Category: Festival Coverfolk

Festival Preview: FreshGrass @ MassMoCA, Sept. 21-23
(14 covers of John Martyn, The Pixies, The Police, tradfolk & more!)

September 8th, 2012 — 02:03 pm

It’s hard not to love the idea of a bluegrass festival with its own IPA, brewed and provided by Greenfield, MA locavore haven The People’s Pint. Nor is it possible to ignore the appeal of hanging out among the grand exhibits and well-curated artspaces of MASS MoCA, one of my favorite museums, which has long held my deep respect for its role in revitalizing the mid-Massachusetts contemporary arts scene, and has recently become well known among the hipster set for hosting envelope-pushing performing arts of all types, including newly-localized band Wilco, lush lo-fi hipster heroes Handsome Family, British indie-folkster Laura Marling (coming on October 26th), and others on the cutting edge of modern folk and roots music.

But the second annual FreshGrass Festival has more to offer than great beer and a quirky arts-oriented 19th century factory campus setting. Some of our favorite newgrass bands pepper the roster, with young high-energy faces and rising stars sharing the stages with some of the very founders of the genre, from Alison Brown, David Grisman and Tony Rice to Joy Kills Sorrow, Trampled By Turtles, Spirit Family Reunion, the Carolina Chocolate Drops with Haitian-American cellist Leyla McCalla, the Infamous Stringdusters, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, the Berklee Roots Roadshow, and more. Expect a perfect mix of new and old-time music, with strings and hollers galore, and a zest for life that typifies the broad genre-span that is post-millennial bluegrass.

Multiple stages, workshops and films, pop-up performances inside and out, and innovative exhibits and food vendors selling everything from the usual hearty organic festival fare to moonshine slushies combine to deliver an experience aptly described by its organizers as a “bluegrass amusement park”, where authenticity and exploration are the name of the game. So join me on the third weekend in September in North Adams, MA, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley. And save some time for an indoor/outdoor meander as well: festival and day passes include gallery access, allowing for a few hours out of the weather with a beautiful, grass-driven soundtrack – a stunning, envelope-pushing, multi-sensory experience not to be missed.

Here’s some coverage to whet your whistle, with previously-posted treats nestled snug among the newest performances from Bill Evans, Trampled By Turtles, Spirit Family Reunion, and more. From takes on Arcade Fire, The Police, Elvis Costello, John Martyn, The Pixies, and Dylan to old bluegrass and country standards done up with neo-traditional flair, the playlist – like the festival itself – is sure to offer something for everyone.

  • Trampled By Turtles: Rebellion (Lies) (orig. Arcade Fire) [via]

Yup, we’re back! Stay tuned for more features later this month, including a dip into the bulging mailbag for some great live folk recordings and more…a post which, barring technical disaster, will featuring exclusive footage from our upcoming house concert with Brooklyn duo Molly Venter of Red Molly and Eben Pariser of Roosevelt Dime. And don’t forget to check out the Cover Lay Down Facebook page for bonus streams and videos throughout the week!

2 comments » | bluegrass, Festival Coverfolk

Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, July 27-29, 2012

June 25th, 2012 — 12:07 pm

Our favorite folk festival is but a month away from us, and though a weekend conflict with the Newport Folk Fest has a few daytrippers struggling to make the right call, for me it’s a no-brainer: after seventeen years of regular attendance, The 24th annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which will once again take place on Dodd’s Farm in Hillsdale, NY on the last weekend in July, is a home away from home, the perfect balance of community and comfort, with music flowing free and some of the best hillside seating this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

This year’s mainstage artists include yet another broad mix of the known and lesser-known, and we’re especially looking forward to seeing a handful of old favorites, including fest regulars Tracey Grammar and The Grand Slambovians, and the triumphant return of both folk-rockers Eddie From Ohio and queer-friendly trio-turned-quartet Girlyman, who we hope will spearhead Sunday’s annual Gospel Wake-up Call. Other returnees will be equally welcome: after wowing the crowd a few years ago with her inimitably girlish countryfolk, Eilen Jewell will be back for a second round; so will sensitive singer-songwriter supergroup Brother Sun, kicking bluegrass quartet Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, suburban roots cacophony Spuyten Duyvil, and singer-songwriters Ellis and John Flynn.

But there’s new delights to be had this year, too. List-toppers include Jubal’s Kin, a young family-founded old-timey-slash-bluegrass trio who we’ve shared here before, and Storyhill, a well-traveled folk duo whose recent appearance on Red House Records Dylan tribute A Nod To Bob Two is gently reminiscent of early Simon & Garfunkel, and whose 2005 covers album Duotones is a perfect slice of the seventies. I’m eager to hear more from the Andrew and Noah Band, whose rootsy Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cover below reveals a jammy, sunny groove that seems ideal for the warm hills of Hillsdale. There’s always more than a few delights to be found among the short two-song sets from the 24 artists in Friday afternoon’s New Artists Showcase. And I’m really looking forward to finally catching Rod MacDonald, whose elder statesman status will net him a Friday Night Songswap set alongside Ellis, Holly Near, & Flynn.

Day & camping tickets are available now, and at the gate; Hillsdale, NY is in a perfect natural valley, which trends towards sun, and easily-accessible from New York, New Jersey, and New England; there’s a reason why I write about this festival religiously each year; we really do hope you’ll join us.

But camp if you can: one of the best parts of the Falcon Ridge experience is the endless campground pickings, which start just after the gates open on Wednesday night and run late into the wee hours among the canvas tents throughout the weekend. Several of these are formal enough to attract the big guns; I’ve spent several sleepless nights wandering these micro-venues in my well-spent youth, and note that the rite of passage has also well-served our various first-year visitors and camping companions over the years. Most especially, don’t miss yet another strong Thursday lineup at the Lounge Stage on the hill hosted by Pesky J. Nixon, our 2011 festival’s Most Wanted Emerging Artist winners, and featuring fellow Emerging Artist winners ilyAIMY and Louise Mosrie, and more mainstage artists and emerging singer-songwriters, including the airy harmonies of new Cover Lay Down favorites The Sea The Sea, who just won the new folk contest down at Kerrville.

