Category: Billy Joel

Covered In Folk: Billy Joel
(An American Icon’s Greatest Hits, Stripped Down)

June 22nd, 2011 — 01:35 pm

I’ve been a passive listener of Billy Joel’s original work since middle school, I guess. But way back in my emergent years, I was a true blue fan, sifting through his early work as a high tenor, singing along with his songs at summer camp campfires, performing Just The Way You Are for talent shows, tagging along with a friend to see the master perform in the midst of the We Didn’t Start The Fire era, struggling to come to terms with his mid-career rock and roll, and the drum-driven pop path which he had adopted by the late eighties.

My future folk fandom outed itself even then, I suppose – though I have a soft spot in my heart for the hidden blue-collar tenderness of The Downeaster ‘Alexa’, I always preferred the Piano Man’s lighter, more introspective work. I fell instantly in love with And So It Goes, and other the soft, tender songs which seemed designed primarily to break up the heavier sound on his later works, even as I learned to skip past both the angry and the political pieces, which I liked for their sentiment but hated for their bombastic radio rock tone, and the syrupy ballads which remain his signature. As such, though I know and love songs from many of his albums, Cold Spring Harbor, his 1971 debut, remains my favorite.

But Billy Joel’s songbook is recognized around the globe for a reason. Throughout his evolution as an artist, the be-knighted and well-awarded artist has retained a prescient knack for lyrics and mood which get to the heart of both middle and working-class perspectives on family, relationships, modernity, and more. His narratives, grounded as they are in the real world of feeling and fact, call to several generations; many, with other instrumentation, would be recognizable as folk. Love him or hate him, its hard to deny his influence, or his ability to shine a light on the world in which we live.

Regular readers may note that we have a particular favorite here: indeed, we’ve posted and reposted Lucy Kaplansky’s gorgeous piano take on Goodnight My Angel numerous times since we first featured her work way back in our first few months on the scene. But any prolific artist who can speak so effectively to our hearts and our culture is bound to be well-covered, and here we find the full range, from subtle solo singer-songwriter coverage on piano and guitar to fully instrumented acoustic folk versions of songs from throughout his deservedly celebrated career. Enjoy today’s tribute to the man and his vision, the best of which identifies the heart and soul while stripping down the bombast to expose the delicacy, and the raw emotion, which so characterizes Billy Joel’s greatest hits and deep cuts.

21 comments » | Billy Joel, Covered in Folk

(Re)Covered IV: More Covers of and from Sam Amidon, Lucy Kaplansky, Eliza Gilkyson, and House Carpenter

February 8th, 2008 — 02:54 pm

Thanks to email submissions, new releases and discoveries, and a newly-purchased CD repair kit, it’s time for yet another edition of (Re)Covered, a monthly feature here on Cover Lay Down in which we recover a few songs that dropped through the cracks just a little too late to make it into the posts where they belonged.

I saw Lucy Kaplansky last month at the UnCommon Coffeehouse with my father; as always, she turned in a wonderful, intimate set, including great covers of The Beatles’ Hey Jude, Robin Batteau’s Guinevere, Ron Sexsmith’s Speaking with the Angel, and my own request: Cowboy Singer, a Dave Carter tune which she seemed genuinely pleased to play. If you ever get a chance to see Lucy, drop everything and go.

We covered the works of Lucy Kaplansky in our first month here at Cover Lay Down, and posted Cowboy Singer last week in our feature on folk covers of cowboy songs. But I just can’t get enough of this sweet-voiced urbanite. So here’s Guinevere, which Lucy cites as her most requested song, plus a gorgeous Billy Joel lullaby from 2007 release Down at the Sea Hotel, a mostly-stellar album of dreamy kidsong covers from the Red House Records stable.

  • Lucy Kaplansky, Goodnight, My Angel (orig. Billy Joel)
  • Lucy Kaplansky, Guinevere (orig. Robin Batteau)

    Oh, and a bonus cover of Nanci Griffith’s Midnight in Missoula, one of two great Eliza Gilkyson cuts from that same kids album. We did a feature on Eliza Gilkyson’s coverwork a long while back, too. Worth revisiting.

  • Eliza Gilkyson, Midnight in Missoula (orig. Nanci Griffith)

    Since our Single Song Sunday megapost on House Carpenter, a couple of especially solid folkversions came in from the ether. Thanks to my readers for Dylan and live Aussie slidemaster Jeff Lang takes on this truly traditional English country ballad. The Pentangle version, off 1969 release Basket of Light, holds truer to the “original” lyrics than most modern covers but layers those lyrics over a truly psychadelic sixties instrumentation; the CD is out of print, so this cut comes to us courtesy of our local library system.

  • Bob Dylan, House Carpenter (trad.)
  • Jeff Lang, House Carpenter (ibid.)
  • Pentangle, House Carpenter (ibid.)

    And speaking of tradfolk: Sam Amidon‘s incredible new album All Is Well, which I wrote about several months ago in our post on Sam Amidon’s coversong career, finally dropped earlier this week. Here’s hoping the slight blogbuzz that accompanied the original hint of this moody all-tradsong indiefolk release turns into a mighty roar as it finally comes to the air. These two further cuts off the upcoming album, plus Sam’s own video for Saro, should whet your appetite enough to get in on ordering All Is Well.

  • Sam Amidon, Wild Bill Jones (trad.)
  • Sam Amidon, Wedding Dress (trad.)

  • VIDEO: Sam Amidon, Saro

    As always, links above and in the original posts whisk you off to label- and musician-preferred purchase sites. Support artists best by buying direct: it’s just that simple.

  • 750 comments » | (Re)Covered, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Eliza Gilkyson, Jeff Lang, Lucy Kaplansky, Nanci Griffith, Pentangle, Robin Batteau, Sam Amidon