Category: CONTESTS

Covered in Kidfolk, Vol. 11: On Keeping It Local
Plus: WIN the Putumayo Kids Acoustic Dreamland CD!

February 11th, 2011 — 12:24 am

As we’ve alluded to in our recurring Covered in Kidfolk series, there’s a growing universe of family-friendly music out there that doesn’t suck, and a large portion of it seems to be centered around the American Northeast region which we call home.

Not all of it is folk, of course – increasingly, alternative music, world music, and even rap have found a niche in the hands and ears of cool moms and dads, who continue to insist on healthy yet artistically mature songs which they can enjoy alongside their offspring. But collectively, such music provides an apt antidote to the Disney, Kidz Bop and Barney crowd, filling a need for those of us who want our children to appreciate “real” music which nonetheless still contains themes and narratives which can appeal to the young.

Though surely supported, at least in part, by hip, up-to-date TV programming from Yo Gabba Gabba to Laurie Berkner to Sesame Street, it is also true that even as music listening habits move ever-closer towards the private headphone experience, global sea-changes have provided a more stable platform for family-centric music. A growing set of kidblogs and radio programs seem to be sustaining a renaissance of anti-pop, hold the cheese; “kids tent” performers continue to astound at local festivals from Clearwater to Falcon Ridge, and increasingly, concerts and festivals for kids can be found well beyond the traditional places – mostly elementary schools and libraries – to find a home in local churches, rock clubs, parks and outdoor arenas.

Here in our local area, for example, we find a cohesive community continuing to build around Bill Childs, who along with his daughter Ella hosts Spare The Rock, Spoil The Child, a weekly “indie music for indie kids” program which first began broadcasting on a small community radio station when Ella was just a toddler. Spare the Rock was picked up by regional AAA indie-to-folk alternative station WRSI a year or so ago, and since then, Bill and now-nine-year-old Ella have leveraged the exposure into a growing empire of dad-mom-and-tot-friendly music, encompassing multiple local weekend matinee concert series, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti – a benefit CD which kidblog Zooglobble called “the year’s best family music compilation and one of the year’s best kids music CDs, period” – and Kindiefest, a Brooklyn-based family music conference and concert scheduled for the end of April, set to feature Elizabeth Mitchell, Robbie Schaefer, Dean Jones, Laurie Berkner, Verve Pipe and more as panelists and/or performers.

More broadly, on a universal scale, the new musical models of distribution which typify the digital age seem to have leveled the playing field somewhat, making what was once a niche market better able to thrive alongside the broader spectrum which the web supports. A trip to your local library may reveal a surprising upgrade in the taste and spectrum of what’s available out there, with delightful small-label and self-released works from Trout Fishing In America, The Nields, Hullabaloo, and much, much more, their bluegrass and folk finding space in and among the Raffi, Pete Seeger, and Ella Jenkins collections which have traditionally been the mainstay of any good kids audio collection. Heck, I’ve even found myself skimming the stacks for works which will ultimately be more for me than the kids, depending on their taste, despite the children’s label.

One of the biggest drivers of this trend is Putumayo Kids, who – like their parent company before them – has carved out a place for their well-curated world and folk music collections both within and beyond the usual venues for music. Their product, found but on the shelves of trendy, upscale, and bohemian toy stores from here to California, stands along with Melissa and Doug projects, toys, and puzzles, raw cotton dolls, wooden playsets, and other such deliberately crafted delights an an antithesis to the music which lies dying and unsold alongside the plastic trinkets and popcult princesses that populate mall culture.

Putumayo Kids’ newest release, Acoustic Dreamland, which is due to drop February 22, is a particularly strong example of the increasingly great work which comes from the well-respected publishing house, and I’m quite proud to have had a hand in helping to curate the songs on this particular sampler. The selection is inspired, if I do say so myself: delightful covers and originals from Hem, Rosie Thomas, and other artists which we have touted for their more mature, adult-themed work here on these pages stand alongside surprisingly mature work from Rick Scott, Victor Johnson, and others who have dedicated their careers to making music nominally for kids, though I think you’ll find that this is a set which stands on its own as sheer music, joyful, pensive, and potent, regardless of who’s listening.

