Category: Sara Lov

(Re)Covered, Vol. XIX: More coverfolk of and from
Stevie Wonder, Sara Lov, Edie Carey, The Water Is Wide & more!

March 12th, 2011 — 06:26 pm

Early this week, my trusty, relatively rusty laptop went kaput, leaving me stranded with but an iPad to access the universe. With 50,000 songs and their library locked in limbo, and the iPad unable to load the full WordPress interface, I was in no position to let folks know what was happening behind the scenes; the resulting radio silence through what is usually a midweek blog feature deadline was frustrating, and I apologize for leaving regular visitors hanging on the line.

Today is a recovered day in more ways than one, then: not only is the world outside melting down to Spring, revealing last year’s leaves still unraked across the slowly surfacing front lawn, but I am once again able to blog with impunity. And for this, I owe much thanks to the fine folks at Apple, who – over the course of a very stressful week – imported every last file and bookmark from the old, inoperable machine into a new one, and proudly presented me this morning with a sleek 2011 MacBook Pro that feels delightfully new under my fingertips, yet on the screen looks and behaves like an old friend, down to its interface and organizational infrastructure.

And so here we are, grateful and relieved, with credit card maxed out but once again able to step wholeheartedly into the blogging fray. And given the context, it’s a perfect time to explore the ways in which the past echoes through the present through another edition of our popular (Re)Covered series, featuring new and newly-discovered songs that revealed themselves just a little too late to make it into the original posts where they rightfully belonged.

Sara Lov runs a little pop for the trad set, but people seemed to appreciate her joyful way with the songs she clearly loves, and we loved her playful, well-crafted covers of Beck’s Timebomb and Arcade Fire’s My Body Is A Cage enough to feature her prominently in the midst of our New Artists, Old Songs Week way back in 2008. So it’s especially exciting to note that her mid-February release, I Already Love You, is a full-bore covers album, one that pays tribute to an especially broad set of influences from Frank Sinatra and The Thompson Twins to others, like Ron Sexsmith, The Smiths, and Conor Oberst, more commonly cited among the indiepop world.

The production here is especially inspired, akin to the best settings and soundscapes of Aimee Mann or Rosie Thomas. Sara’s Sexsmith cover contains just enough of both Sexsmith’s signature slippery vocal mannerisms and the signature twang of the original guitar to ring familiar without sounding derivative; her Vasti Bunyan waltz, a delicate, lazy revelation, benefits greatly from its strings and piano; her take on Magnetic Fields classic Papa Was A Rodeo has AAA Radioplay in every perfect downbeat. But in the end, it is Sara’s voice, sweet and warm and ever so slightly rasped, which makes these songs ring out loud and true. Check out these tracks, and then – once you’ve heard their value, and extrapolated accordingly – head over to Sara’s website to pick up the whole thing for a donation of your choice.

Bonus Tracks, since they’re long gone otherwise:

I tend to do as much research as I can when presenting new discoveries, the better to provide thorough context for you to embrace new artists, as our mandate encourages. But though my Google Fu is highly honed, thanks to vocationally-relevant post-graduate coursework in webbed research methods, our ability to be comprehensive in such introductions can be stymied by multiple factors, from the tendency of older works to fall out of print to the modern digital dilemma which trades speed and ease of access for the loss of liner notes which might aid us in matching names to voices in the works of others.

New discoveries from two recently celebrated folk artists provide ample evidence for the effects of these limitations, and for why we depend on you to fill the gaps in our knowledge. We owe our first find to Lucas Miré, a fine singer-songwriter in his own right who we featured way back in 2009, who followed up on last weekend’s feature on Edie Carey by sending along this amazing cut from It’s Gonna Be Great, Carey’s 2008 cover-heavy out-of-print collaboration with Canadian singer-songwriter Rose Cousins (often featured here for her own collaborative work with Boston singer-songwriter Rose Polenzani), along with notice that he was recently privileged to host Carey in the studio to accompany him on one of his own recordings, leaving us eager to hear more when the time is ripe. And the second? Turns out it was actually already in my archives – but it took notice from a reader to realize that not only does recently celebrated NY-based bluegrass musician Michael Daves tour with Tony Trischka, he also lends his highly trained, powerfully barbaric tenor yawp voice to several tunes on Trischka’s more recent albums.

