Archive for August 2011

Covered In Folk: Danny O’Keefe
(w/ Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Chris Smither, Chris Hillman & more)

August 28th, 2011 — 02:32 pm

A short post by Darius over at Star Maker Machine late last week rang a bell; I hadn’t realized that Danny O’Keefe had both penned and first performed The Road, which most of us know well through its coverage on Jackson Browne’s definitive album Running on Empty, but I did recognize his name from the songwriting credits for Well, Well, Well – a song often attributed to co-writer Bob Dylan alone, but first recorded by Maria Muldaur. Following the thread through the stacks, I found more than I bargained for: turns out there was a surprisingly large amount of coverage from the hugely undersung songwriting genius already sitting around on my harddrive. And so a feature blog post is born.

If I hadn’t noticed O’Keefe much as an artist, I suppose it can be excused: his biggest hit record came out the year before I was born; he’s produced but a single album in the last decade; most recently, he’s turned to poetry. But the Minnesota-bred, Spokane-based singer-songwriter has been writing, recording and performing for four decades, making millions off of eponymous 1972 sophomore album O’Keefe, which produced both The Road and the extraordinarily well-covered mega-hit Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues.

O’Keefe’s record as a co-writer and originator of song speaks volumes to his reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter. Good Time Charlie has been taken on by numerous names in the music world, from Elvis Presley to Cab Calloway, from Willie Nelson to Waylon Jennings. And unsurprisingly, given his primary modality and the audience it brings in, the majority of covers of O’Keefe’s larger catalog touch broadly on the country, folk and bluegrass worlds.

Danny O’Keefe’s lyrics trend towards the sentimental, touching on themes of nature and our relationship to each other through it; his voice is soaring and sweet, and his original performance contains elements of country, folk, jazz, and more; not for nothing has he been so well covered by the softer side of folk, blues, and folkrock, with Judy Collins, Harry Manx, and of course Browne himself taking on the songbook at one time or another.

But thanks in part to his hybrid style and lyrical accessibility, O’Keefe has found his way into the hands and voices of a larger set of folk-oriented artists, too. We’re skipping the hardcore country, save for a mellow country-pop pair from Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman, but bluegrass is well represented here, with Tim O’Brien turning in a sweet take on Into The West, Nickel Creek taking on When You Come Back Down (originally performed by O’Brien, but co-written by O’Keefe) with soaring mando-led harmonies, and Alison Krauss lending her beautiful vocals to Dave Mallett co-write Never Got Off The Ground. And bluesfolk Chris Smither and Pat Wictor – the former doubly; the latter both with and without recent folk supergroup trio Brother Sun – also turn in their own versions of songs either recorded or written by this gentle lyricist with the surprisingly political side.

Here’s the good stuff, a chronology of coverage that starts way back in 1975. Listen to the set in its entirety, and the odds are good you’ll hear a familiar song or two. If you, too, never realized all these songs came from the same pen and voice, well, that’s the point of coverage.

Cover Lay Down shares new finds and retreads through coverfolks sets and feature-length musings twice a week or more without fail.

2 comments » | Covered in Folk, Danny O'Keefe

Tidbit Thursday: A Tribute to Hearth Music

August 25th, 2011 — 09:37 pm

Devon Léger, proprietor of Hearth Music, likes a particular kind of organic, neo-traditional folk and roots music, grounded deeply in the past yet sweet and honest enough for modern ears. He’s got great taste, too, and a knack for finding the good stuff. So the fact that the Seattle-based label which Devon runs with his family seems to have added me to their mailing list in recent months has made me happy, indeed.

It was Hearth that first made the introduction, via Nell Robinson’s most recent album, which we celebrated in July as a marvel of intimate storytelling peppered with the true grit voices of her family elders. From there, Devon and I got chatting; he recommended Lauren Sheehan’s brand new covers collection Rose City Ramble, which he’s “not promoting at all”, just because he thought I’d share his love for her wonderfully warm, gentle acoustic roots and blues covers, and pointed me to the Hearth Music blog, where he shares news of some pretty impressive roots artists that seem, too often, to be otherwise unsung. From there, I found the Listening Lounge, which features a holy host of retrofolk, bluegrass, and oldtimey artists, a treasure trove of discovery with files galore to sample and save.