As with most Putumayo’s output, most of the songs here have appeared elsewhere – we’ve previously shared Lucy Kaplansky’s delightfully smooth, sweet take on Mary Chapin Carpenter lullaby Dreamland, for example, which appears on 2007 kidfolk lullaby collection Down At The Sea Hotel, and I’ve posted my own contribution, the atmospherically layered acoustic dreamscape William Fitzsimmons makes of James Taylor classic You Can Close Your Eyes, which originally appeared on 2008 classic popfolk covers collection and Teach For America benefit Before The Goldrush, more than once as well.

But the collection overall is seamless, making sequence and the novelty of any new discoveries well worth any duplication. As with previous Putumayo releases, too, this collection, while cohesive, is also diverse enough to pretty much ensure that many artists here will be new to you, and those that are will surely prompt futher discovery – for example, I’m determined to pursue the works of Daniel Martin Moore after his utterly amazing original The Hour Of Sleep, whispery with piano, plucked tenor guitar, brushed drums and strings, got stuck in my head on first listen, and I had totally forgotten about the late-night majesty of Mark Erelli’s lullaby rendition of Wilco deep cut My Darling. And two previously unreleased tracks, otherwise unavailable – a gorgeous sleepytime rendition of the Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky from Elizabeth Mitchell in an increasingly rare solo turn, and an original track from Frances England entitled Here With Me which I find truly charming – are almost enough, in themselves, to justify the cost.

Highly recommended, in other words – both for adults and kids. And though I hope you’ll buy copies of Acoustic Dreamland for every expectant and new parent you know, thanks to the kind folks behind the record, I’m offering two lucky readers a copy of the CD totally gratis, so you can sample the wares for yourself before you stock up for summer births and birthdays.

To enter to win a copy of Putumayo Kids Presents: Acoustic Dreamland, comment on this entry with your opinion about the songs and strategies discussed at the END of this entry, OR email me with the same information. Don’t forget to include your email, so we can notify you if you win.

In the meantime, here’s a pair of favorite covers from the new collection, plus a few other tracks from previous gems in the Putumayo Kids catalog, to listen to while you cue up to enter the contest or go off to purchase the CD for yourself. Trust me: whether you’re a parent or just a fan of good acoustic songcraft, this one will stay in the disc changer for a long while to come.

As a coda of sorts to today’s feature, let me note that although we generally stick to celebration here at Cover Lay Down, and though I truly love the Allman Brothers cover above, I have mixed feelings about Sunny Day, Elizabeth Mitchell’s newest album – partially because I think Mitchell’s voice seems weaker here, partially because there’s less of the transformed-for-kids pop and rock songs which she featured on previous releases, and partially because as her family ages, Mitchell and her performing partner and husband Daniel Littleton have begun featuring their daughter Storey’s untrained voice in an increasingly doggerel-driven canon.

Don’t get me wrong, here: I’m not suddenly turning against Mitchell and her family. We’ve long championed Mitchell’s work as a trailblazer in the world of gentle, truly beautiful folk interpretations of pop, rock, and classic children’s tunes for the younger set; I still maintain that anyone who has not purchased Mitchell’s first few albums cannot claim to have a functionally complete set of good kids music in their home. And both Putumayo and the Spare The Rock crowd respect her work as I do: Mitchell is a mainstay of Putumayo Kids canon, and she was given late-afternoon feature act status at last year’s Many Hands release concert, which was sponsored and emcee’d by Bill Childs.

But though some of the tracks on Sunny Day are sweet and light, albeit a little more ragged than her previous work, those which include her daughter are much harder for me to listen to. There’s love there, for sure, and smiles beaming through the music, but prioritizing that love over performance isn’t without its cost: music by kids doesn’t always have the same raw audiophillic tone or represent the same mastery from a purely artistic perspective, and that’s absolutely the case here. And I worry that Mitchell has sacrificed some of the music’s appeal in her attempt to continue what we surely should respect as an organic and fully celebratory evolution of the family as music-maker.

