Search results for ‘dylan’

Amos Lee Covers:
John Prine, John Denver, Sam Cooke, Dylan, Madonna & more!

September 5th, 2016 — 04:30 pm


Amos Lee came into my life just in time to rock my second child to sleep, making it easy to mark the eleven years since Arms Of A Woman hit me in the heart like a slow motion bullet. Since then, the soulful singer-songwriter has become a go-to guy for series of strong tribute albums and covers collections – making him an easy candidate for a Cover Lay Down artist feature that gathers in 18 of our favorite live and studio covers for a set that’ll tear your heart out.

Lee was a latecomer to the craft; he received his first guitar in college, and worked as an elementary-level schoolteacher and bartender in his native Philadelphia before deciding to dedicate his life to music at the age of 25. But once determined, his rise to fame was rapid and resoundingly celebrated. Early opening act gigs for BB King and Mose Alison and a demo submission to jazz-and-more label Blue Note Records in 2004 led to tours with Norah Jones and Bob Dylan the following year, and a self-titled debut whose songs found rapid-fire exposure on a multitude of House, ER, Parenthood, and other TV shows and commercials known for showcasing the new, hip indie marketplace.

No one was surprised when Lee’s 2011 album Mission Bell, with its stark landscape, restless momentum, and guest appearances from Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Priscilla Ahn, Pieta Brown, and Sam Beam debuted at the top of the Billboard charts. The man had made his mark, and subsequent tours with everyone from Merle Haggard to Adele would only cement his influence in the post-millennial world.

In many ways, though, Amos Lee’s rapid rise was foretold by his music. It’s hard not to love Lee upon first listen; arguably, the man has more soul in his vocal delivery than anyone else in his generation and genre. But dig deeper, and his true mastery becomes clear: there’s subtle, nuanced delivery and arrangement here, and a deceptively simple way with a lyrical hook that owes as much to the formative influence of early acoustic soul balladeers like Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers as it does to the muddy, raw Delta bluesfolk at the heart of the American folkways, the gritty sounds of John Prine, and the sparse contemporary jazzfolk sounds of Joni Mitchell and labelmate and contemporary Jones.

The result is consistent: an elegantly honest portrayal of deep emotional truths, crisp and achingly framed, in clear, deep, and emotional performance; a collected output of six full-length albums of original songs, one live album, that original Blue Note EP, and a sequence of guest appearances and one-shot coversongs that evades easy genre categorization even as it stands out for its originality, its craftsmanship, and its soul.

So click below to download studio covers of John Prine, Bob Dylan, Fred Neil and Madonna, an iTunes session Neil Young/Ween two-fer, collaborations with The Wood Brothers and Calexico and Iron & Wine, and the best, clearest live covers we could find, from soulful solo takes on Sam Cooke and The Commodores to majestic in-concert versions of November Rain and Fat Bottomed Girls. Come, see why Amos Lee’s interpretation of John Denver’s Some Days Are Diamonds, originally shared here in 2013, is the single most played song in our collection. Come, fall back in love with us.

Always ad-free and artist-friendly, Cover Lay Down has been exploring the folkways through cover songs since 2007 thanks to the generous support of readers like you. Coming soon: our annual Fall fund drive, plus a look at new tribute albums and compilations from the end of the summer!

1 comment » | Amos Lee, Featured Artists

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

August 28th, 2016 — 02:59 pm


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Re)Covered In Folk: Dave Carter, 1952 – 2002
The Legacy of a Buddhist Cowboy Poet

July 19th, 2016 — 11:59 pm

Repost originally featured July 19, 2010. Dave, we miss you still.

Each year as schooldays fade into memory and the summer festival season grows close, my thoughts turn to Dave Carter. An up-and-coming singer-songwriter already well respected by critics and peers, Carter was on the road with his partner Tracy Grammer in the summer of 2002 when he was stricken down with a heart attack during an early morning run in the New England heat.