Devon and co. have also impressed me to no end by picking up on other innovative musicians who I’ve raved about before, but had otherwise lost sight of. Today’s mail, for example, included the debut-as-a-duo album from tradfolk couple Pharis and Jason Romero, which finds the British Colombian folk reconstructionists and banjo-makers (previously touted here for their crystal-clear YouTube work) taking on a mixed set of traditionally sourced and original compositions to powerful effect, one that recalls the best of classic countryfolk guitar-led co-ed pairings from Johnny and June to Welch and Rawlings. The album is being paired with a new work by Romero producer Ivan Rosenberg and The Foggy Hogtown Boys, too, and it’s a great “vinyl-era” tradgrass romp.

And among other stellar artists performing in the Next Gen Folk Series which Hearth Music promotes out in Seattle, I find Nic Gareiss and Emma Beaton, a stunningly potent “transcendant traditional folk” duo who I actually did discover, before anyone, when I accidentally wandered into their first ever public performance together way back in the winter of 2009, and subsequently wrote that “if I ever had the time and guts to start producing musicians on my own, I’d start with Emma and Nic”.

And so I sing today in praise of the rarest of finds in the busy, increasingly fragmented world of music behind the scenes: a promotional agency that is perfectly genuine and personal; that presents exclusively hand-tooled, authentically crafted music in both live and recorded form; that sees the music they profit from as tied intimately to the music they love, and promotes it all, regardless of who it benefits; that sends physical media banded in brown paper, accompanied by playful yet tastefully classic postcard introductions to the artists, making the music they send a natural extension of the down-to-earth packaging experience, and vice versa.

In a world where so much spam fills the blogger’s inbox each day, such genuine thoughtfulness and prescience should not go unrewarded. So here’s some coverage from a few great artists recently touted, promoted, and/or hosted by this tiny yet growing promotion house. Check ‘em out, and then head over to Hearth Music to buy, book tickets, sample, and blogfollow.

  • Raina Rose w/ Rebecca Loebe: Mama You Been On My Mind (orig. Bob Dylan)

Cover Lay Down: on the neverending search for all the greatness in the universe. Sharing the best coverfolk we find in it with you since 2007.

1 comment » | Elseblog, Tradfolk

Shod Coverfolk, Redux:
On shoes and the end of summer

August 24th, 2011 — 05:22 pm

I’m flat out this week, preparing new classroom and new curriculum for another year in one of the toughest urban schools in Massachusetts, so I hope no one minds a relevant repost as we round the corner on the cusp of yet another school year. As with all our reposted features here at CLD, I’ve included a couple of new additions to the original setlist, too – so scroll down for covers of Black Sabbath, Sia, Paul Simon, Little Feat, Elvis Costello, Townes, Dylan, and more…

On the canvas of my mind, I paint the summerself as a towheaded Tom Sawyer, barefoot and fancy free. And though I cannot see into the infinite otherminds that share my world, it’s healthy, I think, to imagine that we all recreate our childhoods as such.

But there was little point in going unshod in my suburban childhood. A walk meant pavement, not sidewalks, and on the street, the threat of broken glass or ancient gravel shards was everpresent. Even our own backyard was sparse and prickly, a minefield of instep acorns; even the woodchips beneath the swingset were too splintery for toes untoughened by a lifetime of bare earth. For me, shoes and sneakers were the way of the world. And until recently, they always were.

Today, thanks to influence and instinct – evoked, in part, from the better memories of my farm-bred spouse – my children’s lives are different. Here in the woods, the girls run free, digging in the dirt with their heels, leaving muddy footprints across the flagstones as they scamper in for supper. As a consequence, their feet are tougher, the soles and pads thickening with age far earlier than mine ever did. Though I winced my way through the selfsame pathways, watching them run over the rough rocks and pebble beaches as we traveled up the Pacific Coast these last few weeks was validating, affirming the value of our choice to raise them without barriers between earth and flesh.

