Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The State of Folk: A Post-Fest Preamble
Plus EXCLUSIVE live Beatles covers from Falcon Ridge 08!

Gee, but it's great to be back home. And bearing gifts, including an exclusive live Beatles tribute concert, recorded this past Friday in a sunny field in Hillsdale, NY, which you'll find just down below.

But first, the weather report:

Regular readers may remember that I'd hoped to have a Utah Phillips tribute set to share today. Unfortunately, a freak hurricane-force thunder-and-hailstorm and torrential downpour mid-afternoon on Sunday brought several major event-sized tents down, flooding roads and washing away tentsites, soaking sound equipment, and generally turning the encampment into something just shy of a post-apocalyptic landscape, bringing an early end to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival just a few hours before that eagerly awaited set could take place.

Here's a video taken from the storm (by Coriform). If you look to the left as the camera pans, you'll see a golf cart parked in front of a white lump -- that lump is actually the flattened remains of the site crew/ice/information tent, which collapsed on me and a couple of dozen others in high wind and heavy lightning, driving us out into the hailstorm. Scary. You can also read first-hand accounts from multiple festgoers at this livejournal thread.

It is, genuinely, a miracle that no one was seriously hurt, and a tribute to all the site organizers and volunteers that we managed to get everyone out safely, and with their sense of humor fully intact. And it says what it needs to, I think, that I'm already looking forward to next year's fest.

And now, the news: something big is happening to folk music. Despite the rocky ending, spending time at both a major bluegrass festival and a major folk festival in rapid succession over the past two weeks provided no small insight into the ways in which the musical landscape is changing, and why. I saw and heard plenty which helped me understand why many folk bloggers have recently started "going bluegrass", for example...and plenty, too, which shed light on the funny relationship between americana and alt-country and indie music and other folk forms, something which we have spent no small amount of time describing over our few months here at Cover Lay Down.

More broadly, a look at label-run merch tables, and at other festival and coffeehouse line-ups via fest-posted programs and tour schedules, provided a decent sense of the full circuit -- since who's recording, who's touring, and who's headlining, is a pretty good indicator of what people are going to perceive as the core of currency in folk when the festival season dries up in late Autumn. I've fallen in love with the work of multiple newcomers, garnered new respect for a few more familiar faces I had previously underestimated, and decided that I still do like the narrative-laden one voice, one guitar singer-songwriter folk music which has, for the last few decades, been at the core of American folk, even if it is no longer so central as to be definitive.

In trying to identify this shift, I am especially indebted to fellow 'casters and fans, promoters and musicians, who took the time to help me groupthink the modern folkworld, most especially Kristin Andreassen (of Uncle Earl and Sometymes Why), Lindsay Mac, and Joe Crookston, all of whom made time to chat with me about the state of music and the music business from the performer and songwriter's perspective. You'll hear those names come up again as, over the next few weeks, we use our continued journey together here at Cover Lay Down as a platform for exploring the current state of folk music, and how covers can help us both understand and anticipate the near future of folk.

Right now, thought, I'm still a bit shaken from the storm and its aftermath. So while I try to organize my thoughts a bit, here's the majority of the Beatles tribute workshop, taped by yours truly on a little iPod with Belkin voice-recorder attachment from the foot of the Falcon Ridge workshop stage late Friday afternoon. I haven't trimmed the tracks yet, so intros may be a bit long...but if you want to get a sense of what it was like to be there in the moment, this is about as good as it gets.

I've starred my favorites, for those who just want a sample: Anthony da Costa's gorgeous, torn rendition of I'm Looking Through You; Joe Crookston's mystical banjo-led take on Norwegian Wood; Randall Williams' powerful, soaring version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. I'd have starred Lindsay Mac's incredible rendition of Blackbird, too, if the bass notes of her cello had not fuzzed out my admittedly low-tech recording; I've included her live take here anyway, as a teaser, but keep an eye open for Lindsay's upcoming sophomore album (release date Sept. '08) for what promises to be a beautiful, pristine version of the song.

Beatles Tribute Workshop
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, July 2008

Thanks to all my guest posters, who shared such powerful words, perspectives, and song in my absence; it's a truly wonderful thing to come home and find the place in better shape than you left it. We'll be back Sunday with the first of several subgenre- and artist-focused posts from this year's festbest and brightest.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pond Crossings: Transatlantic Coverfolk
with today's guest host: Darius

Let me open with a warm thank you to Boyhowdy for inviting me to do this, and for helping to bring it to life.

My name is Darius. I have been an eager reader of and listener to this blog for some time now. One day, I followed a link from here and found myself at Star Maker Machine, where I am now an occasional poster. That's where Boyhowdy found me. Life is indeed a circle.

Many great folk songs found in this country were born in the British Isles, and in some cases, went through wild transformations, both in getting to these shores, and in continuing to change once they were here. This reflects differences in the two cultures, as well as the personalities of the people who performed the songs.

In Britain, traditional songs often serve as mnemonics to teach children bits of folk wisdom. Consider the song "The Cuckoo". In researching this post, I was unable to find a single "original" version of the song. Instead, there seem to be variations on the set of lyrics below:

The cuckoo she's a pretty bird
She sings as she flies
She brings us glad tidings
And tells us no lies.

She sucks all sweet flowers
To make her voice clear
She never sings cuckoo
Till summer is near

She flies the hills over
She flies the world about
She flies back to the mountain
She mourns for her love

The cuckoo she's a pretty bird
She sings as she flies
She brings us glad tidings
And tells us no lies

I found one variant given as a nursery rhyme, where the bird is male, and sucks eggs to improve his voice. The rhyme is apparently older than the music, which would be why there a several different musical settings for the words. The important piece of lore here is that the cuckoo's song warns of the coming of summer, which marks the end of the planting season. So the song teaches children how to tell when they are running out of time to plant crops.

Nowadays, we have other ways to know when to plant. So modern performers of "The Cuckoo" have added different elements to the song, and it is all but impossible to find a British version with just the lyrics above. Here is John Renbourn's version.

  • John Renbourn, The Cuckoo
    (from Faro Annie)

    So already "The Cuckoo" is going through changes. But watch what happens when the song comes to America! It is brought to the South by early settlers, and vanishes into the mountains. It passes down through generations of people who have a different climate and planting season, and "till summer is near" somehow becomes "til the fourth day of July". Characters named Willie and Jack of Diamonds appear out of nowhere.

