Category: Richard Thompson

Covered in Folk: Richard Thompson
(Kate Rusby, Buddy and Julie Miller, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and 9 more!)

May 12th, 2009 — 10:08 pm

I have a strong memory of being halfway up the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Hill, the sun setting, the stage small in the distance, trying to figure out what people see in Richard Thompson. The man was clearly a legend, and a draw indeed; the hill was as full as I’ve seen it. But that voice, and the signature solo electric guitar, echoed off the hills like a sour note in my ears. I wandered off to put the kids in their bunks, and tucked Thompson away in my mind for another day.

We’ve hemmed and hawed around the subject for a while here at Cover lay Down, from our early feature on son Teddy Thompson to a half-pint feature on 1952 Vincent Black Lightning way back in August. In fact, on average, covers of Richard Thompson songs have cropped up at a rate of one per month — a high percentage indeed for a blog that only posts twice a week.

But regular readers may notice that though his songs are legion here, Richard Thompson’s own voice has only shown up a few meager times, for live covers of Britney Spears and Squeeze classic Tempted, and for his Donovan cover from the Crossing Jordan soundtrack. For a guy who has had such an impact on modern folk music on both sides of the pond — both for his work with the definitive sixties British folk rock group Fairport Convention and his subsequent career as a solo artist — and who has been so prolific in both stages of his work, it’s almost an embarrassment to have stayed at arm’s length for so long.

My bias against Dylan, Michael Stipe, and other practitioners of a particular type of nasal, pinched male folk voices is well-cited here at Cover lay Down; much of my long-standing resistance to Thompson’s music, surely, is due to the peculiar grating timbre of his voice. Too, his particular sound is so distinctive, it can easily be mistaken for sameness — that loose-tempoed strum, that too-often invariant volume, that strangled, raw-pitched yelp held loud and long.

But looking back, my bias for Thompson’s songbook is so obvious, and the field so rich, I’ve given myself a few days to try on the songs themselves, figuring that if they were truly that unlistenable, the man would never have become one of the most covered folksingers living today. And you know what? After steeping myself in his vast back catalog for just a few hours, I think I’m catching a glimmer of the power already — something about the tension between the little-boy longing in his heart, the beauty of the language he finds to express himself, and the authenticity it takes on when held in tension with the sound and fury of the performance.

I suspect I’ll always favor the covers, and not just because it’s my raison d’blog. Specifically, I find his language and melodies especially well-served by tender coverage, though like the originals, versions “out there” range from rockers to ballads. And since friend FiL sent along two generally solid tribute albums a while back — one a rocker, the other a delicate collection of freakfolk and neofolk — there’s plenty of fodder, both reposted and newly-found, to select from and share.

But like once-bitter coffee or a fine IPA, the man’s finally starting to grow on me. He may not turn out to be the musical love of my life, but I’m willing to find my peace with the guttural performance of this bittersweet poet of factory and field, apt chronicler of loves lost and discovered and lost again.

While I spend a few more hours with the originals, here’s just a small sampling of the Thompson-penned covers I’ve grown to love best in a lifetime of resistance.

As always, folks, Cover Lay Down exists to spread the word about artists, not just share the tunes and thoughts. If you enjoyed one or all of today’s sampler platter, follow album links to pick up your very own copies of tribute disks and more direct from artist websites and other local, anti-corporate sources.

And if you’re interested in joining me on my aural pilgrimage to learn more about the nigh-immortal Richard Thompson, head on over to BeesWeb, Thompson’s well-designed website, for purchase links, samples and more. The lyrics are sheer poetry, too, worth reading as verse on their own merits.

More recent Richard Thompson coverage on Cover Lay Down:

1,288 comments » | Covered in Folk, Richard Thompson

Cover Lay Down Status Update:
Rumblings from Behind the Scenes

November 10th, 2008 — 01:50 am

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.

