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
- The Strangelings: A Day In The Life
- Nerissa and Katryna Nields: If I Fell
- Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: With A Little Help From My Friends
- Joe Crookston: Junk
- Anthony Da Costa: Get Back
- Lindsay Mac: Blackbird
- Randall Williams: Come Together
- Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry: Till There Was You
- Nerissa and Katryna Nields: Lovely Rita Meter Maid
- Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: All You Need Is Love
- Joe Crookston: Norwegian Wood*
- Anthony Da Costa: I'm Looking Through You*
- Randall Williams: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds*
- Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry: Eleanor Rigby
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.