    In 1961, towards the end of the folk revival, a banjo player and singer named Clarence Ashley was rediscovered. He had been a minstrel show performer and string band player in the thirties and early forties, and then disappeared. His story is quite interesting, and would be worth a post of its own. For now, suffice it to say that he recorded "The Cuckoo" with Doc Watson in 1961. The lyrics he used are the American version. Whereas, in Britain everyone who records the song to this day feels free to change the words as they please, in America the words have become fixed. Here they are, in a beautiful version by Townes Van Zant:

  • Townes Van Zandt, The Coo Coo
    (from Roadsongs)

    Meanwhile, Donovan is originally from England, but has lived in the US for many years. His take on "The Cuckoo" is the American version. Confused?

  • Donovan, The Cuckoo
    (from Beat Cafe)

    Returning to the British Isles, we find many traditional songs which tell stories. That Richard Thompson knows many of these is clear from the number of them he recorded with Fairport Convention. Some of these story-songs contain magical elements, and are survivals of prechristian beliefs.

    Although "Crazy Man Michael" is an original song by Thompson, its characterization of the raven is a good example of this.

    Thompson set the lyrics of "Crazy Man Michael" to a traditional melody. (I have not been able to find what song this was. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.) When Thompson brought the lyrics to his band mates in Fairport, David Swarbrick objected that the words did not fit the melody. So Thompson challenged Swarbrick to write a better melody, and he did. So a traditional song got first new words and then new music, and Fairport's version is not so much a cover as a smother.
    Fairport Convention, Crazy Man Michael
    (live in Oxfordshire (UK), August 2007)

    When "Crazy Man Michael" came to America, it received a warm welcome from Nathalie Merchant. She changed the arrangement to suit her style, but she left the words and melody intact.

  • Natalie Merchant, Crazy Man Michael
    (from The House Carpenter's Daughter)

    The tabloid newspaper is a creation of the industrial revolution. To make economic sense, you have to have enough people in one place to buy your newspaper. But people in pre industrial Britain still had an appetite for sensationalized versions of the news. What are now traditional songs originally filled that need. So in 1845, when Lord John Franklin and his crew vanished while seeking the Northwest Passage, a song was written to tell the tale.

  • Pentangle, Lord Franklin
    (from Cruel Sister)

    Over in America, David Wilcox obviously knew the song. "Jamie's Secret" combines the melody with an entirely new set of lyrics. Wilcox' tale of a woman's disappearance gains additional resonance if you know the source of the melody. A "partial cover", if you will.

  • David Wilcox, Jamie's Secret
    (from How Did You Find me Here)

    Finally, just for fun, I wanted to present a pond crossing that goes in the other direction. "Pastures of Plenty" is an American song, Woody Guthrie's evocation of the dust bowl years. In Odetta's hands, everything becomes a spiritual, which works just fine here.

  • Odetta, Pastures of Plenty
    (from The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie)

    However, the song gets to Ireland, which has certainly had its share of agricultural disasters. And it rocks!

  • Solas, Pastures of Plenty
    (from The Words That Remain)

    Today's Bonus and Sundry Coverfolk

    Boyhowdy already did a great post on the traditional British ballad House Carpenter. Here's two jaw dropping American versions that got missed the first time.

  • Kelly Joe Phelps, House Carpenter
    (from Shine Eyed Mister Zen)

  • Rosalie Sorrels, House Carpenter
    (from Folk Songs of Utah and Idaho)

    Folk fan Darius is a regular guest contributor at blog collaborative Star Maker Machine. He has excellent taste in both blogs and music.

  • Friday, July 25, 2008

    Why Do I Love Hank?
    Country coverfolk with today's guest host: Paul

    My name is Paul and I usually blog over at Setting The Woods On Fire. Boyhowdy has been kind enough to let me say a few words here while he enjoys a vacation. As you might have guessed from the title of my blog, I’m a big fan of Hank Williams. I also love cover songs.

    Cover songs are fun because they help you separate the song from the performance. Do I love Hank because of the songs he wrote and poularized? Or do I love Hank because of the way he performed them? I’m sure it’s a bit of both, but listening to covers of Hank is a good way to understand what makes Hank's records so special.

    Except for the Dylan tune, the tracks featured here are new to me. Boyhowdy thought it might be interesting to see how a Hank fan would respond to folky covers of Hank’s work. Some I liked a lot. Some not so much.

    I’ll start with Cold Cold Heart by Norah Jones. This one should generate lots of interest, as it’s one of Hank’s best compositions performed by popular singer. While Norah undoubtedly has a great voice, I’m not sold. I hear it more as a musical exercise than as an emotional plea from a frustrated lover. Lesson: I love Hank because he really sells a song.

    Norah Jones, Cold Cold Heart (H. Williams)
    (from Come Away With Me)

    Since I wasn’t so nice with the first one, let’s move on to my favorite song in this batch of Hank covers, a brilliant medley of Wedding Bells and Let’s Turn Back The Years performed by John Prine and Lucinda Williams. I love everything about this recording. Hank did not write Wedding Bells but it sounds just like something he could have written, which is shown by how seemlessly this “medley” fits together. John and Lucinda do a nice job selling the song without over-singing. Not surprising, considering their talents. (Of course, it might just be the peddle steel guitar that so warms my country-loving heart on this piece.)

    John Prine & Lucinda Williams, Wedding Bells/Let’s Turn Back The Years (C. Boone/H. Williams)

    (from In Spite of Ourselves)

    Speaking of over-singing, here’s a rendition of Long Gone Lonesome Blues that’s just a bit too overdone for my taste. Yodeling is OK (in small doses). Quavery yodeling is pushing it.

    Red Molly, Long Gone Lonesome Blues (H. Williams)
    (from Never Been To Vegas)

    Over-singing isn’t always bad, though. I'm not exactly sure why, but Mark Erelli’s spirited version of The Devil’s Train works well despite the singer's affected “twang”:

    Mark Erelli, The Devil’s Train (H. Williams)
    (from The Memorial Hall Recordings)

    Another one from Boyhowdy’s batch that I really liked was I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive by Greg Brown. It’s kind of a goofy song (“I was living high until the fatal day a lawyer proved I wasn’t born, I was only hatched”), and it’s a Hank Williams' signature tune, so it's not an easy assignment for a cover artist. But Brown pulls it off with aplomb by playing it straight. Just like Hank, I believe Brown’s exaggerated tale of woe.