960 comments » | Cara Dillon, Emm Gryner, Redbird, Richard Thompson, The Cottars, Tim O'Brien

Jim Henry Covers: Richard Thompson, Robert Johnson, Doc Watson, etc.

August 23rd, 2008 — 11:01 pm

If you’re a younger folkfan like myself, and you know Jim Henry at all, it’s probably for his work with others – whether it’s as a session musician for the likes of The Weepies, Mark Erelli, or Cliff Eberhardt, a guitar and mando collaborator with fellow stringwizard Brooks Williams a la Grisman and Garcia, or, most recently, as a David Rawlings to Tracy Grammer, whose career performing the songs of her late partner Dave Carter is much enriched by Jim’s direct, honest string work, harmonies, and production. In fact, Jim’s work as a highly versatile sideman and producer over the last few years is legendary within the northeastern folkscene, at least among those of us who read liner notes to see who else is playing on the better tracks; he is greatly respected by critics and label-hounds, even if his name is only vaguely familiar to the average folk listener.

But Jim Henry gets around. He made his name as a member of the Sundogs, a “swamp boogie” band popular on the New England circuit twenty years ago. His solo work in the late nineties, before he shifted to sideman work as a primary outlet for his musicianship, won broad recognition on a national scale, finding its way to folk radio everywhere, and topping the Gavin Americana charts. And though he spends more time supporting the projects of other musicians these days, over the past decade, guitar and mando master Jim Henry has quietly released a few solo “seven song six-packs” on his own personal in-house label, and they’re surprisingly good, honest, melodic folk music, played masterfully but understated, without ego or fanfare, as befits his down-to-earth style.

In concert and in press photos, Henry comes across as a guy who is genuinely happy, almost ecstatically so, to be where he is right at that moment, pickin’ and grinning and making good noise. I was struck by this cheerful ease when I saw him with Tracy Grammer this summer, and think it comes across in these recordings, too — both in his lyrics, and his easy approach to songcraft and production.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out these genuinely nice, lighthearted renditions of a few familiar folk standards, and then head on over to Jim Henry’s website for full streams of his more recent works, including his brand new EP King of Hearts, which features a very simple, very beautiful rendition of Home on the Range in addition to the below Richard Thompson cover and five sweet originals, and the similarly intimate 2005 EP One-Horse Town, which features Henry and Grammer on a previously unrecorded Dave Carter tune. Buy ‘em while you’re there, ’cause you’re going to want to keep these EPs in the car – they’re the perfect thing for long drives on those bright, sunny fall days ahead.

These days, Jim plays most gigs with Tracy, and that’s good honest folk music, too. Hence today’s bonus coversong: two covers released under Tracy’s name, and an irresistible pair from a previous collaboration.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:

810 comments » | Jim Henry, Richard Thompson, Stefan Grapelli, Tracy Grammer

Elseblog: Springsteen and Guthrie Covers +3 more covers of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

August 8th, 2008 — 12:47 pm

It’s been a relatively quiet week over at collaborative themeblog Star Maker Machine, but I’m particularly proud of two coverheavy sets I put up earlier this week: a trio of Springsteen carsong covers from Ani DiFranco, Patty Griffin, and Townes Van Zandt, and a short set of tiny Woody Guthrie sillysong Riding in my Car, with covers by Springsteen and Cover Lay Down kidsong fave Elizabeth Mitchell.

Some good guest posts over there this week, too, from a few of my favorite new americana and alt-bloggers; I’m especially glad to see newcomers Payton (of This Mornin’ I Am Born Again) and Nelson (of A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz) aboard as regular contributors. Worth checking it all out.

But first, the coverfolk: When I first started sifting through the playlists to see what came up for a car theme, the field was rich; heck, we could probably have done a whole week on Cadillacs, if the current postset is any indication. But passing over all those trainsongs, bus and truckstories, and cycledreams was a good exercise, too: plenty of good music running through the brain at skim speed, plenty of future theme ideas. I’ve already posted versions of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by The Mammals (here) and Del McCoury (here); here’s three more live but well-recorded covers of my favorite motorcycle song.

