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

The virtual mailbag bursts at the digital seams with new submissions, and some of it is quite good, indeed. Today, we return to a perennial conceit to frame the festivities, celebrating new, newfound and still-emerging artists from Dublin to Nashville as they pay homage to their roots, their peers, and the popular. Enjoy – and as always, follow links to purchase and pursue your favorites, the better to patronize the arts, and support the folkways.



mikebeneckeLA singer-songwriter Mike Benecke may have gotten his start touring with punk and indie bands, but as press comparisons to Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, and Alexi Murdoch after the release of his 2012 self-titled EP suggest, his solo work strips away the grunge and grime, revealing a beautiful, slow, intimate and rich dreamfolk, with sparse clear-as-a-bell layers of smooth, haunting bass, keys, and pedal steel gently supporting an acoustic core of fingerpicked, resonant strings and an honest hoarseness in the voice that aches like wolves in the near distance. This Randy Newman cover, an outtake from brand new debut LP Call The Waves, is a Cover Lay Down exclusive, and it’s a hell of a teaser: an apt, quiet echo of an early urban morning that carries the song exquisitely.


lucyandIndie artists Lucy & La Mer caught our attention with their equally dreamy, pulsing take on Soft Cell classic Tainted Love, the sole cover from sweet folk pop EP Little Spoon, a uke-and-synth-driven collection flush and twee with bells, horns, and fingersnaps and lightly bouncy, wryly honest melody lines and lyrics just aching for a happy indie film montage. The black and white body-positive burlesque-troupe video they’ve just released to promote the song offers a response to recent sexual harassment issues in the music media; like the music itself, it’s decidedly steamy with a satirical bite, simultaneously discomforting and dear.



12308761_920841827951715_685359104699812121_nI keep meaning to get to a Single Song Sunday feature for Magnetic Fields classic The Book Of Love, which we’ve featured in several incarnations here on the blog since our inception in 2007. As a closer for Dubliner Gavin James‘ debut Bitter Pill – an otherwise haunting solo pop album that invites easy comparison to James Blunt and Ed Sheeran, due to drop on Tuesday – the song offers a soaring, echoing muse on the nature of love itself from an artist already filling clubs and halls on both sides of the proverbial pond, and surely on the cusp of something even bigger.



Beyond-The-Rain-Album-Cover-307x307I imagine discovering Gillian Welch and David Rawlings was a bit like this: the gentle rise and fall, the etherial voices, the subtle harmonies, the purity of sound and sadness, the precision of tone, and the tiniest hint of primitive blues drone underneath it all bringing deep solace to the soul. Such is Beyond The Rain, the first major label album from duo Quiles & Cloud, produced by Grammy-winning banjo player and artist Allison Brown on the strength of two fan-funded releases, four years on tour in a VW hatchback, and the most stunning arrangements of the canon I’ve heard yet this year: an album of endless reward that will still leave you yearning for more.



Decidedly young NYC folkpop four-piece Morningsiders hasn’t even finished recording their own debut, but they’re already rising fast on the strength of a single single after it appeared in the pilot for new Amy Poehler Hulu vehicle Difficult People and subsequently rocketed to the top of the Spotify charts. This living room Sia cover that follows it is raw and resonant, a band still facing inward as it defines its sound; it’s also a true blue delight, transforming a pop original into something gentle and comforting, intimately performed with fiddle, stand-up bass, guitar and harmonies around a single microphone.


Morningsiders: Reaper (orig. Sia) [2016]



Mandolin and bass “gutter-folk” duo Driftwood Soldier hasn’t just covered folk standard John Henry, they’ve translated it into the modern age, reframing the song as a commentary on racist corporate greed, and the titular larger-than-life character as a wage slave scion of the modern white-collar world. The chunky, funky sound they adopt here echoes that of last year’s debut Scavenger’s Joy, a wonderfully bouncy, grungy, organic collection chock full of growled vocals, howling slackstrings, and percussive found materials (including coffee cans and suitcases) that evokes both history and reinvention, with hints of early Deadhead experimentation, Leon Russell’s soul, the field recordings of Robert Johnson and Lead Belly, and the sparse, harsh deconstruction of Morphine.


Driftwood Soldier: John Henry (trad.) [2016]



Twenty-something L.A. Edwards comes to us thanks to our recent double-feature on Tom Petty; the young Californian songwriter is a protege of Heartbreaker Ron Blair, and his manager made the connection and sent along this cover. We’re grateful, too: L.A. (aka Luke Andrew) was raised on Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Cat Stevens, but after years on the road with his brother as a duo after dropping out of high school at 15, his most recent output – as heard in this and other tracks from his recent live YouTube series The El Nino Sessions, and in this stunning four-part Soundcloud collection – is encore-ready folk rock with just the right hint of alt-country, rich in high-baritone-and-tenor harmonies and spare in all other ways, like a perfect next-generation combination of Ryan Adams, Simon & Garfunkel, and Petty himself.