Check out the full lineup, and pick up your Falcon Ridge Folk Festival tickets here. And don’t forget: if you love live festival coverfolk, you can always get our most recent exclusive all-covers Summerfolk bootleg sampler by donating to Cover Lay Down.

*Full Disclosure: I’m Crew Chief of the Teen Crew at Falcon Ridge, in charge of our “officer’s candidate school for future volunteers.” If you see a bearded guy with a walkie-talkie leading a bunch of kids in matching shirts around the festival grounds, come on over and say hi — I’d love to meet you!

2 comments » | Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Festival Coverfolk

Anti-Festival Coverfolk:
The Best of Couch By Couchwest 2012

March 18th, 2012 — 09:25 pm

South By Southwest, the hippest multi-day, multi-venue industry bash in all the land, has finally drawn to its inevitable conclusion, and all across the country, artists and music bloggers are stumbling back to their daily lives a little wiser, a little wearier, and a whole lot more hungover.

There’s a tiny fragment of my heart that lives forever in jealousy of those musicians, promotional types, and hard-core blog-authors who clutter my feed with their legendary experience this time of year. But although I have spent much of the past week living vicariously through the frantic tweet and status updates of those brave enough to waive sleep and comfort for a chance to wander the long city-wide party, I’ve also been cheating a bit on the side, lurking around over at virtual anti-festival Couch By Couchwest, a tongue-in-cheek blog-based collaborative experience designed especially for those of us who have neither the time nor the youthful energy to couchsurf in Austin this time of year.

Just as SXSW brings together musicians and industry types, so has CXCW served as a fine meeting of the minds, bringing the famous to hobnob with the fans, both of whom were invited to post and participate in the community through commentary and collaboration. Yer Bird Records, of whom we are eternal fans, were a fine sponsor, soliciting a haiku contest, and exemplary sessions from John Statz, Hezekiah Jones, and more. Most significantly, from our own nicheblog perspective, in order to best approximate the live experience, musicians were invited to post songs from their own couches and practice spaces, thus forming the nucleus of the festival experience through vicarious sessioning. And though it was a bit less sweaty in cyberspace, just as one might have found in the live venues the festival was designed to mimic, some of them chose to take on coverage.

To be fair, we’re a bit worn out from our own early weekend post – a quite popular feature that took on the folkways of the heavy metal movement through the coverage of 14 fine folk and acoustic musicians – and from our secret Facebook-only St. Pat’s set, which found us sharing 8 fine folkcovers of songs by Irish band U2, including a rare acoustic take on Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For from none other than indie goddess Sara Bareilles. But it is Sunday, after all – the day we usually share our thoughts with you, the readers and fans. So here’s an appropriately quick and dirty feature set of coverfolk highlights from Couch By Couchwest that made us proud to be part of the crowd.

Matthew Ryan: Mama You’ve Been On My Mind (orig. Bob Dylan)

John Statz: It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (orig. Bob Dylan)

Ryan Montbleau: Ain’t Nobody’s Business (orig. Taj Mahal)

Blackwater Jukebox ft. Sadie & The Blue Eyed Devils: Mr. Vain (orig. Culture Beat)

Phil Norman: Become You (orig. Amy Ray)

Paul Otteson: Curious Scar (orig. Dietrich Gosser)

Hollysdollar: Vampyre (orig. AA Bondy)

Josie Little: This White Circle (orig. Kitty Wells)

Strand of Oaks: Long Desert Train (orig. Jason Molina)

Wess Floyd: Nebraska (orig. Bruce Springsteen)

Black Twig Pickers: Going Down That Road Feeling Bad (trad.)

Cory Branan: Bad Moon Rising (orig. Creedence Clearwater Revival)
An encore performance from Couch by Couchwest 2011!

Bonus track: Hezekiah Jones’ amazing cover of Chris Bathgate’s Last Parade on Ann Street isn’t available for embedding, but it is absolutely worth the visit to the main CXCW site…and a great way to start your journey through the archives of this incredible festival.

1 comment » | Festival Coverfolk, YouTube

Covergrass, Redux:
The Joe Val Bluegrass Fest, Feb 17-19, 2012

February 16th, 2012 — 08:03 pm

Once again, we’re off to spend the weekend at the always amazing Joe Val Bluegrass Festival out at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA. This year’s lineup is stellar as always, with young sensation Sierra Hull, Steve Martin touring and recording companions the Steep Canyon Rangers, new Boston-based all-girl quintet Della Mae, long-time fave the Clare Lynch Band, and special guest spots from banjo master Bill Keith and folk singer-songwriter Jonathan Edwards holding down a powerhouse three days of music.

We’ve covered most of these artists before, so instead of fishing for some new angle, in honor of our sixth consecutive year at the fest, I’m reviving our 2008 post on the topic, along with a much expanded set of covergrass to whet your whistle for the days ahead. Read on for some favorite covers from Joe Val mainstage performers past and present – and then pack up your mando, banjo, fiddle, dobro, guitar or bass and head on over to Joe Val!

In my heart, Bluegrass is the epitome of summer, calling up images of bare feet, hot sun, cold beer straight from the cooler, and warm outdoor nights pickin’ tentside in the camps. And in most audiences, the genre is grounded in the geography of the American South, where summer lingers long and lazy – both in the appalachian ranges which hold its old-timey roots, and in the country music of Grand Old Opryland which so supported its evolution.

But there’s plenty of good reasons why the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival – an annual mid-winter event which celebrates the surprisingly strong New England bluegrass community, previously featured here in 2008 – has won fan accolades and “best fest” awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Crammed into a turreted Sheraton Tara, its conference room workshops, lobby picking circles, and grand ballroom mainstage sets defy all expectations – and the Boston Bluegrass Union, who sponsor the event, deserve kudos for packing in enough time, energy and diversity to make for a grand and intimate experience.

Though it’s a strong festival in its own right, I tend to approach Joe Val as a preview tour for discovery, a guide for what not to miss come July as I make my annual pilgrimage to Grey Fox. And it works: without fail, each time I have attended, I have come away excited about a few new discoveries, and this year’s festival, which ended yesterday, was no exception.