    Greg Brown, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (F. Rose/H. Williams)
    (from Friend of Mine)

    Only one of Boyhowdy's batch of folky Hank covers really bothered me, and this is it. The descending harmony party is cloying. And the re-written lyric about the “gay” dog just does not belong in a Hank Williams song (not that there’s anything wrong with gay dogs). Score one point for Hank's performance trumping his songs.

    Devon Sproule & Paul Curreri, Why Don’t You Love Me? (H. Williams)
    (from Valentines Day Duets #3, 2006)

    Let’s close this post with a Hank song performed by one of the few artists that I would place on an equally high pedestal, Bob Dylan.

    Bob Dylan, (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle (H. Williams/J. Davis)
    (outtake from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)

    I hope you enjoy these tunes. If I’m wrong about my criticism of any of the few I didn’t like, please let me know. It’s just one Hank fan’s opinion.

    Oh yeah, my conclusion from listening to these covers is that I like Hank's songs, but I love the way he sings them.

    Prolific blogger and tastemaster Paul pays regular tribute to country, rock, bluegrass, and jazz over at Setting The Woods On Fire. He is also a founding member of collaborative music blog Star Maker Machine.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    The Holy Modal Rounders Cover Tradfolk
    with today's guest host: Brendan

    It is an honor to share some words on boyhowdy's page, as I am a frequent fan of his writing, and most especially, the subject at hand. When composers write a song, they undoubtedly want others to sing it, play it, reproduce it either in their mind, living room, or on record. In this sense, I couldn't agree more with the headline up above, "In the folk tradition, music belongs to the community."

    The Holy Modal Rounders reinvented songs in an incredibly unique way. Their approach was as follows: "hear song, forget song, try to remember song while adding your personal wrinkles, bingo!" Material was taken almost exclusively from Harry Smith's American Anthology of Folk Music, a 1960s anthology that played a large part in the folk revival, and playfully distorted through a thick layer of irreverence and heavy drugs. In their version of Hesitation Blues, Stampfel made sure to alter a verse to "pyscho-delic shoes" (rather than "hesitation shoes"), marking the first recording with the word "psychedelic."

    Though cacophonous to the uninitiated, there is something joyous in their haphazard sound. The DIY harmonies, lazy fiddle, and fingerpicked guitar magically turn in to something beautiful. Unsurprisingly, Rounder originals hold up as well as any of the warped folk numbers they chose to cover. And all their albums have my wholehearted recommendation (especially a very special record featuring the Unholy Modal Rounders, Have Moicy).

    This past autumn, I went to see the screening of Bound To Lose, a new documentary about the Rounders, where Peter Stampfel (fiddle and high harmony) introduced the film. During his unforgettably eccentric speech, he unhesitatingly claimed that the Rounders had spawned the genre of freak folk. His word is good enough for me, though I can't think of any competition otherwise. See if you can hear it yourself.

    You can really hear the influence of the Holy Modal Rounders in Today's Bonus Coversongs:

    Brendan blogs about lost gems and overlooked classics in the genres of Garage, Country, Prog Rock, Psych Folk, and other fringe musical forms at The Rising Storm. He is also a regular contributor to blog collaborative Star Maker Machine.

    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    Single Song Sunday: Gallows Pole and Variants
    with today's guest host: Dean

    Greetings, music lovers! I'm Dean from snuhthing/anything and I was invited to be your guest blogger for the day. You might also know me from Star Maker Machine, the group music blog that both Boyhowdy and I participate in. I was excited by the invitation because it gives me a chance to discuss a song that's been part of music's collective memory for hundreds of years, the story the ballad's based on stretches back to 438 BC with Euripides' Alkestis. There's literately hundreds of versions, some titles you might be familar with: The Golden Ball, Maid Saved, By a Lover Saved, Down by the Green Willow Tree, Girl to be Hanged for Stealing a Comb, Hangman Slacken, Ropeman's Ballad, Hold Your Hands Old Man, Old Rabbit the Voodoo, Mama Did You Bring Any Silver, Freed from the Gallow, among others. The two we'll be concentrating on today is Gallows Pole and The Prickly Bush.

    The Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary defines Folk as "music of the common people that has been passed on by memorization or repetition rather than by writing and has deep roots in its own culture" - Gallows Pole surely fits the bill. The Child Ballads is a good place to start with the modern version of the song, since it found popularity during the 19th century via the collection.

    Child Ballads
    The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century. The collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads between 1882 and 1898 by Houghton Mifflin in 10 Volumes. The ballads vary in age; for instance, a version of "A Gest of Robyn Hode" was printed in the late 15th or early 16th century, and the manuscript of "Judas" dates to the 13th century. The majority of the ballads, however, date to the 17th and 18th century; although some probably have very ancient influences, only a handful can be definitively traced to before 1600. Moreover, few of the tunes collected are as old as the words. While many of them had been individually printed, e.g. as broadsides, Child's collection was far more comprehensive than any previous collection of ballads in English. (However, there were comprehensive ballad collections in other languages, like the Danish collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, which Child referred to in his comments.)

    One Child number may cover several ballads, which Child considered variants of the same story, although they may differ in many ways (as in "James Hatley"). Conversely, ballads classified separately may contain turns of phrase, and even entire verses, that are identical.

    The Child Ballads deal with subjects typical to many ballads: romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes. On one extreme, some recount identifiable historical people, in known events. On the other, some differ from fairy tales solely by their being songs and in verse; some have been recast in prose form as fairy tales. A large part of the collections is about Robin Hood; some are about King Arthur. A few of the ballads are rather bawdy.

    For a listing of all the Child ballad types, and links to more information on each individual type, see List of the Child Ballads.

    This brings us to John Jacob Niles, who recorded The Maid Freed From The Gallows (Child Ballad No 95).

    John Jacob Niles
    John Jacob Niles (b. Louisville, Kentucky, April 28, 1892; d. Lexington, Kentucky, March 1, 1980) was an American composer, singer, and collector of traditional ballads. Called the "Dean of American Balladeers", Niles was an important influence on the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, with Joan Baez, Burl Ives, and Peter, Paul and Mary, among others, recording his songs.

    Niles learned music theory from his mother, and began writing down folk music as a teenager. He became a serious student of Appalachian folk music by transcribing traditional songs from oral sources while an itinerant employee of the Burroughs Corporation in eastern Kentucky, from 1910 to 1917.

    Starting in 1938, he recorded a number of his compositions and transcribed songs, performing the material in an intense, dramatic manner. He employed a trademark very high falsetto to portray female characters, and often accompanied himself on an Appalachian dulcimer, lute, or other plucked stringed instrument.

