Category: Catie Curtis

A Last Minute Christmas Gift from Catie Curtis & Friends

December 22nd, 2010 — 09:04 pm

From a commercial perspective, dropping a newly-recorded holiday album three days before Christmas seems risky enough. But this afternoon’s newest release from Compass Records, a digital EP from Catie Curtis aptly entitled ‘Twas the Night Before the White House, captures a moment in time too precious not to share.

And though I’ve only had time to play it through twice, it may well turn out to be my favorite holiday release of the year.

Catie’s sweet, warm voice and delicate delivery carry an authenticity which we truly need after weeks of store-bought Santas, commercial radio, and favorite carols ad infinitum. The rich acoustic setting provided by compatriots Elana, Ingrid and John on guitar, harmony, and violin is stunningly gorgeous, a perfect match for Catie’s breathy optimism.

And the album’s serendipitous back-story is utterly darling: four friends, rehearsing the night before a command performance at the White House just last week, find so much to love about the sound in the room that they decide on the spot to record five favorite holiday tunes, staying up until the wee hours making sure that the magic of the night could be preserved for years to come. And within days, it’s in our hands, leaving us to marvel at the intimacy we find in the confluence of technology and community and art, at the rapid speed and global closeness of the modern folkways.

So yes, the time is tight indeed to promote this one last great new album of the season. But the album’s digital-only format is perfect for the immediate gratification we crave. And as an antidote to the oft-ragged ears still struggling to maintain some semblance of holiday cheer in the last throes of the long build-up to the day itself, ‘Twas The Night Before The White House is a timely star, providing something rejuvenating and very, very special, just in time to help us make it through the next few days with joy in our hearts and our ears alike.

Here’s the lead-off track, with hopes that you’ll drop the fiver to pick up the whole beautiful thing from Catie’s site or from Compass Records tonight.

In case you’ve forgotten, we also heard Catie at the tail end of 2009, in last year’s last-minute feature on Rose Polenzani’s holiday songs:

804 comments » | Catie Curtis, Holiday Coverfolk

Just A Song Before I Go: Catie Curtis covers Death Cab (plus Eilen Jewell, Lucinda Williams @ Green River)

July 16th, 2008 — 05:47 am

That’s us on the treeline, there. See?

What with weather and whatnot, the New England folk festival season only runs from June to September; it’s a pretty compressed time, rich with opportunity, and invariably, there are tough choices to be made. But over the years, the luckiest of us have found found a few sacred places that feel like home, and we wouldn’t miss them for the world.

Which is to say: I’m off tomorrow for the farms and fields of midstate New York, for two glorious weeks of festivaling: bluegrass at Grey Fox this weekend, and folk at Falcon Ridge the following. And there ain’t no blogging from the field.

But don’t worry, folks, I got you covered. A few like-minded and folk-friendly bloggers have graciously agreed to guest-blog here in my absence, so keep coming ’round for some great writing from the rotation. But before I go, here’s a few from the folks and fests I’ll regret missing while I’m away.

I just received my advance copy of Sweet Life, the upcoming release from alt-folkie Catie Curtis, in the mail today, so I can’t honestly say I’ve had a chance to let it sink in. But I’m already in love with her surprisingly poppy, affirming cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s Soul Meets Body, and we’re long overdue for recognition of the enduring work of this wonderful songwriter, champion of the working class, and long-time staple of the Boston folk scene.

Curtis is known for her vivid storytelling, especially in her ability to tease greatness out of ordinary lives, but she has always had a knack for carefully chosen, deliberately interpreted coversongs which she can truly make her own. This great cover is no exception: her guitarwork and the alt-pop production are catchy as hell, and her voice comes off all breathy and beautiful, like Lucinda Williams after a few voice lessons. Happily, the album seems to be more of the same.

Catie’s turn on etown will feature a collaborative cover of Yellow Submarine with Barenaked Ladies, but it doesn’t air until the end of August; Sweet Life won’t drop until September, and I’ll be away for Catie’s tourdates in northeastern New England next week. To tide us over, here’s the Death Cab cover, plus an older cover of minimalist alt-rockers Morphine from Catie’s 2004 album Dreaming in Romance Languages.

  • Catie Curtis, Soul Meets Body (orig. Death Cab for Cutie)
  • Catie Curtis, The Night (orig. Morphine)

Back when we lived up near Greenfield, MA, and before Grey Fox became too much of a temptation, we were regulars at the Green River Festival, a day-only fest (no camping) which has slowly spread to encompass three successive days of music. Previously, I’ve written about seeing Jeffrey Foucault there; the Green River also brought me my first live experiences with a whole host of amazing artists, from Josh Ritter and Gillian Welch to Carrie Rodriguez and Peter Mulvey.

This year’s Green River Fest line-up is worth celebrating, especially for the free concert in town on Thursday night featuring Cover Lay Down favorites Richard Shindell, Caroline Herring, and future feature-post subject Mark Erelli. Mainstage shows the following days will feature Mavis Staples, Los Straightjackets, Jimmie Vaughn, Crooked Still, and the following pair of alt-country/folk femmes, who cover Greg Brown exquisitely. Green River runs July 17-19; if you don’t care much for for hard-core bluegrass, and you’ve got a place to crash in the upper reaches of Western Massachusetts over the coming weekend, you really should be getting on the road right about now.

  • Eilen Jewell, Train that Carried Jimmie Rogers Home (orig. Greg Brown)
  • Eilen Jewell, Walking Down the Line (orig. Bob Dylan)
    (more Eilen)

  • Lucinda Williams, Lately (orig. Greg Brown)
  • Lucinda Williams, Hang Down Your Head (orig. Tom Waits)
    (more Lucinda)

Stay tuned for some great guest bloggers covering subjects from Hank Williams covers to trans-oceanic British folk rock. I’ll be back in the swing of things by the end of July, rejuvenated and steeped in the real deal, with photos of both festivals, at least one interview, and a report on the Beatles and Utah Phillips coversong songswaps just announced for Falcon Ridge.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:

883 comments » | Bob Dylan, Catie Curtis, Dan Fram, Death Cab for Cutie, Eilen Jewell, Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits