These Days: A Summer Interlude


lone-tree-horizon


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

Rising Stars in the Sun: Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists
cover Neil Young, Lorde, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Michael Jackson & more!


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We’ve already shared our love for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which takes place this year on August 4-7 in beautiful New York farm country at the foot of the Berkshires. Since our original feature, however, the festival has released its list of Emerging Artists, who will perform on the mainstage Friday, August 5 from noon to 4:30, and this year’s crop represents an exceptionally talented mix of the young and the rising. Today, then, we present a second feature in their honor; read on for news and coverage, and enjoy!


Well-known in the industry as a highly competitive proving ground for artists on the cusp of national recognition, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Grassy Hill Emerging Artists Showcase is not a contest, per se. Instead, it is a celebration, in which 24 performers selected by a jury of venue promoters and radio hosts perform a two song showcase, and then offer meet-and-greet opportunities by the merchandise tent. Afterwards, festival attendee surveys poll the crowd on who they’d most like to see again; the top three vote-getters are asked to come back the following year for a mainstage Song Swap, ensuring a loving welcome for those who stand out among the crowd.

To be fair, though, those who garner top votes in that poll do tend to be those whose stars are rising fastest. Fresh out of high school singer-songwriter Annika Bennett, who garnered top votes in 2015 and whose cover of Jackson 5 hit I Want You Back made our Best of 2015 collection, offers a perfect example of how successful this two-tiered selection process is: since her appearance last year, she has gone on to earn a recording contract from Sony on the strength of a single debut EP, and will be off to Nashville after joining us as a Most Wanted returnee alongside Gina Forsyth and Scott Wolfson & Other Heroes. Other beloved artists familiar to these pages who have been chosen by audiences to return to the mainstage in the just the past couple of years include Darlingside, Jean Rohe, Matt Nakoa, Roosevelt Dime, Parsonsfield, Spuyten Duyvil, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Red Molly, Joe Crookston, Pesky J. Nixon, and more – a fine list of names, and a familiar one to those who watch the folk charts and coffeehouses.

But even those who don’t garner top votes and honors often go on to greatness. Among others, second-generation singer-songwriter Grace Pettis, cello-and-guitar-wielding indiefolk duo Tall Heights, and Heather Maloney, who will appear on the festival mainstage this year, have graced the Emerging Artists stage in recent years, coming in as “also rans” even as their careers took flight; we’ve got our ears on Texan singer-songwriter Matt Harlan, who came in fourth in last year balloting, as a new favorite as well.

All in all, if you’ve got folk in your heart and you’re looking for a handle on what to love next, Friday afternoon by the Falcon Ridge mainstage is absolutely the place to be this summer. And we’re thrilled to be able to offer a preview tour of sorts today, as a complement to our June feature on the mainstage artists featured at this year’s festival.


Our own history with the Emerging Artists showcase is one of discovery; most years we fall in love at least twice, and as such, we’re loathe to call favorites this early in the game. But the list of artists we’re especially excited to hear this August in the showcase is richer and vaster than usual – a healthy sign of the continued relevance and vibrancy of both Falcon Ridge and the larger world of folk.

Don’t-miss standouts we know enough to recommend highly include young local artist Kirsten Maxwell, whose potent, evocative voice recently showed up on these virtual pages in perfect harmony with Matt Nakoa and Rachael Kilgour; Gloucester, MA singer-songwriter Chelsea Berry, whose gorgeous, hearty alto takes on Patty Griffin and others have found their way to these pages before; field and campsite favorite Putnam Smith, with his wry grin and masterful, evocative banjo; and Vermont duo Cricket Blue, whose warm strings and gentle harmonies have been on our radar since a Beehive Productions session last year. And we’re especially excited to hear more from Low Lily, a fiddle-and-string trio previously known and loved as Annalivia, whose sparse, delightful handclap-heavy cover of Nelly’s Nobody Knows is included below as a bonus track.

Others we’re just discovering include NYC popfolk songstresses Rachael Sage, back for a second run at the Emerging Artist mantle, whose recent duet with Judy Collins is stunning, and Kate Copeland, whose indie guitar and voice soar like a bird. Contemporary folk is well represented by folks familiar to us from local folk radio programming, like Susan Cattaneo, a local artist whose rich contemporary folk albums have featured studio work from Mark Erelli and Lorne Entress, Joni Mitchell reinterpreter and songwriter Kipyn Martin, jazzfolk explorer Lara Herscovitch, and Amy Soucy, whose take on Neil Young’s Comes A Time speaks for itself.