    Lead Belly recorded the cover most modern day artists draw from.

    Lead Belly Version
    Legendary folksinger Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Lead Belly), who also popularized such songs as "Cotton Fields" and "Midnight Special" first recorded "Gallis Pole" in the 1930s, and set the stage for the song's popularity today. Lead Belly's rendition, available through Folkways music and recently re-released by the Library of Congress, differs from more familiar recordings in several notable ways. The Lead Belly version is performed on acoustic twelve string guitar, and following an introductory phrase reminiscent of the vocal melody, Lead Belly launches into a furious fingerpicking pattern. His haunting, shrill tenor delivers the lyrical counterpoint, and his story is punctuated with spoken-word, as he "interrupts his song to discourse on its theme"

    After a few years, Huddie made it his own.

    Time to back up a bit and discuss The Prickly Bush variant.

    The song likely originated in a language other than English. Some fifty versions have been reported in Finland, where it is well known as Lunastettava neito. It is titled Den Bortsålda in Sweden, and Die Losgekaufte in German. A Lithuanian version has the maid asking relatives to ransom her with their best animals or belongings (sword, house, crown, ring etc.). The maiden curses her relatives who refuse to give up their property, and blesses her fiancé, who does ransom her.

    Francis James Child found the English version "defective and distorted", in that, in most cases, the narrative rationale had been lost and only the ransoming sequence remained. Numerous European variants explain the reason for the ransom: the heroine has been captured by pirates. Of the texts he prints, one (95F) had "degenerated" into a children's game, while others had survived as part of a Northern English cante-fable, The Golden Ball (or Key).

    Child describes additional examples from Färöe, Iceland, Russia, and Slovenia. Several of these feature a man being ransomed by a woman.

    The theme of delaying one's execution while awaiting rescue by relatives appears with a similar structure in the classic fairy tale "Bluebeard" by Charles Perrault in 1697 (translated into English in 1729).

    The song is also known as "The Prickly Bush", a title derived from the oft-used refrain lamenting the maid's situation by likening it to being caught in briery bush, wherein the brier prickles her heart. In versions carrying this theme, the typical refrain may add:

    O the prickly bush, the prickly bush,
    It pricked my heart full sore;
    If ever I get out of the prickly bush,
    I'll never get in any more.

    Here's some great versions of The Prickly Bush, a real treat for the ears.

    I'd be remiss if I didn't include these fun variants - though I must warn you that In Extremo labels itself a German folk metal band, you might want to turn the volume down.

    Modern day arrangements.

    I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. For more information about Gallows Pole and Child Ballad Number 95, I recommend The Prickly Bush/The Prickle-Holly Bush and The Child Ballad Collection.

    Dean blogs about all genres of music at snuhthing/anything. He is also a regular contributor to blog collaborative Star Maker Machine.

    Friday, July 18, 2008

    The Tradfolk Revival: Young Brit Femfolk
    with today's guest host: Divinyl

    This post has absolutely squat to do with the picture above, but it is a feast of British folk, therefore I thought that the picture was fitting; just ignore the artist listing. I shall start with a confession - I am entirely rubbish. I am a terrible procrastinator and someone who often does things at the very last opportunity. And that is the case here. I feel slightly shame-faced tarnishing such a wonderful blog with my efforts, but honoured to have been offered the privilege, therefore I could not resist posting just a little something.

    Due to time constraints and slight inebriation, I have limited this post to talking about only three of the darling dames of the very much thriving young British folk scene (hey, maybe Boyhowdy will invite me back some time to introduce a few more?!). It is my understanding that, despite these times of t'internet and music easily accessible to all, often folk music does not seem to cross borders and oceans very quickly. I am continually surprised when I converse with fellow bloggers from the other side of the pond, people I consider to be far more musically-knowledgeable than me, to hear that they are not familiar with even the 'bigger' names. I am here, therefore, to begin the process of rectifying that!

    All of the songs included below have one common theme - they are traditional songs; songs that have been sung and loved by many over the years, that have done the rounds with folk festival crowds and back-room-of-the-pub singalongs. The particularly interesting thing, then, is these ladies' interpretation of these well-known tunes, their very understanding of what is at the core of each song, and how they may make it their own.

    First up is Kate Rusby - a charming Barnsley lass (that's South Yorkshire FYI) with a strong northern accent, a down-to-earth attitude and a love of sea shanties and other traditional songs. Accordingly, you will often find her sweet-as-apple-pie voice singing tales of lost love, violence and death! Courtesy of parents that were in a ceilidh band, she grew up around folk music and folk music festivals.

    She is perhaps my very favourite of the set, her voice almost tear-inducingly beautiful. She is also immensely likable and is absolutely brilliant live if you should ever have the chance - I have seen her twice to date, and her performance was astounding on both occasions. Rusby has truly mastered the art of inter-song banter and the whole stage presence conundrum, which I believe to be almost as important as the music itself in a live environment.

    Rusby is getting on a bit now, in terms of this theme, at age 34 (ha!), but started out waaay back in 1995 and has since released eight solo albums, in addition to releases with Kathryn Roberts and her former band The Poozies. She has garnered much praise from the British press at large, and even more in folk circles, resulting in her receipt of four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (including Folk Singer of the Year in 2000). She was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1999 - a contest that spans many genres and that often makes highly influential, independent choices. Here she is with a sea shanty and one about fighting a dragon!

    (from Sleepless)

    Sir Eglamore - Kate Rusby (trad. arr. Kate Rusby)
    (from Hourglass)

    Ruth Notman was only 18 years old when she released her debut album, Threads, last year, which only made it all the more impressive. Less well known, to date, than the others in this post, she is definitely a name to watch. Notman hails from Nottingham, in the Midlands of England and started performing in folk clubs in her home county and neighbouring Derbyshire at the age of 13.

    The most consummate thing about the traditional songs (and cover songs in general) on her album is her interpretation; her arrangements evidence a wonderful musical maturity and a solid understanding of composition and tune. Yet just as tenable is that 18 year old spirit - despite the tradsong, you can hear that this is a young woman equally familiar with modern music and pop sensibilities; someone who knows Independent Woman and other such fluff, just like her peers. Oh, and she is also a cracking pianist (and multi-instrumentalist).

    She, too, has been noticed by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards people, reaching the final of the Young Folk Award in 2006.

