Covered In Folk feature remain live and downloadable.



waytoblueLive albums created from tribute concerts run a huge risk of mediocrity or worse, both because of how poorly playing to the crowd can come across in aftermath, and because such meager rehearsal time is generally afforded the performers beforehand, causing a sort of default “concert sound” with little variation to emerge – the inevitable result of averaging out a large set of musicians’ most normative playing styles over decidedly unrevolutionary interpretations of familiar songs. As such, also-rans abound in this particular sub-category: recent examples include, sadly, this year’s live DVD/CD tribute to Levon Helm, which – although it featured a few strong cuts from My Morning Jacket and John Mayer – was so weighted down by star power, it overwhelmed any chance at bringing the world the well-crafted tribute that Levon and his Band-mates truly deserve.

But although much of the video from a recent pair of live tribute concerts to Nick Drake suffers from an overabundance of strings and syrup, the tracklist released from the close-to-the-chest Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake album that resulted – compiled from 2010 performances in London, Melbourne, and New York – demonstrate that not all live-recorded tribute albums are created equal. In part, this is because the Brits seem to have a better handle on how to throw a good tribute album than the average American mega-venue: mix a small population of diverse artists together, go light on back-up band, err on the side of sparse, and save the collaborations for an encore. And Joe Boyd, a friend of the legendarily fragile, withdrawn folksinger who produced both concert and album, gets a lion’s share of the kudos as well, for knowing that “a unity of sound and spirit” among the players can matter, even if he goes a bit overboard in suggesting that such unity is “the only way to make a tribute record work”.

Still, if the album trumps the concert, it is also because curation matters more than the average listener might imagine. And there’s no need to simply take my word for it: the London concert is scheduled to be shown on BBC4 over the next several weeks, making it possible to hear exactly why a number of tracks were left off the recording; for US readers willing to suffer a bit of degradation in order to make the same comparison, and to save time and effort, I’ve included a somewhat audio-compromised version of the same concert on YouTube below Robyn Hitchcock’s single; listen, especially, for Lisa Hannigan’s haunting Black Eyed Dog, and Krystle Warren’s beautifully flowing Time Has Told Me, both of which made the album for obvious reasons.

Of course, many others have visited Nick Drake in depth before now, and so have we: regular readers may remember an 18-track Covered In Folk tribute to Nick Drake here on the blog a few Decembers ago; though the archived feature remains available via the Wayback Machine, in this case, unlike the Tim Hardin set referenced above, the songs are no longer live. Our bonus tracks, then, are the covers with staying power: a small handful of favorites from Denison Witmer, The Books w/ Jose Gonzalez, Lucinda Williams, and Lamya, plus a newer track from Josienne Clarke, released in the intervening years, that is pure and sweet and golden like the sun.

    Robyn Hitchcock: Parasite (orig. Nick Drake)


    Way To Blue: A Tribute to Nick Drake (London concert)




Cover Lay Down posts coverfolk features and songsets twice weekly, with bonus tracks throughout the week at our Facebook page. Coming soon: a look at some great new and impending cover EPs, including a 7″ & CD single package giveaway!

3 comments » | Nick Drake, Tim Hardin, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Spring 2013: New & Impending Tributes
Part 2: Two tributes to The Everly Brothers

March 31st, 2013 — 5:00pm

We’re in the midst of a short Spring series featuring this year’s early tributes and cover compilations, thanks to an unusually strong crop of those full-album sets which so often stand as the coverlover’s archival foundation. Last Friday, we kicked off our series with a look at The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver, sharing three tracks from the album and a Covered In Folk mixtape of relatively recent folk homage for comparison; today, we explore two different approaches to The Everly Brothers from The Chapin Sisters and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Dawn McCarthy, with a bonus set of coverage from the folk archives to follow.





Single-artist tribute albums are rare enough as it is. But in what can only be considered a curious confluence of events, 2013 will see two strong full-album tributes to close harmony duo the Everly Brothers – both by by folk duos, though from opposite sides of the contemporary genre spectrum.