Speaking of Daves, and Trischka, and of the bluegrass world which we explored after our recent trip to the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival: We mentioned loving their stage companion Tashina Clarridge in that entry, but I should also note that my own impression of her performance was supported by fellow fiddler Andy Reiner, of Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers, who I met over lunch in the lounge later that day – and given how friendly Andy was, and how avidly we touted their work as they prepared to take the mainstage as winners of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s 2008 Emerging Artist Showcase, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that after a single EP, and several years of smaller-scale YouTube and web releases, BMUZ finally released their first full-length album in November, and it’s a beautiful romp, combining old time americana with scandinavian folk and other influences to great effect. The Berklee College crowd just keeps impressing us, eh? Here’s a slippery teaser from Rousted, plus a track we posted way back when we first discovered them.

Bonus Track:

I love my wife, but let’s be honest: because she is one of those people who own one or two albums per mood, and because as a folk-listener she has a strong preference for soaring high-soprano celtic sirens, I don’t usually look to her to introduce me to new music. Nor do I usually end up listening long to recommendations from my mother, who trends towards the syrupy sweet end of folk.

Still, when I heard this version of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground filling the living room as a soundtrack to a recent cleaning binge, I couldn’t help but rush to the stereo to figure out how I missed this one in our recent Covered In Folk feature on Wonder’s songbook. Turns out that’s one-time Cover Lay Down feature artist, ex-Nickel Creek and current WPA member Sara Watkins on vox with Darol Anger’s American Fiddle Ensemble, whose “gloriously eclectic album” Republic of Strings was released was back in 2004, and then passed along to us by my mother just a few years ago. Guess that’ll teach me to keep my ears and mind open – and to digitize everything when I get it, so it shows up when I search iTunes.

Finally, as expected, our Valentine’s Day 2011 Single Song Sunday feature on the scottish ballad The Water Is Wide brought some fine versions out of the woodwork. Some of these submissions came from you, our readership, via comments and emails; standouts here included takes from Luka Bloom and Steve Goodman, both of whom we’ve covered before here and there in our tenure, and an amazing Emmylou Harris-led multi-artist take from Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration at Madison Square Garden in May of 2009 which, frankly, just makes me ache for the availability and cashflow to attend such things.

Sheer chance landed us a brand new-to-us cover of the traditional tune, too: mere days after we posted the original entry, I found a set of CDs from dulcimer player and singer-songwriter Thomasina, a former Connecticut State Troubadour, in the mailbox, and her 2003 setting of the song, which is built around a previously recorded piano arrangement from friend Monica Robelotto, is a beautiful standout among strong tracks for those who prefer their folk a bit more formally phrased. Here’s the lot, with grateful thanks to all those who pass along the good stuff, and a recommendation that you also check out both the Cowboy Junkies’ and the Maura O’Connell versions of the song if you can find ‘em.

764 comments » | (Re)Covered, Sara Lov

New Artists, Old Songs Week, Part 2: Ane Brun, Sara Lov, Rosie Thomas

November 3rd, 2008 — 11:25 am

(REPOSTED with NO DOWNLOADS; see HERE for more)

We’re a bit off schedule here at Cover Lay Down, and for that I apologize; I wrote this post for our usual Wednesday deadline, but the part of my brain that used to be devoted to blogging appears to have been partially subsumed by the stress of impending host-loss, and the urgent need to re-imagine the blog in another form in order to continue blogging within what I continue to maintain are perfectly legitimate, legal boundaries.

As I wrote this past Sunday, a tidal wave of great new covers from indiefolk to freak to alt-country has slammed through my inbox in the past week or two, jamming my aural pleasure circuits and tipping over onto the page. Simultaneously, a chill has fallen over much of the blogging world in the face of reports of a massive increase in DMCA takedown requests to file hosts and blog services, which have subsequently cost bloggers posts, files, and (in my own case) the impending loss of my file host altogether.

In order to clear the inbox, then, and also to avoid – at least for the moment – posting the sort of older, classic songs which seem to have been predominantly featured in the take-down bonanza, this week, we’re exclusively featuring brand new coversong from all corners of the folk tent. And, since on Sunday we spoke of some amazing male folkvoices with new work on the scene, today we welcome the introduction of some wonderful womenfolk to our Late Fall/Early Winter New Release Spectacular. Enjoy.

News of The Young Eyes, the new five-song EP from LA-based Sara Lov, came to me via the best kind of personalized, targeted label outreach from professionals who make it clear that they actually read this blog — always a nice change from the huge volume of unwanted hip-hop fusion and electrodance originals I receive every week (um, guys? Coverfolk blog, here?). I’m glad her people found me, too: Lov’s short set runs a great radio-ready indie popfolk gamut, reminding me a little of Lisa Loeb, or some of Kathryn William’s more atmospheric gems.