    Present here is the usual happy folk subject matter of neglect, beating, and suicidal ideation! Fause Fause is one that you can also hear by the likes of Kris Drever and Kathryn Tickell.

    Still I Love Him - Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
    (from Threads)

    Fause Fause - Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
    (from Threads)

    Another lass with a love, and sound understanding, of the traditional is Northumberland's Rachel Unthank, who has released two albums with The Winterset - her sister Becky (who actually appears as a co-lead vocalist), Jackie Oates (the viola player who was replaced last year by Niopha Keegan) and Belinda O'Hooley (who is also impressive as a solo artist and is a stunning pianist).

    A lot of the music that Unthank delivers is very closely tied to the region - a region which has a very strong folk identity, with Northumbrian dialect and tales of border battles with Scotland. It is also startlingly untrendy, in the very best possible way...this is honest, unfussy, bare bones tradfolk. In fact, Rachel and Becky Unthank started out performing as an a capella duo. But tradfolk does not tell the whole story. For example, there is a Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) cover on their second album The Bairns (which is even better than their debut Cruel Sister...just the kind of trend we like to see!). Just to clue you in, "bairn" is Northumbrian and Scottish dialect for 'child'.

    Again the folkies at the BBC are impressed, and she/they were nominated for three awards just this year, winning the Horizon Award. Rachel, pre-Winterset, also reached the finals of the Young Folk Award. Do you see a theme starting to develop here?

    Like many, the Unthank sisters come from musical stock - their parents are both singers, and father George is part of North East folk group The Keelers. I love that the music they choose is so intrinsically about the region in which I live. The first track below is an amalgamation of several traditional songs (The Wedding O'Blythe, When the Tide Comes In, Blue's Gaen Oot O'the Fashion, The Lad With the Trousers On, The Sailors Are All at the Bar). Rachel, in the liner notes of the album on which it appears says,

    "The songs provide a snap shot from a period of history when the shores of the River Tyne saw the hectic comings and goings of press gangs, soldiers, sailors and tall ships."

    Blue Bleezing Bling Drunk is, on the other hand, a good old domestic violence ditty! It is also, apparently, one of the very first songs to depict a drunken Scottish woman...I'm sure that there must have been many more since!

    Divinyl holds forth on a broad assortment of music from folk to Feist at Ceci N'est Pas un Blog. She is also the sole female member of the collaborative at Star Maker Machine.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Just A Song Before I Go:
    Catie Curtis covers Death Cab
    (plus Eilen Jewell, Lucinda Williams @ Green River)

    That's us on the treeline, there. See?

    What with weather and whatnot, the New England folk festival season only runs from June to September; it's a pretty compressed time, rich with opportunity, and invariably, there are tough choices to be made. But over the years, the luckiest of us have found found a few sacred places that feel like home, and we wouldn't miss them for the world.

    Which is to say: I'm off tomorrow for the farms and fields of midstate New York, for two glorious weeks of festivaling: bluegrass at Grey Fox this weekend, and folk at Falcon Ridge the following. And there ain't no blogging from the field.

    But don't worry, folks, I got you covered. A few like-minded and folk-friendly bloggers have graciously agreed to guest-blog here in my absence, so keep coming 'round for some great writing from the rotation. But before I go, here's a few from the folks and fests I'll regret missing while I'm away.

    I just received my advance copy of Sweet Life, the upcoming release from alt-folkie Catie Curtis, in the mail today, so I can't honestly say I've had a chance to let it sink in. But I'm already in love with her surprisingly poppy, affirming cover of Death Cab for Cutie's Soul Meets Body, and we're long overdue for recognition of the enduring work of this wonderful songwriter, champion of the working class, and long-time staple of the Boston folk scene.

    Curtis is known for her vivid storytelling, especially in her ability to tease greatness out of ordinary lives, but she has always had a knack for carefully chosen, deliberately interpreted coversongs which she can truly make her own. This great cover is no exception: her guitarwork and the alt-pop production are catchy as hell, and her voice comes off all breathy and beautiful, like Lucinda Williams after a few voice lessons. Happily, the album seems to be more of the same.

    Catie's turn on etown will feature a collaborative cover of Yellow Submarine with Barenaked Ladies, but it doesn't air until the end of August; Sweet Life won't drop until September, and I'll be away for Catie's tourdates in northeastern New England next week. To tide us over, here's the Death Cab cover, plus an older cover of minimalist alt-rockers Morphine from Catie's 2004 album Dreaming in Romance Languages.

    Back when we lived up near Greenfield, MA, and before Grey Fox became too much of a temptation, we were regulars at the Green River Festival, a day-only fest (no camping) which has slowly spread to encompass three successive days of music. Previously, I've written about seeing Jeffrey Foucault there; the Green River also brought me my first live experiences with a whole host of amazing artists, from Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch to Carrie Rodriguez and Peter Mulvey.

    This year's Green River Fest line-up is worth celebrating, especially for the free concert in town on Thursday night featuring Cover Lay Down favorites Richard Shindell, Caroline Herring, and future feature-post subject Mark Erelli. Mainstage shows the following days will feature Mavis Staples, Los Straightjackets, Jimmie Vaughn, Crooked Still, and the following pair of alt-country/folk femmes, who cover Greg Brown exquisitely. Green River runs July 17-19; if you don't care much for for hard-core bluegrass, and you've got a place to crash in the upper reaches of Western Massachusetts over the coming weekend, you really should be getting on the road right about now.

    Stay tuned for some great guest bloggers covering subjects from Hank Williams covers to trans-oceanic British folk rock. I'll be back in the swing of things by the end of July, rejuvenated and steeped in the real deal, with photos of both festivals, at least one interview, and a report on the Beatles and Utah Phillips coversong songswaps just announced for Falcon Ridge.

    Previously on Cover Lay Down:

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Treesongs for Willow:
    A Set of Traditional Arboreal Coverfolk

    By the time we finally caught pregnant, we had both been teaching for a decade, and that meant the baby name books were right out. After we discarded the archaic and the merely odd, the names that were left were invariably overfamiliar -- we knew "that kid", and thus the name came with baggage we just could not accept.

    So we took a look at ourselves. Liberal folk, to put it politically, with a sense of adventure, and a love of the world for what it was. We wanted something organic, something real, something us.

    So we traded in the baby books for field guides and herbal identification charts, and named our children after trees. And we started with Willow, because we liked the sound of it, and because we had lived under one once.

