Search results for ‘dylan’
(Re)Covered: New Covers from Old Favorites
February 21st, 2017 — 11:31 pm
Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Mulvey, Carrie Elkin, Parsonsfield & more!
Our ongoing (Re)Covered series finds us touting new and newly uncovered releases from folk, roots, bluegrass and acoustic artists previously celebrated here on Cover Lay Down. Today, we delve into the mailbag with news and new coverage from raspy crooners Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey, sweet soul mama Carrie Elkin, a country rock-ified Stray Birds, whispery indiefolk pairing Matt Minigell and Annabelle Lord-Patey, and still-rising stringband Parsonsfield taking on Dylan, Paul Simon, Teenage Fanclub, the Episcopalian hymnal and more!
Peter Mulvey has been a mainstay of this blog since its birth, thanks to a fondness for coverage and a tendency to transform rather than merely channel the goods. But in the last several years, his commitment to the political reality that he shares with his fans has grown strong and evident in his practice – the man rides his bike cross-county on tour, and his protest song Take Down This Flag has been adopted, adapted, and added to by hundreds of performers.
New album Are You Listening?, produced by and on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe label and due to drop late in March, is a perfect exemplar of the man’s continued prowess as a chronicler of the raw and real. Preorder here, and while you wait for its release, check out Mulvey’s recent EP Lift Every Voice, a perfect, politically-relevant timepiece with the aforementioned anthem at the forefront, released free to all who promise to donate to the social justice cause of their choice.
- Peter Mulvey: Lift Every Voice (hymn) 
I’ve been holding on to this for a while, and now I’m thrilled to share what well may be the best Paul Simon cover this decade will see: Carrie Elkin‘s haunting, resonant take on American Tune, which simply aches with the pain and hope of an America still yawing into the void. We last saw Elkin in our 2010 couples round-up; seven years later, she and Danny Schmidt have just become first-time parents. The song, a teaser from Elkin’s aching Kickstarter-driven solo album The Penny Collector, named after Elkin’s father, who recently passed, is expected to emerge on March 10, and it’s a stunning set; we’re sure you’ll want to donate now, and help the album come to full fruition as it deserves, on the strength of this little taste.
- Carrie Elkin: American Tune (orig. Paul Simon) 
In a very real way, Boston-based singer-songwriter and busker Mary Lou Lord serves as a sort of muse to this blog; she’s recommended some wonderful music over the years since I first wrote about her in 2008. Last year, she played our house concert series, and brought along daughter Annabelle Lord-Patey as an opener, who revealed herself as an artist just finding her voice; now, paired with young singer-songwriter Matt Minigell, another Lord find who graced our 2015 Year’s Best mixtape, Annabelle seems to have come into her own, with a tender, rhythmic lo-fi take on Teenage Fanclub that doesn’t just bring me back to my own moody adolescence – it helps me celebrate and make my peace with it. Kudos to the next generation, and thanks, Mary Lou, for continuing to bring it forth into the world.
- Annabelle Lord-Patey and Matt Minigell: If I Never See You Again (orig. Teenage Fanclub) 
Somewhere in the shuffle of the holiday season we missed an eleventh-hour Christmas three-fer from Parsonsfield (previously Poor Old Shine), recorded live in our hometown stomping grounds and sent as a free exclusive to all “inbox sessions” subscribers by the potent, barnburning old-timey-meets-The-Band fivesome from just down the road apiece, who we first fell in love with in the aisles of Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. I’ve always thought a certain Joni Mitchell setting deserved year-round consideration; here’s the boys to prove River can last long past December.
- Parsonsfield: River (orig. Joni Mitchell) 
We first took note of The Stray Birds when they were coming up on Falcon Ridge, too. Here’s the string-trio-and-then-some on this past year’s Decoration Day Sampler from Brooklyn-and-Nashville-based production house Mason Jar Music – an annual compilation which usually serves as frequent flyer in our year’s end round-up – with a take on Dylan that boasts an apt slipperiness in the voice and a funky, chunky arrangement: pitch-perfect folkband folk sure to thrill those who love the country comfort of Gillian Welch, Gram Parsons, Old Crow Medicine Show and more.
- The Stray Birds: Mississippi (orig. Bob Dylan) 
Jeffrey Foucault‘s been featured here several times before: as a solo artist early in our incarnation; later as a songsmith and collaborator with Mulvey and now-spouse Kris Delmhorst. But his recent video covers are perfect, precise carriers of his craft: close your eyes, and you can still hear the rugged face bobbing in and out of the frame; the wringing, nuanced movement of body, hands and guitar barely contained by the margins of song and solace; the soothing sepia wash that ages the soul. No Depression recently named him one of six Roots Artists On The Verge, but as far as we’re concerned, Foucault is already a master, dusty with the roads of a thousand miles and more.
- Jeffrey Foucault: Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Jeffrey Foucault: The Devil’s Real (orig. Chris Smither) 
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Vermont folk artists come together for a performance of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land
My students were more restless than usual yesterday. And though it’s tempting to conflate their behavior with the unrest and uncertainty that has surrounded President Trump’s ascension, and the ending of an era for another, more humble President, one that looked more like them than ever before, I know better. In the inner city, students spend what little energy and attention they can muster on the lowest tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; end-of-term hopelessness, mingled with the daily grind of poverty and impossibility, is enough to explain their malaise, and empathize with it enough to double down on the markers of care and comfort I work to bring to my daily practice with each of them, and with all.
It’s a volatile time in America. Yesterday’s destructive attacks on the symbols of high capitalism kept me up late; last week’s cabinet hearings did, too. Our discourse is fragmented, and too often tinged with anger, even as, across the globe, we raise our voices in hopeful determination, even as we worry that only we are listening to ourselves.
I’m not marching today; though we had originally hoped to make it to Boston, family illness, kids far behind in their coursework, and end of term grading weigh heavily on the mind and soul. We are not ashamed, for living out loud in America proudly and well is as important as protest, in the end. But we are tracking, carefully, those who are: in Washington, Boston, New York; in smaller communities across the nation. Their smiles and pink hats fill our Facebook feed; their joy and purpose flowing like a mighty river in video posts and status updates as they converge on the centers of their communities, and raise their signs.
Our spirit is lifted as America unfolds before us. There is hope here, the candlefire of the determined spirit magnified a millionfold as the power of the people, gathered together, burns bright.
There’s new songs on the backburner, an undiscovered coverfolk country on the horizon. But today, we put aside the new and novel to embrace history in our midst with a soundtrack of sorts, with songs determined and patriotic, melancholy and uplifting in equal measure.
May those who march today find their journey light, their voices heard, their stamina great and their conviction strong. May love prevail across this great land we love.