Should we listen all the same, to honor that artistic process? Should we reserve judgment, and see what the kids say? Is it simply mean to criticize a kid singing joyfully if somewhat shyly on her parents’ record, or is it acceptable to criticize the parents for asking us to lower our expectations for what their music sounds like in return for celebrating their process and family life? I’m not sure. But I will say that the goal of our Covered in Folk features has always been to find and feature music which can be shared, and I’m not sure this new path Mitchell and her family have chosen includes me or other adults as a listener. As such, if we’re talking about music for children and adults to enjoy together, I can’t recommend this one as highly as I did her previous works – and would note, as well, that at the aforementioned Many Hands release concert, neither parents nor kids seemed as engaged with Mitchell’s family music as they did with the higher-energy acts which preceded or followed them, though to be fair, that may have been the result of putting music which has always thrived on intimacy in a large, open-air space.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe, unlike her previous albums, this one isn’t for me, and I’m just missing the concept. But either way, I’d be interested in your opinion – and I’m interested enough to make it a criteria for today’s contest to win the Putumayo Kids Acoustic Dreamland CD. So here’s a covertrack or two from Sunny Day, one with Storey, and one without; let me know what you think, making sure I get your email address alongside, and I’ll enter you in the Putumayo Kids contest.

847 comments » | CONTESTS, Elizabeth Mitchell, Kidfolk

Contest Coverfolk: WIN 2 passes to Falcon Ridge, July 23-25
featuring Dala, Jimmy LaFave, The Brilliant Inventions, and more!

June 6th, 2010 — 10:50 pm

Edit, 6/30: Congrats to Dean Marshall, this year’s randomly-selected FRFF ticket winner! Enjoy the festival, Dean – we’re looking forward to seeing you on site!

Festival season is upon us once again, and though upcoming obligations will keep me from some of my regular haunts this year, it would take an honest-to-goodness apocalypse to keep me from the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, our absolute favorite summerfest, which takes place July 23-25 in the above-pictured hills of Hillsdale, NY, just over the Massachusetts border.

And you can join us too, thanks to the good graces of long-time Festival artistic director Anne Saunders, who has provided us with a pair of all-expenses-paid camping passes to pass along to one of our lucky readers. It’s a $300 value, including three days of music, five days of camping, and contra dancing and hillside tent-shows until the wee hours…and all you have to do to WIN is to leave a comment at the bottom of this entry before the clock strikes midnight on June 20th.

As noted earlier in these virtual pages, Falcon Ridge is slimming down a tad this year, but the lineup remains strong, with a solid mix of old favorites and newcomers, including previously-featured singer-songwriters Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, and Red Molly, newcomers Chester River Runoff and The Andrew & Noah Band, and festival faves Cheryl Wheeler, We’re About 9, Ellis, Vance Gilbert, Gandalf Murphy, Tracey Grammer, and Nerissa & Katryna Nields. As is our practice, the following offers an introduction to a few as-yet-unfeatured artists; read on for tunes and artist featurettes, and be sure to leave your name and email address in the comments for a chance to join us in the fields come the last weekend in July.

Popfolk girl duo Dala will be making their first appearance at Falcon Ridge this year, quite likely in a headline spot Friday or Saturday night where previous years have featured Dar Williams and Ani DiFranco, and you better believe I’ll be front and center when they hit the stage. Originally scheduled for last year’s festival until a scheduling conflict caused them to cancel at the last minute, these young women, who met in their high school music class and have been best friends ever since, are the real deal: pure, exquisitely mixed alto and soprano, with a delicate hand on the guitars and a sense of poise and presence honed by eight years on the road together.

By all accounts, the Canadian duo is one of the biggest rising stars on the popfolk circuit, one that has been sweeping the major festivals this year, including a mainstage set at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, and a gig at the WUMB Boston Music Fest just today. But I’ve been eager to see them live for a few years now, ever since I first heard the pair on 2008 Neil Young tribute Cinnamon Girl, and I’m just as eager to get my hands on their newest project, a live CD/DVD entitled Girls From The North Country, which features the songs of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, and others, performed by Dala and equally undersung Canadian girl groups Oh Susanna and Good Lovelies. If you like soaring and sweet two-girl harmonies – and who doesn’t, really – then let this act be the tipping point that gets you on the road this summer.

I keep meaning to come back to Jimmy LaFave here on Cover Lay Down: I’ve seen the almost painfully broken-voiced Texan multiple times on the circuit, and whether he’s channeling hope or despair, his honest, soulful delivery never fails to drill deep into my psyche. The red dirt roots-rocker and soulful balladeer will be all over this year’s festival, appearing mainstage alongside Gilkyson, Gorka, and Cheryl Wheeler as part of the annual Friday Evening Song Swap, tearing up a solo set, and attending at least one workshop stage collaboration, and I couldn’t be happier: the man covers Dylan better than anyone, really, and I can think of no finer way to help you see it than to offer this mini-set, collated from his long and fruitful career.

Last, but certainly not least: Falcon Ridge is notoriously tardy about releasing their full schedule, but after 22 years, it’s a given that Friday afternoon on the ‘ridge will be given over to the Emerging Artists Showcase, where new acts compete for a chance at a mainstage gig the following year. Past winners include some incredible artists, from Meg Hutchinson to Red Molly, but last year’s fan-selected showcase winners are an unusually strong, talented, and diverse group; having been blown away by all three at this year’s preview tour, I’m proud to recommend their work to all.

Chuck E Costa‘s uplifting singer-songwriter folk is utterly gorgeous, as is his delicate voice; the below Mark Erelli cover is a solid choice for him, but truly, in person, sans production, his songs go straight to the heart. Local up-and-comers Swing Caravan deconstruct, craft and cover lighthearted, stunningly talented acoustic swingjazz, and their in-the-aisles performance at last year’s festival was one of my personal highlights. Hilarious harmonizing duo The Brilliant Inventions write bold-yet-tender indiepop songs that sound like a cross between the Weepies, Guster, Ben Folds, and Fountains of Wayne, and I’ve been absolutely blown away by their beautifully produced debut Have You Changed; the live cover below speaks well of their stage presence, but doesn’t begin to do justice to their real live sound, so I’ve broken ranks to include an original title track today. Listen, then come out and see for yourself why I’m utterly in love with this year’s showcase winners.

  • The Brilliant Inventions: Man In The Mirror (orig. Michael Jackson)

Of course, these songs and artists are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Among other artists previously on Cover Lay Down, and appearing at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival:

Like what you hear? Want in? Leave a comment below with your name and email address to enter to win a pair of full-fest camping passes for this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival!

1,303 comments » | CONTESTS, Dala, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Festival Coverfolk, Jimmy LaFave

(Re)Covered XI: More covers of and from
Beck, The Kinks, Wilco, and a Contest Week wrap-up

July 5th, 2009 — 04:15 pm

Our popular (Re)Covered series, wherein we recover songs that dropped through the cracks too late to make it into the posts where they belonged, generally provides an opportunity to check in on previously featured artists, songs and themes. Today, I’ve also included an omnibus reminder to enter our Contest Week contests before entries close on Monday at midnight.

But first, thanks to other blogs, artists and label notices, fan submissions, and other agents of serendipitous universe, here’s the scoop on some new songs, new takes, and new discoveries.

We made a case for Beck-as-folksinger way back in the early weeks of Cover Lay Down; as I suggested at the time, the stripped-down, almost funereal acoustic side of the popular genre-pushing artist is closer to his heart and history than most popular music fans realize.

Since then, Beck has continued to ride the line between hiccuping electronic pop and the more pensive works which have wormed their way into the heart of grungefolk audiophiles everywhere, though it’s hard to justify his most recent compilation appearance, a beat-heavy, fuzzed out rock cover of Dylan’s Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat which appeared on recent indierock compilation War Child: Heroes, as anything but the radio-oriented track it is intended to be.

But in the last few weeks, news of a new project has hit the blogs, sure to appeal to fans of his weary troubadour sound: Beck has grand plans to record a series of one-shot in-studio sessions covering classics with a host of well-seasoned friends and fellow musicians, releasing them through his website as Beck’s Record Club, and if the three retro-grungy Velvet Underground covers which already grace are any indication, the project is well worth watching. Here’s the first taste, plus a favorite older cover for continuity’s sake:

We closed out last summer with a feature on The Kinks, and the subject proved popular: In the days that followed, I received plenty of encouragement, and a handful of tracks from readers. Most were on the syrupy side — I’m not sure why Ray Davies’ songwriting lends itself so well to torch songs. But a few were keepers.

Here’s a trio of vastly different but equally summery Kinks covers which have come to my ears since then, and stuck: a delicate solo uke version of Victoria from Ema and the Ghosts, a lighthearted retro-rocker from Holly Golightly, and an older typically british folkrock take on Days from Kirsty MacColl.