We’re really looking forward to hearing more from empowered Washington DC indiepop artist Heather Mae, whose voice is to die for and whose upcoming Kickstarter-driven sophomore album is surely destined for indie chart greatness, masterful guitar wizard Jacob Johnson, and Jamie Michaels, whose 2013 album Unknown Blessings – his ninth – takes on the songs of his rising star peers to great effect. Add in the rest, from rocking cowboy country bandleaders gone solo (Brad Cunningham, Marc Berger) to melodic harmony duos (The Rafters, Bettman & Halpin), from mid-career songstresses (Elaine Romanelli, Sarah Beatty) to young male singer-songwriter upstarts (Austin MacRae, Mike Herz, Paddy Mills, Will Pfrang), and the afternoon promises to be phenomenal.

Though studio recordings are a prerequisite for jury consideration, not all of these 24 artists have recorded covers, of course. But many have, offering easy opportunity for us to honor our own mandate to create comfort through coverage, and in doing so, introduce you to new voices to love. By way of that introduction, then, and to tempt you a little further, we’ve gathered in as many “good ones” as we could find; listen in, and then click through for this wonderful Spotify list to hear more originals and covers from the 2016 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Emerging Artists Showcase performers in celebration of the next generation of folkstars.



Just to prove it can be done, here’s today’s bonus track, as promised – originally recorded on Low Lily fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger’s “exquisite” 2013 covers album Covers, in which “every note counts, and every note lingers.”




Comment » | Festival Coverfolk, New Artists Old Songs

America The Beautiful:
More Coverfolk For A Thoughtful Fourth





I had big plans to share some thoughts about my conflicted love for America in 2011 on the anniversary of our birth as a nation. But looking in the archives, I saw that I had written it before: both the previous year, when we mused upon the complexity of patriotism in a modern age, and in our first year, at a time when our national discourse was increasingly polarized by the impending presidential election.

And so I added a few songs to our original America The Beautiful feature, and let it fly like a star spangled balloon. And now, five years later, we’re back again, with a few new additions to the canon.

Our Single Song Sunday from 2010 remains archived, and we encourage you to head back in time for 10 covers of Paul Simon’s American Tune, and some thoughts on the complicated times which continue to characterize our national zeitgeist. But since it’s been a while, here’s our 2008 post revisited a second time. Its sentiment stands: may your Independence Day be thoughtful, too.


I’m not exactly the patriotic type. I’ve been to more countries than states; I prefer solitude to mall culture. Heck, we don’t even have basic cable. But all power-hungry, commercial/corporate complex, bittersweet modernity aside, I believe in the ideals which frame the constant American dialogue with itself — including first and foremost the requirement that we keep talking, lest we abdicate our role as government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And I believe that, by definition, as music which speaks of and for a people, American folk music holds a particular place in that conversation which is America. Folk focuses that conversation, making it real and vivid, whether it is through the lens of policy critique or protest cry, the immigrant experience or the internal monologue of a singer-songwriter struggling to be free.

Checks and balances and a mechanism for self-correction; fireworks and barbecue, and the right to make dumb mistakes and have to live with ‘em. Losing love, and falling in it again. Finding hope, and being scared to dream one more time. It’s the American way, all of it — and it’s been that way since inception.

Which is to say: if I may sometimes work to change the policies of those in power, through sharing song or through town meeting politics, it is because I love this country. And I hope I never lose that fluttery feeling in my stomach when we come in for a landing at the international terminal, and I know that I am home.

So let other bloggers share patriotic song today. I’d rather take the country as it is: dialogic, complex, open about its faults and favors, and always looking for a better way. And if saying so means posting songs we have posted here before, then so be it — for these are, after all, timeless songs, with messages that bear repeating.

Happy Birthday, America. Long may your contradictions endear us to you. May you never lose hope. And may we never stop singing.



Always ad-free and artist-centric, Cover Lay Down has been bringing you ethnographic musings on the folkways here and abroad since 2007 thanks to the patronage of readers like you!

Comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, Reposts

Covered In Folk: Taylor Swift
(15 acoustic covers reveal hidden depths in a pop songbook)


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From afar, at 26, Taylor Swift – the youngest woman to make Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list, and well on her way to becoming the best selling artist of all time – seems to have grown into a strong yet sensitive woman who is unafraid to be vulnerable, even sophomoric, as her understanding of the world slowly starts to deepen past the innocence of Love Story, You Belong With Me, and dozens more girl-meets-boy chart-toppers.