And such barefoot afternoons and weekends may continue for a while yet, though the rain and chill which arrived this week are a harbinger of colder months to come. But tonight summer ends, and the world of socks and laces rears its ugly head.

Which is to say: the elderchild starts school tomorrow morning, and my own classes will begin on Monday. The wee one will enter the world of public education this year, too, with Kindergarten a given in a world of second grade standardized tests. And school means shoes – for bare toes are outlawed in most schools these days, and for good reason: though flip flops are en vogue, the new world of liability and oversensitivity to hygiene make such summerwear moot in the classroom.

Time to put summer sandals back into storage for another year, then, and climb back into our sneakers and hard shoes, still scuffed from Spring, and dusty with the sifted sunbeams of a summer’s rest. We’ll buy new ones when the paychecks start coming in again, and perhaps by then the pride of shod and booted life will return to us. Too soon, the leaves will fall, and the snows begin, turning shoes to boots with high-top laces. In the meantime, here’s a soundtrack for our sorrow.


  • Mike Gennarini: Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (orig. Paul Simon)
    (from Facebook, 2011)

Cover Lay Down publishes new coverfolk features and songsets each Wednesday and Sunday, and the occasional otherday.

Comment » | Uncategorized

A Beautiful Mess: Housecleaning Coverfolk

August 20th, 2011 — 07:38 pm

I am not, by nature, a neat or well-organized person. Instead, I am cursed by ADHD, & natural tendencies towards entropy and laziness and procrastination, coupled with a pack-rat’s collecting mentality and a keen visual sense of where I left things which makes tidying up an exercise in planned futility.

And so, for the entirety of my adulthood, I have lived a life which, in its extreme moments, exhibits all the characteristics of relative squalor: clothes on every inch of the bedroom and bathroom floor, more dishes by the sink than in the cabinets, the entryway narrowed with cramped piles of detritus.

Even in the best of all possible worlds, with such tendencies matched by spouse and children, our home is constantly on the verge of being completely taken over by stuff. Halfhearted attempts to create and maintain a sense of order only lead to a life of abashed dishonesty and circuitousness. We are cautious about company, and treat irregular babysitting and housesitting visits as a prompt to reshuffle the various piles of clutter and randomalia which cover the dining room and living room coffeetable deeper into the house, where they will eventually fill and even block entry to entire rooms designed for work and play and sleep.

But every once in a while, we have no choice but to devote an entire day to actually cleaning up. Like now, for example, when the impending school year demands establishment of classroom and homework spaces for all of us, and organizing such spaces from scratch requires finding everything first. Also: I can’t find any of my work clothes.

And so we spend the afternoon working on the house. The entropic universe is pushed back a bit. And, in between sporadic bouts of pile-shifting and distracted paper-shuffling, I sit on the porch, away from the rising dust, and compile a wide-ranging smorgasbord of coversongs which – at least titularly – touch upon the cleaning process. Because I am, by nature and propensity, a beautiful mess. And music is ever my saving grace.

2 comments » | Uncategorized

Other Voices, Aussie Blogs:
Kasey Chambers covers Suzanne Vega

August 15th, 2011 — 08:50 pm

Understated Aussie-based blog Timber & Steel may well be my new favorite folk/americana blog, bar none. The mix of undersung local Australian acts and international acoustic and nu-folk – aka “folk music that falls through the cracks between the trad and indie scenes” – is impeccable, the content is always fresh and often first to hit the web, and the short blurbs which typify the entries are generally spot on, making for an environment that enriches the soul and the ears.