We featured Sam Jacobs, who fronts the loose collaboration of friends now performing under the moniker The Flying Change, way back in our very first New Artists, Old Songs post, and a few Wilco covers when ex-Wilco member Jay Bennett passed a few months ago. Now, thanks to Sam himself, we bring this exclusive, endearingly lo-fi take on Wilco’s Pieholden Suite, recorded live with full band, including oboe and sax. It’s not exactly folk, but it starts off that way, and stays pretty mellow throughout. Great stuff from a maturing artist.

I’ve also included Jacobs’ wonderfully Cohen-esque cover of Tom Petty’s Yer So Bad, recorded under the name Lipstik, which we first posted back in April of 2008, and a great ragged Daniel Johnston bonus cover from Bennett’s last album, which is available for free download here.

Finally, our very first annual Cover Lay Down contest week has been quite the adventure. But since geography, availability, and other factors seem to be keeping most folks from entering our two festival-related contests, to make it easier, I’m making each prize for those contests available separately. In other words: EACH contest includes at least one highly-recommended CD, and each CD can be won without stress or commitment.

Here’s the list, with linkbacks good until midnight Monday; click on each for contest entry details. If you’re only in it for the CDs, make sure to include the phrase “CD ONLY” in your entry.

Contest #1: Win 26-song all-covers indiefolk CD sampler Before the Goldrush

Contest #2: Day passes for both Friday and Saturday at Grey Fox Bluegrass Fest, July 16-19, PLUS new CDs from both newgrass angel Sarah Jarosz and cajun & swing combo Red Stick Ramblers

Contest #3: Two four day camping passes to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, July 23-26 PLUS Susan Werner’s most recent all-covers chamberfolk CD Classics

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk features each Wednesday, Sunday, and the occasional otherday. Coming up later this week: Cover Lay Down hits the Hype Machine top 100 pop charts, and we use the occasion to ponder the definitive nature of popular folk songs.

1,442 comments » | (Re)Covered, Beck, CONTESTS, The Kinks

CLD CONTEST WEEK’s Grand Conclusion!
Contest #3: Win Two Passes to Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, July 23-26!

July 3rd, 2009 — 09:33 pm

Our previous contests this week — one to win Grey Fox Bluegrass day passes and some sweet bluegrass and cajun CDs, the other to win the Before the Goldrush tribute CD — have been successful, but there’s still plenty of chances left. The Grey Fox contest includes over $250 worth of prizes alone, and there’s FOUR chances to win, so don’t forget to enter before contests close on Monday at midnight!

But wait! Today, Cover Lay Down CONTEST WEEK comes to a head with an amazing chance to win two four-day camping passes for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival! Read on for details…

My love for the Berkshire-based Falcon Ridge Folk Festival is unabashed and longstanding; it is my happy place, and the community which forms around it each year my home away from home. Last month’s Falcon Ridge Preview post featured plenty of music from the likes of Amy Speace, Cliff Eberhardt, Girlyman, Kathy Mattea and more, and glowing praise for a holy host of festival returnees from Susan Werner to The Nields to Janis Ian to Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, and now, as the festival grows close, I can feel the excitement growing.

This year’s roster of performers is stellar as always, and the festival is within easy driving distance of all places New York and New England. But even if it’s a bit of a drive for you, never fear: thanks to the festival organizers, we are proud to offer an incredible final Contest Week prize of two full camping passes to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which will allow you and a guest to stay on site 24/7 for the full four days, taking advantage of the best this community has to offer. And one lucky runner up will receive a copy of Susan Werner’s Classics*

To enter, leave a comment below OR send an email letting me know who you are most excited to see at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Please make sure to include your email address in all correspondence!

There’s plenty of samples at our original post, but here’s a few more to whet your whistle for the best darn festival around!

*The small print: If you’re not local enough to make Grey Fox (Contest #2) or Falcon Ridge (Contest #3), you can enter to win CD prizes only; to do so, just remember to include the words CD ONLY in your email or comment. ALL contests will close at midnight on Monday, July 6. Good luck!

1,023 comments » | CONTESTS, Festival Coverfolk

Contest #2: Win passes and CDs from Grey Fox Bluegrass, July 16-19

July 1st, 2009 — 09:44 pm

Our contest week got off to a great start Monday with a chance to win indiefolk tribute compilation Before the Goldrush. Entries for all contests won’t close until midnight on Monday, July 6, so there’s still time to throw your hat in the ring.