906 comments » | Elseblog, Greg Brown, Jeff Lang, Mary Lou Lord, Richard Thompson

Ruth Ungar Merenda Covers: Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Richard Thompson, Nico & more!

June 7th, 2008 — 09:05 pm

In the early days of Cover Lay Down, I spent some time covering the emergence of artists like Teddy Thompson, Rufus Wainwright, and Sam Amidon, all new voices who walked in the footsteps of folksinger parents; more recently, we heard Neill MacColl, son of Ewan and half-sister of Kirsty, in duet with Kathryn Williams, and Ben Taylor as a tagalong in discussion of the life work of his father James.

This may seem like a high percentage of “folk kids” for a blog that’s only been around since September. But stepping back and looking around, we see that the prevalence of second generation musicians in Cover Lay Down is not so far off from the natural order of things in the world of folk music.

And if the idea of folk music as a family business is not so uncommon, then I suspect much of this has to do with the kind of work that musicmaking is — after all, the artistic muse isn’t one which takes place solely outside of the household, and can be left at the office each evening. As we alluded to in our recent exploration of folk musicians who are also mothers, as an art form and a vocational practice, the work of folk is something which permeates home life.

Some forms of folk, like some forms of music, are more open to family performance, of course. In the contradance and traditional folk music worlds, especially, performance is very often something which happens in households and community halls, with families and children; proportionally, you see more kids on (or near) stages in dance performance than you do in latenight singer-songwriter coffeehouses. Sam Amidon grew up in a household like this, where music took place as a daily and family activity, and performance was more often mid-afternoon than anything else. And the family atmosphere which permeated the McGarrigle/Wainwright household is famous for bringing forth Rufus and sister Martha Wainwright as musicians of confidence in their own right.

Someday soon, I hope to tackle the phenomenon of three-generational folk families which have their roots in the early American folk resurgence of the fifties and sixties, such as that of Woody, Arlo, and Sarah Lee Guthrie, or the performing careers of the Seeger family, including Pete Seeger’s grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger, who performed as part of The Mammals with today’s featured artist until the band went on its recent hiatus. But such massive undertakings are for cooler, more comfortable days than today’s high humidity heat wave. Instead, today, we look at another folk performer who grew up in not one but two households of folk musicians, and has since struck out on her own. Ladies and gentlemen: the various folk incarnations of Ruth Ungar Merenda.

For a young folk musician, fiddle and uke player and vocalist Ruth Ungar Merenda has gone through a surprisingly large amount of performing groups and incarnations. Starting off as a childhood sidegirl determined not to follow in the footsteps of her mother, luthier and singer-songwriter Lyn Hardy, and her father Jay Ungar, who with Ruthy’s stepmother Molly Mason is a staple of the New England contradance and fiddlefolk revivals, Ruth headed off to Bard College, and from there to NYC, where she tried to make a go of it as an actress.

But as with so many second generation musicians, it seems the music was in her blood. By her mid-twenties Ruthy had drifted back to the fold, making appearances throughout New England as part of the family bands. In 2002, with the production support of Jay and Molly, Ruthy released Jukebox, a sprawling solo album which tackled a few originals and a bunch of early country and jazz classics with powerful but still slightly immature vocals over a delicate old-timey charm and acoustic swing production. Though the album showed diverse influences, and would have probably done well in the track-by-track promotional model of today’s blogworld, back then it sold no more than a handful of copies.

Luckily, even before she released her solo disk, Ruthy had found a different outlet for her sound, joining up with a few other younger folks, including fellow second-gen songwriter Tao Rodriguez Seeger and singer-songwriter Michael Merenda to become The Mammals. And this time, people started to listen.

