More Tributes and Cover Compilations:
Shannon Whitworth and Barrett Smith, Reid Jamieson, The Big Bright & more!

Seems like only weeks since our four-part series on the coverlover’s bread and butter, the full tribute or covers album. But even before the usual spate of Xmas Coverfolk begins to tickle our fancy, the end of the year often brings delight in this category, and 2012 has been no exception, sending along a host of tight sets and sessions sure to warm the chilled heart of even the most jaded folkfan. Enjoy…

The most potent and poignant version of Paul Simon’s Duncan ever recorded; warm and well-crafted contemporary folk reconstructions of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, James Taylor’s You Can Close Your Eyes, and Paul Seibel’s Louise; a distinctively dark and moody You Are My Sunshine – new collaborators Shannon Whitworth and Barrett Smith, who have toured together but recorded as solo artists up until now, are at the top of their games. And though overall their brand new all-covers album Bring it on Home runs a diverse gamut from true contemporary folk to indie electro-acoustic soul (album-opener Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me; Van Morrison’s I’ll Be Your Lover, Too) and soft-as-smoke blues club balladry (Tom Waits’ Green Grass; Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado; old standard Moonglow), its heart is made of stunning folk gems, making it an easy competitor for the year’s best coverfolk album and causing several major upheavals in my ongoing list of favorite song covers.

Masterful production and arrangement here provide us with the perfect combination of comfort and revelation, making for a perfect late-night long drive soundtrack; it’s easy to believe that the album found inspiration in “a late-night tour drive across what seemed like all of Canada”. Gentle trumpet, uke, fiddle, banjo and saxophone flourishes lend just the right layers to the songs, showcasing strong and deliberate vocals, crisp guitars and pianos, and arrangements without disrupting the smooth track-to-track flow. And the combination of voices here is heavenly, with Strong and Whitworth’s equally intimate, equally weary voices trading lead and harmony in true duo form.

Bring It On Home drops November 20, but as a lucky recipient of an advance copy, I’ve had it stuck on repeat in the car for over a month – even my ten year old, whose tastes run towards pre-teen pop, finds the lush harmonies and rich instrumentation worth asking for over and over. Our highest recommendation, then: check out two tracks here, and stay tuned for a Single Song Sunday coming up in the next few weeks featuring a third.

We’re huge fans of Vancouver singer-songwriter Reid Jamieson here at Cover Lay Down, and I’d like to think the feeling is mutual: thanks to direct outreach from the recipient in question, we were the first to feature Songs of 69, his 2011 all-covers birthday tribute to his wife and muse, and we’ve also found great joy in his 2012 renditions of both Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On and the Canadian National Anthem, both of which were directly forwarded to us for sharing.

As we’ve heard in all those recent projects, Jamieson’s smilingly bright, sweet and gentle tenor and light touch on both instrumentation and arrangement lend themselves especially well to lighter fare – which is to say that although his back catalog includes more high-energy electricity than much of his recent output (his 2007 tribute to the songs of Elvis Presley, for example, is a true-blue honky-tonk romp), much of Reido’s recent output has been tonally consistent, both beautiful and smooth, with layered harmonies that teeter on the edge of sentimentality without tipping into cloy.

But when this self-proclaimed crooner gets serious, the results are even more powerful. And so we’re especially pleased to report that on Songs For A Winter’s Night, a brand new selection of winter-themed songs released November 9, heartwarming renditions of Gordon Lightfoot’s title track, Gene MacLellan’s Snowbird, Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper, 1984 Band Aid project Do They Know It’s Christmas?, and a trio of sweetly optimistic originals, among others, stand alongside a choice of several darker songs – most especially Tori Amos’ Winter, Steve Miller’s Winter Time, Bruce Cockburn’s The Coldest Night Of The Year, and Nick Lowe’s Freezing.

This combination of song choice and project premise makes Songs For A Winter’s Night an exceptional album from a long-time favorite: transformational, diverse, and consistent all at once. Reid’s prolific and generous heart rings through every track, making the album perfect romantic fare for the coming cold. Stream the whole thing on SoundCloud, and then head over to Reid’s site to buy physical or digital product and download an ever-growing compendium of beautiful coverage for the heart’s every season.

  • Reid Jamieson: Winter (orig. Tori Amos)

I’m generally wary about blogging and/or bragging about tracks and projects which are unavailable to you, the reader – after all, the whole point of our ongoing exploration is to share the work to support artists and their art. But here’s a pitch for artist support: back in 2011, as part of a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort to make her most recent album, Laura Cortese offered a collection of to-be-recorded covers to anyone willing to give at the $50 level; last week, Cortese finally finished the EP-length coverset in question and sent it along to the small, exclusive group of us who lent our support, and although technically it’s not designed to be available for public consumption, she granted me permission to share a song at a time, with the caveat that she probably won’t be recording any more covers for a while.