But don’t leave just yet. Because today, we up the ante by bringing you not one but four chances to win, thanks to the wonderful folks at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and their sponsor Sugar Hill Records. Prizes include a pair of Grey Fox festival passes for Friday, a second pair of passes for Saturday, and CDs from new bluegrass sensation Sarah Jarosz and cajun string band the Red Stick Ramblers. And we’re letting them go as separate prizes, so even if you can’t make the shows, you can still enter to win the CDs!

The Northeast’s preeminent bluegrass fest kicks off two weeks from tomorrow, so clear the calendars, make some room in the CD changer, and read on for details and tunes.

As I predicted last year, the 2008 relocation of the long-standing Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival to a new festival site on the edge of the Catskills proved to be a stunning success. Now, like most bluegrass fans in the NY/New England area, I’m itching to get back to the laid-back community, with its multiple stages, idyllic country setting, and powerhouse acts from the broad reaches of the bluegrass world.

Of course, much of my excitement springs from the fact that some of my favorite artists will return this year, from the chilling Kentucky-based blues-driven Steeldrivers to newgrass folk quintet Crooked Still. Old-timer Del McCoury will be back, as will Claire Lynch, Peter Rowan, David Bromberg, and Tim O’Brien; those names alone represent a huge part of the modern bluegrass canon, and each is worth seeing more than once in a lifetime.

Add Ricky Skaggs, The Gibson Brothers, The Waybacks, and the easygoing stories and song of long-time festival hosts Dry Branch Fire Squad to the list, throw in dance tent favorites like old-school cajun & western stringband Red Stick Ramblers, and you’ve got a veritable who’s who of modern bluegrass, from high energy countrygrass and old-timey performers to old-school newgrass balladeers and singer-songwriters.

I’m constantly on the lookout for rising stars, too, and as always, Grey Fox has young talent aplenty. Rising sensation and freshly-minted high school graduate Sarah Jarosz, who we featured here in April in anticipation of the release of her debut CD Song Up In Her Head, will be doing a main stage set sure to please. So will new Berklee barnburners The Boston Boys, who I celebrated here after seeing them tear up a small church basement back in May.

I’m especially eager to hear more from Brooklyn-based post-traditional stringband King Wilkie. I just received their new album King Wilkie Presents: The Wilkie Family Singers, which frames itself as the product of music therapy session of a fictional musical family not unlike a dysfunctional Carter Family come to life; the conceit seems odd on the screen, but in the ears, the album is a masterwork from start to finish, rich enough in talent and style to rival such lofty predecessors. And it boasts plenty of talent, from the band members themselves to special guests Robyn Hitchcock, banjo experimentalist Abigail Washburn, and long-standing masters Bromberg and Rowan.

Overall, this year’s Grey Fox promises to be one of the best regional events in ages. And to help you get there, in body and in spirit, thanks to the ever-generous Grey Fox folks and their sponsor, long-standing go-to bluegrass label Sugar Hill Records, we’re giving away an unprecedented set of FOUR separate prizes:

  1. A pair of day passes for Friday
  2. A pair of day passes for Saturday
  3. A copy of the new Sarah Jarosz CD Song Up In Her Head
  4. A copy of the new Red Stick Ramblers CD My Suitcase Is Always Packed

To enter, merely leave a comment OR send an email with the subject line GREY FOX CONTEST letting me know who your favorite bluegrass artist is. FOUR lucky winners will each get a taste of the best ‘grass around; two will get to bring a friend. If you’ve got a preference, or you just can’t make it this year, make sure you let me know whether you’d prefer tickets, a CD, or whatever you can get your grubby hands on.

For the lucky ones, and for the rest of us, here’s a short set of sample tunes to whet your appetite for Grey Fox. Together, they define the extraordinary breadth and talent we’ve come to expect from a great festival.

Whether you can make it, or you’re just in it for the tunes, don’t forget to check out artist links above to support the folks that make our heads nod and our hearts sing. And if you’re in the region, or ready to head out to the fields, pitch a tent, and stick around for the whole weekend, check out the Grey Fox Festival site for tickets, directions, and more. See you on the hill July 16-19!