But a deeper dig suggests that this maturity is innate, not developed. Swift’s ability to tough it out among the big players as she transitioned from the world of country to the world of true-blue pop reveals the same grit and determination that drove her parents to move to the Nashville area to support her career while she was still in middle school, got her a development deal from RCA at the age of 14 – and led her to walk away from that deal later that same year, concerned that the industry would eat her alive before she had a chance to capture her early years authentically, while they were still fresh in her mind.

As Ryan Adams showed in his recent reinvention homage to Swift’s album 1989, Swift’s lyrics go much, much deeper than their pretty face. And unlike other pop icons who started out in the industry before adulthood, including several we’ve featured here in our Covered In Folk series (see, for example, our recent feature on Justin Bieber), the youngest songwriter ever signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house has always written her own songs, trusting the production process to transform them into the crossover countrypop gems that have dominated the airwaves for the last decade or so.

Though Swift has a healthy understanding of the industry she serves, in other words, she is clearly a songwriter first. But she also knows coverage matters. She has recorded few of her own in the studio – a trend that surely stems from both artistic and professional concerns, and tepid reception to both a 2007 Christmas cover of Last Christmas and a 2009 take on Tom Petty’s American Girl that was, at best, merely a retread – but she does songs from all over the genre map in concert, and has good taste in those of others, too; indeed, one of the choice cuts below was featured on her Twitter feed, a high praise she has reserved for less than a score of other interpretations.

Others in our Taylor Swift mix today come from the usual wide assortment of sources: amateur uploads, tribute sessions and albums, b-side and deep cut delights. As is our wont, they span from delicate to disturbing, from joyous to somber, though they certainly trend towards the slow, the soft, and the stripped down cover; taken as a set, they are, indeed, greater than the sum of their parts. So join us as we celebrate through coverage the well-sung songbook of a woman who at 26 has already won 10 Grammy awards, recognition from the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, a fierce independence in an industry more prone to destroy young talent, and the hearts of a nation.



COVERED IN FOLK: TAYLOR SWIFT
[zip!]

  • The Man Who Fell In Buffalo: Blank Space
  • Radiochaser: Blank Space


    Raw and wry like a live Barenaked Ladies-meets-banjo rarity, our first transformative cover comes from Portland, Oregon-based multimedia art, music, and fiction experimentalist The Man Who Fell In Buffalo, who turns upbeat pop into a sinister oldtimey collage, abuzz with fraying edges and the fraying urgency of the stalker’s mind. For contrast, turn to NYC underground artist Radiochaser, first introduced to us via fellow coverblog Cover Me; the layers here are wistful, mooth and airy, with an undercurrent of urgency too deep to touch – apt for an enigmatic Soundcloud cover artist who claims that his work represents an imaginative foray into what the souls of pop songs would sound like if pop songs could die.


  • Lucy & La Mer: Bad Blood


    Slower, quieter, and both more subtle and more haunting than the Tainted Love cover we shared from Lucy & La Mer back in March, this 2015 track only reinforces our appreciation of the LA-based indie/folk/pop goddess’ high, astute sensitivity to songcraft and setting.


  • Savannah Outen: I Knew You Were Trouble


    The streaming services are stuffed full with wannabes who use coverage of Taylor’s radiopop hits to leverage a career. But Savannah Outen‘s cover stands out for vocal purity, a restrained, polished sense of tonal consistency and control, and a masterful, slippery, articulate way with lyrical articulation that makes every word meaningful. Similar prowess, if a little more percussive pop flourish, typifies covers of Everything Has Changed and Out Of The Woods recorded alongside YouTube boypop sensation Jake Coco.


  • Julia Sheer and Tyler Ward: Sparks Fly
  • Strawburry17: Sparks Fly


    A country duo lullaby with light twang, lighter guitars, and a echoing reverb that lingers, or a solo indiepop turn with innocent voice and rich synth overlays slowly drowned in that same echo? We couldn’t decide, so you get both, from ubiquitous YouTube success stories Julia Sheer and Tyler Ward (like Outen, she also does a decent cover of Ed Sheeran/Taylor Swift duet Everything Has Changed) and prolific self-professed nerd and culture vulture Strawburry17, who generally shares themed vlogs, not music, on her YouTube channel. Not bad for a song originally recorded by Swift as a bootkicking rocker.