- Quiles & Cloud: Ring Them Bells (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer: Democracy (orig. Leonard Cohen) 
- The Gaslight Tinkers: Quite Early Morning (orig. Pete Seeger) 
- Lucy Kaplansky: This Morning I Am Born Again (orig. Woody Guthrie) 
- Dave Rawlings Machine: I Hear Them All (orig. Old Crow Medicine Show) 
- Lizzie West & The White Buffalo: Get Up, Stand Up (orig. Bob Marley) 
- Martin Sexton: For What It’s Worth (orig. Buffalo Springfield) 
- Indigo Girls: Get Together (orig. Kingston Trio) 
- Joe Solo: If I Had A Hammer (orig. The Weavers) 
- Glen Phillips: American Tune (orig. Paul Simon) 
The Avett Brothers take on George Harrison’s Give Me Love
Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down thrives thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.
So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking. And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.
If the holidays are over, then so is our respite from the day-to-day of work and school. No longer does the cold and snow bring hopes of friends and good cheer; instead, it drives us inwards: to our minds and our houses, the detritus still lingering after the burning of the old year.
We were going to see my father in Boston today, but the snow is coming: as much as a foot, out where he is. Here in the rural middle of the state we’re on the edge of the storm, looking at a shut-in day by the pellet stove, writing lesson plans and playing charades with the family while the blizzard whirls outside the window.
A day by the fire, then. And appropriately so, for it’s the time of year where we hunker down, huddling against the cold.
We’ve shared several relevant coversets over the years: on snow itself, and on the nondenominational seasonal songs so easily showcased among the holiday, thanks to a resonance with the hopeful spirit of the season.
But there are also wintersongs that are quiet, still, notes and voices resonating hollow against the shimmery white world, their voices soaring into empty, grey skies. In which each new day adds but a minute of daylight, not fast enough to slow the pace of deep introspection. In which Spring is present at a distance: a dubious promise, made muffled by the snow.
Themes of withdrawal and stillness typify the songs of this, the second season of winter. The longing for light we hear in these sounds is less golden, less joyful; more wistful, more weary. There is comfort, here, of a sorts, knowing that such states are temporary. But it is one that we must bring, ourselves, to complete the emotive loop.
Wintersongs: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]
- Sailyk: Winter (orig. Noah Gundersen) 
- Reid Jamieson: Winter (orig. Tori Amos) 
- Emily Jane Furlong: Winter Song (orig. Sara Barielles) 
- Marissa Nadler: Winter Lady (orig. Leonard Cohen) 
- Grey Season: Faded From The Winter (orig. Iron & Wine) 
- Wintery Songs: In The Cold Cold Night (orig. White Stripes) 
- Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield: Angel In The Snow (orig. Elliott Smith) 
- Darol Anger w/ John Gorka and Dar Williams: While Roving On A Winter’s Night (trad.) 
- Thea Gilmore: Listen The Snow Is Falling (orig. Yoko Ono & John Lennon) 
- The Good Lovelies: Song For A Winter’s Night (orig. Gordon Lightfoot) 
- Smoke Fairies: Steal Softly Through Snow (orig. Captain Beefheart) 
- Dustin Kensrue: Cold As It Gets (orig. Patty Griffin) 
- Catherine MacLellan: Snowbird (orig. Anne Murray) 
- יותם בקר: Eskimo Snow (orig. Why?) 
- Til Willis: Winterlude (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Bobby Kendall: Landslide (orig. Stevie Nicks) 
Ad-free and artist-centric since 2007, Cover Lay Down continues to thrive thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU.
So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking. And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, we hope you’ll consider a new year’s contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers from 2015 and 2016. Click here to give…and thanks.
And so the old year passes once again. And in our ears, there is music, echoing for all to hear.
In previous “Year’s Best” features, we’ve prefaced our final musical offering with an attempt at data analysis – a sort of state of the folkways address, as glimpsed through the lens of coverage.
This year, other than to note that there’s a good lot of tradfolk in the mix, we’re skipping the formalities of trend and tribulation. Instead of trying to make sense of what is ultimately as much a private act as it is a collective one, we’ll let the genre speak for itself, and focus in on the song.
Because at year’s end, we find ourselves holding a full deck: 52 well-loved tracks, one for each week; each one a winner on its own, and nary a joker in the bunch.
Taken as a set, this curated collection shows the margins of folk, and its underbelly; yawing wide and deep, it runs and rambles, confronting and comforting with the manic, the maudlin, and everything in between.
But taken song by song, it offers 52 chances to fall in love again with the world. And in the end, maybe that’s the more powerful reason we come here, every year, to lay the year at your feet, and begin again.
So download the entire collection here, or sample track-by-track below, as Cover Lay Down proudly presents our favorite coverfolk singles, b-sides, live tracks and deep album cuts of 2016, from indie to traditional, and all the contemporary singer-songwriter, alt-country, and acoustic poprock genres in between – with thanks, as always, to the artists, the labels, the promoters, and you, for holding us up, and in, and close, when the world keeps spinning right round, like a record.
Join us, as we rejoice in a year gone by, and welcome in the new, with the beautiful, the bountiful, and the bold – the very best coverage of a year now ended, with a whisper of what is to come from the darkened wings.
The Year’s Best Singles: A 2016 Coverfolk Mix [zip!]