The first of these, What The Brothers Sang – a pairing of frequent nu-folk collaborators Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Faun Fables frontwoman Dawn McCarthy, preceded by a teaser leading-edge holiday video cover of Christmas Eve Can Kill You that made the rounds in December – comes from the indie side of the folkworld, and sounds it, with Oldham’s broken baritone and McCarthy’s warm alto establishing a complex tapestry of sound throughout, and a tendency towards languid arrangement and more obscure set pieces that brings out the maudlin. Overall, though, with true-blue rockers, slow folk tracks, and neo-traditional settings all in the mix, the collection as a whole comes out quite flexible in its treatment of the songbook, rebuilding each song as a discrete genre expression with respect and not a little experimentation, making for a diverse and deeply intimate, but often tense and broken resurrection well worth repeated listening.




The second Everly Brothers tribute this year will come from Cover Lay Down favorite family singer-songwriter pairing The Chapin Sisters, fresh off a month-long residency singing classic country songs at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, where they paid tribute to their own sibling harmony tendencies by performing light, sparse takes of family-harmony classics from The Louvin Brothers, The Carter Family, and, finally, an ever-expanding series of Everly Brothers hits on banjo and guitar in suits and slicked-back hair. The experience also led to the recording of The Chapin Sisters: A Date With the Everly Brothers, a dreamy cross-gender tribute that promises to play the songs relatively straight, albeit more tender, and with more than a hint of female twang; the album isn’t finished being paid for or packaged yet, but a Kickstarter gift at the above link now will net you the disk when it’s ready; in the meantime, there’s plenty of live and promotional footage to show us how sweet this one will be.

    The Chapin Sisters: Crying In The Rain


    The Chapin Sisters: Love Hurts (live)


    The Chapin Sisters: Crying In The Rain (live)




More broadly, the influence of brothers Don and Phil is evident in both early and ongoing coverage of the Everly Brothers’ compositions throughout multiple genres, and in the ease with which songs originally recorded by them, such as B & B compositions Love Hurts, Devoted To You, and Bye Bye Love, have come to be considered popular and oft-misattributed standards – not to mention the continued misidentification of chart-topping songs performed but not originally recorded by the two, such as Gilbert Bécaud’s Let It Be Me, which came from France and traveled through the filter of American television before reaching the Everly Brothers’ ears.

And just as this year’s new tributes split the difference between the early popfolk elements and the country stylings which characterized the Everly Brothers work, so too do Today’s Bonus Tracks reveal a similar macrocosmic split in contemporary coverage writ large, with most artists adopting duo configurations to take on the close melodic harmonies of the Everlys even as their performances and arrangements yaw between delicate indiefolk and robust acoustic country and rock.

Especially dear pairings include the romantically-linked girls at the core of acoustic folkband The Ditty Bops, boyfriend and girlfriend Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice, Doc and son Merle live in concert, married tradfolk pair Pharis and Jason Romero, long time folk couple Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, and Teddy Thompson’s duet with his mother Linda, who also did a great duet with Sandy Denny on another Everly Brothers hit once upon a seventies. Even sibling fiddle-and-cellofolk pair Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, aka The Bee Eaters, sing in harmony, borrowing Aoife O’Donovan’s vocals, then trading off licks on their instrumental version of Crying In The Rain as if their strings could sing. In the end, of today’s set, only Rosie Thomas and Ed Harcourt, like Oldham and McCarthy, remain unlinked by blood or marriage – and save their harmony for the final verse, perhaps in penance.


1 comment » | Covered In Folk, Everly Brothers, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Spring 2013: New & Impending Tributes
Part 1: The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver

March 29th, 2013 — 1:01pm

It’s shaping up to be another stellar year for album-length coverage, with pickings so strong we’re hard pressed to take them all on in a single feature without burying the lead. Indeed, in the few short months since the year turned, we’ve already featured close exploration of Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s Child Ballads EP, touted Levi Weaver’s free-to-fans covers EP as a “darling indie set” well worth your time, and helped Slowcoustic’s double-length tribute to J. Tillman’s Long May You Run take flight.

But the hits just keep on coming, and we’re getting backlogged here at Cover Lay Down. And so, throughout the next week, we kick off Spring with a short series of coverage of new and impending tributes to The Everly Brothers, Tim Hardin, Nick Drake and more – starting with a close look at the newest tribute to John Denver, due to drop this Tuesday on ATO Records.