Their scheduled set at that day’s Green River Festival was taken over by Signature Sounds labelmate Mark Erelli with little fanfare. And the following weekend, at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Tracy took to the stage with determination, cementing Carter’s legacy with a mainstage tribute set performed with friends and folkfamily that, surely, would have made Dave smile.

I’d like to say that I was there, as so many friends were. But this series of events comes to me secondhand, eclipsed by the miracle of parenthood, and the uncertain, overwhelming future of its sudden and everpermanent arrival. For on the day of Dave Carter’s death, in a hospital just a few blocks from where he had planned to perform on that fateful day, my wife and I were walking into the same hot summer, our newly-born child cradled carefully in our arms.

It was the one and only year we’ve missed Falcon Ridge in fifteen years of continuous attendance – the field being no place for a week-old infant – but though I have no regrets in choosing personal joy over shared wake under the circumstances, I have long wished I could have been there for the celebration of Carter’s life which took place that summer on the ridge. Instead, I am left with faint memory and eternal song, his recorded catalog of Zen mysticism and gentle cowboy poetics a permanent fixture on my playlists, his warm voice and sublime vision a constant echo of what was and could have been.

Far be it from me to claim some special bond between Carter and myself, despite the proximity of life and death which we shared; I was only privileged enough to see Dave and Tracy once in concert, and now it is too late.

But Dave Carter lives in my heart, and in the hearts of those folk musicians I love. And why not? It’s not just that Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer spent the last two years of his life atop the american folk charts, thanks to top honors at Kerrville, Napa Valley, and other festivals following their kitchen-recorded, independently released debut When I Go (1998), and the subsequent success of Tanglewood Tree (2000) and Drum Hat Buddha (2001); it’s that they earned that recognition, through unparalleled songcraft, dedicated performance, and a grateful approach to the universe that lives on in his songs, and in her life.

Perhaps Joan Baez said it best, describing Carter’s songs as folkways-ready: “There is a special gift for writing songs that are available to other people, and Dave’s songs are very available to me. It’s a kind of genius, you know, and Dylan has the biggest case of it. But I hear it in Dave’s songs, too.” Listen, and you’ll hear it too.

Tracy Grammer continues to perform the Dave Carter songbook, most often with local hero and master instrumentalist Jim Henry by her side. In 2005, she released Flower of Avalon, which included nine previously unrecorded songs written by Carter, and a single traditional tune that fits perfectly within the set.

Since then, Tracy has continued to perform and record, making a name for herself beyond that of Dave Carter’s partner and muse. But in many ways, her life continues to be as much a part of his legacy as his songs. Pick up her work, and theirs, at

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Dave Carter, Reposts

These Days: A Summer Interlude

July 12th, 2016 — 01:04 pm


I’m in the middle of a lot of things these days: booking artists for the upcoming Unity House Concerts season, boning up on poetry and plays for Drama and English classes this Fall, compiling a mid-year list of the best 2016 tributes and cover compilation albums so far.

Far off in the distance, the horizon is busy with the skyscrapers of family and work and social justice. Tomorrow morning I’m off to Louisville for a conference; just two weeks, and we’ll be on the fields of Falcon Ridge, our home away from home; one week after that, and I’m in school, if not the classroom, preparing for another year on the front lines.

But it’s a fine day, with little to do but since on the porch and listen mindfully to the birds and the hum of the air conditioner. Gypsy moths flutter by over the overgrown yard. The air is cool as yesterday, when we took my brother to Sturbridge Village, and wandered among the calves.

Nothing is urgent. It’s almost noon, but upstairs, the children are still snug in their beds.

Slow Summer is here, if just for a moment.

Let it shimmer around you, before it gets gone.

2 comments » | Mixtapes

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, August 4-7
(with Peter Mulvey, Heather Maloney, Tom Rush, Patty Larkin & more!)

