Category: Amazing Grace

(Re)Covered: More folk covers of Britney, Lou Reed, Chris Smither, Amazing Grace

November 9th, 2007 — 10:15 am

In order to maintain quality over quantity, this is our last regular Friday post here at Cover Lay Down; from now on, you’ll still get ten or more carefully vetted songs a week, but with a few notable exceptions (holidays, the occasional Folk Family Friday), posts will appear on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Today, for a “final” Friday post, we recover a few songs that dropped through the cracks just a little too late to make it into the posts where they belonged. Ladies and Gentlemen: our last regular Friday, our first (Re)Covered.

My Halloween post on Britney Spears folk-covers seems to have started a trend: if you haven’t already, head on over to Cover Freak and new blog Cover Me for a whole mess o’ popcovers from across the musical spectrum. Especially recommended for folkfans: Shawn Colvin‘s cover of Gnarls Barkley summersong Crazy, Matt Weddle’s reinterpretation of Outcast hit Hey Ya, the term “Pop Tart” to describe a certain type of female pop singer. Not recommended: Nickel Creek’s cover of Toxic, which I download and delete every few months — it was probably hilariously wonderful in concert, but the recording suffers from some abysmal recording quality.

But the popcover flood isn’t over yet: in addition to sparking a coverblog meme, my own post brought several direct submissions out of the ether. You’ll see a few of these in future posts; in the meantime, here’s a few of the best Britney Spears covers I received in the past few days:

  • Irish folkrocker Glen Hansard of the Frames covers Britney’s Everytime (Thanks, Rose!)
  • Another chilling version of Toxic from Dutch folkgoddess Stevie Ann, this one in-studio and sans sax (Thanks, the_red_shoes!)
  • More from Guuzbourg:
    • a light sweet version of Toxic from the Chapin Sisters
    • a Klezmer-esque Toxic from Global Kryner.

In other news, I also found a great “bonus” for last week’s Lou Reed folk coverpost while flipping through some old entries in retropsychadeliablog Garden of Delights. June Tabor and The Oyster Band’s 1990 version of Velvet Underground classic All Tomorrow’s Parties has strong ties to the traditional Irish/British countrysongs at the core of folk rock as first defined by Pentangle, Donovan, and Steeleye Span in the 1970s.

  • June Tabor and The Oyster Band, All Tomorrow’s Parties

After weeks of scouring local public libraries, I finally found Bonnie Raitt’s absolutely marvelous cover of Chris Smither‘s I Feel The Same and the produced version of his Love Me Like A Man on her 1990 retrospective The Bonnie Raitt Collection. I’ve loved this pair of covers ever since I was a kid; listening to them again brings me right back to the hardwood floor in front of my father’s stereo, carefully sliding records out of their sleeves. I posted a live version of the latter last week, but the produced versions are better.

  • Bonnie Raitt, I Feel The Same
  • Bonnie Raitt, Love Me Like A Man

Had I began researching this week’s post on folksong lullabies earlier, I would have discovered classicalfolk guitarist and composer John T. La Barbera‘s version of Who’s Goin’ To Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot in time to include it in my post on Amazing Grace and the folk/gospel tradition. They’re not the same song, but the music is almost identical; for the first half a minute, La Barbera’s soft, gorgeously lush instrumental could be either.

  • John La Barbera, Who’s Goin’ To Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot (trad.)

Finally, thanks to all who send, tout, and post music — keep those afterpost suggestions coming in, folks! And don’t forget to come back on Sunday for a very special ten-song feature on the folkier side of Beck!

798 comments » | (Re)Covered, Amazing Grace, Bonnie Raitt, Britney Spears, Chapin Systers, Chris Smither, Glen Hansard, Global Kryner, John La Barbera, June Tabor, Lou Reed, Oysterband, Stevie Ann

Single Song Sunday: Amazing Grace

October 20th, 2007 — 12:04 pm

Good morning, and welcome to our first Single Song Sunday, an occasional feature here on Cover Lay Down in which we consider several folkversions of just one song. And what better way to initiate an occasional Sunday series than to begin with not one but five great folk covers of church hymn and spiritual Amazing Grace?

One of the things that makes the hymnal an interesting source for folkmusicians and audience alike is the way the traditionally full-bodied plainsong harmonies and oft-included church organ give way to the sparse plucked-string instrumentation and more gentle, albeit more secular and impure, vocalization of the folk musician, bringing a sense of daily toil and heartache to what can otherwise seems like just another Sunday morning stand-up between platepassing and sermon.

Which is to say: once in a wonderful while the folk tradition turns to the hymnal, and not just because that’s where you find the songs everyone knows.

But to best appreciate the case of today’s featured song, the Christian hymn Amazing Grace (originally known as New Britain; lyrics written by John Newton, who is pictured above), we must remember that most Americans first hear this song as a gospel tune. For many, it was the transitional gospel that first bent the tune beyond the straightness of the pew, pointing the way toward the kind of secularized, humanized ownership of song which marks the folk tradition.

That many of the best folk versions of Amazing Grace seem more grounded in the gospel than the church itself is no surprise; after all, here’s a rare beast that is easy to sing at first glance, and is both lyrically and musically simple and elegant enough for a multitude of meanings and methodological approaches. And despite origins in different communities, folk and gospel go way, way back: both traditions share a sense of songs as communally owned, and both celebrate intent and interpretation over note-for-note perfection.

To further explore this curious drift from church to coffeehouse, today, we feature a set of five folk interpretations of this well-covered spiritual: the high-produced uptempo stomp of Laura Love’s cover, the simple, plaintive pluck of Sufjan Stevens’ banjo, the crossing a capella harmonies of folksisters Chris and Meredith Thompson, Mark O’Connor’s nearly-classical fiddle, and lo, even Barbara Cohen’s twangy, almost alt-country steelstring-and-singer heartache.

Our list is by no means a complete one, but in its breadth, the potential of the hymn as folksong, the clear folk connection between the heard and the played, and the very diversity of the folk genre itself shine through like a light unto the lord.

Let there be light:

As always, all purchase links go to the artist’s preferred source. Can I get an amen?

29 comments » | Amazing Grace, Single Song Sunday