As they rightly note, native daughter Kasey Chambers‘ brand new cover of Suzanne Vega radiohit Luka is somewhere perfectly poised between 80s pop and modern country twang – a bit of a stretch for both the blog and the singer-songwriter. Is this first single from upcoming album Storybook (due Sept. 23) indicative of a new, more polished sound than her previous work? Has Chambers, whose song Beautiful Mess was awarded this year’s Grand Prize at the International Songwriting Competition back in May, trying to have her cake and eat others’, too? Time will tell.

Add Timber & Steel to your daily list to see more hot & cool delights from Down Under. But first, the video no one but us is talking about…yet.

  • Kasey Chambers: Luka (orig. Suzanne Vega)
    (from Storybook, 2011)

Previously on Cover Lay Down: Kasey Chambers covers Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams x2, The Louvin Brothers, and other country icons.

1 comment » | Kasey Chambers

Nebraska Coverfolk: Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes
(21 covers of and from the Omaha scenester and singer-songwriter)

August 14th, 2011 — 01:01 pm

Thanks to my father’s determination to visit all 50 US states in his lifetime, we’ve just returned from a short vacation, and as is our practice here at Cover Lay Down, that means a feature with a regional focus. Previous Vacation Coverfolk sets took us to California, the Carolinas, Memphis, and more; this week found us in Nebraska, and so we turn to the work of a particularly influential musician with a decidedly midwestern origin. Ladies and Gentlemen: Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes.

Outside of the cities, Nebraska is exactly what I always envisioned: miles upon miles of gently swelling farmland, planted green in corn and soybeans, with hardly a suburb in sight. But like everywhere in the postmillennial universe, urban centers have their curses and their charm, their commercial influences and their inner-city neighborhoods.

And so, although much of Omaha and its sister city, nearby capitol Lincoln, are comprised of the same old fast food strip malls and condo sameness that have grown to typify the American experience, I suppose it was unsurprising to find small bohemian enclaves in both cities, constructed around beautifully restored old marketplace buildings and train stations.

And where we find bohemia, we find good, authentic music. Nebraska’s history with music on the edge starts with its long and complicated history as a Jazz, Swing, and Blues enclave in the early half of the 19th century, centered around the storied Dreamland Ballroom in the African-American Near North Side neighborhood of Omaha, which attracted national acts, and was known as a breeding ground for bandmembers for touring bands. Dreamland would close in the 1960s, but the trend would later be continued by the Lincoln-based Zoo Bar, which has been home and host to many seminal Jazz and Blues recordings.

In more recent years, thanks to a rise in indie venues, music festivals, and coffeehouses, Nebraska has produced a small collection of singer-songwriter types, predominantly male indiefolk musicians who we’ve covered here before: Joshua James, Josh Rouse, and others.

But much of the indie side of this influence is centered around singer-songwriter Conor Oberst – the driving force behind Bright Eyes, which was created out of the Omaha indie scene in the nineties; founding member of recent indiefolk supergroup quartet Monsters of Folk, and brother to Justin Oberst, co-founder of indie label Saddle Creek Records, which claims to be the primary spearholder for the Omaha Sound, a flavor typified by indie rock influences with a slight country twang.

Named best songwriter of 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine, Oberst’s work is characterized by acoustic-based settings and angst-ridden lyrics that match impressionistic narratives with depressing, emotionally immature worldviews. With Bright Eyes – a moniker which Oberst has used as both a solo artist and as a coverall for band releases – he’s veered from bluegrass-tinged alt-country to light, echoey, hushed-voice troubadour folk to true-blue indie retrorock.

The range displayed by his simultaneous 2005 Bright Eyes releases – the folk-influenced I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, and the electro-pop-influenced Digital Ash In A Digital Urn – typify this experimental fluidity: the former sounds like Ryan Adams’ quieter, more tender side; the latter sounds more like new work from Depeche Mode, albeit with Oberst’s uniquely breathless, wavery, warbly voice as a constant throughout both albums. As a solo artist and collaborator, much of his work follows in this same vein, with intimacy in some songs and tours, and harder edges flavoring others.