In six years of regular attendance, Joe Val has introduced me to The Infamous Stringdusters, The Steeldrivers, Sierra Hull, The Steep Canyon Rangers, and a plethora of other stringbands, gospel quartets, and high tenor crooners both new and old. And unsurprisingly, many of these discoveries are driven by coverage – after all, the Bluegrass canon is chock full of old standards, and the genre itself is intimately tied to the performances and songcraft of a finite handful of individuals, from The Carter Family to Flatt and Scruggs, from The Stanley Brothers to founding father Bill Monroe himself.

An interlude: by most popular definitions, bluegrass isn’t folk music. Where modern singer-songwriter folk teeters on the edge of pop, rock, and blues, with the major exception of crossover artists Crooked Still and Allison Krauss and Union Station, today’s bluegrass bands find radioplay on the country end of the dial, if at all. And though there are certainly plenty of crossover alt-country and Americana musicians out there who are welcome at both bluegrass and folk festivals, most music festivals tend to be firmly either/or.

But as I’ve noted previously, folk and bluegrass have much in common. Both stem from the same early American folk tree; both depend heavily on the acoustic guitar; both use traditional forms of rhyme, verse structure, trope and storytelling in their lyrics and song structure. Wikipedia lists bluegrass as a form of country music, it’s true, but it also refers to it as a form of American roots music, or Americana – the category which encompasses the “folk” forms of American music.

Which is to say: we’re bluegrass fans here at Cover Lay Down. And though owning up to this has probably already lost me some hardcore folkies over the months since we started, I make no apologies for the bluegrass among the folk. The acoustic nature of the two forms, and their shared roots in African-American blues, British folk ballads, and appalachian music, makes for a clear commonality, even if the sounds are clearly different.

One significant distinction between bluegrass and modern folk music is the vastly different ways in which the two forms approach harmony. Where folk music performance tends to prioritize the singer-songwriter, both as vocalist and instrumentalist, the best bluegrass is about balance – between instruments, and among voices. The bluegrass sound is thus typified by close harmonies that span the range from high male tenor to bass, and a wide range of acoustic stringed instruments – typically bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle – which echo that vocal range, and, through alternating-beat use of bass and percussive high-stringed chords, provide an equally rich, full sound.

Bluegrass gets a bad rap in the world of covers — all those anonymous session musicians cutting albums of Phish and Nine Inch Nails and Led Zeppelin covers just to pay the rent doesn’t help. But bluegrass music is much more than country music’s poor country cousin. The covers you’ll find featured in today’s post are the real deal, performed with love and respect. Even if you’re not usually the bluegrass type, I highly recommend giving them a try.

To those unschooled in the history of bluegrass music, the Framingham, MA, Sheraton might seem an especially odd choice for the International Bluegrass Music Association‘s 2006 Event of the Year. But the popular stereotype which casts bluegrass music as a form of southern music belies a rich and long-standing tradition of New England bluegrass. And remembering that Scots-Irish dance tunes and English ballads are but one of several primary influences on the bluegrass form does help one come to terms with the fact that the Sheraton is built like a giant Irish castle, and thus looks more like a venue for a jousting tournament than a site for a bluegrass festival.

Once you get over the strange dissonance between the snow-capped castle turrets outside and the sound of a thousand banjos, basses, high tenors and mandolins inside, The Joe Val Bluegrass Festival is a great gig. Incredibly, festival sponsor the Boston Bluegrass Association manages to successfully reproduce the feel of a great outdoor festival indoors in the dead of winter. The atmosphere is infectiously fun, from the ubiquitous hallway jam sessions to the ballroom mainstage to the conference rooms stuffed with product demos and instrumental workshops.

And the musical talent is out of this world. The Joe Val Festival, which celebrates the life of seminal 1960′s New England bluegrass mandolin player Joe Val, attracts a significant share of IBMA award winners, both old and new. As such, it’s a good way to whet one’s appetite for the cornucopia of summer festivals which pepper New England in the warmer months. And it’s a great vehicle for us to consider the place of bluegrass in the spectrum of American folk forms.

Today, we feature a select set of covers from the artists I’ve been lucky enough to see at Joe Val in the past six years. Together, they explore the surprisingly vast potential of the bluegrass sound, running the gamut from country singer-songwriter to gospel, from old-school to new school. It was a genuine pleasure to see them all, and it’s a genuine pleasure to share their work with you.

As always, all album and artist links lead directly to band and artist websites, where albums can be purchased, tours can be charted, and fan appetites can be whetted. And if you live in New England, you might also be interested in knowing that the Boston Bluegrass Union, which sponsors the Joe Val Festival, puts on great shows throughout the year.

1 comment » | bluegrass, Festival Coverfolk

The State of Folk: Falcon Ridge 2011 Festival Roundup
(covers of Jack Hardy, Adele, The Beatles, Bill Morrissey & more!)

August 3rd, 2011 — 10:14 pm

Two years ago, my annual visit to the folkfields produced a manifesto of sorts, anticipating and acknowledging the blur between old time, bluegrass, folk, and other american roots forms being performed by a rising crop of very young artists. Much of this came from the dual nature of my summer revelry: moving from Grey Fox Bluegrass to Falcon Ridge Folk allowed for a surprisingly consistent journey, and that which I saw in one site, I confirmed in the other.

This year, though work and other obligations left me unable to attend Grey Fox, I was able to catch more music than usual at Falcon Ridge, thanks to the fine and increasingly mature staff working under me as coordinator of the Teen Volunteer Crew. And though much of what I anticipated in my Falcon Ridge Folk Festival preview post back in June came to pass in my ears (Lucy Kaplansky’s take on Eliza Gilkyson’s Sanctuary, especially, was a highlight, as was the Sunday morning Gospel Wakeup, which had me running to the merch tent for a copy of Susan Werner’s 2007 agnostic gospel folk album), during my time at the various stages and songcircles, a couple of themes emerged, though none so clear as that long-past revelation.