June 18th, 2016 — 03:31 pm

We founded our family on the spirits of close community and adventure: it’s in our wedding contract, and one of the main reasons my wife and I both work in education is to ensure that our calendars include time to wander together. But nothing looms as large in our ongoing pursuit of the live and immersive than our annual excursion to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which this year celebrates its 28th anniversary August 4-7 at Dodd’s Farm in Hillsdale, NY, just over the border from Great Barrington, MA, at the foothills of the Berkshires.

Founded in 1988 to celebrate and sustain the nascent singer-songwriter revival, Falcon Ridge has come to embody the ideals of the modern folkworld, in which fans, artists, concert and radio hosts, and others who live their lives grounded in the diverse ideals and soundscapes of folk come together to celebrate the breadth of the movement, the music, and the community they engender. As ethnomusicologist and regular FRFF attendee Liz Carlisle wrote in her 2006 undergrad thesis on the fest,

As a well developed “state” into which “citizens” opt in, FRFF is not just summer camp for a bunch of delusional, idealistic folk music enthusiasts (folkies)…Indeed, the real-ness of FRFF is at the crux of its symbolic power. The common goal of those who attend is to make the folk music ideal – a vision of shared power and creation, uninhibited personal expression, and general acceptance and love – real through a successful music festival.

Reaching this goal every year can be a challenge, especially in a world where smaller music festivals are falling apart around us – both Clearwater and Gathering of the Vibes have been cancelled for this year, due to a combination of factors that inevitably include financial concerns. But thanks to that efficiency, and a core cohort of volunteers and organizers who work tirelessly year-round to maintain and sustain the place they love, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest continues to offer the best of both the world of intentional community, and the world of folk.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.41.31 PMThis year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Fest mainstage and workshop stage performers include the usual mix of well known names from three generations of American folk, representing a broad tent, from solo singer-songwriters like Tom Rush, Patty Larkin, Vance Gilbert, Matt Nakoa, Heather Maloney, Eric Schwartz and Peter Mulvey to folk rock, world music, psychedelic, country rock, Americana, and other genre-busting bands and folk supergroups like The Felice Brothers, The Gaslight Tinkers, Brother Sun, Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes, and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Well-populated contra dance and children’s stages run throughout the festival, too, and up-and-coming performers play regularly alongside colorful tye-dye, jewelry, henna tattoo parlors, and African drumset sellers in the vendor area, and stalls selling everything from Caribbean goat stew to ice cream, sweet and savory crepes.

Camping at Falcon Ridge isn’t mandatory; only about a third of the attendees each year choose to stay overnight in the fields, and my parents – neither of whom camp – have always found themselves both fully welcome and fully sated by their own experience. But if you can do it, living on site is highly recommended. The sense of community on the farm is palpable and sweet; I have yet to meet a camper who did not discover their own site “family” in their first few hours on the farm, and wandering camp-to-camp brings an evening’s delight, full of laughter and food-sharing. Those who play and sing are always welcome to join in. And, as a bonus for nightowls, the music at Falcon Ridge continues into the wee hours in the campgrounds, where a half-dozen regular formal songcircles and stages like The Budgiedome and Pirate Camp bring together mainstage performers and up-and-coming name-brand performers from the coffeehouse circuit.

Although officially Falcon Ridge doesn’t start until Friday, August 5, Thursday offers its own special pre-fest charm, with a shaded farmer’s market and tasting day on-site that offers the best of local breweries and wineries, dairies and farms. And there’s music, too: some of the best music I’ve seen at Falcon Ridge in the past 4 or 5 years has been presented or previewed on The Lounge Stage, a one-time campsite stage that found it’s way into the main festival grounds to avoid a thunderstorm two years ago, and has since become an officially sanctioned festival-within-a-festival housed under the Dance Tent. Performers for this year’s Lounge Stage have not yet been released, but their ability to select and combine mainstage players and rising stars together for intimate sessions in the round makes the Lounge Stage a must-see; past performers include Jean Rohe, Matt Nakoa, We’re About Nine, John Gorka, Irish Mythen, Pat Wictor, Pesky J. Nixon, Caitlin Canty, Buskin & Batteau, hosts Pesky J. Nixon, and more.