Indeed, some of the songs and covers that Oberst has recorded, both on his own and in partnership with others, are so far from folk that today’s set represents but one side of the coin for this particular artist. For example, though two decidedly sweet Dylan songs make the cut below, you’ll have to track down his frenetic thrashpunk cover of One More Cup Of Coffee, recorded with Ryan Adams in what appears to have been a Dead Milkmen moment.

Nonetheless, the diversity of both Oberst’s songbook and performance modes has engendered quite a broad variety of coverage, both of and from Oberst himself, which fits under a broad definition of folk. As such, our covers collection veers wide, touching upon the typically crunchy and stripped-down (Marissa Nadler, Kelsea Olivia), produced piano popfolk (Sara Lov), and edgy alt-folk of the indie type (loud grungefolk from Bettie Serveert, and sparse anti-folk takes from Existential Hero and The Sarcastic Dharma Society). While common to songbook coverage, such a range of sound is less common in the hands of a single artist, who here takes on both country/folk/pop forefathers Bob Dylan, John Prine and Paul Simon and indie counterparts such as Feist, Daniel Johnston, and Elliott Smith with everything from solo slouch to wailing screamfolk. Prepare to be surprised.

Covers of…

…and covers from…

  • Bright Eyes w/ Jenny and Johnny: Wrecking Ball (orig. Gillian Welch)

1 comment » | Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst, Vacation Coverfolk

Covered In Kidfolk, Vol. 12: Sesame Street
(Social Songs and Learning Vehicles for Cool Moms and Dads)

August 9th, 2011 — 10:08 am

The elderchild and her smaller sister are growing up fast, as kids are wont to do. They don’t need kidfolk so much anymore – are starting to make their own choices about music and listenability, and tend to prefer playfulness and performability to nuance or lyrical narrative, a trend which I suppose will linger until they hit their teens and begin to look for ways to identify themselves as “other”. They play unattended, and wander the folk festival grounds on their own; they do musicals, as their parents do, and sing the songs around the house for months.

But they also recognize a growing set of theme songs and jingles. Because now that they’re able to make their own choices, they spend more time than I’d like staring at screens. And though the prevalence of supposedly rich, interactive PBS and Nick Jr. programming on the computer makes it seem like a better bet than television for those thoughtful, deliberate parents who feel guilt at the thought of using the TV as a babysitter, with bandwidth coming into its own in the past few years, much of that content is in the form of full-screen episodes. Setting limits isn’t what it used to be.

As a teacher of media and communications, I have mixed feelings about children’s television – though my primary critique is truly about the passive gaze which television itself engenders, and about the easy willingness of parents and caregivers to allow the tube unfiltered access to the developing mind, despite ongoing caution from the pediatric and psychological communities that the best way to make room for television in a child’s life is to watch with your child, and model active, critical viewing through ongoing interaction throughout.

But Sesame Street is one of the good guys: thoughtful and deliberate from its inception, educationally and developmentally grounded, it is also rife with nudge-and-a-wink content geared towards making the act of active companionship not just tolerable, but actually pleasurable for the accompanying adult. When Jim Henson, whose characters remain the primary deliverers of so much of the musical and textual content of this groundbreaking show, populated the show with furry monsters and neotenic blue-skinned people, the vast majority of them significantly younger and more innocent than the adult human cast, he created the perfect vehicles – a cast able to wonder why out loud, and show pride in their growing understanding of the socio-cultural experience.

The team of lyricists and composers who have worked with the Children’s Television Workshop over the years – Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, especially – understand that the songs they write should reach a multigenerational audience, and transcend the limitations of age, all within a span of two minutes or less. And though there are a surprising number of punk and ska covers out there, those who have taken on the Sesame Street songbook without irony understand that effective coverage requires both a gentle hand and a generous dollop of joy. For us, that means an easy journey past pop, and towards the singer-songwriters and indie camps, where musicians understand that sharing feelings and asking universal questions are a vital part of the folkways.