L.A. Edwards: If I Needed You (orig. Townes Van Zandt) [2016]



Adele covers are going to be big this year, for sure. But singer-songwriter Ryan Larkins, who placed third on CMT show Can You Duet in 2009, offers something special: a relatively faithful solo cover of a deep cut from her newest album that demonstrates crystal clear vocals and guitar skill and, in doing so, shows just how easily Adele’s heartache translates across gender lines. Pair it with a gorgeously hushed, soulful, slide-and-pick take on old gospel hymnal standard Pass Me Not played on an old 60′s Silvertone flat top guitar, note that this pair of covers represents a single week’s output for the Nashville-based Christian acoustic folk-rocker, and keep an eye out for more from this incredible, incredibly versatile still-rising star.


Ryan Larkins: Million Years Ago (orig. Adele) [2016]



Ryan Larkins: Pass Me Not (orig. Fanny Crosby) [2016]



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down delves deep into the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

2 comments » | New Artists Old Songs

(Re)Covered In Folk: Tom Petty
(16 more transformations in tribute to a truly American songbook)





We try to avoid revisiting feature posts so soon after their first iteration, and generally eschew dipping too often into the same thematic lens-setting. We’ve got wonderful new bluegrass, indiefolk, singer-songwriter singles and albums to celebrate, and video finds burning in our eyes and ears.

But a whirlwind weekend of family hospitalization as we struggle to find balance in the face of chronic children’s illnesses has left me still thinking about the past far too often, unable to focus on more than the here and now, and the how we got here.

I need to get away from the thinking, critical mind. I need something upbeat, something eminently freeing. I need comfort, and bittersweet understanding, that I might soak in myself. And I don’t want to have to think about it today, on the cusp on yet another workweek with the family split across the state: half of us in the hospital, half of us sleepwalking through our days, our hearts far, far down the turnpike.

But conveniently, in the two weeks since our giant feature on the Tom Petty songbook, covers of the Floridian roots rock giant have been coming out of the woodwork. And so, today, Cover Lay Down presents a few more: a list almost exclusively amateur in origin, sourced almost entirely from the world of streaming video, and almost all recorded in the last year or two.


pettyhatRest assured, coverfans: though not predominantly recorded by household names, today’s set contains no also-rans. Petty’s canon is broad and diverse, a wide river rich in silt and sediment; our working criteria for a second set of Tom Petty covers is steep, and these eminently make the cut. Stunning and sublime in turn, they represent a broad spectrum of gravitas and genre – powerful variations on a theme, in a mix comprising both some familiar songs distinctly different in interpretation from those posted previously, and a few songs previously uncovered and now brought to light and life.

Here you’ll find feel-good backporch and living room sessions (The Dead Pigeons’ stringband Listen To Her Heart; long-haired folk collective Andrew Leahey & The Homestead’s Walls; acoustic indiefolk quartet JJ and The Pillars with a holiday favorite), folk-to-funk variations (Hope & Social and Sam Airey’s incredible mashup of I Won’t Back Down with old spiritual I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free), piano-and-harmony pop balladry (Bloom’s Free Fallin’ and The Maine’s Wildflowers) and true-blue country rock ballads (Charles Kelley’s duet with Stevie Nicks on Southern Accents). The solo takes range wide, too, from the slippery honkytonk lounge reinvention of Dave Starke’s You Don’t Know How It Feels to amazingly beautiful and fluid live and in-studio covers like Jay Psaros’ Yer So Bad and Eli Noll’s Won’t Back Down to broken, distant, gravel-voiced takes from the likes of Ryan Bingham (Time to Get Going), Teitzi (A Face In The Crowd), and cult folk veteran Kath Bloom (Learning To Fly).

Together, they comprise a perfect companion to our original Tom Petty Covered In Folk feature, bringing our total coverage far past the half-century line, speaking loud and clear of Petty’s power and playability in the hands of the people. Download the newest set, and enjoy.

Covered In Folk: Tom Petty, Redux



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down delves deep into the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Tom Petty

(Re)Covered: New coverage from old friends
Chris Stapleton, Eli West, Scott Warren, Chris Bell, Ben Sollee & more!

