Category: The Police

Covered in Folk: Sting / The Police
(on covering the coverbloggers)

June 24th, 2009 — 11:05 pm

Though I consider myself a folk blogger first and foremost, as our masthead notes, coversong has its own appeal, both as kitsch and culture. And I make no apologies for the focus, nor do I regret the readership it brings. After all, even if just a few of you get hooked on a new song or artist each week, we all win in the process.

Of course, it’s worth noting that, as a coverblogger, I’m somewhat of an anomaly. The community of coverbloggers is a small one, and it tends to focus on interpretation and transformation; as far as I can tell, I’m the only one who sticks to a genre.

But it’s no secret that many of you come for the covers. Still, if you’re a regular reader of the coverblogs listed there on the sidebar, you might have noticed that, unlike those recycled-pop blogs working to bring you the next greatest thing — you know, the ones who all post the same label-sanctioned track the week the album hits the streets — mostly, there is honor among our small and hardy band. We who mine the past through those who would reinvent it respect each other’s primacy, and pride ourselves on providing something unique — an ironic turn indeed, for a group so interested in performances of familiar song.

Which is all to say: generally, when a coverblogger comes out with a solid bunch of covers of a single artist or theme which I, myself, have been collecting for, I celebrate it. Even when it means that a post subject I have been carefully preparing for must fall to the wayside, merely because some other coverblogger got to it first.

But in the case of Sting, I think I can make an exception to this unspoken community policy. Because, as I noted in the comments to Ray’s mid-May post over at Cover Me, a typically diverse compendium of covers of The Police, folk artists tend towards the obscure, and the solo, as much as they do his early work. And because Sting went solo more than half a career ago, that leaves plenty of potential for our very own exploration.

You don’t need me to tell you who Sting is. I will only note that, at least until he drifted into the pop vocals section of my local library, and decided to appeal primarily to middle-aged women, his evolution as an artist — first as a member of The Police, and then as a softer, more pensive solo artist circa …Nothing Like The Sun and Dream of the Blue Turtles — has perfectly paralleled my own evolution and interest as an audiophile, albeit just a few years out of sync.

So without apology, and with less explanation than usual, here’s a few of my favorite folky covers of the Sting songbook, written both before and after his break toward solo stardom. If you’re already a regular reader over at Cover Me, consider this a companion piece to last month’s post. If not, and you, too, are a Sting fan or cover fan, don’t forget to drop in on Ray for highly recommended covers by Alanis Morissette, Uncle Earl, David Lamotte and more.

No purchase links today, folks: most of these are reposts, and after all, the point of this entry is to tout my fellow coverbloggers. Special thanks to Coverville for making me feel at home by hosting a few of us way back in the day when I was first starting out, and a hearty (albeit premature) welcome back to Liza of Copy, Right? who has recently emerged after a long hiatus. For more coverblogs of exquisite taste, check out the sidebar to the right.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk features every Wednesday and Sunday. Coming soon: more new and back-catalog folkcovers from the mailbag, and a very special look at one of the world’s late great troubadours of the road.

1,724 comments » | Covered in Folk, The Police

Lucy Kaplansky Covers: Just About Everybody (Nick Lowe, Sting, Roxy Music, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Dylan…)

October 14th, 2007 — 10:14 pm

You almost never got to hear of Lucy Kaplansky: An 18 year old member of the early 80s new folk movement, she made it as far as plans for a recording venture with Shawn Colvin, only to change her mind at the last moment. For the next decade, Kaplansky continued to do light session work, most notably as a backup singer on early Suzanne Vega albums, but spent most of her time plying her newly minted PhD in Psychology as a therapist in New York. It was a hard loss for the folk community: her voice had been a sweet standout in the crowd even then, as evidenced by Fast Folk recordings from the era.

Thankfully, in the mid 90s Lucy came back to the folk fold. Since then, though she still supposedly sees patients, she’s produced six absolutely incredible albums, chock-full of masterful songwriting. It’s tempting to see her therapist’s eye in her lyrical tendency towards storysongs of family, the lifestruggle of generational difference and the passage of time, the closing of distances metaphoric and real. But regardless of the source, there’s nothing like her ability to find the right pace for a song, the right tone for a line, the right note of etherial melody for a story.

Kaplansky remains in high demand as a backup vocalist for fellow folkies on the road or in the studios; her pure voice and New York accent can be heard on almost every Colvin, Shindell, Nancy Griffith, and John Gorka album. Her ear is incredible — I’ve seen her on stage with a good half dozen performers, and she seems to be arranging her harmonies on the spot, making good songs great with a subtle yet powerful touch.

But though in concert she tends to focus on her own stunning songwriting, Dr. Kaplansky’s cheerful delight at singing and arranging the tunes of others translates to her own recordings, too: her albums tend to come in at about one-third covers, and her taste is impeccable. Over the last thirteen years, she has come to be known as much for her sterling interpretations of the songs of others as she is for her own material.

In fact, Lucy Kaplansky is such a prolific and powerful cover artist, I had real trouble narrowing down the choices, so today we’re offering one cover from each of her six major albums, presented in chronological order:

Lucy Kaplansky covers…

You can hear more Lucy tracks at her website, but every single Lucy Kaplansky album from 1994 release The Tide to this year’s Over The Hills belongs in your collection, and you can buy them all direct from her label Red House Records. So do it. Period.

Today’s bonus coversongs:

545 comments » | Bob Dylan, Buddy Miller, cry cry cry, Louvin Brothers, Lucy Kaplansky, Nick Lowe, Olabelle Reed, Ron Sexsmith, Roxy Music, Steve Earle, The Police, Wayfaring Strangers