The Mammals emerged in the midst of a young person’s newgrass revival, finding fame alongside similarly female-voiced bluegrass and folkgrass acts such as Uncle Earl and Crooked Still. As fiddler and the sole female voice of the Mammals, Ruthy found herself front and center plenty; she also began to play with others backstage at festivals, and occasionally showed up with a few other women from those aforementioned groups in side projects and sidestages, even recording a slightly racy album with her compatriots Aoife O’Donovan (of Crooked Still) and Kristin Andreassen (of Uncle Earl) as the trio Sometymes Why after a successful jam session in a festival parking lot.

I was lucky enough to see the Mammals several times in their few years together as an active performing group, both as a solo act and in tandem with Canadian-based folk group the Duhks (their performance together was billed as Platypus, as in Duhks+Mammals, which is just too cute). I liked the sound an awful lot, and I think their early release Evolver was a masterpiece of modern traditional folk rock. But seeing them in concert in their last year of performance, you could tell there was a hint of something in the air, just a faint unease in the way they clustered in threes and twos, rather than as a full ensemble, as if that there were some differences of opinion about what the “right” sound for the Mammals was supposed to be.

These days, in fact, The Mammals are “hibernating” while their members pursue solo projects; for Ruthy and Michael Merenda, now performing as Mike and Ruthy, these projects included marriage, which came with a very generous wedding present of studio time and production for an album. The result was The Honeymoon Agenda, a complete set of originals and well-chosen cover songs which run the musical gamut from the urgent yet delicate one-guitar duet sound of Tom Waits cover Long Way Home to a surprisingly countrified version of the Velvet Underground’s I’ll Be Your Mirror to a grungy production-laden folkpop that rivals the best work of Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield or Mary Lou Lord and Elliott Smith, or more recently, Signature Sounds indierockers the Winterpills — that latter being unsurprising, since it was the Winterpills’ producer who gave the duo the generous gift.

This newest incarnation of Ruthy’s collaborative work is a far cry from the bouncy, almost renaissance sound of the contradance she grew up with, and it seems to have replaced the acoustic folk-slash-newgrass jam session sound of the Mammals work with a more intimate studio sound. Nor is it truly a return to the country swing-influenced singer-songwriter sound of her earliest solo work. Instead, though the record ultimately still shows an evolving artist in flux, it shows much more potential, in many more directions than before. It is lo-fi, but confident and mature in a way that Ruthy’s first solo work only hinted at. And, as in all Ruthy’s previous work, there is an energy and an honesty here which is well-served by her perpetual sense of whirlwind glee in making music, regardless of the style or subgenre.

But why take my word for it? Here’s a few coversongs from each of these three major phases of Ruth Ungar’s adult career thus far, so you can hear her musical journey for yourself.

The Honeymoon Agenda is available from various artist-friendly sources, including CD Baby; for digital downloads, I highly recommend Amie Street, where the entire album is currently available for download for six bucks, but where, due to their snowballing scale, song prices will continue to rise as others find Mike and Ruthy’s music. (Bonus: when you arrive at Amie Street, sign up for an account, and enter the code “coverlaydown” for a three dollar discount!)

The Sometymes Why album appears to include no covers, but it, too, has some great ragged moments. And all five of the Mammals albums, Ruth Ungar’s single solo album, and hubby Michael Merenda’s solo works are all worth checking out, too.

If you’re up for some live music, and live in the NY/NE area, Mike and Ruthy will also be appearing at several folk festivals in the American Northeast this summer, including the always amazing Clearwater Festival and Revival on June 21 and 22, and New Bedford Summerfest in the first week of July, which I’ve never attended but very much hope to make it to this year; their tour schedule has more. And for those who are willing to make the trip, experimental folk trio Sometymes Why will be at Bonnaroo next week. In full, it’s an exceptionally busy schedule for any performer, let alone one who became a mother on January 28 of this year. Given Ruthy’s own irresistible pull towards the musicworld, I’m confident that we can expect to see little William performing alongside Mama, Daddy, Grandma Lyn, and Grandpa Jay before long.