- 3hattrio: Get Up, Stand Up (orig. Bob Marley) [via]
- Molly Tuttle: How Can I Tell You (orig. Cat Stevens) [via]
- Sam Moss: Working On A Building (trad.) [via]
- Will Cookson: Death With Dignity (orig. Sufjan Stevens) [via]
- Quiles & Cloud: You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (orig. Bob Dylan) [via]
- Daphne Willis: Something (orig. The Beatles) [via]
- Billy Bragg & Joe Henry: Gentle On My Mind (orig. John Hartford) [via]
- Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker: Dark Turn Of Mind (orig. Gillian Welch) [via]
- OKKO: Heartbeats (orig. The Knife) [via]
- Elouise: I’ll Fly Away (trad.) [via]
- Civil Twilight: Dancing With Myself (orig. Billy Idol) [via]
- William Fitzsimmons: Everywhere (orig. Fleetwood Mac) [via]
- Red Tail Ring: Wondrous Love, Lay Aside Your Crown (trad.) [via]
- Peter Katz: Sorry (orig. Justin Bieber) [via]
- Jane Kramer: Down South (orig. Tom Petty) [via]
- Bees Of Paradise: Dancing In The Dark (orig. Bruce Springsteen) [via]
- Allysen Callery: Sundown (orig. Gordon Lightfoot) [via]
- Anna Elizabeth Laube: XO (orig. Beyoncé) [via]
- Vini, Lindsay & Isaac: She Said She Said (orig The Beatles) [via]
- Maryam Raad: I Walk The Line (orig. Johnny Cash) [via]
- Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche: Bleecker Street (orig. Simon & Garfunkel) [via]
- The Oshima Brothers: Hearts On Fire (orig. Passenger) [via]
- The Infamous Stringdusters w/ Nicki Bluhm: Somebody To Love (orig. Jefferson Airplane) [via]
- The Paul McKenna Band: Song Of Choice (orig. Peggy Seeger) [via]
- The High Bar Gang: Silver Dagger (trad.) [via]
- Emily Mure: Between The Bars (orig. Elliott Smith) [via]
- Jenna Mammina & Alex de Grassi: King Of Pain (orig. The Police) [via]
- The Man Who Fell In Buffalo: Blank Space (orig. Taylor Swift) [via]
- Noah Wall: Sittin’ On Top Of The World (orig. Mississippi Sheiks) [via]
- Aoife O’Donovan: Nebraska (orig. Bruce Springsteen) [via]
- Jen Lane: Thirteen (orig. Big Star) [via]
- Phosphorescent: I Want You (orig. Bob Dylan) [via]
- Johnnycake Street: Hello My Old Heart (orig. Oh Hellos) [via]
- KINLEY: Evil Eye (orig. Al Tuck) [via]
- Eli West: Rainbow Midst Life’s Willows (trad.) [via]
- SHEL: Enter Sandman (orig. Metallica) [via]
- Kathryn Williams: Autumn Leaves (orig. Yves Montand) [via]
- Chris and Morgane Stapleton: You Are My Sunshine (orig. The Pine Ridge Boys) [via]
- Pilgrim’s Way: Boston City (trad.) [via]
- Robert Nottingham: You’re The One That I Want (orig. Grease) [via]
- Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston: SAD (orig. Boo Hewerdine) [via]
- Coty Hogue: Poor Ellen Smith (trad.) [via]
- Sean Rowe: Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (orig. Richard Thompson) [via]
- Jemma Johnson: Hey There Delilah (orig. Plain White T’s) [via]
- Chris Coole: Led Me To the Wrong (orig. Ola Belle Reed) [via]
- Nataly Dawn: Still Crazy After All These Years (orig. Paul Simon) [via]
- Parker Millsap: You Gotta Move (orig. Missippippi Fred McDowell) [via]
- Odell Fox: Moonshiner (trad.) [via]
- Fantastic Negrito: In The Pines (trad.) [via]
- Caitlin Canty with Darlingside: Wildflowers (orig. Tom Petty) [via]
- Jameson: Sweet Pea (orig. Amos Lee) [via]
- Juliana Daly and Bryce Merritt: Somebody Else (orig. The 1975) [via]
Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, share, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive and kicking.
Got goodwill to spare? Want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors will receive undying praise, and an exclusive download code for a special gift set of alternate favorites and rare covers otherwise unblogged. Click here to give – and thanks.
Because the space in which a song is performed matters. Because the close intimacy of camera and performer changes everything. Because the video re-presents a new yet very old branch of the folkways, one eminently modern and obviously ancient, a live performance frozen in time for all eternity.
Video-watching, in others words, provides something entirely different from the eyes-closed experience of the mp3 or compact disc. And although stripping a song from its space and time is an innate aspect of recording, when it matters – when an artist’s vision includes the visual and the audible – we owe it to artist and ourselves to consider that source as the song.
As noted last year, context matters more when we celebrate the performance of song for itself. Songs intended to be seen and heard the first time are designed and developed as multisensory experiences; in these cases, even as pulling a video from the eyes allows us to focus on its sonic interpretation, it does so by flattening the artist’s intent, a result that challenges and changes the relationship between listener and the music-maker.
And so, in our ongoing attempt to live our vision by serving and supporting artist and fans as directly and honestly as possible, today, Cover Lay Down is proud to present our picks for the Best Video-sourced Coverfolk of the year – a fave fifteen, with embedded links to several newly-discovered ongoing video series well worth watching.
Call it an interlude, then, sweet and strong, between yesterday’s omnibus collection of the Year’s Best Tributes and Cover Compilations and our ever-popular Year’s Best Singles Mix, which looks to emerge in the next few days. Look and listen, as artists offer the communion of their hands, their voices, their facial expression. Let their multimedia mindset awe and inspire, lingering lush in our ears and eyes.
The Year’s Best Coverfolk Videos, 2016
Chris Coole & Ivan Rosenberg: Stage Fright (orig. The Band)
As mentioned yesterday, Toronto clawhammer wizard and bluegrass scenester Chris Coole was all over our radar this year, both with and without frequent companion Ivan Rosenberg, an equally adept player with whom Coole has recorded a pair of dobro-and-claw duo albums. This masterful, prescient cover, dark and delightful, recorded in-studio in our own nation’s capitol a month after the election, only cements our love for these stalwarts of the northern scene.
Rayna Gellert and Kristen Andreassen: Sleepy Desert (trad.)
Simple and soulful, like the fancy couch on the front lawn where it was recorded, two of our favorite down-to-earth roots-folk take on a traditional tune on the cusp of a short Uncle Earl reunion tour – no small feat, given how much momentum its members, which also include Abigail Washburn and KC Groves, have had as solo artists in the decade since their last album was released.
Good Harvest: Woodstock (orig. Joni Mitchell)
We shared this dreamy, discordant vision from Swedish “musical sisters” Hanna Enlöf & Ylva Eriksson, aka Good Harvest, back in September, alongside a take on Coldplay’s Clocks filmed in the same barn session. Since then, we’ve heard their new single Charly; now we’re hooked and ready for a full-length.
The Moon Loungers: Mr. Blue Sky (orig. E.L.O.)
What I like best about this playful little video is just how satisfied The Moon Loungers – an award-winning Bristol-based wedding trio – seem to be as they perform this old chestnut with little more than a box, a cymbal, a pair of guitars, and their own versatile voices. Check out their YouTube page for a holy host of acoustic covers by Vanilla Ice, Yazoo, Starship, Toto, The Black Eyed Peas, and more fun fare.
Ashley Stevenson: Landslide (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
After five years in “the tunnels”, Chicago subway performer Ashley Stevenson, aka Slim Mils, went viral this year when a crowd video of her playing this song for change in the Chicago subway made national news. 3 million Youtube hits later, she’ll be performing a show at The Embassy on January 14, and we couldn’t be happier for her.
Jamie Oshima: Love Yourself (orig. Justin Bieber)
We featured brothers Jamie and Sean Oshima‘s fine, earnest cover of Passenger’s Hearts On Fire back in January, when it was released, and stand by its prominent placement. But we buried Jamie’s stunning, slippery, filmed-twice-and-spliced solo cover of Love Yourself in a midyear exploration of Justin Bieber’s songbook, and in the end, it’s this, light and airy, that sticks in our ears, in no small part due to the precious, precise traditional wedding reel at the instrumental break.
