Sunday, September 30, 2007

All Folked Up, Part 1:
Richard Shindell's South of Delia

Welcome to Cover Lay Down, folks! Hope you found us okay. For a short letter of introduction/explanation covering why the world needs another cover blog, and why this just might be it, click here.

Our inaugural cover set below trumpets Richard Shindell's recent South of Delia, a full album of covers released earlier this year. In presenting it, I'm trying to establish a posting template of sorts, wherein posts will include (wherever possible) both a featured cover and one or more bonus covers which are related to the feature in some way. Enjoy the music!

Richard Shindell is no stranger to cover songs. Many of the new generation discovered him through Cry Cry Cry, a one-shot folk supergroup which brought Richard, Dar Williams, and Lucy Kaplansky together for an covers album and a short tour a few years back before tension between the two women in the group brought the collaboration to an end. And his cover of Dar's Calling the Moon gives me shivers.

But it says what it needs to, I think, that though Dar was surely the most widely known of the three, Cry Cry Cry only included one song by one of their own members on that single, seminal album -- Shindell's Ballad of Mary Magdalen.

Shindell is a singer-songwriter's singer-songwriter, a member of the same second-gen folk movement that brought forth Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and John Gorka, and a man who is just as happy to play guitar along with them as he is to share his own well-written songs. He is known among his peers as a slightly shy, somewhat reclusive genius who hides deep insight in a plethora of storysongs ranging in subject and imagery from catholicism to the refugee's plight. Ask any folksinger of a certain age to list the ten best lyrics they've ever heard, and you can bet Shindell's work will be up near the top.

So many of us were left scratching our heads when we heard that his next release would be a full set of covers. And wondered, as well, what was up with the lack of press, and the release on the living-room label "Richard Shindell Recordings". Was this merely a labor of love?

Naysayers fear not: South of Delia is a rich tribute indeed. Shindell manages to reassess and reimagine a broad set of tunes, bringing a new poignancy to deepcuts from the familiar (Dylan's Tales of Yankee Power, Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street, The Band's Acadian Driftwood) to the neofolk (the Josh Ritter and Jeffrey Foucault covers are especially well done, and let me say here: it takes both guts and grace to cover the younger generation, and to do it well.) His choices of song well fit his own songwriter's bent, telling tales of the downtrodden, the refugee, the lovelorn, the lost -- an especially masterful tactic in the case of songs which were, in their original form, produced to emphasize music and mood more than lyrics.

But don't take my word for it. Here, take a listen to the deep yearning for place and racial acceptance Shindell brings to Born in the USA, which many folks consider Bruce Springsteen's least meaningful song. I promise you'll never hear it the same way again.

South of Delia is Shindell's first album on the "Richard Shindell Recordings" label. You can get it in the usual places, but I prefer purchase through the artist websites whenever possible, so buy Richard Shindell's South of Delia here.

Today's bonus coversongs:


Holly said...

I love Richard Shindell and had not heard one whisper about this new CD - thanks for pointing the way! I saw him split a bill with Josh Ritter a few years back at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It was an amazing show - we had gone to see Josh and I left in deep with Richard.

Good luck with the new blog!

boyhowdy said...

Yeah, the CD has been pretty under-promoted -- thought to be fair, I ordered it in pre-release off the website, and I don't think it's been out in the open for long enough to have gathered much buzz.

I, too, found Richard through a co-bill, in my case with Lucy Kaplansky and a few others at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Guess he needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by, and for the goodluck wishes!

Kevin Burton Smith said...

I just stumbled across your amazing blog. Wow!!! But you oughtta take your folkie ear blinders off. You may not like Springsteen but you're really revealing your ignorance when you tag "Born in the USA" as Springsteen's "least meaningful" song.

Most misunderstood, maybe, or most overplayed, maybe, but it's far from the meaningless ditty you imply. It's the most defiant, political and angry song on his best-selling album.

Shindell version, as good as it is, brought nothing to the song that wasn't already there.

Ben Lazar said...

To echo Mr. Smith, anyone who has the opinion that "Born In The U.S.A." is one of Springsteen's "least meaningful songs" only shows that their opinions on what "meaningful" is should be taken with a very heavy grain of salt.

Hmmmm...the song is only about betrayal, racism, abandonment and resignation. Not really "meaningful" at all, I guess.

boyhowdy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Burton Smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
b ho dy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
boyhowdy said...

I stand by my original text. Many people have trouble seeing past the rockin' to the underlying meaning in this song. And while I believe that rockin' does manage to bring out some of the anger of the original lyrics, it overwhelms anything else.

This experience of the original song -- and yes, I share it, too -- is not something to be attacked for, however. Springsteen made his own choices about how to put sound to his music. Defending MEANING by defending LYRICS misses the whole point of what music is, and how sound carries emotion.

Everyone gets one shot to misunderstand me before having comments deleted. As such, I have deleted subsequent trolling above, including my own. Comments will be closed on this entry.