Six months ago today I jumped into the world of music blogging with both feet and no expectations. Since then, Cover Lay Down has become many things to many people.
To me, Cover Lay Down is sometimes a haven, often a playspace, always a way to try to put into words why I love what I love. But even though it is work, it is never a burden. And it is a place I am proud to call my home on the web.
But as a home is nothing without a constant stream of dinner companions, houseguests and couchcrashers, a blog is nothing without its readership. Though I only hear from a tiny percentage of the thousand or so of you who visit on an average day, it is clear from those who do share thoughts and songs that Cover Lay Down has served you well. The outpouring of interest, support, and kind words has been validating. I treasure every comment and email, and consider many of you friends.
More surprising has been the relatively recent recognition by promoters, labels, and artists themselves. It has always been my aim to support artists first and foremost, as organically as possible, but as a cover blogger, I never expected to hit the radar. Thanks to every promoter that reaches out to me, to every small label that works with me to keep the focus on artists and songs, and especially, to every artist who has not only shared their gifts, but more and more often, their words of encouragement.
It is a rare privilege to serve as a bridge between the music I love and the community I cherish. Thank you, all, for your trust, your recommendations, and your encouragement. Together, we really are making a difference.
For those who are curious about what this place looks like behind the scenes, it's worth noting that careful hit-tracking shows a steady rise in readership pushed by periodic blips of discovery from the blogosphere and web-based press. It is neat to be noticed, and I really appreciate recent mentions from the likes of Muruch, Berkeley Place, Copy, Right via WFMU's Beware the Blog, and many others I truly respect. I owe these folks, too, and am proud to consider them mentors and peers.
But even if not all posts make The Houston Chronicle, Weblog Wannabe, or what appears to be the German version of MTV, or garner notice on those carefully selected linklists of incredible folk and coverblogs you see to the right, I am proud that such recognition keeps driving the average size of our readership ever upwards. I may be wrong, but I'd like to think our growth after each blip underscores the fact that so many who find this place come back on their own -- which in turn validates the continued good balance we've managed to create between featuring songs and songwriters, and the performers that cover them.
I enjoy writing them all, though I am proudest of the continued work trying to define the myriad ways and means of folk itself -- a thread that wends its way through every post, whether it explores the possibility of a single subgenre or song, or focuses on a given singer or songwriter. And, now that labels and artists have begun sending me their work, I am increasingly excited about the unique opportunity to use cover songs as a vehicle for audiences like yourselves to find new artists.
But today is as much about looking back as looking ahead, and we meet here for the music more than anything. So enough about us -- let's get to the coversongs, shall we? Today, a very special installment of our (Re)Covered series, wherein we revisit the past, and add new value to older posts. After all, isn't building bridges between the past and the now, too, what folk is all about?
One of the reasons I started this blog was that I was so blown away by South of Delia, the new cover album by singer-songwriter Richard Shindell, that I needed to share it with the world. Since then, I keep coming back to that amazing album, and to the artist who recorded it, who recently released the first in what promises to be a wonderful series of live concert recordings. It seems especially fitting to look back to that first post today, for a deeper look at Richard Shindell, plus young folk group We're About 9 with an a capella cover of one of his most poignant songs.
Most of our first few months we were seriously under the radar. Though my early look at Britney Spears -- a post originally intended as a Halloween "mask" -- brought some recognition, it says something that even as family friend Sam Amidon garners mention in Rolling Stone and Spin, and even though my look at him was more exhaustive than any I have read, no one seems to remember that we, too, did a feature on Sam Amidon way back in November of last year, before many of the big guns spotted him. Here's a trifecta of Amidon covers I originally posted way back when, one each from his new work and his two previous albums; pick up a bunch more of his cuts at that original post.
Just before the momentum really started to build, I put up a gigantic but generally unnoticed post about local folkfaves Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, and mentioned I hadn't yet heard their newest album Big Old Life. Since then, I've made friends with the folks at Signature Sounds, a wonderful label/studio who first produced the work of Josh Ritter and Lori McKenna, and currently work with folkblog fave Eilen Jewell and previously-covered Jeffrey Foucault and Caroline Herring; they sent me a copy of Big Old Life, and I'm happy to report it was all I had hoped for: fun, quirky, and full of surprises. Rani deserves a real shot at my current audience, so here's two of my favorite tracks; the Dylan, especially, is both wonderful and awesomely odd.
Speaking of Leonard Cohen: if email responses were the best measure of success, our Single Song Sundays would hands down be counted as our most popular entries. In almost every case, from features on tradfolk songs like House Carpenter and Amazing Grace to heavily covered singer-songwriter cuts like Joni Mitchell's River and Dylan's Girl of the North Country, posting multiple versions of a song has brought in choice submissions from fans and artists alike. I truly appreciate these emails, and love learning about new artists this way. Here's the best of what came in after my most recent post on Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat, with much thanks to two new e-friends for introducing me to Antje Duvekot and Karen Jo Fields, two singer-songwriters I'll be listening to over the next few months.
What's next on Cover Lay Down? Plenty. I'm working with several artists I love to bring forward some great covers they've done over the years, and anxiously awaiting word on a few "in the works" cover projects from folksters new and old. With the folk festival season soon upon us, I expect to be more in tune with what's new in the folkworld, and hope, as well, to be able to renew and strengthen connections with artists, fans, and promoters.
In other words, much of what you'll continue to see here is that which we do best, only deeper. But even that is not static. Folk is culture, so as culture changes, folk changes, too. As long as new gems and rising stars shine among the new and unheard CDs that clutter my desktop, it is my hope to add more short features on newer artists still below the radar. I'll have an experiment of sorts in that vein coming along later this week. But to the extent that we can say so, I think the model we've created together is largely a success. Expect more of the same as we go forward.
One last word before I go. In the end, the purpose of this blog truly is to best support folk music, and the artists who make it. Regular visitors may have noticed that we disdain mass market commercial sources for music here wherever possible. My recent connections with artists and labels has only strengthened my belief that the best way to support the music we love is not just to buy it, it is to buy it through the artists themselves, at shows, on artist websites, and through distribution centers like CD Baby -- sources which genuinely send the bulk of the profit back to the artist herself.
Please, folks: if you like what you hear, buy, and buy local. Else one day, there might be nothing left for us to talk about except the oldies. And if I could ask for anything back from all of you, it would not be words. It would be that this community, this scene, this sound is still vibrant a hundred years from now, for our children and theirs.
Thanks for staying with me for so long, both tonight and since you found this place. We'll be back Wednesday, and again on Sunday, ad infinitum. But come back any time you like. For you, the door is always open.