Category: indiefolk

Mumford & Sons Cover:
Springsteen, Townes, Simon & Garfunkel, Alt-J, The Beatles & more!

October 2nd, 2012 — 10:12 pm

Mumford & Sons rose to fame rapidly: from a 2007 formation that found them on the road with Laura Marling, with rented instruments and without even an album to their name, to a 2009 debut LP that slammed through the charts, garnering awards aplenty along the way, culminating in a pair of Grammy nominations in late 2010 that subsequently paved the way for even bigger successes at home and abroad.

Though it’s an easy claim for those following the indiefolk market, like so many others, we’ve been fans of the folk rock quartet throughout their meteoric rise. Although they hadn’t recorded another full-length until just last week, a series of EPs and live sessions and guest star spots kept them in our radar. Throughout, the rich, soaring harmonies and neo-traditional instrumentation put them squarely in our affection; their literate songwriting, and their penchant for both the odd cover and the frequent collaboration, kept us coming back for more. And the odd cover of and from the boys of the West London folk scene – from compatriots and copilots of the Glastonbury circle such as Two Door Cinema Club and Marling herself, and of popular tunes from Vampire Weekend’s Cousins to Wagon Wheel – let us celebrate them here and there, as warranted.

But in the last few days, as their second studio album Babel has slammed the market, the band has truly exploded into our hearts and ears, thanks to a huge series of coverage that celebrates the folk and folk rock predecessors who have influenced both their own sound, and the modern folk rock crowd at large. The set includes a bonus track cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer from that same album with special guests Jerry Douglas and Simon himself, a World Cafe take on Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You that easily rivals any of the plethora of covers in our early 2012 Single Song Sunday feature on the song, a surprise BBC Radio 1 cover of Alt-J’s Tessellate, and a huge and utterly splendid Mumford & Sons & Friends Daytrotter session released just yesterday, with tour-bus recorded covers of Springsteen, Dylan, The Stanley Brothers, Guy Clark, and even a take on a Roger Miller song from the old Disney animated version of Robin Hood in the mix, and with special guests Abigail Washburn, Nathaniel Rateliff, and members of Dawes on board for the ride.

Taken together, these new releases are a joyful noise indeed; added to the BBC Radio covers of their past, they comprise a companion album of mostly-in-studio coverage sure to please even the most jaded old folkie. Listen, and be amazed – and then go on to Daytrotter to download the rest of their set, snag a copy of Babel, and become one of the millions who know.

And a few favorite covers of the West London boys, as bonus tracks:

As always, we eschew advertising here at Cover Lay Down, preferring to ask you to support the artists we tout instead of cluttering our pages with sponsors competing for your hard-earned dollars. But the bandwidth we provide comes at a cost, and we depend on your donations to help support the cause.

So purchase Babel, and sign up for Daytrotter to download the entire session referred to above. And if there’s dimes in the coffers when you’re finished, please, click here to help if you can. Thanks.

[PS: want more Cover Lay Down in your life? Check out our Facebook page for updates and bonus tracks throughout the week. Now featuring a hugely pristine bonus video: Mumford & Sons cover Neil Young!]

4 comments » | indiefolk, Mumford & Sons

Tributes and Cover Compilations, 2012:
Part 4: full-album folk coverage of Springsteen & The Replacements

September 28th, 2012 — 09:06 pm

After EP-length sets, multi-genre tributes, and rock/blues/pop artists turned folk for coverage, we close out our four-part series on this year’s mid-year tributes and compilations with a potent pair of decidedly folk albums paying apt tribute to the works of Bruce Springsteen and The Replacements. Enjoy!

Nebraska, the seminal album that proved Springsteen was more than just an anthemic pop rocker, has been done in full before. But it’s the 30th anniversary of the sparse, haunting demo-session-turned-studio-release, making another attempt nearly inevitable. And given the star power that turned out for Badlands, the turn-of-the-century tribute in question, to take it on again seems like an easy avenue to folly for all but the most skilled set of musicians.