PS: Don’t forget to come back later this week for the final installment of Cover Lay Down’s CONTEST WEEK. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this one!

935 comments » | CONTESTS, Festival Coverfolk

Cover Lay Down CONTEST WEEK!
Contest #1: WIN Indie cover compilation Before the Goldrush

June 29th, 2009 — 08:48 pm

Due to an odd confluence of events and generosity, we hereby declare it CONTEST WEEK here at Cover Lay Down! As the week progresses, we’ll be offering several day passes and CD prizes from Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (July 16-19), AND a pair of weekend camping passes to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (July 23-26). The rules for each are simple — one entry per person, per contest — so don’t forget to come back and enter each as it comes.

Today’s kick-off contest comes courtesy of A Nest of Eggs, who has partnered with Teach for America to create Before the Goldrush, an incredible 26 track tribute to the singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies.

Our original review of Before the Goldrush, first posted way back in January, is thorough and complimentary, but it’s worth noting that this incredible next-generation tribute album is still on rotation in my living room. And in a blogger’s household, it’s the very rare disk that sticks.

But Before the Goldrush is one of those albums all folk fans and coverlovers should own. From acoustic singer-songwriter folk to gentle indiepop and mellow alt-rock, the covers are almost universally perfect, treating old cultural standards inventively, respectfully, and with tenderness in turn. Just check out the tracklist:

My favorite part of the project? All proceeds go to Teach for America, an organization which recruits teachers from and to urban and rural areas in order to eliminate educational inequity. As a high school teacher in the inner city schools, I cannot think of a more appropriate way to kick off our contest week.

In the interests of supporting Teach for America, instead of sharing any more songs from the album, here’s a few non-album tracks from three of my favorite artists on Before the Goldrush:

Before the Goldrush is only available in digital-download format, but we’ve been given permission to give away a rare copy of the press-only CD — containing all mp3s and files for the project, plus beautiful cover art and liner notes.

For a chance to win this jewel-case promo copy of Before the Goldrush, leave a comment OR send an email with the subject “Before the Goldrush contest” letting me know which original song on this album has had the strongest impact on you.

We’ll pick winners for ALL contests at the end of the week.

1,082 comments » | Compilations & Tribute Albums, CONTESTS

WIN Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Volume 2

May 22nd, 2008 — 02:19 pm

Being a coverfan means spending an awful lot of time scouring the universe for obscurities. Cover songs are often found outside of an artist’s core output: tribute albums, radio or web exclusives, and live recordings are all rich sources for the sort of music any cover blogger counts as bread and butter. And notably, much of this material comes from labels, radio stations, and fans, rather than from the artists themselves.

So unless you’re a madcap collector like myself, you’ve got a right to be suspicious of any artist who mines past product for pay or promotion. Greatest Hits compilations too often sacrifice hidden gems and broader sound to focus on the radioplay sameness which brought a band to power; self-tribute albums tend to come across as sappy. Rarities and B-Sides albums can go either way; though my recent feature on Cake over at Fong Songs celebrated their own release in this vein, in some cases, at least, and for many artists, there’s plenty of good reasons why these songs were buried to begin with. And, as the poor recording quality of last-gasp posthumous releases from Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, and Eva Cassidy can attest to, the very possibility of a second such album of such rarities practically screams “bottom of the barrel”.

But it’s been twelve years since Canadian pianopop songstress Sarah McLachlan released her first Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff, and she’s done some fine, increasingly mature work since then, both on her own albums and in collaboration with numerous label compilations and other artists. And as a collector of the arcane and obscure, as well as a Sarah McLachlan fan since early adulthood, I’ve been gathering these songs in as I find them for over a decade.

As such, I already know most of the songs on Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Volume 2, which hit stores just a few weeks ago. And I am pleased to report that like McLachlan’s first Rarities compilation, Rarities v. 2 contains very little scrap metal, and plenty of perfectly-tuned songs from the border of folk and pop, most of which lean towards the delicate sound of, say, her sweet take on the Randy Newman-penned When Somebody Loved Me from the Toy Story 2 soundtrack, rather than the pounding remixed radiopop of so many of her produced original albums. There’s some great collaborative work here, with the likes of Cyndi Lauper and Emmylou Harris. And some wonderful covers, too — of the Beatles’ Blackbird, The Rainbow Connection, Joni Mitchell’s River, and more — most of which fall to the delicate, folkier side of her sonic spectrum.