One last note before we get to the music: while Falcon Ridge needs paying patrons to survive, as alluded to in Carlisle’s thesis, it also needs volunteers, and this year’s volunteer pool is currently thin, far below the needed thousand it takes to run the place efficiently. Volunteers get two solid meals a day, free access to campgrounds and the festival itself, and the warm satisfaction of helping build and maintain a crucial cultural locus of love and music, all for the price of a staff t-shirt and a few four-hour shifts throughout the long weekend; if you’re interested in joining up, head over to the volunteer website, and stake your claim for a spot on one of our crews.

Either way, we’d love to have you – and we’re sure you’ll love it, too. So click through below for a 21-track collection of coverfolk from a set of artists who together represent the breadth of modern folk music and the promise of an intentional nation. And then, if you can make it happen, save the date, and register now – as a volunteer or a paying patron – for the very best fest around. We’ll see you there.

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Preview, 2016
[now available in mixtape format!]

Artist-centered and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down shares coverfolk features and ethnographic musings throughout the year thanks to patrons like you. Coming soon: new and newly discovered tributes and cover collections take on Dylan, Blind Willie Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, American tradfolk and more, plus our usual plethora of artist and songbook features as the summer kicks in!

Comment » | Darlingside, David Bowie, Felice Brothers, Festival Coverfolk, Gaslight Tinkers, Heather Maloney, Matt Nakoa, Mike + Ruthy, Peter Mulvey

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

June 11th, 2016 — 02:48 pm

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!

Comment » | New Artists Old Songs

Still Standing: Remembering The 2011 Tornado
with covers of Springsteen, Survivor, INXS, CSNY & more!

June 6th, 2016 — 09:13 pm

In June of 2011 our town made national news when a tornado tore through our downtown valley and up the hill again, leaving a strip of destruction and chaos that was visible on weather satellites. For the next month, in a series of four features here on these pages, we traced the town’s slow process through the stages of community grief: from shock and heartbreak to hope and determination. And in the end, though we weren’t really healed, we moved on: back to work, and to school, and the pretense of normal which so typifies the modern condition.

But looking back with the wisdom of years, it is clear that through the forge of wind and cracking wood and crumbling stone, the fire of bent backs and open arms, something changed about us. Somewhere along the way, we had come to take for granted the closeness of the community; we had been jaded and cynical, complacent in our ways and means; now we were resolute, and banded together in the face of it all.

And so we mourned and cleared our smalltown streets, huddling together with those who had lost everything but each other. We took water and food into the worst of it all; we gathered wood from our driveways and yards, and hauled it away to keep us warm for the next two winters. We took care of our own, a town together, independent and practical, resolute and proud as only New Englanders can be. And in doing so, we learned that having each other was everything.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 8.48.17 PMThese days, new homes and new green lawns stand where houses once tilted and yawed into the aftermath of disaster. Town Hall has been rebuilt, fixing the hole in the center of everything which stood for years as testament to our trials. First Church has a new steeple, and it’s visible all the way down Main Street, where it proudly oversees the Memorial Day parade. Our Civil War era Memorial Hall reopened its doors last Christmas for the bazaar, and it was just like old times.

We no longer shudder at the sight of clouds. From a distance, the scar that cuts through the land has faded into a faint yellowgreen line of new trees. Last night’s high school graduation took place on time, and no one mentioned the tornado which cancelled the ceremony for their oldest brothers and sisters.

Normal has become normal again; life goes on. But in many ways, it is a better, closer life than it was before the world fell apart. We know each other better. We celebrate each other more. The town remembers, deep in its bones: we are still, after all this time, Monson Strong. And so it will be, harbored against our hearts and our bodies, until we forget, and nature calls once more to remind us of ourselves.