One theme was Time, as – through performance pairings, tribute sets, stage sequence, and the lamented passing of several folk artists – the genuine intergenerationality of the folksinger community was laid bare time and time again. There’s something quite reassuring in the way in which older musicians mentor younger ones, and play alongside them; something wonderful in the way a cover of, say, Susan Werner’s May I Suggest, which has been performed as an a capella tune by Red Molly for several years, is joined on stage by Werner herself for a fourth harmony part; something satisfyingly eternal and vibrant for the music itself in the persistence with which long-time members of the folk underground and mainstage crowds alike continue to work at and take risks with their craft. It’s hardly revelatory, I suppose, to note this, especially at a festival in its 23rd year which is known both for its attention to new and rising artists and for having favorite musicians return by popular demand, but there it is, and I’ll have more to say about this below.

The other theme, or at least a motif, touches on the everfluid and everchanging nature of folk as a genre. With several once-solo singer-songwriters now on mainstage as members of trios (Brother Sun, Red Molly, Red Horse), and with the winners of last year’s Emerging Artist showcases comprising 15 people for four acts, the folk band seems to be making a comeback, spurred, perhaps, by that same genre-blur – after all, though folk is renown for containing singer-songwriter multitudes, most types of music are collaborative by design.

Couple these with the passing of the decidedly one-man-show folk artists Bill Morrissey and Jack Hardy – one during the festival itself, the other since last year – and note that both of these performers continued to struggle for audiences in their final years, in part through duo collaboration with other artists – and it starts to look like the lot of the solo singer-songwriter is shifting, as artistry and craft in the folkscene becomes more about collaboration and play, and less about identity and the solitary voice. It’s related to what we saw last year, in the way some nominally “folk” festivals have broadened their musical base, inviting rock, indie, pop, blues, and other band-based forms in merely to survive in the market. And though even the most cursory look back at the 80′s Fast Folk scene shows the singer-songwriter revivalists which sparked Falcon Ridge singing harmony and playing along with each other on those albums, too, the move towards band affiliation marks a notable shift in how rising artists identify themselves.

These trends emerged early, to be sure. I was more interested than usual in this year’s emerging artist competition, in no small part because of my time spent the night before at the Lounge Stage, a fan-and-musician-run pop-up venue which appeared high on the hill atop the the 10 Acre campground Thursday before fading into the official festival the following morning, and which featured several of last year’s Emerging Artist winners – including the deservedly well-loved crowd favorites, the old-timey rootsfolk band Spuyten Duyvil, who we featured in our prefest post – long-standing folk icons Buskin and Batteau, and a number of the artists who would grace the mainstage the following day for their two-song showcase.

And though several solo acts on the Friday afternoon mainstage run caught my ear – most notably Grace Pettis, who has recently won emerging artist and songwriting contests at both Mountain Stage and Kerrville, and Brittany Ann, who won my heart the afternoon before – it was hard to ignore the fact that there were more groups than ever among the two-song entrants this year, spurred – perhaps – by the prevalence of duos and folk groups among contest winners in the past several years. And many were startlingly good – from ilyAIMY’s punkish, drum-and-guitar driven powerhouse folk to the warm, acoustic folk harmonies of foursome Pesky J. Nixon, hosts of the Lounge Stage, whose two lead voices I am proud to consider friends after our weekend on the hill, and whose next release is scheduled to be a covers EP which is bound to make them a whole new round of fans.

Far be it from me to predict next year’s winners – I tend to consider taste a purely subjective mechanism, and am generous in my allowances for good melody and stagecraft even as others prioritize lyric and the trappings of legitimacy. And I would be hard pressed to handicap, regardless, given that volunteer duties called me from a good half of this year’s fine crop of competitors. But I heard plenty of buzz about these four acts from musicians and fans alike, both before and after their performances. More significantly, I loved ‘em all, and managed to find covers from each, to boot. As a bonus, two of the covers come from Lounge Stage performances from the past two years; listen closely, and I bet you can hear me cheering at the end of the first one.

  • Grace Pettis, Scott Mulvahill, and Allie Farris: Rolling In The Deep (orig. Adele)

This was also the year I discovered Jack Hardy, in a roundabout kind of way. As I told his daughter Eva on Sunday, as a second-generation folk fan who grew up in a home populated by Fast Folk recordings and magazines, I had always thought of Jack first and foremost as a mentor to and engine for other songwriters, a progenitor of sorts of the 80′s folk revival. But Saturday afternoon’s celebration of his life and music changed my perspective, introducing me posthumously to the careful craftsmanship of Jack Hardy the musician through a long set of tributes in song and sentiment.

Turns out that Jack – who led week-long songwriter retreats by forcing budding songwriters to write songs for other artists instead of themselves, had little patience for those who thought of folk as a vehicle for popularity, and cared less for performance than most, famously noting “It’s the song, stupid” – was a fine songwriter in his own right. And though I missed seeing him in the prime of his career, thanks to his family, who turned me on to his work through the gift of an early concert album, and the CD recorded by the songwriter collective he ran from his NYC apartment for three decades, I’ve been steeping in his songbook and his influence for a week, and loving every minute of it.

Next year will see one last Fast Folk Magazine, a formal two-disc tribute album for Jack released through the Smithsonian Folkways label: a labor of love from Fast Folk engineer Mark Dann and fellow Greenwich scene standby David Massengill, both of whom considered Jack a close friend, and featuring coverage from a slew of artists influenced by Jack, from Suzanne Vega to Anthony Da Costa, from Christine Lavin to Terry Roche, from Nanci Griffith to Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and John Gorka. For now, that 24-song tribute and its accompanying pdf tribute to the life of Jack Hardy are ready, waiting for a server which can handle a few months of free access.

As coverlovers, we’re looking to help, and though my camera gave up the ghost early on Friday, we’re also working on acquiring a video of the entire Falcon Ridge tribute as well; in the meanwhile, here’s a quartet of the many surprisingly tender tracks from the forthcoming album, a set which only underscores how versatile and how deliberate a songwriter Jack really was – plus a live track from the Falcon Ridge set borrowed from the ‘Tube, an as-yet unrecorded, unnamed song from Jack’s last years performed by Mary Gauthier, which most present agreed is a masterpiece of folksong bound to find voice in other hearts and hands before it has served its purpose.