  • Radiant Life Perspective: Love Story


    No set of Taylor Swift songs would be complete without Love Story, a reframing of the Romeo and Juliet story which I have been know to utilize in the classroom when discussing the text. Here, Trenton, NJ indie rock duo Radiant Life Perspective – a pair whose covers are twee and grungy and delightful, as heard on Gray’s Anatomy and elsewhere – pull back to a hipster acoustic urgency, complete with hollow percussion and dreamy, layered vocals, that reveals a hazy sheen of wistful uncertainty on horizons back and forward.


  • Laura Zocca: Begin Again
  • Laura Zocca: Safe and Sound (orig. Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars)


    First shared here last year in our come-back feature after a few months off the blog, prolific YouTube cover artist and rising star singer-songwriter Laura Zocca‘s stunning turn on Begin Again is the perfect way to feature both song and singer, a lovely turn on a wistful piece. Add her equally sweet-and-potent version of Safe and Sound, which Swift originally recorded with now-defunct duo The Civil Wars, to the mix – and note that it was recorded just 24 hours after the original release of the song.


  • Sumeau: Fearless


    Hollywood’s boy/girl duo Sumeau creates slowcore psychpop like you’ve never heard it before – in this case, a lazy, hazy heroin dream in which Bert Bacharach meets the summer of love. Framed around Fearless, the title track from Swift’s country-to-pop crossover sophomore album, it lends an unreal aura of mist and memory to the first date it depicts, trading innocence and hope for something deeper and more mystical.


  • James Bartholomew: Everything Has Changed (orig. Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran)


    We don’t usually post covers without lyrics here at Cover Lay Down – and by definition, a cowritten duet is an unusual choice for the voiceless version. But we already shared our favorite acoustic pop take on this track way back in 2013. And this delicate delight from fingerstylist James Bartholomew fits in perfectly in the folkstream, reminding us that if John Renbourne’s masterful acoustic instrumentals count as folk, then so do covers that echo them so exquisitely.


  • Nick Mulvey: Never Getting Back Together


    A tense acoustic take from a BBC Radio Lounge session with London-based world-beat-jazzman-turned-singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey, set only with harp-strung latin guitar and longing vocals. Unsettling and unsettled, in Mulvey’s hands a song once overripe with determination and teen angst becomes tiny and dear, a baby bird struggling against the hand that holds.


  • Ryan Adams: How You Get The Girl


    Though we’ve hewed pretty closely to the amateur and underground in today’s set, we’d be remiss if we didn’t close today with something from Ryan Adams’ 1989, which garnered top honors in our Best of 2015 series. Since we shared Blank Space then, we’ll go for his cover of album deep cut How You Get The Girl now – a bit grandiose for folk, with a Springsteen-esque vibe and no small call to Adams’ early work with alt-country band Whiskeytown, but as anthemic chamberpop goes, a true tour de force, mostly overlooked by press and promotion alongside his covers of the more popular tracks from the album.



Cover Lay Down: celebrating covers and the artists who share them since 2007… thanks to patrons like you!

Comment » | Covered In Folk, Taylor Swift

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





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!

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!





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!

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(Re)Covered: New Coverage From Old Friends
Allysen Callery, Coty Hogue, Amber Rubarth, Reid Jamieson and 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 “new primitive” songwriter Allysen Callery, tradfolk reinventionist Coty Hogue, orchestral folk artist Amber Rubarth, Vancouver crooner Rein Jamieson, YouTube fave Juliana Richer Daily, and beloved local folksinger and friend Mark Erelli taking on REM, Lorde, Prince, Gordon Lightfoot, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen, The 1975, the Appalachian canon and more!



Allysen Callery – a self-taught New England rising star and fingerpicker whose website proudly and accurately describes her oeuvre as “quiet music for a loud world” – first popped up on our radar in 2013, thanks to a “haunting recast” of one-time Single Song Sunday standard Long Black Veil that offered apt comparison to the very best of Sandy Denny. Since then, Callery’s star has continued to rise as her canon grows; her delicate will-o-the-wisp reinventions have featured in two consecutive year’s end “Best Of” mixtapes, we shared her recent, perfect take on Marissa Nadler in February of this year as part of our celebration of Volume 3 of Red Line Roots’ Locals Covering Locals series; we loved her tiny, precious 2014 UK folk radio session, and we’re working to get her in for a Unity House Concert soon. New CD The Song the Songbird Sings, with its ringing echoes of the 60′s British psychedelic folk revival, offers perfect proof of why we’re so thrilled to hear more, with tightly crafted, elegantly performed originals and a stunning Gordon Lightfoot cover that holds us close with dark urgency in a frozen wasteland.