John Denver’s heyday was in the seventies, and I was born in 1973; as such, until quite recently, my primary experience with him had been through starring roles in Oh God and on my wife’s favorite Muppets holiday special, and that hazy collection of other television and film appearances which float through pop culture like echoes of past fame. But coverage will out, and The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver, which is due to drop on April 2, is a triumphant tribute to the oft-spoken singer-songwriter, one which has awakened in me an adult’s appreciation for the work that brought him to fame in the first place.

To be fair, as songwriter and composer, Denver is easy to underestimate. Many of his early, most familiar lyrics are neither complex nor emotionally disruptive; rather, they are loving and sentimental, and celebratory of the earth and its wonders both intimate and broad. His pure, warm voice and simple, flowing melodies are an especially effective mechanism for their lighthearted delivery, and it’s no wonder these are the songs that most associate with his career, and his legacy.

But a deeper look at the catalog reveals more breadth. There is heartache in Denver’s ongoing catalog of distance from his beloved mountains and family. There is anger, too, in works which address his beloved ecology, and in such political songs as Wooden Indian, in which Denver rails against the historical treatment of Native Americans. When he speaks plainly of distance, disconnection, loss and longing, Denver’s directness can pierce the heart.

Previous homage has found the appropriate balance of depth and simple poetic beauty in Denver’s delights and disappointments – see, for example, thorough coverage of the excellent tribute Take Me Home, a beautiful turn-of-the-century Mark Kozelek project featuring Red House Painters, Low, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and others on the indiefolk outsider spectrum which brought a new generation of fans to reconsider the genius of his work, over at fellow coverblog Cover Me last April. And singleton covers abound, from the ubiquitous and prototypical Leaving On A Jet Plane and Take Me Home Country Roads to the raucous cajun folk of The Decemberist’s Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas), Youth Lagoon’s dreampop Goodbye Again, new-age devotional artist Simone Vitale’s lilting Jamaican-rhythm Sunshine On My Shoulders, and Damien Jurado and Richard Swift’s lo-fi Follow Me, which transforms the song into a muddy jukebox ballad filtered through Phil Spector’s wall of sound and Roy Orbison’s heartache.


The Music Is You is a powerful addition to the canon of coverage, with performances that stir the heart even as they reinterpret and, in some cases, deconstruct the songbook. And although it is a cohesive collection, with My Morning Jacket, Dinosar Jr., Lucinda Williams, Evan Dando, Train, Emmylou Harris, and many more of the usual suspects for this generations indie tributes turning in exceptional performances, it is the newer, younger voices who stun more than anything: Brett Dennen’s cover of Annie’s Song, for example, brightens the soaring gentleness of the original to something sunnier and bouncier, and more contemporary; Amos Lee croons Some Days Are Diamonds, which Denver did not write but brought to the country charts, as a fine, soft, heartbreaking gospel blues; Josh Ritter joins old friends Mark Erelli and Jake Armerding for a sweet and gentle bluegrass take on popular Denver cover Darcy Farrow that rings of John Hartford’s, while Kathleen Edwards brings a contemporary weariness to All Of My Memories.

Add in Old Crow Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile, and you’ve got an album destined to become one of the great tributes of its age. Listen to a short set of label-approved streamers below, plus a bonus collection of other John Denver tunes covered in folk… and then stream the whole thing at NPR until the album goes live on Tuesday.


    Brett Dennen and Milow: Annie’s Song


    My Morning Jacket: Leaving On A Jet Plane



Today’s Bonus Tracks:



Cover Lay Down posts new features and coverfolk sets twice weekly thanks to readers like you. Donate now to help our ongoing efforts to support the continued existence and viability of folk, roots, and acoustic music and the artists who produce it.

1 comment » | Covered In Folk, John Denver, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Long May You Run, J. Tillman Revisited
(with 3 exclusive tracks from the new Slowcoustic tribute album!)

February 27th, 2013 — 10:55am





By definition, a great tribute album must hit the mark in both homage and realization, proving worth and worthiness of the original artist and his canon through song selection and composition, while still demonstrating the value and validity of reinterpretation through a well-arranged and well-performed tracklist.