I’ve posted most of these songs here at one time or another. But it feels good to put them all in one place. The resulting set is a mixed bag of upbeats and downers, one which may be more nostalgic than practical for those of us whose children are already in grade school, but I’m confident it will also serve as a shared experience of gentle glee and poignancy for those whose kids depend on them to provide their media content. In either case, if we’ve raised them right, I’d bet a rubber duckie and a paper clip collection that one day they’ll come back to them with us.

  • Reid Jamieson: Sunny Day
    We start our set this week with a delightfully warm, appropriately loving take on the Sesame Street theme song, now in service for over 40 years and 4,000 episodes, recorded earlier this year by Canadian crooner Reid Jamieson as part of a free, full-album-length coverset in honor of his wife’s birthday. Snag the whole thing here.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell: Ladybug Picnic
    Once a fast-paced counting song that accompanied one of Sesame Street’s infamous mid-show animation blocks, here, with bells and guitar, Ladybug Picnic becomes a gentle albeit still rapid-fire lullaby in the hands of Kidfolk fave Elizabeth Mitchell.
  • Mates of State: Jellyman Kelly
    James Taylor wrote and performed this fun little storysong for the Children’s Television Workshop show way back in 1979, complete with oom-pa and kid chorus; the following year saw the release of a studio version on ex-sister-in-law Lucy Simon’s Sesame Street songproject In Harmony: A Sesame Street Record. Here, a slow indie carnival take calls back to and updates the original performance, kids, tuba, and all. From For The Kids Three.
  • Dan Hardin: Sing a Song
    There’s plenty of cheesy covers of this one out and about, from The Carpenters’ 1973 top ten hit to a version with the Dixie Chicks and some Muppet chickens. By adding a dash of late-night hope, Dan Hardin makes it simple and beautiful again, all by himself.
  • Ferdz Ines: Everybody Sleeps
    A lesser-known Raposo composition, typical of his work in the way it addresses the universality of the human condition. Fillipino YouTuber Ferdz Ines, a resident of the UAE, channels Richie Havens and David Bowie, transforming the song into an upbeat acoustic rocker with guitar and drum machine.
  • Andrew Bird: Bein’ Green
  • Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys: It’s Not Easy Being Green
    Two vastly different takes on what is perhaps the most covered song in the Sesame canon, thanks to signature performances on both The Muppet Show and Sesame Street – and appropriately so, given the song’s message of difference, diversity, and acceptance. Andrew Bird’s swooning live french version is due to appear on The Green Album, a forthcoming Muppets tribute album; Rex Hobart’s deep countrified take can be found on kids alt-country album The Bottle Let Me Down, as can Kelly Hogan’s Ernie cover above.
  • Josh Radin: Sesame Street (Sunny Day)
    A maudlin, minor-key version of the Sesame Street theme, originally solicited by indiefolk patron Zach Braff for Scrubs. Josh Radin channels the street as an unreachable destination, a lost childhood utopian state that scars the heart by its very absence. We know better.

Today’s feature was brought to you by the number 12, and by the letters C, L, and D.

4 comments » | Kidfolk

YouTube Tuesday: Prem Midha covers
Adele, Ne-Yo, Amos Lee, Ari Hest, Sesame Street & more!

August 8th, 2011 — 08:11 pm

Producer, inventor, photographer, bioengineer, and singer-songwriter Prem Midha moonlights as a casual cover artist on YouTube. But unlike the tens of thousands of kitchen-table amateurs and wanna-bes that pepper the medium, after three years honing his craft online, and more as a member of Georgia Tech a capella group SympVibes, Midha’s warm, clean tenor is pitch-perfect for both early James Taylor-esque folk crooning and acoustic boy-band vocalpop, with control that rivals some of the finest performers on the million-dollar circuit. Pair it with crisp, mellow guitarplay and crystal-clear production, and you have to wonder why a man with his talent hasn’t hit the blogs en masse before now.