Today’s bonus coversongs offer a taste of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s typical contra-slash-swingfolk sound, as a roundabout way of exploring the deeper roots of Ruth Ungar’s musical journey.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:

  • The Mammals (and many others) cover tradfolk tune The House Carpenter

  • 79 comments » | Compay Segundo, Hank Williams, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Mike and Ruthy, Nico, Richard Thompson, Ruth Ungar Merenda, The Mammals, Tom Waits

    Covered in Folk: Donovan (Richard Thompson, Rickie Lee Jones, Lindsay Buckingham, etc.)

    February 22nd, 2008 — 12:39 pm

    It’s been suggested that this will be the year of the British band at blogfave musicfest SXSW. Ironically, however, last year’s SXSW featured a pair of sets by a seminal member of the original British Invasion, and hardly anyone seemed to notice, or remember. So while others prep for the indiefest, I thought it was high time to take a look back at a man who is so underrated in the US that none of the current generation of folk-rockers seem to bother listening to him, despite obvious musical similarities between today’s indiepop and his better-known tunes. Ladies and gentlemen, the songs of Donovan.

    When sixties folk-rocker Donovan appeared at the 1981 Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball alongside Sting, Bob Geldoff, John Cleese, and other famous musicians and comedians known for their commitment to the cause, his contemporaries Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton were immediately recognized and applauded by the audience. But although Donovan’s songs were given their due, he himself was not so well recognized. Instead, as he took the stage, one audience member bellowed “I thought you were dead!” Donovan’s response? “Not yet!”

    Wikipedia goes on to suggest that the warm reception which followed this exchange “proves” that one-time flower child Donovan was still popular, despite the “anti-sixties” sentiment that existed at the time. More than anything, what the initial exchange says to me is that even as early as 1981, some folks had no idea that Donovan was anything more than a long-gone fragment of the past.

    There’s a lot more to Donovan Leitch than Mellow Yellow. He’s an uncredited cowriter of the Beatles song Yellow Submarine. Friend of Dylan; father of actress Ione Skye, best known as Lloyd Dobler’s girlfriend in Say Anything. A man who remains committed to Transcendental Meditation, long after most folks packed it away with their macramé and love beads; who is, in fact, starting a TM university devoted to world peace and something called “the universal field” with the support of filmmaker David Lynch.

    Okay, that last bit is a bit much. But the main point stands: though most folks remember Donovan for his celebration of hippie drug culture through his lifestyle and his lyrics, once upon a time, Donovan was a singer-songwriter who stood for peace, and was celebrated for his anti-war songs. He gets credit, even today, from others of his generation, who still play his songs in concert, and put them on their late-in-life releases. And in my opinion, he deserves it.

    But unlike many of our other Covered In Folk feature artists, despite a minor renaissance in the coversongs of grungerockers Hole and the Butthole Surfers, and a mediocre 1992 grunge/indieband tribute album Islands of Circles, Donovan’s abilities as a songsmith seem to have been forgotten by today’s up-and-coming artists, especially the American folk community.

    How the mighty have fallen. Today, Donovan still records, and tours Europe and his native London. He has true indiefolk cred, with a myspace and no major label support. He remains a musician constantly trying to recapture the magic. But while so many of his fellow sixties icons successfully reinvent themselves for modern audiences, in America, with the exception of a small but significant fan base, most folks still think Donovan is dead.

    A challenge, then, to the new generation of American singer-songwriters. If – as today’s covers demonstrate – Donovan’s songs resonate so well on shows like Crossing Jordan and Party of Five, then there’s clearly still an audience for these lyrics and tunes. And certainly, now more than ever, the world needs songs of peace. Why not try one on, to see how it feels? Here’s some of Donovan’s peers to show you how it’s done, with bonus covers by Donovan both then and now to remind you of his talent.