It’s a high standard, and in a lifetime of cover-chasing, we’ve seen less hits than misses, more also-rans than outright successes. But a rarified few aim higher still. Keeping to the same genre or subgenre narrows the parameters further, offering a particular challenge to those who could easily drift towards mere reproduction. Adding in other rules – using only independent artists, for example – makes for even higher walls, with even greater possibility of faltering. By the time we consider the possibility of the track-by-track album tribute, we find ourselves on the razor’s edge of daring: few albums attempt such a fine focus, and of those few that have tried in the past, many fall flat on one count or another.

By this standard, Long May You Run, J. Tillman Revisited, Slowcoustic’s emergent homage to Tillman’s oddly titled seminal sophomore solo album, is a triumph of curation and performance: appropriately imperfect, definitively Tillman, and shockingly diverse. The songs it contains yaw through an unexpectedly broad gamut, given their inheritance, but all are worth keeping, and a surprising number are startlingly beautiful and broken. And today, we are pleased and honored to bring you not one, but three exclusive cuts from this potent collection as part of a gradual-release experiment orchestrated by Slowcoustic host and project curator Sandy, aka Smansmith.


slowcoustic-logoThat Tillman’s album shaped Sandy’s own sensibility at “the unhurried side of Americana/Alt-Country/Folk/Indie/Down-Tempo music” is inherent in the project’s genesis; though there is an interesting diversity of interpretation here, unsurprisingly, as with the original, the mix here is almost universally lo-fi, and often quite raw; those looking for sweetly melodic, high-harmony singer-songwriter fare are missing the point.

But there are more things in heaven and earth than sweetness and light, both in and beyond the boundaries of emotional depth and qualitative excellence which the Revisited project embody. For one thing, there is more here than one might expect from an album paying tribute to a small 11-track original. The lack of physical media limitations in the digital age have brought us an increasing number of full-album tributes that go beyond the track-by-track boundaries of the original album, and Long May You Run, Revisited is no exception: there are 20 tracks here, with as much as three versions of some songs, making it possible to compare versions, or mix-and-match to make the ideal mix depending on the listener’s mood – and making the album that much more open-ended, which also, in its own way, reflects the open-ended fragility of the solo singer-songwriter approach which J. Tillman took in this early release.

The second-hand title of the original album begs for coverage in ways too obvious to mention, of course. Even the slow-leak incidence of the homage pays fitting tribute to its origins, in that like the original, which was originally recorded in a borrowed basement in the dead of winter, and released in a tiny run of 150 in 2006, the tribute is finding its way into the world in small bursts. Our own effort herein, then, becomes like one of the multiple spaces in which Tillman wrote his songs – a compliment to the several features which Slowcoustic has shared over the last several days, and will continue to mete out for the remainder of the week, until we find ourselves fully able to appreciate that rarest of tribute albums: that which lasts, and stands on its own as both tribute and celebration.

Today, then, we offer a trio of tracks which, up until now, have been heard by none save the artists, and by Smansmith himself: two which complete the first pass at the full eleven tracks on the original, and a second cover of Trouble’s Always Free, which – in that it is more rugged, and more lonely, than the Small Sur version of the same song that Slowcoustic shared yesterday in Part III of the ongoing release – seems a perfect pairing for the quiet, almost demo-quality gems from underground iconoclastic Lexington, KY-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Doc Feldman and Cover Lay Down fave and Yer Bird recording artists Pickering Pick.

All three share much in common: male voices, sparse setting, and subdued, almost heroin sentiment. But each is beautiful, proving the viability and value in the project overall. Check out the tracks below, head back to Slowcoustic to read and collect more from the project, and then keep an eye on that space over the next few days as the remaining tracks hit the web.


Pickering Pick: Jamestown Bridge (orig. J. Tillman)



Doc Feldman: Wayward Glance Blues (orig. J. Tillman)



Quarter Mile Thunder: Trouble’s Always Free (orig. J. Tillman)



Our bonus tracks today come from outside the J. Tillman catalog, where we find his own 2010 full-album tribute to the formative influencer who shares credit for the original album title of both tribute and original above. Like today’s feature, Tillman Sings ‘Tonight’s The Night’ hits the mark; pick it up, and listen alongside Long May You Run, J Tillman Revisited to close the loop of coverage and blog-born tributaries.


3 comments » | J. Tillman, Tribute Albums, Tributes and Cover Compilations

Back to top