I turned up Midha’s work purely by accident this afternoon while looking for tunes for an upcoming feature (a long-overdue return to the world of kidfolk), but I just couldn’t wait to share this incredible find with the folkworld. So check out this delightful twentysomething’s playfully understated Rubber Duckie, and the other covers, too: older solo takes on Ari Hest and Amos Lee, duo harmonies on the tender Adele cover, a perfect rhythm-and-bluegrass Ne-Yo cover from Midha’s new band The Rusty Boys, and the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard on YouTube will have you running to Prem Midha’s YouTube channel for the rest of a substantive batch of popcovers and originals, all of which come downloadable as mp3s.

1 comment » | Prem Midha, YouTube

Oceanfolk, Redux: Covers for the end of summer

August 7th, 2011 — 11:57 am

Originally posted, with slight modifications, in August 2009. Because it’s one of my favorite sets…and because bloggers need vacations, too.

We’re in Truro for a short weekend, just like in 2009, in the same rented beachhouse high on the dunes above the Cape Cod sound. Wakeless trawlers and shore fishermen, beach wanderers and bathers are few and far between, mere specks on an otherwise natural landscape that fills the sense with color: green grasses, faded yellow sand, the variable blues of sky and water.

At night the lights of Provincetown still shine brightly just on the edge of the vista, a line of stars marking the difference between pitch-black sea and an invisible sky. Last time we were here a shooting star dropped towards them while I watched, as if longing to join the tourists and summer people in their shared debauchery. I stayed up late reading the usual borrowed beachhouse paperback, the autobiography of an island lobsterwoman, and fell asleep before eleven.

The weeks ahead burn and roil on the horizon like sunset: next week in Omaha, Nebraska with my father to see the Worlds Largest Ball of Stamps and the Kool Aid Museum, and then back to work, with new students to greet, new courses to teach, and new classrooms to maintain from then until eternity. But sitting here on the deck in the shade of the house, the marsh below me, the ocean beyond, this browngrey hawk drawing lazy circles in the blue overhead, I am reminded how vital it is to sit in stillness at the edge of it all, how centering it is to squeeze peace from the last fleeting weeks of summer.

It’s a good life. Here’s a soundtrack for it.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk sets and commentary Sundays, Wednesdays, and the occasional otherday.

1 comment » | Vacation Coverfolk

TV Thursday: Joshua Hyslop
brings dark beauty, innocence to a Leonard Cohen classic.

August 4th, 2011 — 06:54 pm

Sometimes it pays to dig a bit deeper. And that’s how I discovered this surprisingly innocent, almost delicate cover of Leonard Cohen’s Tonight Will Be Fine from new Canadian whippersnapper Joshua Hyslop, whose total studio output to date appears to be Cold Wind, an absolutely mesmerizing EP of originals released in July of this year.

But if this is only the beginning, man, we’re in for a sweet ride from here.

The EP is amazing, with rich production wrapped around fluid arrangements of the kinds of songs only the young people can get away with; his press release compares him to Sufjan, Damien Rice, and Iron and Wine aptly; I hear these and something much more dreamy and poppy, plus Train, William Fitzsimmons, and other college radio indiepop radio standbys, especially in the production, and – more subtly – in the crescendoes of sound and emotion which crash through these dark, rich folkpop landscapes and dreams, pulling at your comfort, offering an unsettled, compromised resolution, until We Have Seen, a triumphant anthem of acceptance, hope and peace, ends the set.

The cover, of a song most recently taken on by Teddy Thompson back in 2006, comes from a Naked Jams session recorded almost two years ago; the bare-bones voice and solo guitar are more akin to the stripped down emotion of a slightly younger, somewhat lighter Bon Iver or Ray LaMontagne. And the solo performance is so powerful, even though I love the dynamic of the EP, I can’t help but hope for some middle ground in the next round.

Still, in both solo and produced forms, Hyslop comes out of nowhere, and hits you right between the eyes. Give Cold Wind a shot the right way, by listening to the full album stream below from start to finish; you’ll not regret it, and you’ll probably buy it. But first, listen.

3 comments » | Joshua Hyslop, New Artists Old Songs, YouTube

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