    My younger child is too young, really, to understand what being named after a tree really means. But the elder one has been interested in it from the start. She asks me to sing her special song about being a tree almost every night before bed. Spotting "her" tree still brings excitement to a long drive. Being trees is something we share like a secret.

    Biology made me a father. But the girl who made me Daddy has my heartwood on a string. Her name is Willow, and she turns six this week. Here's a small set of traditional treesongs, just for her.

    ...and previously on Cover Lay Down:

    * I know the last pair is kind of morbid, but it's hard to find upbeat Willowsongs; unfortunately, though in our house we celebrate Willows for their flexibility, strength, and beauty, most pop culture references seem to play off their nominative weepiness. If anyone knows of more Willowsongs which are not murder ballads, please pass 'em along in the comments; bonus points for any and all Joan Armatrading covers.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Covers of The Clash classic Straight to Hell
    +5 covers of Friend of the Devil Elseblog

    It's Hell Week over at Star Maker Machine, and though I had pretty much relegated all cross-promotion of this collaborative blog to the sidebar, I thought coverfans and folkfans might be interested in this piece about Friend of the Devil, one of my favorite Grateful Dead tunes from one of my absolute favorite Dead albums American Beauty. For the original, plus five covers -- from countryfolker Lyle Lovett, true folksman Bob Dylan, poprockers Counting Crows, acoustic roots band Last Fair Deal, and oldschool newgrassers Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pederson -- head on over.

    But don't leave emptyhanded, folks. My usual pre-post iTunes search called up several great indiefolk and alt-folk covers of Straight to Hell, an underrated, unusually downbeat political song by old-school Britpunk faves The Clash. The song isn't truly about Hell so much as it uses the term to voice mass culture's dismissal of the downtrodden in what Wikipedia describes as "a typical Clash condemnation of the wrongs that they saw in the world as they wrote the song". As such, despite its title, Straight to Hell doesn't really belong at Star Maker Machine this week. But the covers make a perfect short set for a Friday coverblog occasional, and it sure as hell makes me happy to share 'em here.

    Cover Lay Down publishes Wednesdays, Sundays, and the occasional Friday and holiday throughout the year. We'll be back this Sunday with a coverset of treesongs for my eldest child's sixth birthday!

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Martha Scanlan: The West Was Burning
    (Covers of Bob Dylan and Tradfolk)

    I was going to write about something else tonight. But sifting through some older downloads looking for inspiration, I got stuck in the rich, lush americana sound of singer-songwriter Martha Scanlan's 2007 debut The West Was Burning, and I just couldn't move on. It's been a while since we featured a single release here on Cover Lay Down, but it's also been a while since music struck me as powerfully as this. And so a post is born.

    A few years ago I managed to make it to the upper Hudson Valley for Clearwater, a folk and enviro-political action festival which leans towards the old-school stringfolk music of festival founder Pete Seeger and his modern inheritors. I saw plenty of great acts that year, from Natalie Merchant and Jeff Lang to Donna The Buffalo and Toshi Reagon, and loved them all. But my favorite act was a string band, a small group of very young old-timey performers I discovered quite by accident as I rounded a corner past the workshop stage. They were called the Reeltime Travelers, and they were new on the scene; their music was pretty traditional, but done so well and with such high energy, I walked away from the festival with their album.

    Since I last saw her in the early days of the Reeltime Travelers, Martha Scanlan has undergone a transformation. Her work with the Travelers and as a songwriter on the Cold Mountain soundtrack was marvelous; subsequently, she won both first and second prizes in the bluegrass and country division of the Chris Austin Songwriting Competition at Merlefest in 2003 for two songs on the Reeltime Travelers' second and final album Livin' Reeltime. That success gave her the strength and credibility to leave Reeltime Travelers behind and make a solid name for herself as a solo artist. And though I'm a little late to the table in finding it, her debut release The West Was Burning, released last February on Sugar Hill, is absolutely stunning.

    Scanlan's sound is wonderful, delicate folk in the pure americana vein, a stripped-down version of Lucinda Williams or Kathleen Edwards, light where it should be but with great, lush production in turn, full of fiddles and mandolin and slow country bass. The old-timey sound is still there, but it's been slowed down and fleshed out into something much richer, and eminently more powerful. Martha writes Montana so well, its as if someone came down out of the hills with a dozen newly-discovered, fully-fleshed traditional songs, pre-boiled down to their essential elements, with every lick and lyric perfect after years of evolution. Her voice is endearing, and suits the music well: delicate and pure, innocent and wise all at once. Add Levon Helm and his daughter Amy on drums, and the stellar production of americana master Dirk Powell, and you can't help but have a success on your hands.

    You'll have to buy The West Is Burning for transformative originals like the delicate Seeds of the Pine, and the driving americana rock beat and full-band jangle and twang of Isabella - though you can hear a few more tracks, including a great live version of tradsong Old Rocking Chair, at Martha's Myspace page, and if you're in Manitoba this weekend, you can catch her at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. But don't miss this sweet No Depression-flavored piano-tinged Dylan slowdance, and a perfect mountain ballad transformation of one of my favorite old hymns. I've even included a parallel set of covertunes from that self-titled Reeltime Travelers debut album, for comparison's sake, so you can hear the evolution of Martha's sound and sensibility.

    Just for fun, today's bonus coversongs provide an exercise in comparative listening:

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Buddy and Julie Miller Cover:
    Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, John Hiatt, John Sebastian, and more!

    One of the primary reasons I focus on coversong here at Cover Lay Down is because I believe that covers are a great way to make the process of discovering new artists both comfortable and familiar. Most of the time, whether the organizing principle of a given post is the interpretive work of one singer-songwriter, or a single artists' songbook, this means a focus on popular songs, and less popular artists performing them. After all, you don't need me to introduce you to Bob Dylan, but you're much less likely to have heard Angel Snow's delicate, raw take on Dylan's Meet Me in the Morning.

    But for me, the discovery process works the other way, too. When I began collecting covers in earnest as part of the creation of this blog, I started using the "composer" field in iTunes actively; in doing so, I gained the ability to easily cluster songs by songwriter. This not only made it easier to organize songs for our Covered in Folk feature posts -- it also led me to discover artists I might not otherwise have found, had I not been confronted with the fact that many beloved songs I had thought were unrelated originals by different artists shared a common songwriter, and gone looking for more work by that songwriter.

    Today, this process bears wonderful fruit: a focus on the interpretive work of a married pair of singer-songwriters who I first encountered through their songs as covered by other artists. They're known better as behind-the-scenes wizards from the country/roots-rock end of American folk music, but they're great performers in their own right, and I think they deserve as much a chance to shine as their songs do. Ladies and Gentlemen: Buddy and Julie Miller.