  • Mary Gauthier w/ Tanya Elizabeth: Ain’t I A Woman (orig. Jack Hardy)

Finally, a third, related motif: this was the year I had the iPad with me on site, and being plugged in felt pretty weird, even as the crowd texted along with me. Wired technology in the field is a relatively recent phenom – most of us remember when there were pay phones set up – and one of the things I miss about the pre-cellular age is the news blackout that we used to experience while on site. Amy Winehouse may not be on the average folk festival-goer’s playlist, but as a pop icon, her death was a big part of the background buzz during the fest.

But it was news of Bill Morrissey’s passage – delivered between sets, from the mainstage on Sunday morning – which caused a sudden silence in the crowd. Morrissey had his demons: he was known for his drinking, and the weariness of the solo road warrior which caused no amount of stress and desperation in his actions. But as Cliff Eberhardt, who served as pallbearer to this fallen giant of the early movement, noted on Facebook over the weekend, “The casket felt so light. That’s when I knew he was really gone, because if his soul was in there with him, that casket would have weighed a ton.”

Morrissey wasn’t just a well-known member of the Fast Folk-driven era, he was also a headliner at the very first Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, alongside Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin, John Gorka and others. As such, though he had shown neither body nor soul at Falcon Ridge for over a decade, he belongs here, in our festival review, part and parcel of our consideration of the passing of the first revivalists, even as they make way for the next generation of folk bands and singer-songwriters who benefitted from their leadership and guidance, their music and craft.

Here’s a cover or two from Bill, both solo and with his old friend Greg Brown…plus apt tributes from fellow Fast Folkie Lucy Kaplansky, who was all over Falcon Ridge 2011, and Mark Erelli, an inheritor of the dream who grew up at the fest, working his way from the volunteer open mic to his current stature as mainstay of the modern movement. Perhaps next year, we’ll hear more tributes for the man who could wring poignancy from the tiniest moments, making every moment seem like the world. In the meantime, here’s to the folkworld: its numbers may be dwindling, and its edges blurring, but it’s still the place we call home.

3 comments » | Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Festival Coverfolk

Festival Coverfolk 2011: Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, July 22-24

June 26th, 2011 — 01:08 pm

Regular readers know: Falcon Ridge Folk Festival is my home away from home, my happy place. An oasis amidst lush green farmland, nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Hillsdale, NY, its four stages, dance tents, camping areas and vast vendor zones rise from the mist each summer to take over the alfalfa fields of Dodd’s Farm, where they serve as much as 15,000 visitors with a cornucopia of music, food, fun and friendship.

This will be our fourteenth year volunteering at Falcon Ridge. In that time, my wife and I, and our friends and campmates, have risen to become Crew Chiefs, appointed caretakers and leaders of the various tasksets and zones which best match our talents. Our little campsite has grown, in size and reputation; the white picket fence which marks its site is well-known, and all who stop by for beer and companionship are welcome to join us at our table.

We have raised our family there, watching each year as the children gain more and more confidence and comfort in the fields, honoring that with the freedoms we give them: to be out of sight and mind for hours upon end, to wander with impunity among the tents and their trusted denizens. We have found a family, too: of fellow fans, and like-minded volunteers, who come each summer to throw their shoulders and hearts to the wheel alongside each other.

And though the world we help create every summer on the third weekend in July is but a temporary one, the community it sustains is eternal, and we in turn are sustained by it, throughout the cold winters, and the darknesses, the hard times and the shared celebrations, the late night facebook sessions which provide the faintest of echoes of the place that we carry in us.

It is my favorite place on earth. To be able to build it up each year is a privilege and an honor. And though the music that brings us together is but a spark, the impetus for the loving community that follows, it is to the music that we turn today – for without that music, there would be no Falcon Ridge.

As with many festivals, Falcon Ridge visitors this year will benefit from a general slump in ticket sales for solo acts across the genre line. Names like Solas, Greg Brown, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, which would ordinarily be out of the price range for a festival beset by weather woes and low ticket sales in past years, appear as headliners alongside mainstage mainstays and fan favorites like Red Molly, Mary Gauthier, and Susan Werner. And two relatively new folk supergroups – Brother Sun and Red Horse – will perform as trios, with the latter combination of John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky, and Eliza Gilkyson holding down the coveted Friday night closing set in the round, even as individual members of both groups will surely also find their way onto the workshop stage.

Indeed, though Falcon Ridge always digs deep to find the right mix of music, this year’s list of performers is truly a masterwork. Some of this, of course, is due to fan influence: the funky, full septet sound of newcomers Spuyten Duyvil – named after the very northern tip of Manhattan Island, where the Harlem River flows into the Hudson – will be but one of four acts brought back by popular demand after last year’s impressive turn-out for the Friday afternoon emerging artists competition; joining them in the rotation will be Chris O’Brien, a solo singer-songwriter whose voice and energy crackle on stage, and fellow winners The Folkadelics and Barnaby Bright, both of whom come highly recommended.

The festival’s reputation for providing music both central to and along the boundaries of folk is well-deserved, and well-represented in the schedule. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, the east coast quartet who wowed us at this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass festival, will be there to represent the grassy side of folk. Festival faves Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams will once again be present to wow us with their psychedelic folk rock late into the night. And alongside returning acts Seth Glier and Dan Navarro, this year will also see a reunion of folk duo Buskin and Batteau, a well-known and highly influential pair who have been appearing as soloists and sidemen for many years.

Here’s the usual mix of temptation, a preview sampler to whet your whistle, with covers both of and from this year’s featured artists. Listen, and then act now to order your tickets for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. And if you come – when you come – look for us by the white picket fence. You can hear the music from there; you can be the music, too.