Lori Lieberman: Last Thing On My Mind (orig. Tom Paxton)
Streaming video is a young person’s game almost by definition; it’s atypical, I know, to have older-generation coverage show up in our video sets. But Lori Lieberman – yes, the one who wrote Killing Me Softly – looks truly honored to be performing this Tom Paxton song, doesn’t she? Kudos to Onder Invloed, past-featured covers collector and videographer, for this and many more sessions as the years creep ever onward.
The Stray Birds: Down In The Lonesome Draw (orig. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West)
It’s a little hollow, but that’s about right, for the stained glass church setting chosen by the folks at The Sawyer Sessions, a NC-based studio house whose Youtube channel is chock full of great performances, most of them more roots and alt-rock than folk – and many including coverage. I saw The Stray Birds take on this one live in the fading summer sun, and it was just as stunning.
L.A. Edwards: If I Needed You (orig. Townes Van Zandt)
Gentle, almost delicately countrified, and according to the promotional material we received early in 2016 from songwriter L.A. Edwards, recorded in his native Southern California during the largest downpour in over a decade. You can’t hear the rain, but you can hear the hazy, lazy harmonies huddle together, warm and dry in their close proximity.
Virginia Gavazzi: I Want To Write You A Song (orig. One Direction)
Slippery, nocturnal production dynamics, darkened rooms, and an unusual lapside perspective provide an intimacy you’d never expect from One Direction. Youtube amateur Virginia‘s got a few more, and a strong and growing following; joining up with both is highly recommended.
St. Beaufort’s Table ft. Dan Wall: Let Me Fall (trad.)
Dark as pub whiskey, and just as strong, this indoors-outdoors feel-good entry from St. Beaufort’s Table – a series of covers and traditionals which sees international folk/bluegrass trio St. Beaufort gathered, usually with a friend or three, usually around a table, with a bottle and a song – lingers in the throat, the ears, and the heart. See also their take on Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, featured here in June.
Applewood Road: Losing My Religion (orig. R.E.M.)
Concert recordings aren’t usually this pure. But Nashville supertrio Applewood Road, featuring Cover Lay Down faves Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace, in a set performed live late in 2015 but released on video Jan 1 of 2016, blow us away, as they seem to have done to the audience. Bonus points: we’ve been asked not to share Amber Rubarth’s own recording of this song, from this year’s stellar Scribbled Folk Symphonies, but even without the plucked and bowed strings that feature on her solo version, her chilling arrangement is potent, and eminently available.
Sam Amdion w/ Bill Frisell: Your Lone Journey (orig. Doc & Rosa Lee Watson)
It takes a while to get started, as do so many of the otherwise fine covers shared on the e-Town webstream – a series generally recorded as multiple-artist encores for the popular radio program, but interrupted in broadcast by credits and a premature fade-out. But this earthy performance is especially apt, given that: a song that never truly resolves, like the past it evokes.
Ryan Larkins: Pass Me Not (trad.)
“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” from Nashville-based Christian acoustic folk-rocker Ryan Larkins, an incredible, incredibly versatile still-rising star whose love shines through every heartwrenching chord and chorus.
Sam Kelly: Sultans of Swing (orig. Dire Straits)
We could have picked any number of great covers from this year, or year’s past, from The Big Comfy Sessions, a twice-monthly series that features local and itinerant musicians playing on the giant red squashy couches of Coventry’s Big Comfy Bookshop. All artists perform a cover of their choice, and the gems are sweet, bright and casual; see also, Adrian Roye’s recent Yazoo cover, older entries from Vena Portae (Young Folks) and Roxanne de Bastion (Real Love), and a live version of Gillian Welch’s Dark Turn Of Mind from Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – the recorded version of which will appear in our Year’s Best Singles mix.
As always, if you like what you hear here, click through to YouTube channels to lend your support to the artists we celebrate, the better to ensure the continued production of new music in 2016 and beyond.
And if you, too, have a little of the giving spirit left in you after the holidays, perhaps it’s time to consider a gift in support of our mission at Cover Lay Down. All donors receive our undying thanks, that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from patronizing the arts, and an exclusive mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk released in 2015 and 2016. Click here to give, and thanks.
It’s been months since we found ourselves together here, by this virtual hearth. I have missed you, my friends. And though I cannot promise what the days will bring, let us be present together, in this moment, and rejoice.
For those who ask – and we are grateful for it, when it comes – this week of holiday offers but a respite. In the days of our lives the teen elderchild and her wiry sister continue to be challenged by a life lived with illness, leaving us plagued by surgeries and hospitalizations, homeschooling adjustments, service dog training, and a reluctance to plan too far ahead. I’m a team leader now at the struggling urban school where I ply my vocation, putting in long nights and weekends leading the desperate charge to glory even as the conditions we cannot change – poverty and transience, and their symptomatic malaise – loom large in our daily deliverance. And, as the eldest son, and the only one living locally, I’ve spent every weekend across the state for most of the year, helping my father transition into a graduated living arrangement that better suits his needs.
These pursuits are important, and offered with love to the world. They are good work, and I’d not trade one for the other. But time is precious when you’re the center of the whirlwind. And sometimes, that means letting go.
Which is to say: we have blessings this year, it’s true: a growing house concert series; family and friends, and a strong and beloved community; a roof over our heads, and food on the table. But mostly, I’ve spent the latter part of 2016 in survival mode, putting aside many of the practices that have made me feel most whole, most connected to the universe and to the self, in a desperate attempt to find balance.
More often than not, the heart is heavy in the midst of this wearying, worrying life. And January offers only more uncertainty, here in the real world, where we live and breathe.
But we’re here this week, today, this hour. Because no matter how heavy the load, no matter how loud the natter and buzz of duty and despair in our ears, in the background, the music continues, as it ever does.
And so we’ve kept a list, and checked it twice – not enough by a long shot, in another year of chaos and malcontent, but enough to celebrate the discovery process, and honor those albums, songs, and videos that stuck with us, and shone through the fog and the darkness.
And here at the wire, at the long year’s end, as we have done for the last several Decembers, we curate and collate, ice melting in our hearts by the woodstove fireside as the children nestle snug in this, our humble home.
For music is a home, too. It is our home, and one of yours, too. And as we live in the music, so must we pay homage to the best of it, lest it, too, fade into the night, and be lost to the world.
From the smooth to the ragged, then. From the delicate to the deep. From the bringers of light to the media of our melancholy; from the hoot and holler to the hushed and harmonic. From all corners of the broad tent that spans the folkways, shading it from the harshest of weather and whim.
