Category: Memphis

Vacation Coverfolk: Elvis, Covered

December 28th, 2010 — 06:17 pm

As noted Sunday, I’m in Memphis over the holidays, staying right on Beale Street in the thick of the scene. Though I’ve pre-scripted these entries in the interest of truly taking some time off, by now, we’re either on our way to or have already visited Graceland, so let’s dive right into our usual Vacation Coverfolk celebration, wherein we feature the songs and songbooks of local musicians of influence in the regions where we travel. Ladies and Gentlemen: Elvis Presley, covered in folk.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that the King holds a highly significant place in the pantheon of American music. Entire books have been written about Elvis, both man and myth, and as many more on Elvis’ influence on the modern musical spectrum.

Far be it for us to cover Elvis in a single entry, then, or even claim to be able to summarize his influence appropriately as we winnow down towards today’s tribute set. But our particular ethnographic standpoint does offer a glimmer of perspective worth noting. To wit: like Columbus, Elvis is often reviled in the post-PC age, dismissed as a complicit participant in the theft of music from Black musicians, or relegated to the back burner as a mere interpreter of song. But cover bloggers, folklorists, and ethnographers alike know that interpretation itself is oft undersold as a genuine craft. Elvis may not have written all his greatest hits, but his ability to transform songs and deliver them to the masses authentically, riding the wave of rock and blues and pop even as they transformed the culture around him, is worthy of our admiration.

Which is to say: as a man who made his mark almost primarily through coverage, even as his particular case brought light to the challenges of copyright, color barriers, and due diligence in recognizing those who truly wrote and first recorded the defining songs of his era, Elvis gets our grudging respect, though we fully expect to be making fun of his adopted jumpsuited lifestyle and his still-rabid fan base as we drive to and from the once-unassuming home which he so gaudily remade in his own rhinestone image.

And it’s not just us, of course – thousands have recorded the songs which Elvis made famous, in every genre imaginable. Indeed, we actually did a specialized Elvis feature two Septembers ago, focusing on new folk artists covering songs made famous by the man who did more to bring Black music to white people than perhaps anyone in the past century, save maybe Alan Lomax, or Sam Phillips himself. Today, we mix and match these older songs with some long-standing favorites, skipping Blue Christmas, since we posted a pair of favorites just last week, and sticking to the obvious top-40 hits, though they are just the tip of an immense iceberg of musical influence which Elvis represents.

Cover Lay Down features new and classic coverfolk every Wednesday, Sunday, and the occasional otherday.

1,356 comments » | Elvis, Memphis, Vacation Coverfolk

Vacation Coverfolk: Talk Memphis
(Songs of Beale Street and beyond)

December 26th, 2010 — 12:41 am

We haven’t traveled together since last summer’s journey to Germany, and we’ve got the time. So my father and I are on the road again, just an hour or two ahead of an old-fashioned New England blizzard, off to Memphis, Tennessee, for the short gap between Christmas and New Years.

So far, we’ve penciled in The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the National Civil Rights museum, Sun Studios, and a chance to see the Gibson luthiers in action; the Smithsonian Rock ‘N Soul Museum is actually in our hotel, so we’ll be sure to cover that, too. The plan also includes blues, barbecue, and the inevitable trip to Graceland, so expect a full coverset of songs made famous by Elvis later this week.

For now, in keeping with the vacation spirit, I’ll keep it short and sweet: here’s a set of coverfolk in tribute to the city itself, home of Beale Street and the blues, capped off by a couple of glitchy, catchy electrofolk covers of Paul Simon’s tribute to the journey itself.

1,082 comments » | Memphis, Vacation Coverfolk