    Today’s bonus coversongs feature Donovan’s 1965 anti-Vietnam anthem The War Drags On, which many have heard but few realize is a cover of fellow sixties folkster Mick Softley. Those who think of Donovan as hippierock will be surprised; this is true acoustic singer-songwriter folk, worth trying if you’ve never really listened. Plus a few more recent interpretations recorded in the last decade, just to prove Donovan’s still got the chops: a cut from the two-disk Pete Seeger tribute Where Have All The Flowers Gone, a nice version of traditional folksong The Cuckoo from Beat Café, Donovan’s underrated 2004 return to beatnik jazzfolk, and a “cover” of a Dylan Thomas poem from that same album.

    1,023 comments » | Donovan, Joan Baez, Lindsey Buckingham, Pete Seeger, Richard Thompson, Rickie Lee Jones, The Bobs

    All Folked Up: Britney Spears Stripped Down, Sweet, and Seriously Scary

    October 31st, 2007 — 07:51 am

    You can’t get much farther from the stripped-down authenticity of folk music than the lip-synch spectacle of top 40 pop songs; the odd Springsteen or Dylan anomaly aside, the stuff we favor on Cover Lay Down doesn’t see mass market radio play. But that doesn’t necessarily make every folk cover of every song originally performed by a half-naked ex-Mouseketeer a joke. A good song is a good song is a good song — and sometimes it takes a jolt to the system to allow the listener to bring new meaning to the overly familiar.

    To prove this theory, for our Halloween special, I went in search of the most disturbing set of folk covers I could imagine.

    Folk covers of Britney Spears songs.

    And the scariest part is, some of them are quite good.

    Some are not, of course. It’s hard to make meaning out of something played to death, harder still to keep the MTV imagery from invading the brain, corrupting any sincere attempt at rehabilitating a popsong. It’s easier to make a joke out of the familiar instead, making easy laughs and easier cash on a novelty act.

    Today, in an attempt to explore this admittedly simplistic model for envisioning the pop cover song’s purpose, we bring you a double trio of folked-up Britney cuts: the merely covered, and the genuinely recovered. Some may make you weep. Some will make you laugh. One or two will make you wonder why Max Martin (the man behind the Britney throne) is wasting his time writing tunes which will never be truly appreciated by anyone above the age of fourteen.

    My recommendation: listen to each of these through, tricks and treats alike, until you can truly appreciate them for the meaning their coverartists bring. Even novelty is worth something. And plucking a tired backbeat from the radio to breathe new and vibrant life into it, making something golden out of something glittery? In the world of coversongs, it’s the holy grail.

    Let’s start, then, with the good stuff. Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you Britney Spears, recovered.

    • Stevie Ann, Toxic
      Netherlands native Stevie Ann — my current music-crush — covers Toxic as a lush, poignant paean to poisoned love. The link here is the produced version, courtesy of Guuzbourg of french girlsinger blog Filles Sourires; but you can and should also see an absolutely incredible live-on-the-radio cover sans saxophone over at Coverville, after which you, too, will wonder why this young woman is still only touring in her native country.

    • Richard Thompson, Oops! I Did It Again
      In the “original” live recording of Richard Thompson‘s version of Oops! I Did It Again, off coveralbum 1000 Years of Popular Music, his audience thinks he’s making fun of the song. This much tighter solo cut from an NPR session reveals otherwise. Thompson’s rough voice, loose tempo, and all-around angst bring just the right note of self-flagellation and regret to the tune. Originally via always great oft-folk musicblog The Late Greats.
    • Fountains Of Wayne, Hit Me Baby One More Time
      Okay, Fountains Of Wayne isn’t folk, but I’ve missed the band at two folk festivals so far, so I’m going to allow it. Their all-male electrified alt-geekrock version of Hit Me Baby One More Time turns what had been a dubiously anti-feminist anthem of love at all costs into a soft plea for the sensitive guy trying to make sense of a world full of Britney-lovers.

    Second verse, same as the first — but where the folktunes above are genuinely successful attempts to rescue surprisingly decent songs, these either play the songs for laughs, tongue firmly in cheek, or try to interpret beyond their reach.