Which is why I am especially excited to announce that today, in partnership with the fine folks at Filter and Artista, we are offering one lucky winner a prize package consisting of the following:

  • One CD copy of Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Volume 2

  • An autographed 11×14 high stock matte print featuring the album cover as depicted below

To be fair, though I am a long-time fan of Sarah McLachlan’s work, I almost chose not to participate in today’s contest offering. Sarah McLachlan prefers heavy, swirling, pulsing pop production in much of her performance; if this is folk, it is a form better suited to the Adult Alternative radio station and the large arena than the folk festival stage or coffeehouse where we spend the vast majority of our time here at Cover Lay Down.

But folk is a big umbrella, and in today’s world, production alone does not make or break a folk designation. To deny Sarah even partial acceptance would require similar rejection of the produced popfolk sound of other female singer-songwriters, from Dar Williams and Shawn Colvin to Joan Osborne and Aimee Mann. And under all that production, this music is, at heart, built from the ground up, just one woman and a piano: listen to the delicate swing of Ice Cream, or the first few measures of her XTC cover Dear God, and you can hear the singer-songwriter heart coming through.

The point, of course, is moot. More than anything, genre designation is a tacit agreement between listener and artist, and I know more than enough folkfans who enjoy Sarah McLachlan’s sweet alto range and soaring, powerful vocals to believe that ours is the right context for offering such an opportunity. So prove me right, folks: leave a comment below to enter the contest — just a shout out and an email address is all it takes to qualify to win a great CD, and that special edition autographed poster.

I’d post an album teaser, but though by definition many of them have already been released elsewhere, the label has asked that we refrain from posting tracks which will be on Rarities, B-Sides, & Other Stuff Vol. II. Instead, here’s a few well-tuned takes on songs from the folkworld from Sarah’s “other” and earlier releases, plus a few bonus tracks to get you in the mood.

Contest will run for one week, so enter today to ensure your place in the proverbial hat full of scrap paper. Only one winner, folks, though if you act fast, you can double your bets by entering to win the album (no poster, though) over at Muruch. Of course you can also purchase the album now via Sarah’s preferred source; if you win, you’ll have an extra copy of the disk to pass along to a friend. And while you’re there, I highly recommend picking up Sarah McLachlan’s first Rarities and B-Sides album, as well.

Looking for a few rarities even the true fans may not have found? Today’s bonus tracks are truly folk: a golden set of harmonies from the first Lilith Fair tour, and one of my favorite Canadian folkgroups with a cover of one of Sarah McLachlan’s best known originals.

Remember, folks: to enter the contest, merely comment below with a shout-out and an email address. All entries received by midnight (EST) next Friday will be counted. Good luck to all!

1,038 comments » | CONTESTS, Indigo Girls, Jewel, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, solas, Tom Waits, XTC

WIN Shelby Lynne Covering the Songs of Dusty Springfield

January 24th, 2008 — 10:48 pm

No music today, folks…just a promise of what’s to come.

Singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne‘s new album Just A Little Lovin’, a stripped-down acoustic set of covers of Dusty Springfield songs (plus one Dusty-esque original), comes out on January 29th, and I can’t wait. Shelby was once pure Nashville Country, but she left that behind long before her 2001 Grammy for Best New Artist; her newest work floats a set of masterful vocals over acoustic guitar and piano, resulting in a sound comparable to the better, sparser works of Alison Krauss or even Norah Jones: folk-tinged, with a twang and a fully mature control over her own sound. If the cuts I’ve heard are any indication, we’re in for a real treat.

And if you’re as excited as I am — or just intrigued enough to care — now’s the time to pay attention. Because thanks to Lost Highway Records, Filter, and the other good folks behind this record, I’ve been given the chance to offer one of you your very own autographed copy of Just A Little Lovin’.

I’ll be posting a few songs from Just A Little Lovin’, plus some other great covers from Shelby Lynne, in the next few days. In the meantime, if you’d like to take a crack at winning an autographed copy of Shelby Lynne’s sweet new cover album, leave a shout-out and your email address in the comments below. I’ll pick a winner sometime next week.

541 comments » | CONTESTS, Dusty Springfield, Shelby Lynne