The week winds down here in North Carolina. The family and friends begin to disperse. And so we, too, will pack the van and head North again, slowly driving away the sand and surf.
The sounds of the sound and the osprey’s call will fade, and so will the rest, as we stiffen into the wind of the life we left behind. But the music will linger, and hold within it the peace of place, and of our selves.
From old school to new, then, our final soundtrack of spring vacation, with covers of and from one more set of North Carolina’s native sons and daughters: John D. Loudermilk, Ola Belle Reed, The Red Clay Ramblers, Hiss Golden Messenger, Delta Rae, and Jim Lauderdale.
Formed during the early seventies at the epicenter of the Durham, North Carolina string band revival, Tony Award-winning band The Red Clay Ramblers have remained a staple of the scene for over four decades by bringing their pickin’ and grinnin’ to a multitude of media, from radio and records to film and musical theater. Originals abound in their canon, but so do old familiars – especially on Meeting In The Air, a full album of Carter Family tunes recorded and released on Flying Fish. Their roster has changed since their early years – Shawn Colvin was even a member for a short time in the late eighties – but their music continues to be a standard for the form. Hear why.
- Red Clay Ramblers: Will You Miss Me (orig. The Carter Family)
- Red Clay Ramblers: Schoolhouse On The Hill (orig. The Carter Family)
- Red Clay Ramblers: North Carolina Toast/Breakdown (orig. Martin/Kerr)
From the fringes of the alternative indiefolk world comes Hiss Golden Messenger, formed around core duo MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch, who previously performed together in both a hardcore punk band and an indie rock group named after a Joni Mitchell album before moving to North Carolina to begin their current project. As one might expect given their rich heritage and experience, their music is alt-country influenced yet entirely revelatory and rejuvenating.
- Hiss Golden Messenger: Bright Phoebus (orig. Lal & Mike Waterson)
- Hiss Golden Messenger: Fennario (orig. Michael Chapman)
John D. Loudermilk is generally considered one of the greats of the mid-century Nashville era, but he, too, was born in Durham, and graduated from college there in the early fifties before heading out to follow in the footsteps of his famous cousins Ira and Charlie Loudermilk, aka the Louvin Brothers. Predominantly known as a songwriter for others, including Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Everly Brothers, Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, and Johnny Cash, his songs live on in one of the largest lists of notable compositions ever amassed on Wikipedia, as does he, at 81.
- Jim Henry: Windy & Warm (orig. John D. Loudermilk)
- Norah Jones: Turn Me On (orig. John D. Loudermilk)
- Tex Perkins & Megan Washington: This Little Bird (orig. John D. Loudermilk)
Equal parts tradition and presence, banjo player and Appalachian mainstay Ola Belle Reed was born in Lansing, NC, and went on to become a key influence in the early evolution of folk music before it split off into country, blues, and rock and roll. Her songbook is especially common in the blue- and newgrass realms; odds are you’ll recognize all of these tunes, though like most folks, you may think of them as unsourced standards – an indicator of just how deeply she impacted the modern canon.
- Ollabelle: High On A Mountain (orig Ola Belle Reed)
- The Lonesome Sisters: Go Home Little Girl (orig. Ola Belle Reed)
- Uncle Earl: My Epitaph (orig. Ola Belle Reed)
- Cathy Fink: Where The Wild, Wild Flowers Grow (orig. Ola Belle Reed)
Born to a minister and a church music director in the tiny town of Troutman, a distant suburb of sprawling Charlotte, and a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Jim Lauderdale is better known in the Nashville-based industry as a session player, songwriter, and co-conspirator than a solo artist, thanks to a 2002 Grammy for a collaboration with Ralph Stanley, composer credits on songs made famous by Patty Loveless, George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, and Elvis Costello, and long-time associations with Buddy Miller and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. His participation in any project is a promise of success in my household, but as evidenced below, his solo work is quite solid, too.
- Jim Lauderdale: Seven Cent Cotton and Forty Cent Meat (trad.)
- Jim Lauderdale: Easy Times (orig. Judy Collins)
Finally, we return to Durham with folk-rockers Delta Rae, who hit the scene running in 2010 with a self-titled EP that still takes its turn on our own turntable from time to time. The band on the rise tends to get more airplay on the country rock side of the dial up north, where folks don’t really know from country anyway, but after the release of their sophomore full-length After It All just a few weeks ago, they’re already crossing over into the alternative and folk charts, and we’re glad to hear it, even as they continue to turn towards a more electric, eclectic, radio-ready sound. Bonus points: it’s always a good sign to find a new band covered so well; here’s a pair of favorites from the ‘tube to complement their acoustic rock 2012 Fleetwood Mac cover.
Delta Rae: The Chain (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
- Naked Gypsies: Bottom Of The River (orig. Delta Rae)
- Dylan Byrnes, Abby Sevcik, et. al: Holding On To Good (orig. Delta Rae)
Previously on Cover Lay Down: Carolina Coverfolk, Volumes 1-7
- Volume 1: Songs of the South, As Place and Metaphor
(with covers of and from Red Molly, Mike Seeger, Ben Gibbard, Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Travis and more!)
- Volume 2: The Songs of Elizabeth Cotten
(with covers from Garcia & Grisman, Mary Lou Lord, Chris Smither, Davy Graham, Laura Viers and more!)
- Volume 3: Carolina Chocolate Drops (An African American String Band Recreates the Piedmont Blues)
(with covers of Mississippi Sheiks, Blu Cantrell, Bob Dylan and more!)
- Volume 4: The Traditional Songs (and Beyond) of Doc Watson
(with covers of The Louvin Brothers, The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Patsy Cline and more!)
- Volume 7: Native Sons and Daughters From Indiefolk To Bluegrass
(with covers of and from Ryan Adams, Tift Merritt, David Wilcox, Steep Canyon Rangers, Acoustic Syndicate, and Ben Folds)