In order to balance the exclusivity of the reward with the opportunity to share, we’ll be eking these out over the next year or so; you’ll have to wait for Cortese’s haunting fiddletake on Emmylou Harris’ Boulder To Birmingham, an amazing version of The Beatles’ And Your Bird Can Sing recorded live with Session Americana, a sparse but electropunky mutation of Steve Earle’s I Ain’t Ever Satisfied, and a synth-and-fingersnap reinvention of Joni Mitchell’s California. But for now, here’s the first, with a promise of all of these eventually, and always more to come from our favorite fiddling singer-songwriter.

Previously on Cover Lay Down:

New covers project The Big Bright is still in the early stages, with just two official songs to their name; as such, it’s a bit of a stretch to consider them within a feature designed to showcase full albums and EPs of coverage. But the very premise that brings Ollabelle’s Glenn Patscha and Fiona McBain and “critically-acclaimed neo-noir singer/songwriter” Liz Tormes together is well within our mandate: The Big Bright was formed to pay tribute to 80s New Wave songs, and if the two songs they’ve released so far are any indication, their goal of finding the tender frailties hidden under the bombast of New Wave production is already well on its way to successful fruition.

The two tracks below, which currently represent the first and only official output from the trio, are unlabeled, underscoring the project’s novelty, but their transformation of INXS and Tears For Fears provide apt exemplars for both breadth and premise; as you’ll hear, this is true-blue indiefolk emocore – a bit of a surprise for those familiar with Ollabelle’s rootsy neotraditional output, but delightful all the same. Those in the NYC area will be pleased to hear that the band are in residence at The Rockwood every Monday for the month of November, offering three more chances to hear fuller sets from the trio; the rest of us will be eagerly awaiting more.

  • The Big Bright: Don’t Change (orig. INXS)

  • The Big Bright: Change (orig. Tears For Fears)

Finally, speaking of tribute albums: our search for second-generation artists willing to cover their fathers’ songs for our recently-announced charity “dream project” continues, with four nationally-recognized artists officially committed already. It’s way too early to name names, but suffice it to say that although I’m still hoping to hear from more of our 30 “dream team” members soon, I’m so excited about the generosity and talent of each and every one of these four incredible artists, it’s becoming quite difficult to keep the cat in the proverbial bag.

But by way of some not-so-subtle justification for saying so, allow me to note that a long discussion with a still-secret fifth potential contributor this week led to engineer, producer, house concert host, and studio-owner Neale Eckstein of Fox Run Studios, who has had a hand in enough cover videos to allow us to consider his body of work a series in and of itself.

Full disclosure mandates that I mention that Neale and I are already members of the mutual admiration club: he subscribes to this blog, and I’m a huge fan of his annual Falcon Ridge Folk Fest after-fest photo-and-music collages, which often show me dancing wildly at stageside, if you know where to look. But the work he’s done in presenting the below artists and their covers speaks for itself: each represents its artist exceptionally, while offering intimate and apt entry into their body of work. We’ll close out, then, with a trio of YouTube covers produced by Fox Run Studios, and note that BettySoo’s bluesy take on standard You Don’t Know Me, Cliff Eberhardt and James Lee Stanley’s Doors cover, a Prince cover from singer-songwriter KC Clifford, and more original and cover recordings from Antje Duvekot, Grace and Pierce Pettis, Bethel Steele, Cary Cooper, Matt Nakoa, Brother Sun, and others are available on the Fox Run YouTube page.

Emilia Ali: Edge of Seventeen (orig. Stevie Nicks)

Robin Batteau w/ Neale Eckstein: Heart Of The Matter (orig. Don Henley)

Ellis Paul: Crying (orig. Roy Orbison)

Before we compile our list of the year’s best tribute albums, cover compilations, and single tracks, Cover Lay Down wants to hear from YOU! Helping out is easy: just check out award criteria and categories for both Best Tribute Albums and Cover Collections of 2011 and our 2011 coverfolk mix of The Year’s Best Singles, use the sidebar to scour and sift through a year’s worth of archives, and leave a message in the comments below touting your favorite albums, EPs, and single tracks from 2012. And don’t forget to come back in a few weeks for news of new holiday compilations from Catie Curtis, The Sweetback Sisters, For Folk’s Sake, and more!

Category: Compilations & Tribute Albums, Laura Cortese, Reid Jamieson 3 comments »

3 Responses to “More Tributes and Cover Compilations:
Shannon Whitworth and Barrett Smith, Reid Jamieson, The Big Bright & more!

  1. Chris

    Could I put in a word for “Oh Michael, What Have You Done” – the Michael Chapman tribute featuring Lucinda Williams, Med Baird, Hiss Golden Messenger amongst others.

  2. boyhowdy

    You’d better, Chris – I hadn’t heard of it before! Meg Baird is always a joy, though…thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Shannon Whitworth & Barrett Smith Release “Bring It On Home” TODAY « Dreamspider's Blog

    [...] “Gentle trumpet, uke, fiddle, banjo and saxophone flourishes lend just the right layers to the songs, showcasing strong and deliberate vocals, crisp guitars and pianos, and arrangements without disrupting the smooth track-to-track flow. And the combination of voices here is heavenly, with Strong and Whitworth’s equally intimate, equally weary voices trading lead and harmony in true duo form.”  –Cover Lay Down [...]

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