Category: Lake Street Dive

Tributes and Cover Compilations, 2012
Part 2: EPs from Zoe Muth, Emily Elbert, Lake Street Dive & more!

September 23rd, 2012 — 08:02 pm

As our title notes, we’re in the middle of a multi-feature series exploring recent Tributes and Cover Compilations – an overdue exercise, since our last full-length feature on the subject dates back to March 2012. Last week, we took on three new full-length folk albums from artists generally thought of as originating outside the genre; today, we look at a trio of new EPs, and an in-progress EP-length video session, by and from true-blue folk artists and bands.

It’s becoming increasingly common for artists to release otherwise-covers albums and EPs with a single original song on them (see, for example, Friday’s treatment of Rickie Lee Jones’ The Devil You Know, which is being marketed as an interpretive album, even with one new track lurking among the covers). While this trend confounds delineation a bit, I’m certainly willing to allow it – after all, our own mandate at Cover Lay Down assumes the cover is predominantly a vehicle for comfort and approachability; to find that one original in the mix, and hold it up to the light of coverage, allows us to ease into the fullness of an artist’s craft, regardless of their stature. And in the case of the EP, it’s not hard to consider the work an expanded case of the maxi-single, which has often included b-side coverage – thus offering a short and inexpensive risk to the buyer, letting them sample the sound of a band, while testing the waters of their songwriting.

Conveniently, two all-covers-but-one EPs from young artists on the Signature Sounds label have been tickling my fancy this year, and though they come from opposite ends of the folk spectrum, both are worth celebrating. The first, from Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, features stellar countryfolk coverage from the twangy Seattle-based singer-songwriter, who has been compared to Loretta, Emmylou, Iris Dement, and Patty Griffin – high praise indeed, and incredibly apt, though the clarity of Kate Wolf is there in spades, too, in this tribute set to her influences. The second, from local heroes Lake Street Dive, was a core component of my summer soundtrack, perfect for summery drives with the windows rolled down; their work is less obviously folk, but the quirky, sparse instrumentation of the band, which features stand-up bass, vocals, drumkit, and trumpet, and the one-mic one-take recording on Fun Machine, fit squarely into the indiefolk mindset, even as the covers take on The Jackson 5, George Michael, Hall & Oates, and Paul and Linda McCartney, and the performances yaw towards an iconoclastic folk club lounge band’s modality.

  • BONUS TRACK: Lake Street Dive: I Want You Back (orig. Jackson 5)

Possibly defunct Scandinavian Americana-folk collective Hyacinth House was around for a while, it seems – a quick internet search reveals old MySpace and pages that describe the band’s progress for a period of three years, from their inception at the hands of singer and producer Mack Johansson in 2003 up through the studio recording of their second album in 2006; a deeper dig nets blog mention of Swedish awards nominations for a 2008 album of originals which may or may not be that same second album, a rarities and b-sides album from 2009, and word of Johansson’s solo debut in late 2010. But if nary a homepage can be found anymore, perhaps it is a lesson in nomenclature: naming your band after both an entire artistic movement and a song by The Doors is always going to bury search results a bit, especially after you let your band fall by the wayside.

Still, if their fragmented history is to be believed, even after their possible passage, Hyacinth House remains a local favorite in the Netherlands, and their Dylan tribute A Tribute To Bob is worth hearing beyond those tiny borders. Recorded live on the road in the second half of the decade, and released this summer, the five tracks show a range of tonality – as might be expected from a group that in its earliest days ranged up to 17 members, though generally based on a core quartet of singer, guitar, cello, and alternating banjo, harmonicas and dobro, and unfailingly centered around Johansson himself. But whether it’s the sparse guitar-centered Springsteen feel of In My Time Of Dyin’ or their jangly contemporary dustbowl Buddy Miller take on Masters of War, the overall feel is wholly consistent with the quiet, contemporary acoustic roots music that we love to hear here on Cover Lay Down. Which is to say: it’s all folk, and it’s all quite good.

Finally, we’re going to go wide, and declare a professionally-recorded, single-session series of YouTube covers equivalent to an EP, even though we generally insist that medium matters, and even though only two of the cuts have been released as of yet, making declaration of session length and content comprehensively premature. But give us some credit for not wanting to wait to bring you the best coverage we’ve heard this month: though we snuck one of her collaborative works with fellow Berklee grads The Boston Boys in a few months ago, we’ve been looking for an excuse to feature 23 year old jazz-slash-folk singer-songwriter Emily Elbert for a while, not hardly because of her fondness for video coverage, and the two amazing covers she’s already published from last month’s home studio sessions with her piano-playing father Roland are simply stunning, with Emily’s powerful, soulful voice and subtle guitar framed adeptly by the rolling jazzfolk piano her father sets behind her. Check ‘em out below, and then bookmark Emily’s YouTube and Facebook pages to make sure you catch the rest as they emerge.

3 comments » | Compilations & Tribute Albums, Emily Elbert, Lake Street Dive, Tribute Albums, Zoe Muth