    • The BossHoss, Toxic
      Kitschmeisters The BossHoss, Germany’s bluegrass/country/rock answer to Richard Cheese, take on Toxic. They’re tight, and worth the novelty, but really, if you’ve heard one Hayseed Dixie, you’ve heard them all. Still, their cover choices are fun; kudos to Motel De Moka, the music blog with a knack for the perfect themed playlist, for spreading this around just when I needed a pick-me-up.

    • Fuck, Oops! I Did It Again
      I don’t know much about the unfortunately-named Fuck, and if this lo-fi, experimental cover is any indication of their prowess and style, I’m okay with that. The subtle vibes and cello (and wind machine?) aren’t bad, but the plodding speed only underscores the overly simple, maudlin interpretation. Thanks to coverblogger extraordinaire Copy, Right? for originally posting this, though — everything’s worth trying once.
    • Travis, Hit Me Baby One More Time
      Travis‘ live attempt to unplug and slow down Hit Me Baby One More Time turns silly far too quickly. Bad sign: the band starts out trying to play it straight, but can’t keep from cracking up when they hit the falsetto call and response of the chorus. Worse: they seem ruefully surprised at their own laughter, despite the fact that they clearly rehearsed the vocals.

    As always here on Cover Lay Down, all artist links above lead to artist websites, which in turn lead to the artists’ preferred source for music-purchasing. Follow these links — and the links to other coverblogs scattered throughout — for the best door-to-door treats around.

    You’re on your own for buying Britney, though. Some things are too scary, even for Halloween.

    651 comments » | all folked up, Boss Hoss, Britney Spears, Covered in Folk, Fountains of Wayne, Fuck, Richard Thompson, Stevie Ann, Travis

    Covered In Folk: the Down Under Edition: Kasey Chambers and others cover Tim and Neil Finn of Crowded House

    October 13th, 2007 — 12:46 am

    I saw Tim and Neil Finn open for 10,000 Maniacs way back in the hairspray eighties, before Natalie Merchant turned into a banjo-playing folk recluse. Though back then my tastes ran to the produced radioplay of Finn-led popgroup Crowded House, there was something arresting in the simple guitar interplay and close harmonies of the Brothers Finn, riding high on first big Crowded House single Don’t Dream It’s Over. Their songs revealed a surprising poignancy once the wall of sound came down — one that still comes through powerfully, despite the ravages of age in their voices, on their recent Finn Brothers release, and in the newly-reincarnated Crowded House that was all the rage at Coachella this year.

    Since then, I’ve learned that Tim’s the new-waver and Neil’s the pop star. Tim’s solo work includes singles but no hits, which is a shame, really: he writes decent if simple melodies, and his more recent work is stark and fine, but he’s spent much of his career burying it under synthesizer and make-up. The rest of the record-buying public seems to appreciate Neil’s slightly softer songwriting more, if sales are an accurate indication. In my experience, though, when they write together, as they did for most of 1991 album Woodface, the end result is the best of both worlds.

    Sixpence None the Richer does a sicklysweet girlpop cover of Don’t Dream It’s Over that you’ve heard a hundred times; their version is probably more true to the original recordings than anything else out there. But the best covers of Finn Brothers’ work strip it down to the bare essentials. Want proof? Here’s Aussie folk sensation Kasey Chambers with a version of Neil’s Better Be Home Soon from 2005 Tim and Neil tribute album She Will Have Her Way that will make you cry, and another simple cover of a song co-written by Tim and Neil, just for comparison’s sake:

    • Kasey Chambers covers Better Be Home Soon (orig. Crowded House)
    • New Buffalo covers Four Seasons in One Day (orig. Crowded House)

    The above cuts plus other beautiful coverversions, all by female Australasian artists, can be yours with the purchase of She Will Have Her Way; I recommend that you buy the bonus version, which is cheaper and includes all the originals, too! Chambers’ solo work is not available through her website, but has acceptable prices. The acoustic intimacy of Finn Brothers release Everyone Is Here is gorgeous; I hear the new Crowded House album Time On Earth is good, too. Or there’s always 1991 popgem Woodface, available on the cheap at your local bargain bin.