Surprisingly, however, new indie tribute Long Distance Salvation: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska is a near-perfect nod, both to the songbook itself, and to the canonical shift it represents. And this success is, in no small part, due to the collective prowess of the indiefolk craftsmen which haunt the album, whose appropriately lo-fi contributions make it a powerful product from a new generation steeped in the sounds of Springsteen as folk artist. Joe Pug, Kingsley Flood, David Wax, Strand of Oaks, The Wooden Sky, Joe Purdy, and a holy host of other post-millennial singer-songwriters come in strong, atmospheric, and truly transformative without trading away the potency of the original songbook or performances. And the album is heavy on the neo-traditional, too, with Spirit Family Reunion, Trampled By Turtles, Kingsley Flood, and a few more from the grassy/brassy sides of the indie world bringing in choice cuts which call to Springsteen’s recent Seeger sessions.

As with Badlands, Long Distance Salvation goes a few tracks beyond the original album setlist, including Pink Cadillac, Shut Out The Light, and other Springsteen b-sides, leaving us with a wholesome 14 cuts total. And, as if we needed another argument to pay our dollar down, the entire project is just just 5 bucks to download, with all proceeds going to benefit Project Bread. Our highest recommendations, with tracks to follow.

Treatment Bound: A Ukulele Tribute To The Replacements, which dropped this past week on Bar/None, is a little bit folk and a little bit MTV unplugged session, honoring the path that the mandolin, like the banjo before it, has taken as it moves into the instrumental mainstream of rock and pop in the post-millennial world. And if the concept rings a bit of those bluegrass tribute albums, rest assured that the performance transcends the easy association: Nashville music veterans, pop/rock singer-songwriters, and session musicians Tom Littlefield (Steve Earle, Todd Snider, Nanci Griffith) and Jonathan Bright, performing here as duo Bright Little Field on ukes and a drum kit made of pots and pans, share a genuine love of the punk-tinged underground rock band they pay tribute to, and it shows: though breezy and occasionally even cute, there’s something quite listenable about the tracks that appear here, with a combination of balladry and rockers that mix clean and folky, with nary a low point.

We’re late twice over in celebrating Treatment Bound – the album was originally released in 2010, making this a rerelease, and arguably, it belonged in our previous feature on non-folk musicians going folk for tribute albums, thanks to the performing duo’s association with the rock and country worlds. But I just discovered it myself this week, and I gotta say, I’m loving it, in no small part because it hits my personal trifecta of respectful coverage, folkgrass, and 80s alt-rock source material. Check out a favorite track below before purchasing direct from the artists.

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Comment » | Bruce Springsteen, Compilations & Tribute Albums, indiefolk, The Replacements, Tribute Albums

Popfolk Thursday: The Living Sisters
cover Nancy Wilson, Bessie Smith, ABBA, Little Feat, Tom Waits & more
…plus new recordings from Harper Simon and Brandi Carlile

February 11th, 2010 — 06:46 pm

In trio form, the sweet-voiced ladies of The Living Sisters – LA-based songstresses Eleni Mandell, Inara George of The Bird and the Bee, and Lavender Diamond frontwoman Becky Stark – come off as something akin to a modern version of The Roches, with the production and harmony dynamics of a particularly delicate, indie-fied country girl group. In case you’re new here, from our perspective, this combination is a very good thing indeed.

Love to Live, the upcoming debut from the new femmepop supergroup, is already moving through the bloggiverse like a tsunami, garnering good reviews on the strength of the three performers’ history and new original single Double Knots, which is available all over the place. But both coverlovers and fans of the particularly smooth, production-driven indie popfolk sound which the performers share in common would be well served by putting Love To Live‘s March 30th release date on their calendars on the merits of both the delicate covers streamed with permission below, and the previous work of all three ladies.

  • The Living Sisters: How Glad I Am (orig. Nancy Wilson)
  • The Living Sisters: Good Ole Wagon (orig. Bessie Smith)

Bonus points: it’s not folk, but with the Greyboy All-Stars behind them, The Living Sisters get funky on a totally different version of How Glad I Am originally posted in December over at Rollo & Grady. The setting, a year-end mega-feature in which 60 artists picked their favorite releases of 2009, is worth visiting on its own merits, of course.

