Sunday, November 16, 2008

We've Moved!

Cover Lay Down has moved to its own domain at!

Click here to find us in our new home -- and don't forget to change your bookmarks and blogroll links when you arrive!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cover Lay Down Status Update:
Rumblings from Behind the Scenes

Just a quick note to let folks know that, although I'm holding off on posting anything of real significance this close to the move, thanks to some amazing benefactors and patronage, I'm hoping to have good news and a new site address sometime later this week. (Of course, there's always room for a bit more encouragement as the process continues; if you haven't had a chance to offer your support, please check out our call for patronage below.)

The plan is to resume regular twice-weekly posting, with the depth and breadth you have come to expect from Cover Lay Down, by next Sunday at the latest. In the meantime, here's some coverfolk tunes to keep your ears humming while you wait, from Emm Gryner's pianofolk take on a personal thrash metal fave to Tim O'Brien's chunky newgrass take on an old gospel spiritual, and from the Irish siren croon of Cara Dillon to the Cape Breton Celtic of The Cottars. Plus two ragged favorites previously posted, just to top the list off right.

Cover Lay Down will return.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Change Is Gonna Come

Thanks, America. I really needed some hope, and I know I wasn't alone. Some relevant reposts:

Stay tuned for a status update later this week, folks. And thanks, immeasurably, for those who have already pitched in. The solution to our problems is within reach. Together, we really can make a difference.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beating a Dead Horse:
On Still Blogging as a Subversive Activity

Okay, now I'm pissed. And if you want Cover Lay Down to continue, I'm asking for YOUR help. Here's the deal:

In the last hour, blogger has removed two more posts from this blog.

One of these was the post I put up just this past weekend.

The blogger take-down comes just hours after I received a very nice thank you from the label rep who arranged for me to have those songs available for all of you.

Let me say that again, just to make sure you get it. Here's what happened, in order:

  1. Label rep contacts me about awesome new covers.
  2. I write to label rep thanking her and asking for permission to share those covers.
  3. Label rep excitedly grants permission to share those covers in a particular way.
  4. I post those covers in exactly the way specified by the label rep.
  5. In the same post, I include two other covers which are all over the blogs, and available for FREE on the MySpace page of the artist, who owns her OWN label.
  6. The label rep writes to thank me for the nice review.
  7. Blogger takes down the post.

Other than making sure that the entire bloggiverse understands that at no time - not once, in all of this mess over the past few weeks -- has blogger EVER contacted me about taking down posts, even to let me know that the posts have gone down, I'm pretty much at a loss for words. And those who visit Cover Lay Down regularly know, that's really saying something.

I wish I had the heart and the focus to rant a bit right now, but I'm not averse to giving others who have come before me the credit for speaking to my heart. And Any Major Dude with Half A Heart describes my own feelings to a T, I think: defiant but cautious, and, more significantly, exhausted enough by the prospect of this as a way of life that I'm seriously considering compromising how I blog. Here's what he has to say; it goes double for me, too:

I have pledged to continue blogging. I might change platforms – perhaps finding a host in a country where US copyright laws do not have force – or try to double-guess what Blogger will and will not zap. At the same time, I’m feeling a sense of blogging burnout and diminished time. If the rate of my updates decreases, then it will not because I have submitted to The Man, but because I am facing new challenges. Apart from the job which pays me my monthly salary and being engaged in an NGO I helped found*, I have taken on the editorship of a book project, revising another book, and plan to write one myself. And my family would like to remember my face as well. Which means I will not devote as much time to this labour of love as I have previously. But I won’t go.

To me, this is the real blow. Most of us blog with all our heart, and all the time we can give. To suddenly be faced with having to put in a huge amount of work to restart elsewhere is time-consuming, and that time has to come from somewhere, and all I've got left to give is the time I have to write this.

The problem is, unlike AMD, I don't think I have the heart to do this by halves. And right now, it would take a superhuman amount of work and love and energy just to save this place from its looming condemnation.

I'd like to pledge to continue, and have the time to consider options. But unlike Any Major Dude, my host has already notified me that they're giving me the boot. Clearly, I'm not on the same wavelength as blogger, but even if I thought I could second-guess blogger successfully, I don't have the luxury of trying. And so, I have thirteen days -- no more or less -- to find, and fully implement, a solution, lest we become a blog frozen in time, another flying dutchman lost to the ether.