    Today’s bonus coversongs:

    • Jennifer Kimball’s lush cover of Crowded House hit Fall At Your Feet
    • Neil Finn’s live cover of the Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
    • Kasey Chambers’s amazing cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s Freight Train

    Extra special bonus:

    • Richard and Teddy Thompson recover* Persuasion (orig. Thompson/Finn)

      *Originally, Persuasion was a Richard Thompson instrumental theme written in 1991 for the movie Sweet Talker; Tim Finn liked it so much that he added lyrics and re-recorded it. Richard and Teddy cut this version with Finn’s lyrics in 2000. Technically, that doesn’t make it a cover, but I think it qualifies as a “re-cover”, so I’m going to let it stand.

    1,143 comments » | Covered in Folk, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, Freg Eaglesmith, Jennifer Kimball, Kasey Chambers, Neil Finn, New Buffalo, Richard Thompson, Teddy Thompson, The Smiths, Tim Finn

    Teddy Thompson Covers: Leonard Cohen, The Everly Brothers, and King of the Road

    October 10th, 2007 — 10:12 pm

    British born and New York based alt-musician Teddy Thompson released Up Front and Down Low, an album of classic country covers, in July, and it says what it needs to about his underdog status that a) the disk has only been released in the US, and b) neither the blogosphere nor any other market seems to have noticed. Heck, I was startled to discover it myself as I researched today’s entry, and I spent an entire summer listening to nothing else but Thompson’s second album Separate Ways, a perfect, crackling masterpiece of self-pity topped off by a hidden Everly Brothers track.

    One of several second-generation musicians emerging from under their parent’s wing to startle a new generation, Teddy Thompson has not yet managed to ring the bell of fame that fellow secondgen artist and bad influence Rufus Wainwright has. Nor has he found his audience, yet — being compared to Crowded House in one review and Jackson Browne and David Gray in another provides a pretty broad range. But if Thompson remains unknown, it’s not for lack of musicianship (though in the case of his newest outing, it may be because the country market is not his niche).

    Thompson’s music is only folk in the broader sense, but his folk credentials are solid: son of old folkies Richard and Linda Thompson, born and raised in a Sufi commune, Thompson Jr. shares his mother’s sweet, clear, etherial voice, and his father’s penchant for bitter lyrics full of the seamy underside of fame and drug culture. The combination is powerful, and even if his guitar playing is still on the cusp of maturity, using his parents and peers in the studio has, so far, made up for that lack. I am confident that Thompson’s music will eventually win the hearts and minds of a full generation once he returns to his original songwriting.

    In the meantime, here’s two songs Thompson covered for the 2006 Leonard Cohen tribute film I’m Your Man, where he stood out among some pretty heavy compatriots, including Wainwright himself. Tonight Will Be Fine comes especially recommended — something about the bittersweet lyrics and the slow pace suits him, I think.

    • Teddy Thompson, Tonight Will Be Fine (orig. Cohen)
    • Teddy Thompson, The Future (orig. Cohen)

    Still haven’t heard Teddy’s newest album, but I’d buy enough copies of Separate Ways for all of you if I had the cash. Since I don’t, you should head over to his website and pick it up for yourselves — and if you get the new one, too, let me know how it turned out, will you?

    Today’s bonus coversongs:

    • Teddy Thompson and Rufus Wainwright cover King of the Road
    • Teddy and Linda Thompson cover the Everly Brothers’ Take A Message To Mary
    • Richard Thompson covers Squeeze’s Tempted (because I’m saving his Prince cover and his version of Oops! I Did It Again for another post)

    1,091 comments » | Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Rufus Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, The Everly Brothers