Cover Lay Down is proud to present our favorite coverfolk tribute albums, covers compilations, projects and soundtracks of 2016, featuring choice cuts from highly recommended folk, roots, bluegrass and Americana LPs and EPs.
The Year’s Best Covers Album (single artist)
+ Moddi, Unsongs
+ Dustin Kensrue, Thoughts That Float on a Different Blood
+ 48 Cameras, Songs Our Mothers Taught Us
+ The Devil Makes Three, Redemption & Ruin
+ Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Wintersong
It was a strong year for covers albums, all things considered. As always, we stand by our assessment of those releases that caught our attention early, most especially the home-grown harmonies and chutzpah of Pesky J. Nixon’s second covers album Red Ducks, Volume 2, which brought a broader sound, and a richer one, to their hearty acoustic Americana, thanks to the addition of mandolin into the mix, strong studio dynamics, and new shared lead vocals and piano from founding band member Jake Bush. Recognition remains, too, for the mostly-trad strains of Red Diesel, the newest from award-winning traditional English folk band Pilgrim’s Way, the traditional bluegrass stylings of The High Bar Gang, whose second album Someday The Heart Will Trouble The Mind explores the “cheating and hurting” side of bluegrass, and the drowning tones of the ever-morose Mark Kozelek, which found their way to pianofolk this year on Mark Kozelek Sings Favorites, a “stunning new release featuring guest vocalists galore”.
But other than a nod to Wintersong, a new holiday collection of intimate and introspective folk from local favorites Rano Arbo & Daisy Mayhem that transcends its seasonal premise with simple joy and sweetness, our highest end-of-year praise in the general covers category is reserved for a quartet of otherwise-unblogged releases with strong conceptual grounding, each well deserving of rescue and polish after falling to the bustle and jetsam. And in the end, though three of our top four made it to fellow coverblog Cover Me’s end of year round-up as well, it’s the one we haven’t heard anything about, and got to discover on our own, that edges out the rest.
Runner’s up honors this year go to Dustin Kensrue’s live tour de force Thoughts That Float On A Different Blood, which finds the frontman of California post-hardcore band Thrice stripping down to ragged, soulful solo performance; the result is soul-crushing, and practically perfect, with covers of Patty Griffin, Milk Carton Kids, Lorde and more. From the gospel-and-blues aisle, The Devil Makes Three’s Redemption & Ruin, with its dual, titular thematic sides, mixes blues and bluegrass, transforming dark delights by Townes Van Zandt, Muddy Waters, Tampa Red, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, and other intuitively obvious influences with sidework from Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas and more. Add to this Songs Our Mothers Taught Us, a decidedly fringefolk covers project from long-time “experimental alternative” digital collaborative 48 Cameras, narcotized with spoken word layers like a lost album from Nico and Leonard Cohen, remixed subtly with haunting oboes and drums for the post-millennial indiefolk set, and you’ve got a crowd that, in any other year, could easily take top honors.
But I don’t think we’ve ever had as clear and triumphant a category closer for our bread-and-butter category than Unsongs, a labor of love that came quietly out of nowhere towards the end of the year, and seems to have made nary a splash in the American market – a wonderful concept album, lovingly executed, that comprises 12 songs censored in 12 different countries, collected and reimagined.
Here’s the blog feature I meant to post, when I first discovered it:
Norwegian folkpop singer-songwriter, activist and self-professed storyteller Moddi (aka Pål Moddi Knutsen), who is currently finishing a Masters degree at the University of Oslo’s Centre for Development and the Environment, is apparently known for his interpretations of others’ songbooks, most notably Togsang, a 2013 Norwegian-language cover of Train Song which Vashti Bunyan calls her favorite cover version of any of her songs. But Unsongs, leaked slowly and then finally released in full just a few weeks ago, represents a perfect twining of the artist’s personal bent towards social and environmental justice and his incredibly delicate indie folkpop sensibilities. The result is an epiphany, hushed, sublime and saturating: a true tour de force of unforced political songcraft, a wide-ranging survey of both western and eastern sources that manages to serve simultaneously as commentary on the counterculture and its struggles and a gorgeous set that aches with melancholy and protest. The songs – most of which will be unknown to western ears, save a pitch-perfect Strange Fruit and Kate Bush’s Army Dreamers – range from shivery and sad to cold fury; tinkly piano and slow nylon guitar, lush, tense string and horn arrangements, and a fragile, nasal voice that aches with loss and longing make for a majestic, intimate album, orchestral and tight, a bit like Colin Meloy performing a full-band acoustic set in a cathedral wearing crowns of thorns; you’ve never heard Pussy Riot so tender, or been so in love with anger.
- Moddi: Punk Prayer (orig. Pussy Riot)
- Moddi: Army Dreamers (orig. Kate Bush)
- Moddi: Oh My Father, I am Joseph (orig. Marcel Khalife)
(from Unsongs, 2016)
- Dustin Kensrue: Wrecking Ball (orig. Miley Cyrus)
- Dustin Kensrue: Cold As It Gets (orig. Patty Griffin)
(from Thoughts That Float On A Different Blood, 2016)
The Year’s Best Covers Album (multiple artists)
+ Various Artists, Locals Covering Locals, Vol. 3
Most various artist covers albums this year ran the gamut past the boundaries of folk; as such, this year’s is a short category, to be followed below with a compendium of mixed-genre gems well worth our time. But we cannot help but raise a glass once more for Red Line Roots, whose third volume of Locals Covering Locals, released way back in February, adeptly uncovers the blossoming folkscene in and around the Boston area by once again featuring peer-to-peer coverage that aims to showcase both the finest in local songwriting and the best of local performance – and succeeds in spades.
- Dietrich Strause: Among The Stars (orig. Dave Champagne)
- Krista Baroni: Old Shirt (orig. Kerri Powers)
(from Locals Covering Locals, Vol. 3, 2016)
The Year’s Best Covers EP (single artist)
+ Lotte Kestner, December Covers
+ Caleigh McGilchrist and Maria Crawford, Covers For The Cure 2
+ autumn-autumn, Cherry Patty
The covers EP is too often a throw-away, especially in an age where home recording makes it so easier to run a full-length album in a few living room sessions. Bandcamp, especially, is full of saccharine wannabes, and amateur recordings too twee, and too rough, to truly represent the best of what a year can offer.
But for a few artists, the small coverset is part and parcel of the modern digital world, an uncompromising artifact of the ongoing home recording life. Enter Lotte Kestner, the solo project of Anna-Lynne Williams of Trespassers William, whose shimmery shoegaze coverage, delicate and frigid and perfectly romantic, has emerged throughout the year in small batches as behind the scenes she struggles to finish mixing a long overdue album of original work. Most of these tiny sets have already disappeared into the ether, and her most recent, December Covers, will disappear with the end of the month, along with Best of Requested Cover Songs, the majestic 17-track set winnowed down from the 3-year-long 60 cover kickstarter campaign promise that drives her current album. But if you hurry, you, too, can download and steep in etherial takes on The Cure, The Hollies, and a slow synth-driven version of Nothing Compares To U that ultimately owes as much to the lo-fi sensibility that pulls songs from the air like soap bubbles as it does to either Sinead or Prince.