Our regular (Re)Covered series finds us touting new and newly-discovered releases from well-loved 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 bluegrass stalwarts Eli West and Michael Daves, newly-minted Grammy winner Chris Stapleton and his singer-songwriter spouse Morgane, cello-folk experimentalists Chris Bell and Ben Sollee, and electro-coustic rock and roller Scott Warren taking on the songs of Lindsay Buckingham, Bill Monroe, Howlin’ Wolf, the American traditional canon and more!



goodloveWe first featured acoustic roots rocker Scott Warren way back in 2009 in our New Artists, Old Songs series with his “gorgeously fluid, totally atmospheric cover” of America hit Sister Golden Hair, which closed out his 2009 solo album Quick Fix Bandage; his subsequent, delightfully fuzzed-out take on The Beatles’ Blackbird hit our Best of 2014 Singles session, too. Now Warren is back with a Lindsay Buckingham cover that’s just as sweet and tenderly-treated, from Good Love, a brand new disc that runs from full-bore guitar-driven rock and roll a la Elvis Costello and The Georgia Satellites to this gentle and still-gorgeous album-ender, and we couldn’t be happier to share it.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:


bothEli West first popped up on our radar as half of string-and-harmony duo Cahalen and Eli, who took the bluegrass world by storm a few years back with a pair of albums that renewed our interest in the close harmonies and stirring songcraft of progenitors like the Louvin Brothers. Now West is back with an unusual concept album, a solo debut fittingly titled The Both, featuring twelve tracks in total: six relatively obscure traditional folk songs arranged first as warm, surprisingly complex-yet-melodic lyric-and-harmony driven songs, and then again as wholly rearranged instrumentals, offering a side-by-side comparison that allows tune and tradition to step forward in turn. Featuring a veritable who’s who of modern cutting-edge neo-trad players, from ethnomusicologists Anna & Elizabeth to rising star Dori Freeman to jazzman-turned-bluegrass session player Bill Frisell, the album, which drops this week, presents Seattle-based guitarist and multi-instrumentalist West, who has also appeared with Jayme Stone’s recent folk projects and in sessions with Tony Furtado and Tim O’Brien, as a leader and collaborator atop his game.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:


mdSimilar project parameters frame Orchids and Violence, a double-album release from Michael Daves, a high tenor stalwart of the same grassy scene based out of NYC who we first discovered at The Joe Val Bluegrass Fest a few years back and have since followed closely through pairings and collaborations with Chris Thile and others. Here, two full discs offer further side-by-side comparison of a set of mostly traditional bluegrass tracks, plus a take on Mother Love Bone track Stargazer just for the hell of it: the first collection recorded live in a 19th century church with well-known session players (bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers banjo player Noam Pikelny), the second revisits those same songs with bass, drums, and electric guitar, mostly played by Daves, offering a raw, experimental rock approach to the same old-time material.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:



rustJamestown, NY singer-songwriter and sound engineer Christopher Bell has come a long, long way from the “whimsical re- and deconstruction” of cello, voice, and synthesized studio production which first brought him to our attention. Case in point: this kick-off track, a grungy take on Howlin’ Wolf classic Smokestack Lightning, which proves a harbinger of the gritty, dark sound that follows in versatile new album Rust, which was released back in September but just recently oozed its way onto our radar. Shades of blues, folk rock, and alt-country, shivers of gothic indie alternative, tar-bubbles of driving power rock, and echoes of anthemic metal balladry combine here for an unsettling ride through the psyche flavored with classical and modern instrumentation that smashes every expectation of genre adherence we might have brought to the table even as it delights at every turn. Shake, stir, and serve, hot or chilled.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:



montanadaEqually experimental cellist Ben Sollee goes spare on Montanada, a “mixtape” of carefully curated live recordings from a January tour of Big Sky Country alongside percussionist Jordan Ellis. A mixtape of songs, stories, and audience interactions as playful as its name, the collection includes a wonderfully revamped take on Paul Simon’s Obvious Child, which Sollee has covered before, and a sing-along nod to Bill Monroe which reminds us just how much the cello has transformed bluegrass music in the 21st century.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:



bfs_7752Finally, kudos to well-deserved Grammy winner Chris Stapleton, who we first featured here at Cover Lay Down way back in February of 2008 thanks to his formative work with bluegrass quintet The Steeldrivers. Stapleton has since moved on to the Country charts, but his collaborative work in the world of roots music continues with this amazingly gritty, sensual duet from Southern Family, a concept album featuring tracks by Shooter Jennings, Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert and more due to drop mid-March on Low Country Sound. The interplay here between Chris and his wife Morgane, a country singer and songwriter of no small notability in her own right – she’s written number one hits for Carrie Underwood, and her pure vocals are often touted by Nashville insiders as the modern industry ideal – makes this track a perfect dark addition to our previously-compiled Single Song Sunday on You Are My Sunshine, exposing the dark underbelly of a song too often mistaken for a bright children’s ditty.





Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round here and on Facebook thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for another installment of our New Artists, Old Songs feature and a second round of Tom Petty covers to top off our recent 40-song covers collection; give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Ben Sollee, Christopher Bell, Eli West, Michael Daves, Scott Warren

Unity House Concerts presents: The Western Den
(February 20 @ UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA)


wd


Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield, featuring well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

Our 2015-2016 series features a diverse set of artists, including past shows with The Sea The Sea, Mary Lou Lord, Matt Nakoa, Antje Duvekot, and The Mike + Ruthy Band, upcoming shows with Joe Jencks (March 19) and more…and this Saturday, an intimate session with ambient folk storytellers The Western Den.




Lush harmonies, potent storytelling, and ambient folk textures typify the collaborative work of Boston-based duo Deni Hlavinka and Chris West, who formed as The Western Den just three years ago this month. Echoes of Olivia Chaney, Saintseneca, Joni Mitchell and Sufjan Stevens – all of whom the pair cited as desert island discs in a recent interview – offer apt comparison, and they’ve shared stages with Tall Heights, Paula Cole, Mark Erelli, Meg Hutchinson, The Boston Pops, and Melissa Ferrick, who was Deni’s songwriting teacher at Berklee College.

These days, though still very much grounded in the shared passion and strong sense of music as art with a purpose which Deni and Chris forged together in their earliest days, the Western Den is a true-blue band; after several years of being presented as a close couple duo “with friends”, new promo pictures released this week show a trio, with trumpet player and vocalist Alec Alabado alongside. And sure enough, although their second EP is tender and mild, as befits a holiday release, in their pair of tiny, precious, crowdfunded releases of original work, the sound is bigger, much bigger, than even three players might suggest: their studio work is rich and complex, simultaneously epic and intimate, with each song an entire journey, offering a luxurious entry into an enveloping atmosphere, and I’m eager to hear them live as a four-piece this Saturday.

Other than their Holiday EP, The Western Den has recorded no covers officially, and concert footage is scarce – though to be fair, this is a band early in their rise to greatness; their total output at this point is a tantalizing glimpse, albeit more than enough to fall in love. A quick YouTube search reveals a few recordings from Chris and Deni’s early days at Berklee, however, including a wonderfully deep, still take on Civil Wars song Poison & Wine, and this delightful cover, with Deni and Hadley Kennary taking on a Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson winter classic with warm tones to heat the heart amidst this February thaw. Listen, and join us for more on Saturday if you can; stream 2015 release All The Birds via Bandcamp regardless, and watch for upcoming shows in your neck of the woods as The Western Den grows to become a household name.







Non-profit and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down posts regular features on artists and songwriters as part of its continuing mission to ply the experience of coverage as a comfortable space for discovery. As always, we encourage you to click through to hear more from and about the artists we feature, the better to support and sustain the arts, the artists, and the folkways.

And if you live within driving distance of Springfield, Massachusetts – just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hartford, Northampton, Worcester and the Berkshires – join us February 20 for a very special evening with The Western Den. No reservations necessary; Facebook confirmations greatly appreciated.

1 comment » | Holiday Coverfolk, House Concerts

Covered In Folk: Tom Petty
(40 transformations in tribute to a truly American songbook)





It’s only February, and it’s already been a great year for Tom Petty covers, with the newest addition – a playful take on Wildflowers from rising-star folk-circuit faves Caitlin Canty and Darlingside released just yesterday via Bandcamp – piling on alongside the wonderful American Girl cover featured last week from “acoustic steamboat soul” foursome Roosevelt Dime and Asheville-based songwriter Jane Kramer’s delightful Appalachian-influenced take on relatively obscure deep cut Down South, a trailblazer for Carnival of Hopes, a strong southern folk album due later this month, which popped up in the mailbag mid-January.

It’s no surprise to find the Tom Petty songbook riding high atop the list of common coverage sources, in the folkworld and beyond. When we first paid tribute to the native son on the last leg of a family trip to the Florida coast way back in April of 2010, we found a rich field, heavy on the singer-songwriter fare, with covers from Johnny Cash, Kasey Anderson, Kathleen Edwards, Dawn Landes, Mark Erelli with Jeffrey Foucault, and more artists whose folk comes tinged with twang and heart – overall, a set that provides ample evidence of Petty’s influence and relevance in the modern landscape. Add in a trio of upbeat covers from our Best of 2015 series – a triumphant post-cancer celebration of Learning To Fly from The Weepies and two grassy banjo-driven takes on American Girl from new discoveries Ballad Of Crows and old friends The Infamous Stringdusters – and more choice cuts collected in the last few years, and the trend becomes clear: Tom Petty’s influence is vast and varied; his songs live in the folkways, and they’re here to stay.