From the folk rock of Alana Davis to the delicate determination of Kallet, Epstein and Ciccone, then. From the sparse lo-fi indiefolk of Eye Of The Tiger to the bright summery uke stylings of Dog Days Are Over, and from delicate string-driven Springsteen to weary countrified fun. From Love Canon’s grassy, resolutely bittersweet Touch Of Gray to Chelsea Berry’s sweet, soulful take on Patty Griffin’s Heavenly Day; from Sara Watkins with the frenzied fiddles of Darol Anger’s Republic Of Strings to Beck, St. Vincent, Liars and Os Mutantes as Record Club supergroup.

May this loosely-mixed set of songs of determination, aftermath and rebirth carry our deep joys and appreciation to you and yours. And may you always have your neighbors at your side, their strong backs bent and consoling arms open, when your disasters come to you.

Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Coming soon: our annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival preview…plus new artists from all corners of the folkworld cover Dylan, Lucius, The Cardigans, Jackson Browne, Big Star, Angus and Julia Stone and more!

Comment » | Mixtapes

Marissa Nadler covers:
Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath & 16 more!

May 21st, 2016 — 03:30 pm

The pretty, melodic, harmony-and-lyric-driven music that so often typifies the coffeehouse set permeates our love for the folkworld here at Cover Lay Down. But exploring the margins has its benefits, too. Indeed, one of the things I love about folk is its broad diversity: no matter what mood you desire, no matter what purpose you need music to serve in your ears and your soul, folk has something for you, if you’re willing to listen.

And so I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient folk music these past few weeks – a perfect pairing for an unsettled world, where inner city teaching and my children’s ongoing health struggles keep me ever on the edge of adrenalin exhaustion. And as I shift through the various twigs and brambles of this often obscure acre, one voice keeps rising to the surface: that of Marissa Nadler, who has carved out a niche all her own, one that is definitive and daring, potent and achingly beautiful.

Although born, raised, and still based in the Boston area, Marissa Nadler is more usually associated with the hipstery dreampop and indiefolk worlds than the Boston singer-songwriter crowd. Her third major studio release Songs III: Bird on the Water won her recognition as “Outstanding Singer-Songwriter of the Year” at the 2008 Boston Music Awards, beating out a young Josh Ritter two years after Paste named him one of their 100 greatest living songwriters, but label-sharing with Jose Gonzalez, Father John Misty, and David Lynch, and garnering award nominations and accolades alongside Iron and Wine, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, and others from the soft, experimental fringes of the new folk, gives stronger evidence for her placement in the spectrum that has come to define folk in the 21st Century.

Like so many of her experimental brethren, Nadler is an artist first and foremost, formally trained in obscure illustration styles, bookbinding, and encaustic painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, and still keeper of an ongoing store of oddities at do-it-yourself site Etsy; seemingly, the same love of the old and the weird has led to refinement and redefinition as her career has evolved. Although most of her earlier work in the musical realm centers around sparse guitar and voice, adorned only slightly by lo-fi outsider accompaniment from New England experimentalists like cellist Helena Espvall, her sound on Little Hells, which followed Birds III, and was rated highly by the Pitchfork and Paste crowd, represented an expansion of sound beyond the freak-folk into something which pitched and yawed from dreampop and back again through the use of sustained organ and harmonium, circular drumming, and other production techniques that simultaneously amplified, clarified, and bloodied the gauze of her core sound.

New album Strangers – Nadler’s sixth, which dropped yesterday – continues this expansion, offering a richer, lusher mix than usual, with decidedly electronic synths and beats that lift Nadler’s etherial voice, lending it a sense of urgency heretofore unheard. But nothing can obscure the essential, delicate beauty that Marissa Nadler brings to her craft. Like her previous collections, the result is haunting and dreamy, primitive and echoey, a full set of expansive meditations built on her perennial, pensive sentimentality, the bassline drone that typifies her self-taught syncopated style on the strings, and that delicate, airy voice that slides through the staff like a bird gliding on the wing.

