Category: Pomplamoose

Tributes and Cover Compilations, 2010
Volume 1: January – April

April 17th, 2010 — 10:24 pm

Saturday was Record Store Day, and though we’re off in Disney World – the least indie place in the known universe – it seemed nonetheless appropriate to ground today’s program in our most album-oriented feature.

Happily, there’s a bunch of solid tribute albums lurking on the horizon, both in and out of the folkworld. June, especially, promises to be exciting, with a John Prine tribute and a tribute to the songs of Shel Silverstein scheduled to drop almost simultaneously. The Prine tribute is much more americana-folk oriented – names include Justin Vernon, Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Justin Townes Earle – while the Silverstein tribute yaws wider, bringing in Sugar Hill records luminaries Sarah Jarosz, Black Prairie, and Sara Watkins alongside Andrew Bird, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Dr. Dog, Todd Snider and others. But there’s much commonality here: both albums feature John Prine and My Morning Jacket, and – given the subjects and the talent involved – each promises plenty of wry, tuneful social commentary done up right.

More generally, though it’s early yet, Consequence of Sound may not be wrong in naming 2010 the year of the tribute album. Slow-moving news of a grand Bowie tribute due in September is surely just the tip of an autumnal iceberg. And, in addition to a few rock and pop-driven tributes in the early part of the year – notably, Peter Gabriel’s reciprocal Scratch My Back project, and the recent Bird and the Bee electrotwee indiepop paean to the Hall & Oates songbook – the recent emergence of two fully folk-oriented albums, an eclectic iTunes-only DIY duo’s cover album, and an indie lullaby compilation which leans towards the mellow and acoustic, have set a high bar for this year’s crop. Today, we take a closer look at these first-round pace-setters.

First and foremost, major thanks and kudos to the always-excellent Call it Folk, who made first mention of LML Records release In My Room earlier this week. Featuring a solid mix of 20 longstanding folk icons and regional delights, the album asks its participating artists to cover their favorite songs, performed as if stripped down and solo from their living rooms and home studios and other comfort zones, and predictably, the resulting recordings are almost universally intimate, though the wide breadth of artists makes for a full and diverse mix.

I’m still soaking in this one, but the gems are there in spades, from Arlington Priest’s slightly prettified but still-weary take on Ray LaMontagne’s Jolene to new fave singer-songwriter Peter Bradley Adams’ ringing, hushed cover of Matthew Ryan’s I Hear A Symphony. No project of this scope is perfect, and to be sure, with the balance of these contributors skewing towards older, mid-to-late career artists, there’s a few piano-led clunkers from a few older folkies here that go heavy on the pop-vocalist syrup. But the song choices are often inspired, and all are handled with care and affection. And with proceeds going to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Amazon listing the full 20-song digital download for just under 8 bucks, it’s worth getting the complete set.

As with the abovementioned collaborative project, save for a single mention – this time on the increasingly perceptive pages of Beat Surrender – there’s been little early buzz about Mark Erelli and Jeffrey Foucault’s new collaborative effort Seven Curses, a stark, dark set of murder ballads from Springsteen, Guthrie, Neil Young, Porter Wagoner, and other powerful troubadours. But the first three tracks are available at Foucault’s website, and – as we might have expected from this particular pair of down-to-earth singer songwriters and cover artists – though the production runs the gamut from sparse, intimate ballads to fuzzed-out two-man folkabilly, taken as a set, the songs represent a fantastic teaser for the album-to-come.

Seven Curses – currently available in the US as an on-tour pre-release only, though it was released to the UK market on Fish Records last Monday – is due to drop on the dollar market towards the end of the month, though you can pre-order at Young Hunter records. And you better believe I’m placing my order today. Here’s two to tempt your ears into joining me.

I mentioned Pomplamoose last week as an example of the growing cadre of artists using the digital world to leverage themselves to fame and possible fortune; now, serendipitously, comes email notice of their new iTunes cover album Tribute To Famous People, just in time for inclusion herein.

Like their YouTube work, the new collection is less folk than playful eclectic pop, just an increasingly confident couple of multi-instrumentalists taking advantage of modern digital tools to build a layered, homegrown sound that is equal parts studio mixing and piece-by-piece performance. But though the sound and self-effacing sales pitch are perfectly indiegeek, the intimacy of lead singer Nataly Dawn and the humble approach to performer-centered song bring a sense of earnestness and authenticity very much in line with the modern indie folk and folkpop sensibility – especially on cuts such as these.

Finally, the folks at American Laundromat – nurturers and tireless promoters of a particular subgroup of predominantly female indie set, who caused so much celebration here upon the 2008 release of their stunning Neil Young tribute collection – once again come through with a stellar mix of music in Sing Me To Sleep, an impending collection of indie lullabies. Folk has generally been but one far end of the sound spectrum for the American Laundromat sound: High School Reunion, the 80′s tribute which they released back in 2005 ran the gamut, and their recent Cure covers album, though excellent, was just too heavy with electric noise and fury to merit mention in a folkblog. But aiming to reach children and their indie-sensible parents leads to production decisions that replace the feedback with sweetness, delicacy and drones, and our readers should find much to cherish here.

Unlike the rest of today’s recommendations, Sing Me To Sleep isn’t out yet – it drops 5/18 – but there’s an amazing limited edition package that you just don’t want to miss available for pre-release up on the site, and that’s certainly close enough on the horizon to merit a preview, isn’t it? Here’s a delicious, delicate Jack Early cover from indie popsters Dean & Britta, label-sanctioned and drowsy with underwater guitars, to make you sleepy with desire.

Cover Lay Down posts new features and coversets every Sunday, Wednesday, and the occasional otherday. Coming soon: reflections on a Floridian vacation.

1,302 comments » | Jeffrey Foucault, Mark Erelli, Pomplamoose, Tribute Albums