These warm, welcoming songs and their surprisingly tender, diverse treatment are especially apt today, in the light of this continued coverage, and on a night that promises to be one of the coldest ever recorded here in the heart of New England, leaving us dreaming of warmer climes and times. Today, then, as a kick-off to a week of school vacation leisure, we revisit and rework that earlier feature, celebrating an American icon with coverage from a set of old favorites and new discoveries that continue to forge ahead in their exploration of the American landscape.



Tom Petty is Florida’s most famous export, musically speaking. Born and raised in Gainesville – where he was inspired by a chance childhood meeting with Elvis and high school guitar lessons from Don Felder of The Eagles – the grinning, iconic frontman and singer-songwriter has sold millions of records, won three Grammys, earned a star on Hollywood Boulevard and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is often presented as the typical American Rock success story.

Though he has gone deeper and a bit more experimental in his later years, Tom Petty’s most identifiable musical alliance is with Heartland Rock – a white working-class subgenre popular in the 70s and 80s, typified by “traditional” rock-band electric guitar and drums tinged with mandolin and harmonica, and accessible blue-collar lyrics that tell of the social, physical, and economic isolation experienced by those struggling to recapture the american dream in a post-industrial decline. And sure enough, like the subgenre’s other famous practitioners – Bob Seeger, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, and John Fogerty among them – though he has enjoyed renewed popularity among the younger set in recent years, Petty’s laconic drawl can most commonly be heard on bar-room jukeboxes and classic rock radio, alongside southern and country rock artists such as the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Like anybody, I guess, I find Tom Petty’s vast catalog of hit songs familiar from the very first chord. And though my struggle to love what can only be called “distinctive” voices is well known to our regular readers, as a child of the eighties, a pop culture aficionado, and a fellow pursuant of the dream, though I don’t own a single Tom Petty album, I nonetheless find comfort in the constant presence of his direct and often softly cynical songbook.

I’m not alone in this. The blogs were awash with Tom Petty covers back in 2008, when his superbowl halftime show was the talk of the town – a sure indicator that both bloggers and modern singer-songwriters share my appreciation for Petty’s apt portrayal of both the American heartland and the American heart. Here, in celebration of the coincidence of American excess and Floridian paradise which I experienced in his home state, we gather in the best and folkiest, from the mellow to the madcap – many posted previously here and elsewhere; all well worth repeating, and easily downloadable as a single mix. Enjoy.

Covered In Folk: Tom Petty



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

2 comments » | Covered In Folk, Tom Petty

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


wbeach3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

1 comment » | Mixtapes

(Re)Covered: New Coverage from Old Friends
Roosevelt Dime, Mikaela Davis, Sierra Hull, Pesky J. Nixon and more!

Thanks to a spate of collections, singles and deep cuts from a vast variety of folkslingers and roots-diggers, 2016 is gearing up to be a great year for coverage. Today, we delve into the mailbag with news of newly released material from folks featured here before, from the loose, percussive American roots music of four-piece bands Roosevelt Dime and Pesky J. Nixon to the tight string-driven stylings of indiefolk harpist Mikaela Davis, bluegrass prodigy Sierra Hull, and more!

We’ve been touting NYC-based “acoustic steamboat soul” quartet Roosevelt Dime since their very first Radiohead cover, featuring their most recent full-length Full Head Of Steam on the cusp of the 2014 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and noting that we’ve since befriended the boys after hosting them for beer, shade, tent-space and a campsite jam under the hot sun – and we’re still excited to find them continuing to stretch and grow at the intersection of Louisiana Jazz, bluegrass, folk, and old-school rhythm and blues. The raw energy of their new single-shot cover of Tom Petty classic American Girl, which seems to have become the in thing to cover on the banjo circuit, is just lovely, with a funky groove and a wonderful vision of America as old, timeless, and new.


Falcon Ridge favorites Pesky J. Nixon have grown and stretched since we debuted their all-covers Red Ducks album back in 2012, adding Kara Kulpa on mandolin and vocals to their already well-established, infectious, heavily percussive folk rock trio sound, and letting accordion player and keyboardist Jake Bush take a turn on lead vocals here and there alongside guitarist and singer Ethan Scott Baird. The result, as we heard last year on the Falcon Ridge stage as the foursome prepared for newly released second-round covers album Red Ducks, Vol. 2, represents both a rich expansion and a maturation for the Boston-based band, with songs such as album kick-off Let Me Down Easy, a driving, high energy romp from fellow folkscene traveler Raina Rose that plays as well in the studio as it does on stage, and potent, melodic takes on Ryan Adams, Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Gabriel, The Band, and undersung contemporaries John Elliot and Peter Bradley Adams standing out as gems among gems, earning “Red Ducks redux” our highest recommendation.