Runners-up Caleigh McGilchrist and Maria Crawford defy expectations, coming out of Bandcamp nowhere with Covers For The Cure 2, the second of their homespun compilations, recorded in their Nashville hometown in honor of Laurel Stevens McGilchrist and dedicated to all past and present battles of breast cancer. Simple guitar, soaring harmonies in layers straight out of the First Aid Kid indiefolk songbook, and just enough strain at the edges to prove and preserve their delightful inexperience: it’s like being there, and that’s saying a lot, indeed. And a tip o’ the cap to Minsk, Belarus, home of autumn-autumn, aka Tanya Dubinskaya, whose drowned, broken 4-track covers EP Cherry Patty, complete with crackling static and hollow guitars, aptly described as whispercore, still fills our empty days.
- Caleigh McGilchrist and Maria Crawford: When You’ve Got Trouble (orig. Liz Longley)
(from Covers For The Cure 2, 2016)
The Year’s Best Tribute Album (single artist)
+ Reid Jamieson, Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection
+ Rory Block, Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute To Bukka White
Two familiar faces and voices provide a veritable sweep of this year’s solo-artist tribute album set, a labor of love project-type generally overwhelmed by tributes to the forgotten, the undersung, and the dearly departed, but this year topped by a loving tribute to a man who was still alive and performing, and well-respected, upon its release.
First, hands down kudos go to perennial Cover Lay Down favorite Reid Jamieson this year for Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection, a prescient tribute to fellow Canadian countryman released way back in March, months before his passing. Where most choose to channel angst and darkness, Jamieson’s touch is light and lighthearted, with brushes, ukelele, guitar, fiddles, and gentle harmonies bringing a tender, almost Caribbean country lilt to these familiar songs, and the whole thing works beautifully, revealing a brighter, more optimistic soul than even the most die-hard Cohen fanatic could have envisioned.
Second place honors to Rory Block, whose ongoing series of full-album tributes to the pioneers of American acoustic blues continues this year with a tribute to Mississippi bluesman Bukka White. Keepin’ Outta Trouble is typical of Block, and of her ongoing work in paying homage to her progenitors, and that’s no denigration – listen as the sliding, slippery blues finds beauty in the hands of one of the greatest living Delta blues guitarists and voices, and then head back in time to pick up the entire six-album series.
- Reid Jamieson: Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (orig. Leonard Cohen)
- Reid Jamieson: Tower Of Song (orig. Leonard Cohen)
(from Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection, 2016)
- Rory Block: Parchman Farm Blues (orig. Bukka White)
(from Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White, 2016)
The Year’s Best Tribute Album (multiple artists)
+ Days Full of Rain: A Portland Tribute to Townes Van Zandt
+ Basket Full Of Dragons: A Tribute To Robbie Basho, Vol II
+ Dreamer: A Tribute To Kent Finlay
+ A Fast Folk Tribute To Jack Hardy
Strong contenders this year here, too. But how could we not love Days Full Of Rain, a mostly-folk tribute to Townes Van Zandt from some of our very favorite players from the Portland indiefolk scene. With Blitzen Trapper, Jolie Holland, Jim James, Blind Pilot, Black Prairie, a grungy take on Rake from The Minus 5, and the devastating vocals of Liz Vice in the mix, almost every track’s a gem. From the country rock of Denver’s Junkpiled to the country croon of Barna Howard to…um…the country soul of Portland Country Underground, the whole thing moves like a cowboy through the mist; even the subtle folktronica stutter of Castanets serves the mix. Bonus points: all proceeds go to charity, with half to fund the furtherance of roots music education in public schools, and the other half to support musicians financially in the face of illness.
Back in the world of primitivism, Basket Full of Dragons, the second Robbie Basho tribute in two years spearheaded by guitarist-singer-songwriter Buck Curran (of the duo Arborea), nets praise and proclamation for its authentic approach to the mysticism and mystery of a philosopher who firmly believed the Indian raga and the steel string represented the next iteration of truth, and the furtherance of the guitar as a serious, classical instrument. Like first volume We Are All One In The Sun, Basket Full of Dragons proves Basho right, as washes of sound drown us in eternal moments, leaving us with an unsettled peace.
Honorable mention this year goes to Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay, a solid take on the homespun songbook of career-launcher, lyric editor, venue coordinator, mentor and songwriter who shaped the careers of the likes of George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Todd Snider, and James McMurtry through his legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention A Tribute To Jack Hardy, a beloved two-disc tribute chock full of familiar Fast Folk faces and next generation collaborators, from Red Molly and Anthony Da Costa to Richard Shindell, John Gorka, Rod MacDonald, Christine Lavin, Terre Roche, and more, written about and pre-released here at Cover Lay Down several summers ago, but now finally and officially available for purchase as of 2016 thanks to Smithsonian Folkways, who now owns the Fast Folk archives.
- Blitzen Trapper: Flyin’ Shoes (orig. Townes Van Zandt)
- Weinland: For The Sake Of The Song (orig. Townes Van Zandt)
- Liz Vice: Nothin’ (orig. Townes Van Zandt)
(from Days Full Of Rain: A Portland Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, 2016)
- Adele H and Buck Curran: Manifestations of the Sun (orig. Robbie Basho)
- Mariano Rodriguez, Karina Vismara, Jonah Schwartz: Wine Song of Love (orig. Robbie Basho)
(from Basket Full of Dragons: A Tribute to Robbie Basho Vol II, 2016)
- William Clark Green: Still Think About You (orig. Kent Finlay)
(from Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay, 2016)
- Suzanne Vega: Saint Clare (orig. Jack Hardy)
- Lucy Kaplansky: Forget Me Not (orig. Jack Hardy)
(from A Tribute To Jack Hardy, 2016)
The Year’s Best Tribute EPs
+ Tom Moriarty and Katey Brooks, I Shall Be Released
+ Quinell, From The Woods: Inside Llewyn Davis
Sometimes, simple is best. And of the four little duo covers on I Shall Be Released, it’s their take on The Times They Shall Be A Changin’ – unadorned, raw, precious and plain, though Tom Moriarty’s other work is full-bore horn-and-gospel driven bluesy rock and roll, and rising-star singer-songwriter Katey Brooks trends more towards intense folkpop – which truly showcases the genius of pairing the two alongside this year’s Nobel Prize winner’s songbook. Oh sure, the organ and drumbeat layers that underpin I Shall Be Released and The Man In Me are reminiscent of Dylan’s time with The Band, or perhaps the best of Joe Cocker, and wonderfully so…but the songs remain more subtle, somehow, leaving us marveling at the power of their quietude, their presence, their directness. His weary, soulful voice, her hearty one: heaven.