As an added bonus: last year’s shift from a 4-day to a 3-day festival may have been a necessary response to finances, but with the hill opening Wednesday, the Falcon Ridge camping area has already developed a reputation among campers as the place to be on Thursday, thanks to several privately-run, coffee-house, artist, and small-label-sponsored stages which pop up along the grassy hilltop. This year’s “highlights on the hill” will include a preview of Chris O’Brien and Spuyten Duyvil’s mainstage sets, regional favorites from across the country, and mainstage acts from Falcon Ridge festivals past and present, including Buskin & Batteau, Anthony da Costa, and We’re About 9, many of whom have graced our house concert series in the past year. Here’s a sample schedule, and some favorite covertracks from the latter trifecta, to entice you to arrive early, too.

59 comments » | Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Festival Coverfolk

Festival Coverfolk, 2010: The Aftermath
Red Molly, Berklee Bluegrass, and more changes afoot in the folkworld

July 28th, 2010 — 11:18 am

As you can see above – yes, that’s me with my hands to the sky, dancing sidestage in full-on last-day-of-the-festival mode – this year’s annual excursion into the folkfields was a grand success. So good, in fact, that I’m writing this on the porch, reluctant to come inside lest the residual joy of the previous 11 days leech off in the presence of real toilets and showers, refrigerated food, and electric lighting.

But in the end, it was also a study in contrast, with Grey Fox bigger than ever, and Falcon Ridge smaller by far. Even as Grey Fox lost a press and volunteer parking lot to camping space, one uphill look at the Dodd’s farmland and you could see the empty spaces where campers and tents had filled the land, a field once fertile gone over to bald patches. Sure, the Beatles Coversongs Workshop was as populated as ever, and the sight of a packed parking lot waiting for dry-road entry on Saturday morning after Friday’s downpour day was heartening. But vendor lines were short, and seating sparse: long before people began to leave Falcon Ridge early Sunday afternoon, it was clear that the rush would be slight this year.

It’s tempting to frame this change in balance between festivals as a reflection of the larger ebb and flow of the two genres in the public imagination. The pop-and-country radio mainstreaming of folk artists such as Josh Ritter and Lori McKenna, the increase in bluegrass and newgrass sounds coming from acts and artists previously considered indie, rock, or pop, the continued rise and spread of bluegrass acts onto the country and folk radar, and a hundred other factors, many of which we’ve discussed here before, provide ample evidence for bluegrass’ upsurgence, even as folk blurs lines and fragments, moving back towards the small-scale house concert model, its most vocal longtime followers burying themselves in infighting about the true nature of folk in a modern world as the number of “pure” folk radio stations and programs dwindle down to a handful.

Too, Grey Fox seems to have benefitted from a growing core of second generation campers who come to party, drink, and revel, and don’t seem to care much whether the music goes on as scheduled. Though I was only present for Saturday, several sets started quite late due to performer frustrations with sound, and the largely empty seats which surrounded me didn’t seem to notice or care. To be fair, Thursday and Friday’s lineups were incredible, and it’s certainly possible that my fellow festivalgoers were just plumb tuckered out by the weekend. But several new additions to Grey Fox, including the funding of a well-attended movie night for kids down in the lower camping area, point to a continued effort to expand and enrich the experience for all ages, for which the organizers should be rightfully acclaimed.

But fundamental changes in the way lineups are booked at most festivals still nominally considered “folk” are also at the core of the choices being made “out there” which influence influence. As folk-and-more festivals from Newport to Green River to Clearwater have expanded their rosters to include a much broader genre range, and enjoyed corresponding success, Falcon Ridge has chosen to hew close to its roots, sticking with fan-favorite singer-songwriters and acoustic folk acts, which may explain some of its shrinkage. And though it’s hard to be critical of the place that I truly consider home, there’s no doubt in my mind that the corresponding dip in both camping and day ticket sales will make for some difficult choices in the year ahead.

It’s also true that Falcon Ridge took a gamble this year, whittling the roster down and scaling down the hours on stagetime in a desperate attempt to stay in the black after a number of lean years. The weather, too, was iffy, with black clouds ubiquitous on the horizon, and rain and blue sky battling it out over the weekend, so volatile in their ongoing struggle that one memorable mid-afternoon set started in sun, went over to rain twice, and ended in sun again, albeit with a smaller audience. But whatever the source, whatever the reason, it’s going to be a close one, folks – so stay tuned for more Falcon Ridge updates as the year progresses.

That said: from a subjective point of view, both halves of my annual festival pilgrimage were a wonderful success. As predicted, Kathy Mattea, who we saw at last year’s Falcon Ridge Fest, was in fine voice at Grey Fox; her duet work with Tim O’Brien in workshop and mainstage sets was hilarious and tender in turns, and made a full-fledged fan out of me despite my reluctance to lean that far country. Sarah Jarosz turned in a solid mainstage set, too, with a few especially lovely softer ballads, though a tendency to push her voice too hard on the upbeat numbers speaks to her continuing education as an evolving young artist. And seeing a grinning, mellow Sam Bush cover Bob Marley up close and personal in the workshop tent – part of an explanation of his unique “chop” style – was a delight, indeed.

I was especially interested in the morning workshop with the folks from Berklee’s new American Roots Program, both as a follow-up to a similar presentation-slash-conversation at this past winter’s Joe Val Fest and because the several musicians who tend to tour with Berklee improv prof and banjoist Dave Hollender have already begun to win my heart and ears. Though making the Saturday a.m. wake-up call was clearly a challenge for the younger set involved, those who did show – mando prodigy Sierra Hull and flatpicking guitarist Courtney Hartman of the talented multi-sibling Hartman Family Band among them – put on an impressive display of talent as improvisers and instrumentalists, one which speaks highly of the “push, expose, support and nurture” approach which Berklee offers, and promises as much for their own future successes as it does for the success of the American Roots program overall.

Overall, then, Grey Fox 2010 was a fine, fine outing, despite heat and a short but violent mid-afternoon torrential downpour that drove even the hardiest of us from our seats by the end. Here’s a few bonus tracks from a quartet of the abovementioned to keep the grassy field lingering.

Meanwhile, at Falcon Ridge, the replacement of a day of mainstage music with a free day of campground informality led to much higher prominence for the unofficial “hilltop” stages, many of which I heard about secondhand from new convert and campmate Darius of Oliver di Place and Star Maker Machine, whose constant tentside updates throughout the fest helped me see the joy of the place through rejuvenated eyes.