In other cover news on the radar, Brandi Carlile‘s new iTunes-only Valentine’s Day EP XOBC has three great originals and two covers: a rendition of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love which is so blandly interchangeable with the original it’s hardly worth the cost, and an utterly redemptive, heartbreakingly delicate indie-acoustic version of Bryan Adams’ 80s pop hit Heaven which shows that Brandi at her best is truly something very, very special. Out of respect for the small-scale release, I’ll not post the new stuff, but her older Ray Lamontagne cover and this more recent Willie Nelson cover are well worth reviving in honor of the occasion.

Finally, Harper Simon‘s recent NPR studio visit reveals a penchant for ragged singer-songwriter folk with a hint of No Depression Americana, at least in solo morning-after mode. Not bad for a guy older than I am, who cut his chops as a back-up guitarist on tour with his famous father before heading out to Berklee College to emerge as an indie musician.

Harper has taken his sweet time finding fame, but seems perfectly grateful just to be forging ahead on his own time, polishing an on-album sound that ranges from alt-country to indie twee; the result is surprisingly good, and worth sharing. His recent self-titled debut sports guest spots from both Eleni Mandell and fellow second-generation artist Inara George, making it a fitting addition to today’s post, as well. Here’s his Cure cover from the NPR session; you can hear more there, and order up at Harper Simon’s MySpace page.

1,065 comments » | Brandi Carlile, Eleni Mandell, Harper Simon, indiefolk, Lavender Diamond, The Bird and The Bee

Woodpigeon Covers:
Abba, Bjork, Pink Floyd, Gordon Lightfoot, Magnetic Fields and more!

January 23rd, 2010 — 01:42 pm

Exploring the boundaries of folk is a challenge these days, not hardly because the word “folk” is so often abused by a growing bevy of slash-using promotors and artists trying to lay claim to the term and, by proxy, to the authenticity of its community and heritage – even as they offer up music which provides little in the way of respite or even recognizable folk characteristics for the weary folkophile.

Oh, sure, there’s elements of folk music in much of what passes by the modern blogwatcher. The influence of the sixties post-revivalists, for example, is evident in a large swath of the Contemporary Indiepop and Indie Rock world, from Sara McLachlan to Sara Bareilles, from Beck to Ben Harper, from Death Cab to Wilco; we’ve included songs by some of these artists before here on Cover Lay Down, and I expect that they’ll come up again.

But that’s primarily because there’s elements of folk in modern popular music, period. Writ large, it’s in the air. But as the 16-bar 3-chord song structure does not make Rock and Roll a subtype of the blues, neither is the occasional historical lens, a moralistic story lyric, or the inclusion of an acoustic stringed instrument sufficient to suddenly make a given band’s output a form of folk.

It is much rarer to find a band that does not use the term “folk”, yet comes across as obviously within the tradition. Such is Woodpigeon, an ersatz karass based around the guitar, voice, and songwriting of Mark Hamilton, a typically bearded indie lad whose website’s tongue-in-cheek philosophical statements include the ideas that “everything starts off as a rock opera” and “girl voices are instruments. Boy voices are sex objects.”

Nominally an indie pop collective, Woodpigeon’s sound is nevertheless delicately acoustic, and the group is prone to confessional narrative, if framed within definitively post-modern lyrics. Despite its size, the instrumentation is more bare-bones than bombastic, with participants in a given song often contributing little more than a subtle vocal or string drone layer. Though its studio work, most especially in brand-new release Die Stadt Muzikanten, often utilizes the echoey indiepop production values and brushbeats so typical of the genre, both off-record and on-, the group’s music is nonetheless environmentally-grounded and subtly constructed, less beat-oriented than lyrically and melodically driven. And though some of their choices for coverage speak to a clear love of Swedish popsong, others – including two Gordon Lightfoot covers, and a lovely recent take on Mother, Pink Floyd’s only political “folktune” – underscore their connection to the folkworld.