Simple, too, is the soft intimacy of log cabin session From The Woods: Inside Llewyn Davis, recorded for video in the dead of winter by Pasco, Washington singer-songwriter Quinell. Just three songs, and nominally all from the same deep and murky tradition – but influenced by their presence in Inside LLewyn Davis, the folkflick based on the life and times of Dave Van Ronk, and decidedly united, too, by the soft, homespun tones of an artist embracing the weariness of these timeless tunes.
- Tom Moriarty and Katey Brooks: The Times They Are A Changin’ (orig. Bob Dylan)
(from I Shall Be Released, 2016)
The Year’s Best Tradfolk
+ Lukas Papenfusscline, man&woman;you
+ Rachel Newton, Here’s My Heart Come Take It
+ The Lonesome Ace Stringband, Gone For Evermore
+ Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, The Willow Collection
An unusually strong turn-out in the tradfolk category this year leaves us a bit up in arms about comparison: if anything, if this trend continues, we’d be better served by splitting the category to allow for splinter subtypes, lest we forget some pretty impressive standouts. On the grassy side, split-side albums from both Eli West and Michael Daves, covered together back in a February round-up, kept our summer hot with electrifying performances and special collaborations with Dori Freeman and Bill Frisell (West), bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny (Daves); more mellow, melodic approaches typify Noah Wall, whose swinging, sultry approach to 15 classic American blues numbers makes us swoon. And if it’s the cowboy life that attracts you, you’d be well served by a buy-and-listen to the Billy Bragg and Joe Henry collaboration Shine A Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad, a pairing which works even better than it should, thanks to the artists’ shared sense of labor rights and an honest, down-home directness in both performance and sparse arrangement.
But if we have to crown a conqueror this year, it’s a dark horse, indeed: man&woman;you, a late December release from classically trained pan-genre experimentalist Lukas Papenfusscline, is as weird as its name, and as open to possibility; a hallucinogenic field recording from the road, and recorded, duly, in a variety of places, some of them actually outdoors; its traditional Appalachian tunes recast into broken, almost classical compositions, as if Sam Amidon had been trained at Berklee before establishing a hermitage farm by a stream in the deep woods. Creepy, creaky, yet somehow coherent as hell, the record pulls its tradition as much from the recordings of others as it does from the primordial ooze of nature itself, with familiar songs hissed into being slowly and deliberately, faded and torn from the journey, still choked with the reality of the field and forest.
Honors go to Glaswegian Rachel Newton for April release Here’s My Heart Come Take It: purer and more vibrant than the Unthanks, but just as brooding and cavernous in its way, Newton’s harp and voice are bright as glass in the sun, and as mysterious as the dark inner worlds their reflections obscure. More go to The Willow Collection, a titularly thematic set from Nova Scotian sisters Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, who bring piano, guitar, fiddle, and flying footwork in equal measure to a fine, polished, jaw-droppingly beautiful album, and one of several 2016 projects from prolific new fave Chris Coole, a stalwart of the Toronto bluegrass scene whose hatchet face and banjo wizardry showed up in spades this year: in a potent cover of The Band classic Stage Fright which will appear in our Singles mix, in solo narrative project The Tumbling River and other stories, and in The Lonesome Ace Stringband’s mostly-trad live-to-tape Gone For Evermore, a stunning example of the stringband subset, with masterful-yet-playful bass and fiddle besides, and high harmonies as polished as a back porch. A rich field, indeed.
- Lukas Papenfusscline: pharaoh (trad.)
- Lukas Papenfusscline: shall I come, sweet love, to thee? (trad.)
(from man&woman;you, 2016)
- Rachel Newton: The Bloody Gardener (trad.)
- Rachel Newton: An Hour With Thee (trad.)
(from Here’s My Heart Come Take It, 2016)
- The Lonesome Ace Stringband: Let Him Go On Momma (orig. John Hartford)
- The Lonesome Ace Stringband: Saro Jane (trad.)
(from Gone For Evermore, 2016)
The Year’s Best Mixed Genre Covers Albums & Tributes
+ Various Artists, Say Yes! A Tribute To Elliott Smith
+ Various Artists, Day of the Dead
+ Various Artists, Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97′s
+ Various Artists, God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson
+ Various Artists, Just Love: A Tribute to Audrey Auld Mereza
Our own minor forays into the musicworld hewed narrower to folk this year, leaving us dependent on other blogs and songsources to uncover the category at year’s end. But a few standouts worth reiteration emerge in this coverall category nonetheless. These include Mojo’s fine bespoke Dylan tribute, which we featured here in our Mojo spectacular a few months ago; Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97′s, a Pledgemusic-driven tribute curated by the band and their webmaster and featuring, therefore, both faithful renditions and diverse deconstructions of great songs by some of the Old 97′s favorite artists, many of whom share the same Texas scene-ground, and have toured and recorded with the band; The sark brooding blues-on-fire of God Don’t Never Change, an Alligator Records tribute to Blind Willie Johnson with Lucinda Williams, Trucks and Tedeschi, Tom Waits, and the most beautiful coda from Rickie Lee Jones; the lighthearted Let All Children Boogie: A Tribute To David Bowie, which aptly proves that even as the kindie world continues to produce to robust originals of its own, the kidfolk category we once touted here may have faded – but it’s not gone for good.
Day of the Dead, for example, a sprawling. “epic” 5 disc set that represents the Red Hot Organization’s 25th release, sees 59 artists hosted by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National taking on the songs of the Grateful Dead (and the traditionals they made their own) in a broad, meandering path through modern music that befits both the long and storied history of the band and their tendency towards long, extended-play performances and recordings. The album is decidedly imperfect, with a touch too many phoned-in performances, but there’s strong tracks here galore, if you’re willing to sift through. And the record easily contains a full-sized, full-bore folk covers album in the mix, with standout tracks from Sam Amidon, Hiss Golden Messenger, Bela Fleck, Bill Callahan, and others.
Lesser known but no less stellar entries here include Just Love: A Tribute to Audrey Auld Mezera, a darling lo-fi Nashville-by-way-of-Australia 2 disc set that makes for a mostly acoustic, if equally sprawling, nominally country album, though the downunder use of the term is closer to folk than it is here in the States, and our favorite, by a nose: American Laundromat’s tribute to Elliott Smith, Say Yes!, which – like their previous forays into the world of grungy indie coverage – spreads deep across a narrow band that runs from fuzzy electronic to soft acoustic, heavy on the solo singer-songwriter fare, with familiar songs from label frequent-flyers Lou Barlow, Julianna Hatfield, Tanya Donelly, William Fitzsimmons, Amanda Palmer, Sun Kil Moon and more.