weighted+mind+sierra+hullLong-time mandolin whiz Sierra Hull is reinventing herself as a singer-songwriter, and it’s a heck of a ride: new album Weighted Mind pulls out all the stops, echoing the transformation of Alison Krauss before her with banjomaster Bela Fleck on board as producer, a star-studded cast of studio greats (including Krauss, Abigail Washburn and Rhiannon Giddens on harmony), and stunning, introspective lyrics that get right to the longing heart. There’s only one cover here (Queen of Hearts, a traditional song which Hull discovered on an old Joan Baez album, which appears here coupled with an original instrumental), but it’s a perfectly representative sample: sweet, sultry, and soaring in performance; honest and harmonic, masterful and mature in arrangement. Here’s a live take of the song recorded last year on Prairie Home Companion to whet your whistle.



We discovered the first two volumes of Boston-based labor-of-love compilation project Locals Covering Locals back in January, just a bit too late to include it in our Best of 2015 features. But right out of the gate, Volume 3 of the series, which dropped just this week, is a strong contender for this year’s best, with an aching, fluid album-closer from Dietrich Strause, gentle new primitivism from local favorite Allysen Callery taking on the Marissa Nadler songbook, and a grungy folkrock take on one of Allysen’s songs by daughter Ava alongside, standing out in another well-mixed set of otherwise new-to-us songs and songwriters.



We first featured harpist Mikaela Davis via a pair of YouTube video covers in our New Artists, Old Songs series way back in our early days, when she was still a local college student. Last week’s re-release of these old favorites and a few more as a 4-song digital covers EP via Bandcamp comes as a wonderful treat for the coverhound, with delightfully precious, surprisingly robust atmospheric takes on The Kinks (David Watts), Sufjan Stevens (Casimir Pulaski Day), Elliott Smith (Twilight), and Cass McCombs (Meet Me Here At Dawn); taken together, the four tracks, originally recorded in and around 2011-2012, showcase a broad indie influence, and serve as apt harbingers of the more nuanced and layered psychedelic folk rock-meets-chamber pop sound that typifies her more recent work as a 23 year old touring pro coming soon to a city near you as she tours both East and West coasts this Spring opening for Marco Benevento.



Finally, in other rerelease news: ubiquitous American primitive revivalist Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who we last heard in January thanks to a strong pseudonymous appearance on last year’s 3-disc tribute to early American folk revivalist Shirley Collins, remains busy heading into the year, releasing a collection of songs originally recorded for John Peel’s BBC radio sessions that includes a potent 1994 cover of Prince song The Cross – a deconstruction of a soaring, spiritual original into something eerie, urgent, and broken that, despite its age, still sounds fresh as a daisy.


Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive 38-track mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk from 2014-2015.

Comment » | (Re)Covered, Mikaela Davis, Pesky J. Nixon, Roosevelt Dime, Sierra Hull

Dog Songs: A Canine Coverfolk Mix
with covers of The Stooges, Harry Nilsson, Nick Drake & more!





We didn’t have a dog in my house growing up. Allergies kept me away from other people’s dogs, too. The dogs I saw on the street were always pulling at their owners, or going for my teenage crotch. And so, by the time I hit my late teens, I had formed an impression of the entire canine kingdom as a population of barely-domesticated beasts, each pet an uncontrollable burden constantly on the verge of snarling, slobbering attack.

But Zellie, a pure-bred Jack Russell Terrier who we acquired in our first few years of marriage from a breeder who let her own pups run wild in the woods, wasn’t so much a dog as our first child: raised from a tiny pup, held close through her formative year, and ultimately the calmest, sweetest Jack, the very exception that proved the rule for the breed.

I don’t like dogs. But I loved Zellie, named for the Dutch word gezellig, a descriptive term that describes the lazy, laissez-faire attitude of waiters and shopkeepers, after my wife vetoed my first choice (drempels, which is Dutch for “speedbumps”). I loved her for 16 years, ever since the day of our first encounter, when she crawled from her litter to settle in the palm of my hand, and my heart broke open. My children loved her. And my wife, who is in many ways at her best with an infant in her hands, had a loving, grateful baby that spent her days and nights snuggled up against her.

And then, one morning in June, I let her out for her usual morning walk-about, and she didn’t come back. We looked for her for days – first her, and then her body.

And then one day, we stopped looking.

It was already the summer of fleas and flood. The famine of Crohn’s disease had been ravaging our family for two years. We were tired to begin with; tired, and sick, and struggling.

The slow, subsequent understanding that she was gone broke our already fragile hearts.

