Archive for January 2016

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

January 28th, 2016 — 3:30pm

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.


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.

5 comments » | Mixtapes

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

January 18th, 2016 — 1:28pm

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!

Comment » | Ed Sheeran, The Folkier Side Of...

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

January 13th, 2016 — 8:37pm

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

RIP: David Bowie, 1947-2016

January 11th, 2016 — 5:22pm


I was never really a huge David Bowie fan. But as a child of the first MTV generation, it’s hard not to recognize and respect both man and myth.

Bowie’s songbook was potent, his influence as immense as his chameleon-like persona. A deliberately unreliable narrator who found universal truths in imagined worlds, he mastered the video form early, the better to spread the music, paving the way for today’s YouTube world. He spent a lifetime recording and touring on the strength of over a hundred charting singles in a career that spanned five decades.

And fittingly, two years ago, his song Space Oddity served as soundtrack for the first music video created in outer space.

So when David Bowie passed on this morning after an long struggle with cancer, just days after the release of Blackstar – his thirtieth studio album, counting soundtracks – we took a quick dip into the archives. And sure enough, there it was: our very first Covered In Folk feature, from way back in December of 2007, covering the songbook of Ziggy Stardust himself.

In memory of Bowie, then, whose songs populate our weirdest dreams, today we resurrect and rebuild that feature, adding several new and newfound recordings to the list of covers that follows. May the man himself live on through the music, as all great men.

The recent penchant towards folk interpretations of songs from the popworld is really nothing new. After all, though modern folk music has turned its eye towards confessional songwriting and urban poetry, and quite often away from its agrarian roots, traditionally, folk music is not so much about the rural as it is populated by the music of the folk, which quite literally means whatever is popular in the eyes and ears of the people.

Instead, we might suggest that it was inevitable that folk music change its tone once radio and the recording studio changed forever the hum lingering in the ears of the populace. As a result, we have urban and anti-folk, folk rock and folkpop, subgenres of folk music which often share the same production values as pop music of today. And we also get a heck of a lot of songs from the radio entering the cover repertoires of folk musicians themselves.

How else can we explain the prevalence of David Bowie covers “out there”? Certainly Bowie is nothing like folk — his stylistic pose and chameleon-like personality are antithetical to the authentic and direct relationship between artist and audience that characterizes folk music. Neither is his broken-glass poetic imagery and trope terribly folk, though I suppose one could make a case for the odd science-fiction motif as resonant with the same audience as modern folk music, and surely some of today’s choice cuts reveal some storysong structures and cultural journey motifs common to much folk music.

A few years ago, when Dar Williams asked her fan base to vote on which song she should record, Bowie’s Starman won by a landslide. I suppose it goes to show us: part of what has always made folk music folk music is the way it tries to connect with the audience. And if this means a reflection of the classic rock radio that permeates our culture, or a shared recall of that late-seventies or mid-eighties childhood, ears glued to the shimmery radio glamstars of those last pre-MTV days, then who are we to question the origin of the ultimately authentic, earnest songs and reinterpretations that result?

Today, a few choice covers from the surprisingly vast spectrum of David Bowie songs performed by folk musicians, available track by track or as a one-shot download. Play ‘em in public to watch two generation of cool kids smile as the songs in their heads come back to life, stripped down and stretched out, in spades, in style, and in beauty.

  • Dar Williams: Starman
    This Bowie-esque popfolk cover from urban folk goddess Dar Williams was produced and distributed solely via Dar Williams’ fanbase; they own her albums, and so should you.
  • The Gourds: Ziggy Stardust
    Alt-country bluegrass boys The Gourds bring their signature hoot and holler, swagger and twang to this cover, originally recorded for a March 2003 CD insert in Uncut magazine and now available on french-produced Bowie coveralbum Bowiemania.
  • M. Ward: Let’s Dance
    Though I usually prefer the stripped down nature of in-studio covers, the slow atmospheric layers of this produced version, off Transfiguration of Vincent, really set off M. Ward‘s rough-hewn vocal style.
  • Leaf Rapids: The Man Who Sold The World
    Grungy, gothic dreampop cover of a song made famous by Nirvana, and then transformed again by Leaf Rapids, the Manitoba-based husband and wife duo whose Handsome Family cover we celebrated in our 2015 lost coverage roundup just last week.
  • Seu Jorge: Rebel, Rebel
    No modern exploration of Bowie’s influence on folk would be complete without at least one selection from Seu Jorge‘s wonderful, delicate Portuguese translations of the canon, produced as part and parcel of the narrative arc for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou under the inspired direction of Wes Anderson.
  • Hezekiah Jones: Ashes To Ashes
    Hezekiah Jones, “a collection of Philadelphia-area artists orbiting around the songwriting talents of one Raphael Cutrufello”, originally recorded their sweet, creaky waltz-time banjo-and-harmony cover of Ashes To Ashes for a compilation that never came to be.
  • Keller Williams: Under Pressure (orig. David Bowie/Queen)
    Keller Williams is typically playful in this live take on Bowie/Queen collaboration Under Pressure, but listen carefully – under the surface, the song takes itself seriously, and ultimately, so does Williams.
  • Solotundra: Sound And Vision
    Lo-fi alt-country from Italian minimalists Solotundra, who use doubled voices and a guitar drone to replicate this mostly instrumental piece from Bowie’s equally minimalist, equally lo-fi 1977 album Low.
  • Dan Hardin: Heroes
    It’s hard to find folky covers of Heroes, though the song seems to have become a staple of the hard rock cover circuit, but YouTuber Dan Hardin reins in the angst, dampening the fire without losing the tension.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell: Kooks
    Fave kindie-folker Elizabeth Mitchell put this delightfully cheery cover on her 2012 album Blue Clouds, where it soars alongside a full complement of other gentle lullaby transformations.
  • Danny Michel: Young Americans
    A slowbuild backporch slackstring folk-blues; the storysong of an American awakening. My absolute favorite Bowie cover. Ladies and Gentlemen, Danny Michel, from beautiful tribute Loving The Alien: Danny Michel Sings the Songs of David Bowie.

