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!

Comment » | Mixtapes

(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.

3 comments » | Covered In Folk, RIP

Covered In Folk: Justin Bieber
(13 takes on a pop icon’s cowritten canon)


bieber


To be fair, the only thing I really knew about Justin Bieber until yesterday was that he was famous, and mostly still a kid. I could probably pick him out of a lineup, but I wasn’t really keyed in to the music. To be perfectly honest, I had to ask my students which songs of his were famous in order to complete today’s cover mix.

And yet. There’s a simple joy in the well crafted pop song, and a guilty pleasure in the adolescent bubblegum lens of confusion and longing hopped up on hormones that typifies the boy band and pop princess subgenre. And so we turn to the tabloids, and find, if not greatness, then certainly good.

Beiber’s work is carefully constructed, as befits a songbook written by committee and aimed carefully at the top of the preteen charts; sunny and light, it doesn’t go deep. But every genre has its high notes. Pulled from the popshelf, and translated into softer acoustic tones, the Canadian star’s songbook has an honesty of its own, grounded in zen metaphysics and a sensitivity to the concrete image as metaphor, that comes forward in coverage. And those hooks…well, it’s no wonder so many YouTube stars have taken on the north-of-the-border heartthrob with just a handful of albums under his belt.

Today’s selections are almost all amateur sourced. But their range is startling. Three takes on Love Yourself alone run the gamut, from Nataly Dawn‘s hollow, gritty bluesfolk to Dodie and Andie’s tender acoustic bedroom swing to rising star Jamie Oshima‘s newly-released mando-and-guitar cover, which switches in The Wedding Reel as a perfect instrumental break.

Peter Katz gives us a gentle electronica-tinged dreamfolk take on Sorry, while twee Parisian indiefolk foursome OAK offer sly harmonies over guitar, banjolin and bass; Amanda Law‘s What Do You Mean and Kina GrannisBaby are joyful, sweet, and pure; for a bonus treat, head over to the latter’s own percussive pop take on the former, and her collaborative version of Where Are U Now. Add in ringing acoustic dreampop from Fort Wayne artist Jonah Baker and SoCal native Rachael Cantu, soft, slippery smokehouse jazz on a dance track originally by Bieber, Skrillex, and Diplo, a punk folk seasonal, and two very different approaches to Boyfriend – acoustic alterna-pop from YouTube standby Madilyn Bailey; driving pop rock from Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds – and you’ll believe even pop can be redeemed.


Covered In Folk: Justin Bieber



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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Back To The Garden:
On The Healing Power Of Green Places


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The hospital where my daughter spends her days is one of the best in the country; a place of comfort and cheer, where cutting-edge medicine is served side by side with gentleness and joy, and mental wellness is considered a vital partner to physical health. Evidence of this is everywhere: The rooms we live in in shifts these days are bright and big, friendly and comforting, with equal access and support for patients and their families; child life specialists and kind social workers are core members of the medical teams that visit throughout the day; clowns, therapy dogs, craft-makers and musicians visit the wards regularly, and those who can move more freely throughout the hospital find a seemingly endless unfolding of spaces both large and small, staffed with volunteers and paid professionals eager to offer play, shared solace, and performance on a busy schedule aimed at filling the empty hours of those who need it most.

In the middle of this labyrinth of hallways lined with cheerful art and playful design lies Prouty Garden, a green, welcoming space that serves as the perfect symbol for the creative balance of soul and body we have experienced in the last few years as we come to frequent this sacred place. Designed by the same architects that built Boston’s Fresh Pond and New Orleans’ Audubon Park, the half-acre is subdivided into smaller shady spaces and open lawn, broken up by benches and fountains, rich with hidden statuary and small niches that offer privacy to those still struggling to accept the changes wrought by medicine, disease, and injury upon their fragile bones and flesh.

For kids whose only other access to the outside world is far too often nothing more than a half-glimpsed skyline through an upper story window, Prouty Garden is a haven in the midst of hell – the only space large enough to guarantee sunlight throughout the day to kids whose skin has grown pale from lack of exposure, and the only way to truly let them feel like they are outside, in a fully open space, surrounded by nature, with sky above and grass below.

We’ve chased squirrels and rabbits there, and hunted for eggs on two successive Easters. We’ve walked there with grandparents and friends who seem too sad to truly be themselves in hospital rooms full of medical devices and the other trappings of illness. In many ways, the garden is ours; in many ways, it is needful, as much a part of the lives of my children as the doctors and nurses that populate their days.