It’s been 4 years since we featured American roots singer-songwriter and banjo player Coty Hogue, a fave of Alice Gerrard and others in the neotrad countryfolk school, on the release of her live album When We Get To Shore, a mostly-covers-and-traditionals album performed in front of a studio audience with fellow Bellingham musicians Aaron Guest (vocals/guitar) and Kat Bula (fiddle/vocals); since then, she’s been pretty quiet, other than a few live-tracked solo YouTube releases well worth passing along. But Hogue is back with Flight, a brand new release featuring the same core trio of players plus guest appearances from Cover Lay Down fave bluegrass duo Molly Tuttle and John Mailander and IBMA multiple award winning bass player Missy Raines, and it’s a revelation, with intimate, lightly grassy takes on Fleetwood Mac and Lucinda Williams, a tight, joyous live sound, and a fine set of catchy, fluid compositions and arrangements perfect for a gentle morning pick-me-up porch session.



Though still primarily known in and around his native Vancouver, singer-songwriter Reid Jamieson is a frequent flyer here at Cover Lay Down thanks to a grinning, gorgeous way with the songs of others and an especially prolific penchant towards interpretation: he’s previously published an album of Elvis songs and dozens of single-shot coverage tracks; in 2011, we offered his tribute to the songs of 1969, recorded for his wife’s birthday, as a release-day exclusive.

Reido’s newest homage Dear Leonard: The Cohen Collection takes on the songs of Leonard Cohen lovingly and gleefully, and we’ve been stuck on it since it dropped in March. Like most of his work, it is deceptively light; the intros hit like Caribbean elevator music, and Reido’s husky tenor is sweet and plaintive as always. But there’s a huge diversity here, and something truly triumphant about the brightening of sound in songs like Suzanne, which tingles with robust steel drum rhythms and spousal harmonies, the driving countrified romp of Tower Of Song, and Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, which gets turned on it’s ear, transforming the somber, pensive original into a bright and upbeat trainsong, chugging along light and lively with perfect layers of overdubbed harmony, gentle guitars and brushes. Elsewhere, ukes, brushes, and fiddle hold sway, adding flourishes and finishing touches to a sweet, sweet EP from somewhere under the sunniest of cowboy skies.


Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.11.47 PMAmber Rubarth came to our attention via a 2011 collaboration with Threeds, an oboe trio whose mellow Little Feat cover still offers solace in our darkest days. Now, ten years into a career ready to explode, the award-winning small-town California-born, weary-yet-clear-voiced singer-songwriter comes back to us with Scribbled Folk Symphonies, a nuanced and richly orchestrated singer-songwriter’s tour de force, featuring apt and adept plucked string quartet urgencies under soaring-air vocals on REM standard Losing My Religion and self-effacing Elliott Smith fave I Didn’t Understand, and we’ve been hooked since its April release.

Rubarth is already crowdsourcing next album Wildflowers In The Graveyard, a slightly more conventional contemporary popfolk guitarslinger’s lyric-driven, high-production collection of songs written around the theme of renewal and ripe for a big autumn release; support it for previews and more. But first, check out her new covertracks plus* an older but no less warm and wonderful Carter Family cover below from Rubarth’s bandcamp sampler, and then purchase Scribbled Folk Symphonies to steep in an album that already stands as one of the great folk albums of 2016.

*tracks removed by label request



Though our recent 15-track tribute to Prince made no claim to comprehensiveness, it would be even harder now; since the artist’s passing last month, musicians from across the artistic genre map have come forth to pay their own tribute, and several new favorites have emerged – including a fine live take on signature song Purple Rain from prolific Boston-based singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, recorded at a recent album-release party at Club Passim, and released via his long-standing and always-worth-checking Mp3 of the Month series. Add in a previous month’s live take on Blake Mills’ Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me, and you can see why we’re such big fans of Erelli, whose sideman work with Lori McKenna and Paula Cole and continued work as both a solo artist and a member of newgrass supergroup Barnstar! continue to earn him duly deserved accolades on and beyond the coffeehouse circuit, and whose new, clear-as-a-bell album For A Song is currently sweeping the folk charts on the strength of its stunning countryfolk title track.