Comment » | David Bowie, RIP

New Artists, Old Songs: 2016 Rising Stars
(with The Oh Hellos, Elle King, Elouise and more!)

January 10th, 2016 — 3:00pm

We’re finally ready to look ahead to 2016, with backburner entries bubbling in the works featuring single-artist songbooks through acoustic and folk coverage and a resurrection of some wonderful songs to celebrate next Saturday’s Unity House Concert with intimate, graceful singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot.

Today, then, let’s begin our forward-looking exploration by ringing in the new with news of the now – a broad celebration of folk and roots artists with careers on the rise, from the dark and gothic to the delicate and sweet. Read on to learn more about Elouise, The Oshima Brothers, Mia Rose Lynne, The Oh Hellos, The Orphan Brigade, The Button Collective, Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, the folkier side of Elle King, and more!

Formed complete with a soundtrack-composers-turned-album-makers mythos, new “blackgrass” collective Elouise plays a primitive, angsty, menacing form of folk that uses vintage Appalachian string instruments and gear to squeeze the raw pain out of the psyche through song.

And yes, it’s as good as that makes it sound.

Tipped off by a tense, scratchy Christmas cover of Silent Night that was anything but calm and bright, we had to go looking for more. Their forthcoming debut, the aptly-named Deep Water, drops early in 2016, and we’re eager for it: check out this beautiful whole-cloth deconstruction of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, and a pair of traditionals reborn as stunning gothic hymns, to hear why, and then click through for originals of equal delight on their website.

Speaking of taking on the tradition, here’s two vastly different versions of Paddy’s Lamentation, a Canadian tune from the 1870s that made its way to Ireland and has since been recorded by Mary Black and Sinead O’Connor, that together provide a study in range and reach in the world of up-and-comers.

The first, released in November on debut full-length Soundtrack To A Ghost Story, comes from indie folk band The Orphan Brigade, who bring us exactly the simple tour de force of haunting melody and atmosphere that history buffs could have anticipated: the band, named after a group of Confederates from Kentucky who suffered heavy losses during the war, recorded the album in an infamous house deep in Kentucky well-stocked with the ghosts of the Civil War, and it sounds like it.

Meanwhile, Australian folksters The Button Collective, who together live their sound by helping crew a 107 foot, two-mast schooner every few months, and whose new four-song EP The Lonesome Sea shows a same smashing, rollicking, heavy-on-the-downbeat sea-folk influence, take a substantively different turn on the same tune, with fiddle and flute and squeezebox and drum and a tip of the hat to the same side of the tradition that drove the sea shanty into the world of punk rock. Thanks to Timber and Steel, as always, for helping us stay on top of the Aussie folkworld, this time with a track-by-track read on the EP from frontman Brodie Buttons.

There’s only one cover on Dear Wormwood, the October release from Texas-based brother-and-sister duo The Oh Hellos, and it’s a bit of an anomaly, a classical instrumental piece from the public domain turned into a gypsy barnraiser on the lathe of modern folk rock. But the album it contains is delightful: a catchy, sweet-to-resolute journey through a psyche tracing the dissolution of a relationship, framed as a series of letters and couched in a comprehensive soundscape that will linger in your ears for days. Regular readers may recognize the band from a few Christmases ago, when we featured their wonderful holiday EP; their debut dates back to 2012, and just over 50 thousand likes on their Facebook page make “new artist” labels a stretch, but we’re still watching the meteor rise, and so should you.