- Julien Baker: Ballad of Big Nothing (orig. Elliott Smith)
- William Fitzsimmons: Say Yes (orig. Elliott Smith)
(from Say Yes! A Tribute To Elliott Smith, 2016)
- Sam Amidon: And We Bid You Goodnight (trad.)
- Bela Fleck: Help On The Way (orig. Grateful Dead)
(from Day of the Dead, 2016)
- Hayes Carll: Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On (orig. Old 97′s)
(from Desperate Times: Songs of the Old 97′s, 2016)
- Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi: Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning (orig. Blind Willie Johnson)
- Rickie Lee Jones: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground (orig. Blind Willie Johnson)
(from God Don’t Never Change, 2016)
Cover Lay Down thrives throughout the year thanks to the support of artists, labels, promoters, and YOU. So do your part: listen, love, like, and above all, purchase the music, the better to keep it alive.
And if, in the end, you’ve got goodwill to spare, and want to help keep the music flowing? Please, consider a year’s end contribution to Cover Lay Down. All gifts go directly to bandwidth and server costs; all donors receive undying praise, and a special gift mixtape of well-loved but otherwise unblogged covers from 2015-2016, including exclusive live covers from our very own Unity House Concert series.
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.
- Amos Lee: Some Days Are Diamonds (orig. John Denver) 
- Amos Lee: Speed of the Sound of Loneliness (orig. John Prine) 
- Amos Lee: Little Bit of Rain (orig. Fred Neil) 
- Amos Lee: Buenas Tardes Amigo (orig. Ween) 
- Amos Lee: American Tune (orig. Paul Simon) 
- Amos Lee: November Rain (orig Guns ‘n Roses) 
- Amos Lee: Are You Ready For The Country (orig. Neil Young) 
- Amos Lee: Christmas In Prison (orig. John Prine) 
- Amos Lee: A Change Is Gonna Come (orig. Sam Cooke) 
- Amos Lee: Like A Virgin (orig. Madonna) 
- Amos Lee: Fat Bottomed Girls (orig. Queen) 
- Amos Lee: Easy Like Sunday Morning (orig. The Commodores) 
- Amos Lee: Lovely Day (orig. Bill Withers) 
- Amos Lee: Zombie (orig. The Cranberries) 
- Amos Lee and The Forest Rangers: Boots Of Spanish Leather (orig. Bob Dylan) 
- Amos Lee ft. Calexico: Seven Spanish Angels (orig. Willie Nelson & Stevie Wonder) 
- Iron & Wine, Calexico, Nick Lowe, Glen Hansard, Kathleen Edwards, Beth Orton, Amos Lee: Hallelujah (orig Leonard Cohen) 
- The Wood Brothers ft. Amos Lee: Angel (orig. Jimi Hendrix) 
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!
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 [zip!]
- Charles River Valley Boys: I’ve Just Seen A Face (orig. The Beatles)
(from Beatlemania: An All-American Tribute To The Fab Four, September, 2004)
- Jeb Loy Nichols: Worried Man (orig. Johnny Cash)
(from Cash Covered, November 2004)
- Andrew Bird with Nora O’Connor: Oh Sister (orig. Bob Dylan)
(from Dylan Covered, September 2005)
- Richard Thompson: Legal Matter (orig. The Who)
(from The Who Covered, February 2006)
- Mark Lanegan: Nothin’ In This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ Bout That Girl (orig. The Kinks)
(from The Modern Genius of Ray Davies, March 2006)
- Michael Weston King: For No One (orig. The Beatles)
- Thea Gilmore: I Want To Tell You (orig. The Beatles)
(from Revolver Reloaded, July 2006)
- Chris Whitley: Drifting (orig. Jimi Hendrix)
(from Experienced, November 2006)
- Steve Almaas and Ali Smith: The Lonely Sea (orig. The Beach Boys)
(from In My Room, January 2007)
- Fionn Regan: Getting Better (orig. The Beatles)
(from Sgt. Pepper…With A Little Help From His Friends, March 2007)
- Billy Bragg: She Smiled Sweetly (orig. Rolling Stones)
(from Stoned, September 2007)
- Lau: Dear Prudence (orig. The Beatles)
(from The White Album Recovered No. 0000001, September 2008)
- Neville Skelly: Mother Nature’s Son (orig. The Beatles)
(from The White Album Recovered No. 0000002, October 2008)
- Josh Ritter: Chelsea Hotel No. 2 (orig. Leonard Cohen)
(from Cohen Covered, December 2008)
- Jeffrey Lewis: Octopus’ Garden (orig. The Beatles)
- Karima Francis: She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (orig. The Beatles)
(from Abbey Road Now!, October 2009)
- Woodpigeon: Mother (orig. Pink Floyd)
(from The Wall Re-Built! Disc One, December 2009)
- North Sea Radio Orchestra: Vera/Bring The Boys Back Home (orig. Pink Floyd)
(from The Wall Re-Built! Disc Two, January 2010)
- Robyn Hitchcock: Dark Globe (orig. Syd Barrett)
(from The Madcap Laughs Again!, March 2010)
- John Grant: Two Of Us (orig. The Beatles)
(from Let It Be Revisited, August 2010)
- Sam Amidon: The Needle And The Damage Done (orig. Neil Young)
(from Harvest Revisited, February 2011)
- Doug Paisley: Us And Them (orig. Pink Floyd)
(from Return To The Dark Side Of The Moon, August 2011)
- Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou: Your Love Is Forever (orig. George Harrison)
(from Harrison Covered, November 2011)
- Ren Harvieu: Sister Morphine (orig. Rolling Stones)
(from Sticky Soul Fingers, January 2012)
- Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo: Master Song (orig. Leonard Cohen)
(from The Songs of Leonard Cohen Covered, March 2012)
- Tom McRae & The Standing Band: Sloop John B. (trad./arr. Beach Boys)
(from Pet Sounds Revisited, June 2012)
- Jim White: All Together Now (orig. The Beatles)
- Thea Gilmore: All You Need Is Love (orig. The Beatles)
(from Yellow Submarine Resurfaces, July 2012)
- The Staves: Songbird (orig. Fleetwood Mac)
(from Rumours Revisited, January 2013)
- Chris Difford: All My Loving (orig. The Beatles)
(from We’re With The Beatles, August 2013)
- Hiss Golden Messenger: Black Country Woman (orig. Led Zeppelin)
(from Physical Graffiti Redrawn, April 2015)
- Phosphorescent: I Want You
(from Blonde On Blonde Revisited, July 2016)
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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 tracygrammer.com.
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.