But this, too, must pass. As of this year, Prouty Garden is slated to be torn down, to make room for a new building that would alleviate current strain on space in the hospital – a strain we know well, having stayed overnight in the ER at least once while we wait for a bed to open up upstairs. And although public outcry, especially from those children and families who have been served directly by the garden, is loud and clear, ultimately, the hospital trustees continue to maintain that the destruction of our beloved garden is the best path forward for all of us.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the controversy over the loss of the garden is already affecting its ability to serve children and their families. This morning I spoke with a father whose kid is here for the long haul, midway through a four-month treatment for cancer; last night when they went down after dark, he said, the security guard treated them with suspicion, and insisted on taking down their badge numbers before letting them in.

And so we went down to the garden ourselves, once the elderchild had woken up, and her nightly fever had gone down enough to travel. And found it blocked off, and swarming with security guards, who kindly informed us that until the kind and well-intentioned protesters had left their post at the front of the hospital, the garden would remain closed, just in case.

It’s true that Boston Children’s Hospital is in desperate need of more beds. It’s also true that space is dear here on the edge of downtown Boston. But how ironic, how bittersweet, that a garden designed to be a core component of the healing practice of one of the best hospitals in the country has become, like any other medicine, so carefully meted out, and so cautiously watched.

My daughter took being turned away from the garden in stride, as she does so much these days. She knows, like her father, that the time and place for protest of our own must be carefully guarded, and cautiously selected, lest we learn to live in anger at the world.

But after the protesters left, we returned and found the garden open again. We sat on a stone bench near the entrance, alongside a statue of a nurse and child dedicated the poet whose bequest still sustains it 60 years after its founding, and ate a late breakfast, throwing our crumbs to the sparrows, which clustered at our feet. The sun was bright, and the daffodils big in bloom. The long lawn was green and full of life, and all around it, small copper and marble statues of foxes and egrets, squirrels and beavers nestled in the flowerbeds and fountains, their noses red and round with evidence that the clowns had been there before us.

It was hard to miss the two security guards watching us carefully from the other end of the garden. It was hard not to look at the big Dawn Redwood that loomed above them, and over everything, and think of how much, how very much, we have lost, and will continue to lose to love in this world.

But for a moment, there in the sun and dirt, my daughter smiled, and laughed, and felt free again.

And after we returned to her room, and the couch in the corner where I will stay the weekend, and leave again on Sunday, I thought of all the garden songs I know, in which the idea of the garden, as metaphor and locus, features predominantly as a place of love, solace, growth, and reconnection to nature.

May the wild and cultivated places of our world live in our hearts and minds in our times of trial, that they may serve us in our pain and sorrow. May we too, find them in our world, and wander through them, and be free.



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.

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Songs of Solace, Songs Of Pain:
On becoming familiar with disease and distance


distance


There’s so much to write: musings stuck deep in the recesses of my mind, dams thick with foam and finesse to study whorl by whorl. And there’s so much to write about, too, as 2016 pours forth a plethora of coverfolk delights, backlogged and still disorganized in the inbox and an ever-growing infinity of open tabs.

I’ve tried, halfheartedly, to pick up the threads, and weave them into the words we’ve come to expect here. But for a month, nothing’s been coming out coherent.

And it was killing me. Until I put down the words, and rediscovered music.

I’ve written about my girls here – about their struggles, and ours – several times in the last couple of years, since the elderchild was diagnosed three years ago (Everybody Hurts: On Discovering A Child’s Illness) and then again, when the wee one took her turn (Lord Protect My Child: Songs for Our Children). I’m tired of writing about it, honestly.

But behind the blog, and the public face, their disease eats away at them, and us. Being separated across the state drains us; nothing is settled, and in some ways, even as we come to find familiarity in the routine, things are still getting worse. I go to work with my heart still at home, or worse, on the road, as my wife bounces them from appointment to appointment, together and alone, and my mind is ever on them: distracted, and dense with thoughts of what might happen next. I ache for the way things were, once, when the hardest things about life were the natural growing pains that anyone could recognize.

Today, with the wee one still sleeping through her pain upstairs, and the elderchild and her mother camped out in the hospital ward, back for drains and rest just weeks after her first emergency surgery, I find my very first chance in four full weeks to clear the brain, and begin again.

But it’s a rainy day outside: grey, and quiet. I’ve lit the fire; the dog sleeps on the couch beside me. And although I tried today to revel in the joys of the delicate and the hearty that have begun to fill my personal playlist, what I’ve really been listening to is the songs I go to when I need solace.

Other than to note that my personal collection of bittersweet music to steep in has grown a bit since 2013, there’s little to say about today’s second-round sorrowsongs. When Elvis Costello says that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, he means that criticism and analysis are removed, abstract, although sometimes illuminating, in a purely emotive way.

Ultimately, anything I could say about yet another playlist of loneliness and grief is only a shadow puppet representation of the real emotional impact of the art form done well and deep.

Sometimes you just need to feel.

May we all find solace in music, and in the world.



Everybody Hurts, Volume 2: A Cover Lay Down Mix [zip!]



Previously on Cover Lay Down:


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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.

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