Bonus points for Johnnycake Street, a fledgling all-female four-piece string band, who covers The Oh Hellos like a shy southern cul-de-sac on this brand new video-sourced take on Hello My Old Heart, just the first of several covers on a YouTube page that is still just starting out. Discovered via the team at Billsville House Concerts, who feature amazing national touring acts in their Manchester, VT living room; even if you don’t live near enough to make it to a show, their schedule alone provides a potent who’s who of other voices to watch carefully.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 2.31.49 PMJamie Oshima‘s roughcut cover of Ed Sheeran’s Tenerife Sea came to our attention – and ultimately found its way onto our Best Singles of 2015 mixtape – thanks to a mention from fiddle player Lissa Schneckenburger, whose year-end emails are always chock full of wonderful things. But where Tenerife Sea suffered from amateur recording quality, and this gleefully looped slowpop take on Happy from Jamie and his brother Sean leaned more on youthful, amateur exuberance, this new Passenger cover represents a huge jump forward for the sibling pair: pure as silk, and just as dear, with gentle harmonies and guitars and a perfect tonality for a song which celebrates the mystery of youthful encounters with the heart.

MWMB-BWWe started feeling the buzz for Missouri-based mother-son duo Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear midway through last year, thanks to a wonderful mid-summer debut that led to prime coverage on both local and international public radio – and rightfully so: though sibling harmonies are common enough in the folk marketplace, parent-child harmonies are much less so; even then, they typically form as one-shot or occasional matches featuring second-gen artists from Sam Grisman to Lucy Wainwright Roche backing up more famous parentage, not emerging artist pairings in which the son is the songwriter, though he learned his stagecraft from watching mom perform covers in local coffeehouses.

But the joy here is in the song, not the situation. Once the novelty of the generational pairing wears off, we’re left with a strong impression of tenderness and talent, with warm, soulful vocals and skillful hands on the guitar from Madisen and Mama Ruth, whose closeness shines through the music and its intimate one-take production. Even if all we could find by way of recorded coverage from the soul-folk duo was a February 2015 take on Fleetwood Mac from a SiriusXM session, this is their year, I think.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 2.27.06 PMElle King is on the rise, for sure, with two Grammy Nominations for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song after last year’s excellent (and platinum-selling) Ex’s and Oh’s. But those familiar with her produced alternative sound, as in her rockin’ take on Tom Petty’s American Girl, may not have realized that she is at heart a student of the folkways, using banjo as a compositional tool, and producing bluesy stripped down covers like this one, from SiriusXM’s Alt Nation.

Finally, simple, sincere California-grown and Nashville-based singer-songwriter Mia Rose Lynne hasn’t done much in the way of coverage in the studio, but a holy host of sweet, ringing, hopeful bedroom covers on her YouTube page make for a depth of canon and influence sure to delight and lead us to sophomore album Follow Me Moon, which drops this Friday and is already being touted as a tour de force by UK Folk Radio. The singer-songwriter is often compared to Allison Krauss and Joni Mitchell, but the nuances here are lustier, and more her own, as heard and seen in last year’s cover of I Will – which Krauss has covered with much more fanfare and much less delicacy – and further takes on Fionn Regan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, and other bittersweet balladeers of modernity.

  • Mia Rose Lynne: Be Good Or Be Gone (orig. Fionn Regan) [2015]

  • Mia Rose Lynne: I Will (orig. The Beatles) [2015]

Cover Lay Down shares ethnographic musings and coverfolk throughout the year thanks to the kindness and support of patrons like you. Give now, and receive an exclusive 38-track mix of unblogged folk covers from 2014-2015!

Comment » | New Artists Old Songs

Missed in 2015: Lost Songs and Late Arrivals
featuring Jackie Oates, Meg Baird, Willie Watson, Hattie Webb & more!

January 2nd, 2016 — 12:39pm

One of the biggest challenges of late year recovery is that it inevitably fails the test of comprehensiveness. Albums released in January get short shrift in end of year lists; at the year’s other end, there’s always that late December release that doesn’t make it onto the radar screen.

And so, in a year when Cover Lay Down went on hiatus from May to November, it’s unsurprising that a few albums, sessions and songs fell through the cracks in the mad scramble to tackle the twelvemonth.

Today, as the new year embraces us, we look back one last time for a few 2015 songs and albums which slipped by us in the hustle of the season. Shelved and temporarily forgotten, or simply unearthed after our four-part Best Of The Year series hit the proverbial streets, their very existence serves as a promise of more to come from a thriving musical community.