Which is not to say that this year’s official performances were anything to sneeze at, of course. Though my work running the festival’s crew of teen volunteers kept me busy, I managed to catch a number of delightful sets, from informal to formal. Dala were amazing and sweet, as predicted, winning hearts wherever they turned up. The Brilliant Inventions were in fine form, drawing crowds and breaking hearts with their perfect acoustic pop performances, well-honed songcraft, and dreamy Everly Brothers harmonies, most especially with my new favorite original Black-Eyed Susan, which can and should be seen on YouTube here and here and is bound to be the centerpiece of their upcoming album. And fellow Showcase winner Chuck E Costa held his own nobly in a workshop set alongside Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave, and Tracy Grammer, wowing fans and peers alike, and we’re proud to announce that the sweet-voiced singer and poignant lyricist has agreed to help inaugurate our 2010-2011 House Concert series this fall, with a date TBA.

Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams were amazing as ever this year, pulling a huge crowd for their Land of 1000 Dances set at the Dance Stage on Friday, pulling the young folks down from the hill to storm the stage by midset Saturday evening, and keeping the crowd moving at Sunday’s annual Gospel Wake-Up. And though new bluegrass quartet Chester River Runoff‘s mainstage set was cut short by the ubiquitous rain, I was lucky enough to be privy to their under-the-radar warm-up under the Site Crew tent beforehand, a sweet set of John Hartford covers, originals and tradtunes which made me a fan for life.

As in previous years, I’m proud to announce that I was able to record a number of covers at these performances, from Jimmy LaFave‘s Guthrie to Dala taking on Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now – and I snagged a few at Grey Fox, too, including the aforementioned Bob Marley cover from Sam Bush himself. The sound came out great on most of ‘em, and there was no official recording on the hill this year, so these may be the only copies of these covers in existence, making them rare indeed. I’m still hoping to unearth my camera’s connector cables to upload the Sat/Sun round of recording, but in the meantime, I’ve included the abovementioned as a single pair of teasers – with the promise of more to come as the weeks move forward.

The biggest buzz at this year’s Falcon Ridge festival, of course, was the impending change-over in the lineup for Red Molly, a folk trio that first formed in the FRFF campgrounds and rose to mainstage prominence through the Emerging Artist Showcase. As announced on their webpage a few weeks back, Carolann Solebello has decided to leave the group to focus on family and solo work, and Falcon Ridge was her last hurrah, with exquisite turns from the three ladies on every stage throughout the weekend marking a fitting farewell to a fine festival’s favorite daughter. The fall season will find Austin singer-songwriter Molly Venter joining Laurie MacAllister and Abbie Gardner to keep the glory going, and if Carolann’s last turn with the group – this season’s James, an exceptional album of familiar covers, peer tributes, and originals – is any indication, there’s high potential for all four women to remain on the radar for a good long while yet.

My personal fest highlight, in fact, was a long leisurely campsite visit with Laurie of Red Molly and the boys from The Brilliant Inventions, who I lured into our shaded den of iniquity with the promise of beer in an otherwise dry festival. To my delight, we hit it off, and as the lazy afternoon continued, what had started as casual conversation turned into a brainstorm session for potential coversongs for the coming re-incarnation of Red Molly. Out of respect for the artistic decision-making process I won’t spill the beans on the long list of possibles which resulted, but it was a coverlover’s dream to be treated as an equal in such rarified discourse, and I’m looking forward more than ever to new releases from Red Molly and TBI.

But I would note in passing that it was wonderful to find two people who appreciate Marc Cohn’s highly underrated second album as much as I do, especially the Crosby-and-Nash-backed She’s Becoming Gold. And that same pair – Eliot and Josh of The Brilliant Inventions – recommended I seek out their YouTube take on Sound of Silence, which they report as having been a rediscovery of Simon’s songwriting and arranging talents. So here it is, drowned a bit in audience noise but audibly genius nonetheless, along with another solid performance from 500 Songs For Kids, and two wonderful new covers from Red Molly’s strongest album yet, to close out today’s festival aftermath set.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk sets and features twice weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays. Coming soon: a trip to California prompts a plethora of features related to the banana-shaped state. And don’t forget to stay tuned for the announcement that we’ve finished compiling this year’s bootleg festival recordings into a single zip file, to be available exclusively to those who support Cover Lay Down.

1,491 comments » | Dala, Festival Coverfolk, Jimmy LaFave, Red Molly, Sam Bush, Sierra Hull

Festival Coverfolk 2010: Grey Fox Bluegrass, July 15-18

June 29th, 2010 — 03:50 pm

This is my third year in a row touting the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on these pages, and frankly, it’s getting more and more difficult to truly add value to our ongoing promotion. Which is not to say the festival has been stagnating – far from it, in fact. It’s just that after a decade of attendance, and three years of blogging about it, I’m running short on fresh superlatives worthy of the best grassfest around.

The reigning champion of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Festival of the Year” category after 35 years of continued excellence, the four day, five stage event has been consistent throughout in presenting a veritable who’s who of modern bluegrass in all its joyful diversity, and this year’s lineup is just stunning, with top-value names from all branches of the bluegrass canon, including many personal and fan favorites both young and old, returning to play Walsh Farm in tiny yet accessible Oak Hills, NY – just 45 min. from Albany, and three hours or less from both Boston and NYC.

We’ve covered many of these folks here before, so I hope no one minds today’s self-referential, repost-heavy approach to this year’s pre-fest celebration of all things Grey Fox. For a full schedule, including showtimes for Josh Williams, Donna The Buffalo, Sam Bush, The Gibson Brothers, and many more great acts less relevant to our folk focus yet no less adept or enjoyable as players and performers, head over to the newly-designed Grey Fox Festival website, where you can order your tix for the best fest around. Earlybird ticket sales end tomorrow, so don’t delay planning your summer roadtrip – once you take a listen to these fine samples from the Grey Fox 2010 lineup, of course.