    Texan Julie Miller started singing at sixteen, releasing her first album in 1991; long-time Nashville session guitarist Buddy Miller met her on the road, and soon they were sharing both bed and band. But the singing-songwriting team of Buddy and Julie Miller was truly formed in 1995, when Julie co-wrote songs and contributed vocal talents for Buddy's first solo effort Your Love And Other Lies. Two years later, critical accolades for the release of her major-label debut Blue Pony, which featured Buddy as producer and on multiple instruments, sealed their reputations in the folk and country worlds; since then, the two have become one of the most successful musical husband and wife teams you've never heard of.

    You've almost definitely heard Buddy and Julie's session work, though. Both are heavily in demand: Buddy for his production work, vocals, bass, and lead guitarplay, Julie for her vocal harmonies and writing. Between them, they've worked on over a hundred albums, in session with the likes of everyone from Frank Black and Jimmie Dale Gilmore to Mindy Smith and Patty Griffin. Buddy, who served in Emmylou Harris' band for eight years, has earned accolades from bandmates Emmylou and Steve Earle, among others, for his guitarwork and his vocals; meanwhile, Julie's vocal harmony has become the mark of a certain kind of promise for releases from predominantly female folk artists with a particular southern folk/country bent to their sound and their outlook.

    But because session work is often invisible to the average listener, in name, at least, Buddy and Julie are probably better known for their work as interpreted by others. Their songs are unmistakable: rich with black and white old-testament imagery, catchy melodies, that particular form of desperate hope and strength common to regional music of proud but dirt-poor community, and a mountain gospel trope which fits well with the typical themes of post-folk country music. As other people's hits and deep cuts, their music has helped bring fame and fortune to a huge set of artists from the country and folk worlds, from core country artists Lee Ann Womack (multiple tracks), The Dixie Chicks (Hole in My Head) and Brooks and Dunn (My Love Will Follow You) to countryfolk Emmylou Harris (All My Tears) and Hank Williams III (Lonesome for You), from Christian rockers Jars of Clay (All My Tears) to bluesman John Mayall (Dirty Water) to straight-up folk artists Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell (see bonus section below).

    Though their co-billed album Buddy and Julie Miller was a 2001 Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Folk Album, Buddy and Julie Miller are lesser-known as performers in their own right outside the music community. The Millers spend more time on sidelines than center stage; as such, they sometimes come off as session players getting their big break in concert, but they have their moments. I saw them a few years ago at the Green River Festival: Buddy studious, ragged and white-haired, grinning as he hunched over the guitar like a sideman; Julie beside him, smiling, singing a bit too brashly for her voice, her confidence level somewhere between performing spouse and full-blown performer. But the music was memorable in its way -- big and generous, skillfully and unpretentiously presented, clearly studied -- and the songs catchy and fun in the particular manner of rock music sung by folk musicians.

    Still, it's the studio where these folks really shine as solo artists. By himself, Buddy Miller favors an electrified roots-rock sound, with skilled guitarwork that runs a full range from driving to atmospheric wail, while Julie leans towards more traditional southern-style singer-songwriter folk fare in the vein of Nanci Griffith or Caroline Herring, produced (by Buddy, mostly) in a folkpop vein. They work with each other, so though nominally some albums are hers, some his, there are usually bits of each of them in the songs. Together, they make a powerful team, both in the way their various talents come together as a single whole, and in the way Julie's sometimes tentative vocals compliment Buddy's rough southern voice -- think a slightly lighter-weight Kasey Chambers with a more intelligible Steve Earle, and you've just about got it.

    Here's some of Buddy and Julie Miller's best coverwork, both solo and with others, that you've never heard.

    *Look, the point here is to whet your appetite, so you'll buy the stuff; ordinarily, I'd have links here and above to Buddy and Julie's webstore, where you can pick up more of their fully autographed works direct from the source, without dropping most of the profit in the coffers of Big Music. But Buddy usually runs the store, and he's currently on tour with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, so he can't fill orders. And most of Julie's old albums are out of print, while the Millers prepare a "best of the early years" CD.

    My recommendation: pick up Universal United House of Prayer NOW, direct from the label, and let that be your turntable goodness for the summer. Then, when you want more, come back to the webstore in August...or head out to your local indie store, where they'll be happy to order whatever they can find for you.

    Want more? Of course you do. And given the high recognition factor for the Buddy and Julie Miller songbook, we'd be remiss in not offering you a look at some of their best songs as performed by others. Because the list was so exhaustive, though it was hard not to share Emmylou's version of All My Tears, I've decided to focus on some of our favorite song interpreters in the folkworld: Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, and Lucy Kaplansky, the three folk artists who, together, comprised the short-lived folk supergroup Cry Cry Cry. Today's bonus coversongs may be just the tip of a very big, very wonderful iceberg, but I think you'll find them worthy. (Bonus points: see if you can make out Buddy on one of these covers!)

    Previously on Cover Lay Down:
  • The Gibson Brothers cover Somewhere Trouble Don't Go
  • Friday, July 4, 2008

    America, The Beautiful:
    Coverfolk for a Thoughtful Fourth

    I'm not exactly the patriotic type. I've been to more countries than states; I prefer solitude to mall culture. Heck, we don't even have basic cable. But all power-hungry, commercial/corporate complex, bittersweet modernity aside, I believe in the ideals which frame the constant American dialogue with itself -- including first and foremost the requirement that we keep talking, lest we abdicate our role as government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

    And I believe that, by definition, as music which speaks of and for a people, American folk music holds a particular place in that conversation which is America. Folk focuses that conversation, making it real and vivid, whether it is through the lens of policy critique or protest cry, the immigrant experience or the internal monologue of a singer-songwriter struggling to be free.

    Checks and balances and a mechanism for self-correction; fireworks and barbecue, and the right to make dumb mistakes and have to live with 'em. Losing love, and falling in it again. Finding hope, and being scared to dream one more time. It's the American way, all of it -- and it's been that way since inception.

    Which is to say: if I may sometimes work to change the policies of those in power, through sharing song or through town meeting politics, it is because I love this country. And I hope I never lose that fluttery feeling in my stomach when we come in for a landing at the international terminal, and I know that I am home.