In addition to some well-crafted, playful originals, the EP includes two wonderful choices done with aplomb and majesty. My Body Is A Cage, originally by Arcade Fire, is gorgeous pianofolk, with a subtle build and a driving piano chord over its resonant atmosphere; Beck’s Timebomb is a perfect light popfolk piece, jangly and bouncy all at once; together, they show range and promise galore.

Lov’s label preferred streams to downloads, and we’re not complaining; streams preserve copyright better, and we’re just happy to have any chance to share these incredible covers with you. The plastic version of The Young Eyes doesn’t drop until January, so I can’t speak to the cover art, but downloads are available now; if you want to be able to take these bits and bytes away, head over to Sara Lov’s website without delay. For bonus points, while you’re there, check out Sara Lov’s stunning cover of Simon and Garfunkel obscurity Old Friends, drowned perfectly in ringing bells and electronic haze.

Better known as a fast-rising star in the indie world, and especially in the British Isles, where her commercial for Sky+ HDTV features this new delicate pianofolk cover of Cyndi Lauper ballad True Colors, Scandinavian singer-songwriter (and blonde bombshell) Ane Brun is not necessarily as familiar to ears tuned to the folkside of the dial. But despite the almost chilly, sparse nature of her arrangements, folk fans will hear something eminently warm and familiar in these covers, especially the almost freakfolk hollowness of both voice and acoustic guitar of Big In Japan. (Think Madeleine Peyroux with Jose Gonzales on guitar, and you’ve captured this Alphaville cover perfectly.)

Both of today’s covers are up at Ane’s MySpace — there’s also a gorgeous live cover of True Colors at the end of this recent concert video recorded in Amsterdam — and both have been featured prominently as downloads on numerous blogs without getting yanked; Ane also co-owns her own record label, so it seems safe to assume that getting them here is both acceptable, and will have no negative impact on sales. Rather, our goal, as always, is to create positive buzz and business; if you like what you hear, we highly recommend Ane’s newest album Changing of the Seasons, which dropped just a few weeks ago, and is clearly poised to go very far indeed.

  • Ane Brun: True Colors (orig. Cyndi Lauper)
  • Ane Brun: Big In Japan (orig. Alphaville)

Finally: I debated whether or not to include notice of the new Christmas album from indiefolk darling and fellow Denison Witmer fan Rosie Thomas here; after all, it’s hardly Halloween, and far be it from me to be the cause of any retroshift in what is already a culture doomed to spend a good fifth of the year shopping amidst the mistletoe. And this is unquestionably a Christmas album, complete with shaken sleighbells, children’s chorus fade-outs, and plenty of cozy fireside torchswing. But truly, though the songs on A Very Rosie Christmas are eminently christmassy, the music was just to good to hold on to, no matter the season.

Previous covers from Rosie Thomas were sweet but relatively faithful, merely applying her delicate, tentative touch to the previously-posted Witmer tune Paper Doll, and to friend Sufjan Stevens’ famously hushed arrangement of REM favorite The One I Love. But the sheer quirky bravado Thomas shows in utterly changing the tunes and tropes of some almost too-familiar carols which nestle among the few originals here is stunning, bringing new meaning to some old chestnuts. Turning her little girl’s voice to a notch more power may move her sound a little closer towards that of fellow Christmas anthem singers Shawn Colvin or Carly Simon, but that’s not always a bad thing, and happily, the vast majority of A Very Rosie Christmas stays on the good side of Contemporary Adult Alternative.

Even more exciting is the application of this redemptive, transformative approach to a few unexpected familiarities. The songs change so much, it is not far from the truth to say that Rosie’s cover of Christmas Don’t Be Late (the song that made Alvin and the Chipmunks famous) is quite possibly one of the best new Christmas songs I’ve heard in a very, very long time. I wasn’t able to secure permission to share it, but I was able to garner permission to stream her cover of Joni Mitchell favorite River, which is equally transformative, especially when put up against the huge set of covers of the song we put up a year ago here on Cover Lay Down.

The stream herein is posted with permission from the label, and gratefully; it provides just the right teaser, I think. Though we’re the first to share this cover with the world at large, I expect to see it popping up again and again as we head towards the holidays. A Very Rosie Christmas hits the streets November 4th, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. At this rate, we’ll have snow on the ground by then.

17 comments » | Ane Brun, Rosie Thomas, Sara Lov