    Crooked Still is one of our most-covered artists here on Cover Lay Down, and for good reason; in many ways, the Boston-based quartet-turned-quintet – equally at home at Celtic, folk, and Bluegrass festivals – defined a new sonic space in the post-millennial atmosphere, leading the way for a rising generation of hybridfolk that continues to explode into our ears and hearts. Their new cover of You Got The Silver, part of our Rolling Stones coverset last month, is excellent, too, as is their take on tradsong The Golden Vanity, blogged when new album Some Strange Country emerged.

    I first encountered international trio The Greencards at Grey Fox, one of the best moments of a very good year indeed; since then, I’ve caught ‘em twice, blogged ‘em alongside Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins, and developed an eternal hankering for their lead singer’s sweet powerhouse voice floating over those perfect popgrass arrangements.

    Kathy Mattea isn’t the first artist to make the leap from Falcon Ridge to Grey Fox in successive years; Crooked Still did the same thing a few years ago. But although we first featured Mattea as part of last year’s Falcon Ridge preview, the country chart-topper will be more solidly in her element at Grey Fox, and the setting is bound to make her songs of heartache and hope shine. Her appearance with Tim O’Brien on the Masters stage will see the occasional collaborators take on the songs of West Virginia, a delight for any coverfan – be sure to keep an eye out for me under the tent.

    The diversity of mandolin virtuoso and label-owner Dave Grisman’s output, especially in collaboration with the likes of Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, John Hartford, and others over a long and illustrious career, has meant several mentions on these pages since our inception. But bluegrass is truly in his heart, and his music in ours.

    New York / New England local heroes The Sweetback Sisters, who we mentioned in December’s year-end post, teeter on the line between a raucous old-time honky-tonk folk, sensitive country swing, and other new hybridgrass forms; like Crooked Still, their alliance with folklabel Signature Sounds seems perfectly natural, especially when their two female vocalists take the lead on some sweet ballad. But that’s also Sam Amidon’s brother on drums in this funky Roger Miller remake – need I say more?

    We’ve been following singer-songwriter and mandolin goddess Sarah Jarosz since she first emerged as a player in the popgrass scene, most recently unveiling an exclusive look at her collaboration with Black Prairie on the recent Shel Silverstein tribute album. But her tendency towards cowboy boots belies her rightful setting. And I still want her version of Come On Up To The House played at my funeral.

    Even though the even-younger up-and-comer Sierra Hull‘s name doesn’t appear on the Grey Fox lineup as a solo act, she’ll be there as part of the Berklee Roots Music Show, showing the world what the newest players-in-training are doing in Boston via the brand new Roots Music Program at Berklee College. Sierra’s true-blue countrygrass take on an old Connie Francis tune whets our whistle for the next generation.

    Finally, veteran bluegrass performer and jam-band crossover fave Del McCoury will be on site again, still wiry and wild after a half century on the road with and without his sons and compatriots; two years ago, in our Grey Fox 2008 preview, I claimed that his version of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was better than the original, and though I’m going to assume you’ve got it by now, I stand by that assessment. Last year, Grisman and son showed up during Del’s set to back up the band. Who will sit in in 2010?

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk sets and features every Wednesday, Sunday, and the occasional otherday. Coming soon: new coverfolk from the mailbag, a tribute to Dave Carter, a look ahead at a California vacation, and the subjective best of this year’s crop of YouTube coverage!

1,598 comments » | bluegrass, Festival Coverfolk

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

Pre-Festival Coverfolk: Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, July 23-25
featuring live tracks from Falcon Ridge Folk Fests gone by!

May 23rd, 2010 — 10:02 am

Running a music festival in this economy is a real challenge, but after a weekend with friends and co-coordinators of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, I’m proud to announce that once again we’re rarin’ to go for yet another wild weekend of singer-songwriter, folk rock, world music, and folk-pop. Add in the proverbial mix of friends, vendors, kid-friendly fare, hilltop up-and-comers in the label and coffeehouse-sponsored tents all night long, and dancing ’til the wee hours, and as always, Falcon Ridge 2010 is shaping up to be the best time I’m planning on having all summer.

Sure, there’s a few changes in the works. Most notably, after a few years trying to sustain a four-day fest, the festival will be returning to a three-day format, Friday through Sunday – though camping will continue to open on Wednesday afternoon, which should lead to a nice mellow day of pickin’ and grinnin’ before the bands kick in. But this year’s lineup promises a strong mix of familiar faces and new bands, from Cheryl Wheeler, Tracy Grammer, John Gorka and Jimmy LaFave to Red Molly, Dala, Ellis, and Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams – who I am assured will close either Friday or Saturday night with a slammin’ set in the dance stage.

As with every year, the Festival will also feature the winners of last year’s Emerging Artist Showcase, and I’m thrilled to announce that, once again, the fans and judges have chosen a delightful cross-section of bands and solo artists. To cap off our own planning weekend, showcase winners The Brilliant Inventions, Swing Caravan and chuck e costa will play a house concert for us this afternoon, and having heard the latter two artists in the aisles last year, I’m very much looking forward to hearing them without all the noise from the passing crowd. And though I’m running too close to deadline to wait to post, you can be sure if they’ve got any strong covers under their guitar straps, you’ll be reading and hearing more about them as the festival grows closer.

We’ll have a pair of three-day camping tickets to give away in early June – a $300 value, just for playing along – along with some favorite studio tracks from this year’s performers for all comers, so check out the full schedule, and start shuffling your schedule now to make sure you’re free to join us in Hillsdale, NY, July 23rd-25th. in the meanwhile, here’s a set of live tracks from Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals gone by to tempt you towards making the pilgrimage.

live from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2003

live from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2005

live from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2007

live from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2008

live from Falcon Ridge Folk Festival 2009

Like what you hear? Check out the full lineup, and then pick up your Falcon Ridge Folk Festival tickets here…or wait a week or two for your chance to win two full-fest camping passes worth $300. And don’t forget: if you love live festival coverfolk, you can get our exclusive Summer ’09 17-song bootleg sampler by donating to Cover Lay Down.

1,155 comments » | Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Festival Coverfolk

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