I wrote this.


Gezellig

It’s been four days since you didn’t come back.
Already I’m forgetting the sweetness
of your breath; your soft belly under
my fingertips; the present tense of you.

The girls miss you terribly. We hold them close
and lose ourselves in holding them close.
Our cars become embassies of heartbreak,
safe houses from a nation of sorrow.

Yesterday we walked for hours. The girls looked
for you everywhere. I looked for your body
small in the underbrush, white against brown leaves.
I looked for your body in my heart
where nothing is ever finished or resolved:
the chaos that builds inside our bedroom;
the children’s illnesses that do not fade;
the broken things we patch or work around
because we cannot afford to fix them.

I still look for your body, driving slow
each time I come back to the street where we live:
the street that swallows us, and you, and my heart.



It takes time to move on past the greatest loves of our lives. I still look into the underbrush as I turn onto our street, on warm days when the snow has melted.

But last weekend, after a couple of false starts, with beating hearts and nervous cheer we drove up to the shelter and let a dog pick us out. We named him Chick, because he looks like a miniature version of my in-law’s lab-mix Rooster, all the way down to the frosted paws and white chest blaze, and because when we pick him up, he settles into our body heat like a freshly laid hatchling.

I wasn’t sure I was ready. It turns out I was overdue.

Losing a first pet is a terrible, necessary teachable moment, one all of us need as we move towards maturity. But if I’ve learned anything from our adventures with dogs over the last seven months, it’s that as much as it is a new beginning, finding the second pet is the second movement of loss: its capstone, and its transformation.

It was time, long past time, to move on to acceptance. And so the wee one, still an empath at ten years old, was a bit teary-eyed that first night with Chick, her growing love for our tiny black beast distracted by the thought of she-who-came-before, confronted newly with the raw truth that moving on can feel like disgracing a memory. And so all of us cried a bit, that first week, as we came to terms with the knowledge that one day, this dog, too, will move on without us.

And so we made the choice to love him more fiercely for it, instead of holding back, the better to make the most of the time we have.

As I remind my children in these past weeks, we will always love the parts of us that our own loves bring to us, and be grateful for their acceptance, care, love and grace. And we are better, much better, for the experience. For no longer will we take love for granted; no longer will we forget that every moment shared is precious, even as we learn to accept the shortness of time itself.

Thank you, Chick and Zellie, for teaching us that who we are is always greater when we share our hearts and homes. May you both find rest and love, eternal and amen.




Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive 38-track mix of otherwise-unblogged folk covers from 2014-2015.

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The Folkier Side of Ed Sheeran
(covers of tradfolk, Dylan, Nina Simone, Elton John, Jay Z and more!)





If you’ve heard pop radio in the last few years, you’ve certainly heard Ed Sheeran. At just 24, the boyish songwriter who learned to love Dylan, Clapton, and Van Morrison as he traveled into London in the family van on weekends is already a multi-platinum-seller, nominated for Best New Song and Best New Album Grammys in subsequent years; he’s sold out Madison Square Garden, and performed at the closing ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics.

Sure, he’s written for One Direction and Taylor Swift, and performed with Elton John. He cites Eminem and British folk/hip-hop duo Nizlopi as influences alongside The Beatles and Damien Rice. His second EP featured a set of pairings with artists from the grime genre, showing an early penchant for exploration and collaboration.

But listened to with the folk ear, especially in his frequent live in-studio performances on the BBC and elsewhere, Sheeran comes off as a modern-day Tracy Chapman, slippery and soulful, albeit with a hint of youthful exuberance and bounce. Fluid strum and pick patterns typify his solo work, with lusty yet tender vocals that fade in and out of song. The boy simply exudes authenticity, humility, and generosity, in persona and in song, as he works to tap into the universal sentiments of his world.

Whether he’s taking on the traditional folk canon, fellow folk artists from Dylan to Bon Iver, or just stripping down popular songs such as Hit Me Baby One More Time or We Found Love, both of which we’ve heard covered in folk here before, Sheeran brings boyish charm and a playful reverence to the lyrics and songs of others, exposing a mature sense of his own influence, and of the culture of music that surrounds him. And his talent for interpretation is facile and quick: his creative transformation of Lorde’s Royals, for example, was learned in 2 and a half minutes while the original played in the studio, and recorded immediately afterwards, live and on-air; the layered, looped beatbox takes on Wayfaring Stranger and Nina Simone’s Be My Husband in today’s set were captured live, in one take.