Finally, for the popfolk set: Upstate New Yorker and YouTube amateur Juliana Daily, whose versatile, sweet and intimate voice we’ve featured regularly on these pages, took top honors for Best Coverfolk Video Series in our 2015 round-up on the strength of a lovely set of living-room covers recorded in support of a Kickstarter album; here she is back again to prove her chops with an aching, wonderfully sparse one-guitar, multiple-voice take on an alt-rock tune-turned-ballad with Bryce Merritt that benefits from tight production, earnest performance, and a hint of whimsy.




Comment » | (Re)Covered, Allysen Callery, Amber Rubarth, Coty Hogue, Mark Erelli, Reid Jamieson

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





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!]



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.

1 comment » | Featured Artists, Marissa Nadler

RIP: Prince
(June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)


Prince-Nice1


As a long-time coverblogger, it’s not hard to have mixed feelings about the death of rockstar Prince today at the age of 57. The eminently egotistical Artist Formerly Known As An Unpronounceable Symbol was notoriously negative about “industry” coverage, expressing frustration that the law makes it perfectly legal to cover other people’s songs as long as the piper has been paid, and raising concern time and time again in interviews that “covering the music means your version doesn’t exist anymore”. Prince’s legal team was infamous for issuing YouTube take-down notices, and tight-fisted about permissions, too. And there we were, pretty gun-shy after being booted off Blogger for a string of false take-down notices in our early days.

And so, with a very few notable exceptions, for 9 long years online, we’ve pretty much avoided even talking about the man, let alone sharing our favorite covers.

Until now. Because Prince Rogers Nelson’s sexy pop anthems populate our world like nobody’s business, and praise the lord. Glitchy and over-the-top anthemic as it may be, I actually prefer his version of Nothing Compares To U to Sinead O’Connor’s. And I can’t think of any version of Kiss that I like better than the original, though Richard Thompson’s tongue-in-cheek take has its own rough-hewn joy, too.

And maybe, just maybe, that – plus the sheer volume of tributes that will surely join this one in the ether in the hours and days to come – offers sufficient protection from the wrath that is Prince’s estate today, as we celebrate a man whose purply influence will surely shine on the world of music for decades to come.

To suggest that Prince’s position on coverage was extreme is not to suggest that it had some merit, of course; as someone who recently listed Tainted Love as a Soft Cell original, I’m in a particularly poor position to suggest that great covers cannot and do not sometimes obscure original recordings. We’ve touched on the definitive, transformative cover here before, too, most notably in our 2008 deep dive into the shift in sound and sensibility Jeff Buckley brought to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which proved to influence pretty much all subsequent coverage of the song.

But to prefer the Ryan Adams version of Wonderwall is one thing; to say that it somehow eradicated the original is quite another. When Noel Gallagher says in his 2008 Spin interview that he and brother Liam hate singing Wonderwall, and that he thinks Ryan Adams is the only person who ever got it right, it says more about the potential of the cover to save the song than it does about its potential to erase it. Liam may no longer want to sing Wonderwall the way it was written, but the record lives on – and as Gallagher notes in the same interview, fans still clamor for the original, too.

And so, today, in honor of Prince’s passing, we break our vow of silence on the subject to present our very favorite covers from the folkworld. It’s good crop, too, with The Blue Rubies mid-eighties cover of Prince’s When U Were Mine, which was one of my very first folk covers – a moment of early clarity in a world cluttered with postpunk, synthpop, and early grunge – The Be Good Tanyas take on When Doves Cry, which I featured in my very first music post, before Cover Lay Down was even born, and last year’s remake of Prince’s playful oddity Starfish and Coffee from kidfolk fave Renee and SNL alum Maya Rudolph.

Add in a bluesy take from an underground Norwegian tribute now otherwise lost to the great archive in the sky, James Taylor’s son on a pristine backporch kick, a soaring high-production take on a track originally posted online as Violet Rain to confound the legal team, the ragged, live and in-studio vocals of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Richard Thompson, and Martin Sexton, and a few more joys from around the block, and you’ve got a tribute set worth waiting for.

May the covers ever live on alongside, not instead of, the originals which Prince himself brought to our ears. And may we never forget to gather together, dearly beloved, to get through this thing called life.



Covered In Folk: Prince


Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down explores 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.

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