Calgary-based Woodpigeon is an oft-cited favorite of fellow Canadian and indie-lover Chromewaves; we owe Frank a great debt for sharing so much of their work over the past year or three, a good bit of which has included lo-fi off-album covers originally shared on the band’s website. He doesn’t call them folk, either, but I think you’ll hear what I do in this lovely collection.

Regular readers, take note: the vast majority of the above covers are available free on Woodpigeon’s website, making the usual track-by-track album listing essentially moot. For much, much more, head on over, download at will, and bookmark the site for upcoming new web-releases and dispatches.

Of course, Woodpigeon’s in-studio work is richer by far, and worth the bills. Purchase older LPs Songbook and Treasury Library Canada, plus a plethora of EPs, at your leisure, and definitely pick up Woodpigeon’s newest Die Stadt Muzikanten, which dropped just last week. Coverlovers, especially, should keep an ear open for new track Woodpigeon Vs. Eagleowl (Strength In Numbers), which uses Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down as a perfect springboard for the quintessential post-millennial indie grungepop number.

Cover Lay Down posts new features and coverfolk sets every Wednesday and Sunday, plus the occasional otherday. Coming soon: the mailbag is bursting with great new artists; we feast upon the best covers in the bunch.

1,089 comments » | indiefolk, Woodpigeon

Singleshot Coverfolk: Before the Goldrush
(A Covers Project with Ana Egge, Dawn Landes, Matt the Electrician & more!)

January 18th, 2009 — 02:09 pm

What with finals coming up, I’ve fallen behind on my feedreader, and just today discovered Heather’s notice of Before the Goldrush, an amazing new covers compilation to benefit Teach for America. The digital-only release includes a huge set of new-generation, predominantly indie-folk artists paying tribute to the singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies who laid the foundation for their own success. As an inner city teacher and a coverfolk blogger, I cannot recommend a better way to support the totality of the things I love.

Before The Goldrush isn’t just worth having for its premise, either. Though I already had a few of these tracks from other sources, there are numerous new names to discover here, and plenty of lovely new covers from songwriters I’ve already started to learn to love. The several songs I’ve heard from the album are diverse, but I have yet to hear a dud — a rarity in the world of compilations. This, plus my happiness at finding so many songs and songwriters I already love on the roster, make it clear that this is one tribute compilation eminently worth the purchase. And, as one reviewer notes, because all proceeds go to a non-profit, the download is even tax deductible.

Here’s the total tracklist, followed by a gorgeous sample previously released elsewhere, and two non-album tracks from new fave artists who also appear on the compilation; for more glowing praise and the Okkervil River cover of Joni Mitchell’s Blonde in the Bleachers, head over to I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. Listen, read, click, and then buy Before The Goldrush. It’s the right thing to do, all ’round.

Cover Lay Down posts new features Sundays, Wednesdays, and the occasional otherday. Coming up this week: new coverfolk from a local singer-songwriter. See you then!

1,382 comments » | indiefolk, Tribute Albums

Covered in Folk: Paul Simon (From Bleeker Street to Indiefolk)

January 2nd, 2008 — 09:24 am

The ninth post in our very popular Covered In Folk series addresses the solo output of Paul Simon. This is unusual — with the exception of our ongoing Beatles series (part 1, part 2), previous posts have covered the total output of a given artist; see, for example, posts on the songs of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground and Tim and Neil Finn. It’s also backwards, since Simon’s solo career is really his second wave of fame, after his first incarnation as a folk icon with partner Art Garfunkel.

But however tempting it was to address both phases of Paul Simon’s career in one post, it was just too much to tackle all at once. And, as you’ll see below, there’s something especially timely about Paul Simon covers, as regards a specific subsection of the folkworld.

So stay tuned in the coming weeks for the songs of Simon and Garfunkel, including folkcovers by the Indigo Girls, Jonatha Brooke, Johnny Cash, and Emiliana Torrini. And for those of you that don’t otherwise follow the hippest darlings of the blogworld, enjoy today’s introduction to a branch of folk music so new, its artists don’t even use the term.