    So let other bloggers share patriotic song today. I'd rather take the country as it is: dialogic, complex, open about its faults and favors, and always looking for a better way. And if saying so means posting songs we have posted here before, then so be it -- for these are, after all, timeless songs, with messages that bear repeating.

    Happy Birthday, America. Long may your contradictions endear us to you. May you never lose hope. And may we never stop singing.

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    (Re)Covered VI: More Covers of and from
    Freak Folk, Gillian Welch, James Taylor, and Boxing Songs

    A long weekend of solo parenting while my wife headed off to Sonoma County for a long-overdue vacation has left me too exhausted for deep thought. Happily, thanks to reader emails, new releases and new discoveries, I've got plenty of material for yet another installment of our popular (Re)Covered series, wherein we recover songs that dropped through the cracks too late to make it into the posts where they belonged.

    A few weeks back, when my laptop went kablooie, Jamie -- host of the ever-miraculous coverblog Fong Songs -- stepped in to save the day with a fascinating guest themepost on Boxing coversongs. Jamie is one of the good guys, and he's been a great friend since we started Cover Lay Down, giving me an open invitation to share the occasional non-folk set of covers over at his place, and even encouraging his own readers to take advantage of our great promotion for artist-friendly music source Amie Street. So I was thrilled when his guest post turned out to be one of the most popular posts we've had here at Cover Lay Down. You guys have good taste.

    As a tip of the hat to this fine coverblogging peer, here's two more covers of that most obvious Simon and Garfunkel classic from a few great women on the edge of the folkworld: the slow but bright post-country popfolk of Deana Carter (with vocals from Paul Simon's eldest son), and a surprisingly old-timey take from Emmylou Harris just dripping with tight countryfolk harmony.

    Though our Subgenre Coverfolk feature on Freak Folk is long past, I continue to struggle with Freak Folk and its relationship to folk music writ large. I called it a subgenre when I blogged about it, but the lines around it remain fuzzy, and the question of whether this counts as folk or not remains too entwined with the new indie usurpation of the term "folk" for me to feel totally confident, even now, that I got it right.

    Looking back, I think I agree that Iron and Wine probably doesn't belong in the roster, despite critical clumping, though I continue to believe that Sufjan shares more sensibility with Devendra Banhart, both as a performer and as a composer, than, say, Vetiver, who tend towards the electronic end of things. But looking at my ever-growing roster of song, I would have no problem including both "chamber pop" singer Antony and the Johnsons and "dream-folk" singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler in any feature on Freak Folk as a subgenre of folk music if I was to post it today. In addition to sharing Banhart's peculiar wavery lyrical delicacy, both go for a swim of sound which is mystical and grand and personal all at once. It's eminently folk, and eminently authentic. Freak Folk may be hard to describe, but this music matches my sense of what it is.

    In the comments section of what was otherwise a pretty thorough exploration-through-covers of the songs of Gillian Welch way back in January, several folks mentioned that Over the Rhine covers Orphan Girl live in concert. Having just become a fan of these post-folkers after hearing (and reviewing) their holiday album, I spent the next few months gathering in bootlegs, and -- though the piano is a little heavy in spots -- have come to the conclusion that the "official" version from their Live from Nowhere, Vol. 2 album remains the best recording of a great, fleshed-out anthemic approach to this song.

    While we're on the subject, how about another couple of covers of and from the mistress of the new "American Primitive" movement? It's a little to the left of center, as folk goes, but I just love this americana/ alt-country cover of Look at Miss Ohio from newcomers The New Frontiers. And I've been looking for an excuse to post Welch's dreamy cover of Townes Van Zandt's Pancho and Lefty for ages, since it combines one of my favorite songs with one of my absolute famous performers. (PS: Gillian Welch's entire catalog is newly available at Amie Street, too...)

    Finally, we've been slamming the feedreaders this week over at collaborative music blog Star Maker Machine with our Fifty States theme: I missed the Massachusetts connection, but was happy to provide a few great songs (originals and covers) for the likes of Rhode Island (Erin McKeown, Blossom Dearie, Jennifer O'Connor), North Dakota (Lyle Lovett), New Jersey (John Gorka, Cliff Eberhardt), and Virginia (Johnny Cash, Dave Alvin, and Crooked Still).

    The planning process took me back to our Carolina Coverfolk series week; while I was there, I found I had missed a few great songs. I ended up choosing a favorite John Hartford song about North Carolina for Star Maker Machine. But since we're looking back, here's an old kidsong from North Carolina tradsong savior Doc Watson, and one more Sam Cooke cover from North Carolina emigrant James Taylor, that really shouldn't have been a bonus pair: local singer-songwriter and labor activist Tom Juravich with a true campfire folk cover of James Taylor's Millworker, and a cover of Fire and Rain by alt-rock/pop/folk artist Dido, just because it made me totally rethink her musicianship.

    Cover Lay Down is proud to support music through raising awareness, but musicians can't eat awareness. As such, all artist links above lead to websites and stores where you can buy music without having to support corporate cash cows that pay suits better than musicians. And if you're planning on going digital, remember, folks: Amie Street is not only cheaper than most download sources, it gives back 70% of all profits to artists. Use the code coverlaydown when you sign up for Amie Street, and you'll get three bucks towards your music purchase absolutely free!

    Coming soon on Cover Lay Down: more folk covers of plenty more popstars, a tribute to my elder child (who turns six in a week and a half), something vaguely patriotic, and a few more single-track cover featurettes from some great new albums and artists which I just can't seem to shake, and wouldn't want to. And it's only two more weeks until Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival!

    Still here? Then P.S. and FYI, coverfans:

    1. I don't usually promote upcoming radio shows/podcasts, but the folks at The Waiting Room, a radio show out of Cardiff, Wales (UK), will feature three hours of Tom Waits covers on tonight's broadcast. Their Drunk Covers series is generally good, with vast genre influences, and there's been a spate of Waits covers around this expect to hear some Tom Waits covertracks you've heard here in the last few months...and a whole bunch more you haven't. The show is broadcast on ErrorFM, which can be heard everywhere; podcast available here on Thursday!

    2. If you haven't been to Covering the Mouse recently, now's the time: friend and occasional reciprocal guest-poster Kurtis will be celebrating his one year bloggiversary this month, and to honor the occasion, he's collecting votes on your favorite past posts for a midsummer review of the best and worst Disney covers. Make your mark: vote now!

    3. I'm not thrilled about Doveman's cover of the entire soundtrack to Footloose, but My Old Kentucky Blog seems okay with it. Maybe you'll like it. It's free...