Sheeran’s rich, gentle take on Elton John’s Candle In The Wind, released in 2013 as part of an album of covers honoring the 40th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, echoes the best of the California folk rock movement of the seventies. And although only two cover songs appear on his own records – the a capella version of traditional Irish folksong The Parting Glass which appears as a hidden track on his debut full-length, and the gentle solo piano-driven version of Planxty’s The West Coast Of Clare that caps off 2007 self-released EP Want Some – there’s literally dozens of intimate, eminently listenable covers out there. Here’s our favorites, from traditional to modern; download them all in one set, or listen independently below.



Ad-free and artist-friendly since 2007, Cover Lay Down features musings on the modern folkways through the performance of popular song year-round thanks to the kindness of patrons like you. Give now to support our continuing mission, and receive an exclusive 38-track mix of otherwise-unblogged folk covers from 2014-2015!

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Unity House Concerts presents: Antje Duvekot
(January 16 @ UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA)





Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield, featuring well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.

Our 2015-2016 series features a diverse set of artists, including past shows with The Sea The Sea, Mary Lou Lord, Matt Nakoa and The Mike + Ruthy Band, upcoming shows with The Western Den (February 13) and Joe Jencks (March 19)…and our very first show of the year, on January 16, with introspective singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot.




If you want to truly appreciate Antje Duvekot, then be prepared to put aside everything to listen. Her songcraft is searing, her performance honest, graceful, and divine. And although her recorded output is relatively slight, with just three studio albums to her name, it is pitch-perfect and precise: every song matters, and each is a gem.

If her songs sound therapeutic, that’s because they are. Duvekot comes by her sorrow honestly, having been kicked out of her family at 19 for recording her own folk songs against their wishes. But where others might have given up, the German-born, Boston-resident artist only dug deeper, channeling pain into the music. Today, at 40, she is a master craftsperson of fearless, primarily first-person narratives, simultaneously intimate and existential, that speak of deeply personal journeys through growth, risk and courage. And she plays them perfectly, in subtle settings that shape every moment effortlessly towards the heart, with a whispery, sensual voice and graceful fingers on piano and guitar.

For all this and more, Duvekot is well respected by her peers and fans, both in and beyond the boundaries of folk. She took the grand prize in the rock category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2000, six long years before her debut studio album Big Dream Boulevard won her both #1 on the folk charts and Kerrville’s coveted New Folk competition. She’s played across the US and Europe, headlining at Mountain Stage, Kerrville, and the Newport Folk Fest, The Celtic Connections Festival in Scotland and the Tonder Festival in Denmark. Five of her songs have been recorded by the Irish-American band Solas, with whom she has also toured and performed; her two more recent studio albums were produced by Richard Shindell, lion of the Fast Folk singer-songwriter movement, and feature performances from Shindell, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and Mark Erelli.

Which is to say: Antje Duvekot is a stunning songwriter and a potent performer, and people know it; you should, too. And happily for us, although none of it is studio-born, there’s plenty of coverage to love in her canon, too – including a solo all-covers YouTube sequence from 2012 featuring stunningly sweet takes on Paul Simon, Jason Mraz, Hank Williams, and more, and Undercover with Antje, a YouTube series featuring collaborations with a strong set of fellow coffeehouse travelers, including Red Molly siren Molly Ventner, fellow Winterbloom seasonal collaborative member Meg Hutchinson, young pianofolk singer-songwriter sensation Seth Glier, and more luminaries from the Boston scene and beyond.

Add in Esther Golton’s dulcimer-driven version of of Antje’s tune Reasonland, and a handful more from our featured artist – most notably a take on Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ that singlehandedly reminds us just why we celebrate her performance – and you’ve got a set that’s got us aching for Saturday. Check out the videos and songs below, dig deep into her albums at her website or skim the surface with her Noisetrade sampler The Best Of…So Far, then catch Antje Duvekot at a venue near you.




    Antje Duvekot: Famous Blue Raincoat (orig. Leonard Cohen)


    Antje Duvekot: Kathy’s Song (orig. Paul Simon)


    Antje Duvekot: Deportee (orig. Woody Guthrie)


    Antje Duvekot w/ Sara Milonovich: Sounds Of Silence (orig. Simon & Garfunkel)


    Antje Duvekot and Meg Hutchinson: The Gypsy Life (orig. John Gorka)


Non-profit and ad-free since 2007, Cover Lay Down posts regular features on artists and songwriters as part of its continuing mission to ply the experience of coverage as a comfortable space for discovery. As always, we encourage you to click through to hear more from and about the artists we feature, the better to support and sustain the arts, the artists, and the folkways.

And if you live within driving distance of Springfield, Massachusetts – just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hartford, Northampton, Worcester and the Berkshires – join us January 16 for a very special evening with Antje Duvekot. No reservations necessary; Facebook confirmations greatly appreciated.

1 comment » | Antje Duvekot, House Concerts

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