Hope no one minds two Covered in Folk features in the same week; in my other life I've got student grades to process and a new term starting up Thursday, so I needed something quick. Upcoming features include the coversong repertoires of some stellar voices from across the folk spectrum; in the meantime, here's a post I've been sitting on for a few weeks, ever since our feature on the solosongs of Paul Simon.
You need me to say something about Simon and Garfunkel? THE Simon and Garfunkel? Okay, how about this: every single person I know knows the lyrics to at least one Simon and Garfunkel song. Me? I can sing Cecilia in my sleep. In harmony.
Rolling Stone lists Simon and Garfunkel at #40 on their most influential artists ever; by "influential", they're talking about the effect of this American folk rock duo on the world of professional music, the stuff that garnered them a lifetime achievement award at the 2003 Grammy awards. But much more noteworthy is the fact that, three generations later, their songs have become part of the base set of popular tunes which pepper the sonic landscape for the developing ear in suburban American culture.
It's not just that I know all the words to a song older than me. It's that I learned them when I was fourteen, and I still remember them. Even in an earbud age, kids still come home from summer camp with the songs of James Taylor, the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel in their ears, because this is the canon of the acoustic guitar, passed down from older teen counselor to song circle. Now that's folk. It's truths like that which give us hope for the next generation, and the next beyond that, too.
Today we present a carefully chosen, predominantly female-voiced set of Simon and Garfunkel covers, firmly grounded in the folk world but willing to veer towards alt-country (Johnny Cash), folk pop (The Indigo Girls), and indiefolk (The Purple Raiders, Emiliana Torinni) where the song warrants it. Nothing comprehensive, mind you. Just some great songs, performed and interpreted with love and guitars. And isn't that the best kind of tribute?
The tomboyish, politicized folk harmonies of the Indigo Girls charge every word with a gleeful yearning, create the perfect happy medium between the original song and that amazing cover by the Lemonheads.
...though this even more ragged demo might have more indiecred. I'd say more about alt-country upstarts The Purple Raiders, but their website is all in German.
This one got lost among the Nine Inch Nails and U2 in the last cover-heavy years of Cash's career. Some sappy synth-vocals in the background, but Johnny Cash's broken-voiced hope clears the maudlin bar.
Folk rock at its psychadelic, Icelandic best. Once a stand-in for Bjork, Emiliana Torrini can turn a great song on its ear without straying too far from the original sound. She can also build a hell of a wall of sound.
A tradsong popularized by Simon and Garfunkel, done over by faux buskers the Brobdingnagian Bards on the punnishly-titled A Faire to Remember. Our first nod to the filksong and re-creationist fairefolk movements here on Cover Lay Down.
Musicians and music lovers of a certain age know we're a bit too young to know Bleecker Street as it was in the heydey of the American folk revival. But we sure recognize a debt to our forefathers when we see it, and Jonatha Brooke pays hers back with interest. Absolutely stunning. From the incredible out-of-print folkscene tribute album Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village In The 60's.
A repost from our first few weeks, but I couldn't resist: Shawn Colvin's sweet, soaring, just-before-9-11 cover of this song is the archetype for the truly great Paul Simon cover. Feel the love, and own it, too.
Jazzfolk fusion bluegrass banjo wizard (and Compass Records founder) Alison Brown generally brings guest vocalists in for her coversongs; here, the sweet harmonies of the Indigo Girls bring us back full circle.
As always, all artist links above go to artists' preferred source for purchase; if you like what you hear, pick up the recorded works of these modern inheritors of the folk world by clicking on their names above.
And here's a little bonus section coverfolk from Paul Simon's oft-forgotten partner -- a man who has read one thousand twenty three books since June of 1968, and wanted to put a Bach chorale piece on Bridge Over Troubled Waters. There are others, but this Art Garfunkel stuff's a little too lite for my ears.