Although first and foremost a singer-songwriter attuned to every aspect of creation, in keeping with the way that her visual work calls back to older forms, Nadler has also peppered her career with coverage, digging into songs that reveal a broad range of genre influence.

A single Leonard Cohen favorite appears on Songs III, but more usually, a tendency to keep these covers separate from her originals has made many of them rarer: Nadler self-released two full covers collections via Etsy in 2010 and 2011, but both are out of print; she has appeared regularly on some of our favorite multi-artist tributes over the past decade, taking on the songs of Odetta, Judee Sill, Radiohead and Jason Molina alongside other fringe and freakfolk luminaries, but many of her older covers are from albums and demo collections which are also obscure.

These covers are sublime nonetheless, making year’s end lists at the usual indieblogs, and showing up in various Cover Lay Down songbook features through the years. From early and mid-career reinventions of Cohen, Neil Young, Springsteen and Duran Duran to more recent underground releases of new, narcotized takes on Danzig and Black Sabbath, Elliott Smith and Father John Misty, they reveal new depths in songs both heard and unfamiliar.

And the covers just keep coming, in the form of slow, spooky Halloween-release Soundcloud singletons and website exclusives that dredge Nadler’s personal demos and living room archives and drag them into a bleary, intimate light. Taken together, as a set, our favorite 21 covertracks offer a strong introduction to both Nadler herself, and the ambient folk tributary she represents, where the world is often hazy and unsettling, but the future is bright indeed.

Marissa Nadler Covers [zip!]

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1 comment » | Featured Artists, Marissa Nadler

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

March 5th, 2016 — 09:16 pm

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.

2 comments » | New Artists Old Songs

Forever Young: A Coverfolk Mix
(with covers of MGMT, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Wilco & more!)

February 8th, 2016 — 03:38 pm


The skies are dry, but thanks to the magic of modern storm-tracking technology, it’s another snow day here in rural New England, where a midday snowfall can leave you stranded halfway up the mountain pass between work and home. And thank goodness for that, because although the kids are surely old enough to scavenge and survive for a few hours without a parent in the house, their mother’s been away at class all weekend, and she isn’t expected home until Tuesday.

The kidfolk posts that once peppered the blog are long gone; the lullabies we share here are rarer, and flavored with nostalgia. The wee one grows tall and thin and independent; the elderchild has a boyfriend, who grins and wears his hair in a ponytail, like I did in college. We leave them home alone together on Thursday nights, and have dinner out, just the two of us, before choir rehearsal.

Today, we will play together: on the sledding hill, and the Shopkins board game we worked on all weekend, and finished yesterday. This afternoon we might make meatloaf again, or omelettes, or something else that Daddy isn’t supposed to know how to make. Tomorrow, with their mother still gone, they’ll walk together to the library after school, and wait for me to pick them up. And if it hurts one or both to do it, they will have each other to lean on, and themselves.

And one day, soon and very soon…they will move on, and out, and farther still, to the stars.

I miss the small, tireless children they once were, and I always will, I think. But even as development brings joy in shared complexity, there are some things that do not fade as our children get older: the grace and gratefulness of the unexpected moment together, precious and rare; the sheer delight of shared laughter; the comfort of holding each other tight, in the midst of pain and bittersweet memory.

And as these, and more, take their place in our hearts, there is pride and connection to be found in the deep maturation of these children into these willowy almost-women. I admire them, and that admiration and love grows fiercer every day. And here in front of the fire, snuggled close against them, I ache for the passage of time, too.

Because we are human, and we can do both. And must, if we are to survive intact.

A simple set today, then, of songs for the young folks, yours, mine, and ours. May they stay forever young in our hearts, and theirs, as they wend their way through the universe with wisdom, grace, and gravity.

Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on 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 otherwise-unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

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