2013 Best Kidfolk Album winner Jackie Oates returns to the older folk canon on her newest release The Spyglass & The Herringbone: the album is almost entirely comprised of “lesser known but life-affirming songs from the English tradition”, save for a couple of peer-penned originals and a single cover of 1989 The Sundays hit Can’t Be Sure that nestle in among the simple, ringing tradfolk perfectly smooth and etherial, as if they were always a part of the old ways. Spyglass was released in April, on the cusp of the difficulties which brought us to hiatus in the first place, but the record is a forgiving mistress, alive with enveloping sound from harps and droning fiddles, vibrant with a sweet layered tonality that evokes the best of Kate Rusby and The Unthanks (and no surprise; Oates was a founding member), well worth resurrection.

siPulling at the threads from Jackie Oates reveals another missed collection that should by all rights have topped our list for Best Tribute Album Of The Year: Shirley Inspired, a 3 LP collection that serves as a veritable who’s who of performers who owe their style and substance, at least in part, to the revivalist work of Shirley Collins, who turned 80 in 2015. An artifact of the kickstarter appeal for ‘The Ballad of Shirley Collins’ – a film that is currently being made about the life of the “First Lady of Folk Music” – Inspired serves as both a survey of the mostly traditional songs which Collins lovingly preserved and presented, and as a record of just how broadly both the tunes and the tradition have integrated themselves into the modern spectrum; the performers here spread across both the British and Appalachian traditions, with newly recorded versions of old songs alongside a strong mix of new folk traditionalists from both sides of the pond, including Oates, Meg Baird, Olivia Chaney, Sally Timms, Josephine Foster, Graham Coxon, Sam Gleaves and Bonnie Prince Billy (performing Pretty Saro as a mournful dirge under the name Bitchin’ Bonnie Billy Bajas).

adatLive 2014 double-disc concert recording Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis slipped by us twice over – first in January, when it was released, and again at the end of the year. That’s okay: the album was easy to miss, having already served as an artifact of its own, from a 2013 concert featured in a 2014 Showtime documentary which in turn was designed to promote a mass market movie which garnered little traction; unsurprisingly, although the concert and subsequent documentary were designed to renew interest in the original film, most of us had already moved way past its buzz long before 2015 began.

Too bad. Though records comprised from live tribute concerts by various artists have a tendency to go awry, with muddy board mixing and ragged house bands too often contributing to sameness and a lack of fidelity, that’s not at all the case here. Instead, Another Day, Another Time, lovingly produced by T-Bone Burnett, features strong performances from a generous and multi-generational roster of well-known names of the modern folkways, including Gillian Welch, Punch Brothers, Marcus Mumford, The Avett Brothers, Colin Meloy, Lake Street Dive, and many more, each of whom was asked to perform an original and a cover in salute to the songs of the sixties folk revival. In the end, the whole thing is surprisingly smooth from start to finish, demands reconsideration, and comes up roses.

lclLocals Covering Locals, a labor-of-love compilation project now in its second year and iteration, is right up our alley, conceptually-speaking: Boston-based singer-songwriters select songs that they feel “need to be heard”, and cover them, thereby facilitating the spread of the best of their own sonic environment. The songs are a well-mixed bag, with rough roots, folk, and blues music from still-struggling artists normative in the mix, but there’s plenty of rough gems for those willing to sift through it, too; paired appearances of artists covering each other are especially dear, Hayley Sabella sounds like a young Deb Talan, and it’s wonderful to hear The Lemonheads done so well. Bonus points: the album was funded by an Iguana Grant from Club Passim, making it a true community effort in every sense of the word; the grant was renewed this year for a third volume, so stay tuned.

Finally: many of the singles we left out of our Best Of series this year – some too bold or raw for folk, some just a hair on the ragged side, others that offer a second look at some favorite sessions and artists – show up on our 2015 Bonus Coverfolk Singles mix, a 38-track mix of alternate delights available only to those who donate to Cover Lay Down. But a small handful of late discoveries and remembrances shine bright enough to deserve placement here. Our favorite of the lost set comes from harpist Hattie Webb of the Webb Sisters, whose stark reinvention of James Taylor lullaby Close Your Eyes, recorded to promote a Pledgemusic campaign for her upcoming debut solo outing, was released way too late to include in our regular end of year feature. For good measure, throw in grassy goodtime music-with-an-edge from Colorado-based Telluride Band Competition winners Trout Steak Revival, gentle country dreampop from Manitoba husband-and-wife duo Leaf Rapids, another nod to Aquarium Drunkard’s Lagniappe Sessions via Jim White vs. The Packway Handle Band, and another mention of teenage trio The Onlies, whose Jubilee, like the lightly upbeat indie-slash-tradfolk album it appears on, bears repeating after oblique mention in a February mixtape feature.

As always, if you like what you hear here, click through to lend your support to the artists we celebrate, the better to ensure the continued production of new music in 2016 and beyond.

And if you, too, have a little of the giving spirit left in you after the holidays, perhaps it’s time to consider a gift in support of our mission at Cover Lay Down. All donors receive our undying thanks, that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from patronizing the arts, and an exclusive 38-track mix of otherwise-unblogged coverfolk released in 2014 and 2015. Click here to give, and thanks.

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