The solo songs of Paul Simon have enjoyed a sort of renaissance in the ears of the indie world recently, due in no small part to three bootlegs floating around the blogs: Swedish indie-pop artist Jens Lekman’s radio-station cover of You Can Call Me Al, and two versions of Graceland, one from indie remix experimentalists Hot Chip, the other from Dan Rossen of psychfolk indiedarlings Grizzly Bear.

I’ve mentioned my bias towards good sound quality here before; though I know that the swamp of sound is deliberate in the case of the Rossen cover (in the other covers, it’s a result of off-the-radio taping), the genuinely hissy, fuzzy quality of all three of these recordings keeps me from passing these songs on without caveat. That said, these songs are worth serious consideration, so they’re here today, if you want ‘em. Fans of the abovementioned artists either already have these, or need them badly; if you’ve never heard these artists of the new indie almost-folk movement, these covers provide a decent entry into their core sound, but I highly recommend tracking down more of their work before you decide whether you’re a fan or not.

But though I’m fond of these interpretations, and respect them for the love they clearly show towards the originals, I also think there’s better Simoncovers out there, both in and out of the indiefolkworld.

There’s plenty to pick from; Simon’s songs address universal themes, and they are eminently singable. There are as many acoustic Paul Simon covers as there are streetcorner buskers. But most merely sandpaper these songs, stripping the instrumentation away to deliver them with broken voice and road guitar. Only a few bring new life to songs which have forever been marked as an emotional mirror for a generation of baby boomers. Now that takes talent, forethought, and perspiration.

Today, we bring our usual full plate brimming with covers of the post-Simon and Garfunkel work of Paul Simon. Not all manage to surpass the originals, it’s true. Like the newest batch, some are imperfect, albeit spectacularly so. But there’s something special and wonderful and new in each one. And the best ones, like the best covers of anything once-and-forever-loved, remind you of how wonderful the originals were without sacrificing the power of their interpretation.

As always, today’s songs are a pretty diverse set, though they tend to cluster around the solo acoustic approach. Some are earnestly, almost delicately reinterpreted, others are lo-fi, almost all are live. Very few come from artists that consider themselves folk, but each has just enough folk sensibility to be welcomed into the fold. I’ll leave it to each of you to find your own favorites. Just remember: there’s more to a great cover than who’s doing the covering.

  • Jens Lekman, You Can Call Me Al
  • Dan Rossen (of Grizzly Bear), Graceland
  • Hot Chip, Graceland
    As above; flawed but powerful recordings of covers with real possibility. The recorded output of Jens Lenkman, Grizzly Bear, and Hot Chip aren’t always folk music, but they always make my ears happy; see today’s bonus section for further evidence that these folks are worth a second listen.

  • Julie Doiron, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard
  • Peter Bjorn and John, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard
    Two of the post-folk indie movement’s newest, coolest musical phenomena boil down what was once a jumpin’ streetfolk tune into a folk lullaby (Julie Doiron) and an oldtimey backalley strut (Peter Bjorn and John).

  • Peter Mulvey, Stranded In A Limousine
    Plucky all-out solo singer-songwriter fare from Peter Mulvey’s all-covers subway session Ten Thousand Mornings, previously featured here.

  • Eva Cassidy, American Tune
  • Eva Cassidy, Kathy’s Song
    Two of Paul Simon’s most wistful, etherial tunes set to perfection by the mistress of dark resophonic strings and clear-voiced longing. Eva, your songs live on without you.

Follow the links above to artist homepages. Buy compilations, songs, and albums direct from the source. Support labels, stores, and artists. It’s just that simple.

Today’s bonus coversongs provide a deeper glimpse into the coverwork of Hot Chip and Grizzly Bear, key players from opposite ends of the new folk-tinged indie movement:

We’ll have a full set of stellar folk covers of Simon and Garfunkel songs soon enough. In the meanwhile, stay tuned for a post on the coverwork of folk punk artist Billy Bragg, yet another Single Song Sunday, and the third installment in our very popular (Re)Covered series, all in the next week or so.

855 comments » | Covered in Folk, Dan Rossen, Eva Cassidy, Grizzly Bear, Hot Chip, indiefolk, Jens Lekman, Julie Doiron, Paul Simon, Peter Bjorn and John, Peter Mulvey