And let's be honest, folks. I just can't do it on my own.

I'm writing midterms for my classes, and about to have to grade them; if I want to keep my day job, I need to spend the next two weeks grading papers and crunching grades for my kids, not spending every waking hour rebuilding this blog on a new platform. My kids miss me, too. It's going to snow any day now, and the wood isn't stacked, the yard isn't raked, and I spend every waking hour either at work or cursing this damn computer, and all the stress it is bringing me. I turned to blogging as a vocational hobby, a true amateur's pursuit, and now it's just making me tired, mad, and worn out.

I thought about just writing this as a final post, and letting go. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that heart can be borrowed. After all, I've lent my own out, when it was warranted. I believe in social media, and this is why:

I could do this if I had patronage.

If someone was willing to step forward to do the bulk of the transfer, making a clean swap of archives and content from blogger to a private domain, maybe help out with the redesign. If some of you were willing to give, maybe just a few bucks each, to the financial cause, via that everpresent and hardly used donate button there on the sidebar, since self-hosting in the way that seems most secure is about ten times more expensive than the model I've been using.

What I can offer is love and time, the same as it ever was, and I don't think that's nothing.

It's just that, right now, it clearly isn't enough.

Look, I love this place. I've got music poised to post, more new artists to tout, streamable and ready, with labels waiting for me to give them the nod. But as the deadline for my host gets closer, all I can do is feel the weight of it pushing down on me. It's time to come forward, and state unequivocally, that I just can't do this right now.

If it turns out that there isn't really a bunch of people out there willing to help out, then I'll crawl back into my hole, and call it a good run. I'll be sad, for a while. The music world will be that much more commercialized and commodified. We'll all lose, just a little bit more. And then we'll move on, and forget, as we always do, and live in that grey world.

But I'm hoping that there are a few folks out there who appreciate what I've tried to bring here just enough to want to help out.


UPDATE 11:11 pm: Several folks have written to ask if there are other ways to help, especially for those with no e-cash solution or hosting to offer. The short answer to this question: absolutely. See the comments below for a few more thoughts on the matter.

New Artists, Old Songs Week, Part 2:
Ane Brun, Sara Lov, Rosie Thomas

(REPOSTED with NO DOWNLOADS; see HERE for more)

We're a bit off schedule here at Cover Lay Down, and for that I apologize; I wrote this post for our usual Wednesday deadline, but the part of my brain that used to be devoted to blogging appears to have been partially subsumed by the stress of impending host-loss, and the urgent need to re-imagine the blog in another form in order to continue blogging within what I continue to maintain are perfectly legitimate, legal boundaries.

As I wrote this past Sunday, a tidal wave of great new covers from indiefolk to freak to alt-country has slammed through my inbox in the past week or two, jamming my aural pleasure circuits and tipping over onto the page. Simultaneously, a chill has fallen over much of the blogging world in the face of reports of a massive increase in DMCA takedown requests to file hosts and blog services, which have subsequently cost bloggers posts, files, and (in my own case) the impending loss of my file host altogether.

In order to clear the inbox, then, and also to avoid - at least for the moment - posting the sort of older, classic songs which seem to have been predominantly featured in the take-down bonanza, this week, we're exclusively featuring brand new coversong from all corners of the folk tent. And, since on Sunday we spoke of some amazing male folkvoices with new work on the scene, today we welcome the introduction of some wonderful womenfolk to our Late Fall/Early Winter New Release Spectacular. Enjoy.

News of The Young Eyes, the new five-song EP from LA-based Sara Lov, came to me via the best kind of personalized, targeted label outreach from professionals who make it clear that they actually read this blog -- always a nice change from the huge volume of unwanted hip-hop fusion and electrodance originals I receive every week (um, guys? Coverfolk blog, here?). I'm glad her people found me, too: Lov's short set runs a great radio-ready indie popfolk gamut, reminding me a little of Lisa Loeb, or some of Kathryn William's more atmospheric gems.

In addition to some well-crafted, playful originals, the EP includes two wonderful choices done with aplomb and majesty. My Body Is A Cage, originally by Arcade Fire, is gorgeous pianofolk, with a subtle build and a driving piano chord over its resonant atmosphere; Beck's Timebomb is a perfect light popfolk piece, jangly and bouncy all at once; together, they show range and promise galore.

Lov's label preferred streams to downloads, and we're not complaining; streams preserve copyright better, and we're just happy to have any chance to share these incredible covers with you. The plastic version of The Young Eyes doesn't drop until January, so I can't speak to the cover art, but downloads are available now; if you want to be able to take these bits and bytes away, head over to Sara Lov's website without delay. For bonus points, while you're there, check out Sara Lov's stunning cover of Simon and Garfunkel obscurity Old Friends, drowned perfectly in ringing bells and electronic haze.

Better known as a fast-rising star in the indie world, and especially in the British Isles, where her commercial for Sky+ HDTV features this new delicate pianofolk cover of Cyndi Lauper ballad True Colors, Scandinavian singer-songwriter (and blonde bombshell) Ane Brun is not necessarily as familiar to ears tuned to the folkside of the dial. But despite the almost chilly, sparse nature of her arrangements, folk fans will hear something eminently warm and familiar in these covers, especially the almost freakfolk hollowness of both voice and acoustic guitar of Big In Japan. (Think Madeleine Peyroux with Jose Gonzales on guitar, and you've captured this Alphaville cover perfectly.)

Both of today's covers are up at Ane's MySpace -- there's also a gorgeous live cover of True Colors at the end of this recent concert video recorded in Amsterdam -- and both have been featured prominently as downloads on numerous blogs without getting yanked; Ane also co-owns her own record label, so it seems safe to assume that getting them here is both acceptable, and will have no negative impact on sales. Rather, our goal, as always, is to create positive buzz and business; if you like what you hear, we highly recommend Ane's newest album Changing of the Seasons, which dropped just a few weeks ago, and is clearly poised to go very far indeed.

  • Ane Brun: True Colors (orig. Cyndi Lauper)
  • Ane Brun: Big In Japan (orig. Alphaville)

Finally: I debated whether or not to include notice of the new Christmas album from indiefolk darling and fellow Denison Witmer fan Rosie Thomas here; after all, it's hardly Halloween, and far be it from me to be the cause of any retroshift in what is already a culture doomed to spend a good fifth of the year shopping amidst the mistletoe. And this is unquestionably a Christmas album, complete with shaken sleighbells, children's chorus fade-outs, and plenty of cozy fireside torchswing. But truly, though the songs on A Very Rosie Christmas are eminently christmassy, the music was just to good to hold on to, no matter the season.

Previous covers from Rosie Thomas were sweet but relatively faithful, merely applying her delicate, tentative touch to the previously-posted Witmer tune Paper Doll, and to friend Sufjan Stevens' famously hushed arrangement of REM favorite The One I Love. But the sheer quirky bravado Thomas shows in utterly changing the tunes and tropes of some almost too-familiar carols which nestle among the few originals here is stunning, bringing new meaning to some old chestnuts. Turning her little girl's voice to a notch more power may move her sound a little closer towards that of fellow Christmas anthem singers Shawn Colvin or Carly Simon, but that's not always a bad thing, and happily, the vast majority of A Very Rosie Christmas stays on the good side of Contemporary Adult Alternative.

Even more exciting is the application of this redemptive, transformative approach to a few unexpected familiarities. The songs change so much, it is not far from the truth to say that Rosie's cover of Christmas Don't Be Late (the song that made Alvin and the Chipmunks famous) is quite possibly one of the best new Christmas songs I've heard in a very, very long time. I wasn't able to secure permission to share it, but I was able to garner permission to stream her cover of Joni Mitchell favorite River, which is equally transformative, especially when put up against the huge set of covers of the song we put up a year ago here on Cover Lay Down.

The stream herein is posted with permission from the label, and gratefully; it provides just the right teaser, I think. Though we're the first to share this cover with the world at large, I expect to see it popping up again and again as we head towards the holidays. A Very Rosie Christmas hits the streets November 4th, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. At this rate, we'll have snow on the ground by then.