Category: U2

(Re)Covered IX: More covers of and from Mike and Ruthy, Richard Shindell, U2, and YouTube

April 11th, 2009 — 09:33 pm

It’s been a busy week, what with re-election to the local School Board, midterm grading, and Passover coming to a head all-at-once. To compensate, I’ve timeshifted this post a bit, writing ahead in time stolen from sleep and paperwork, so that the family can spend the weekend in Boston while I pass words and coversong along via some template trickery.

Which is to say: as you read this, I’m not here right now. And since we’re drifting in the complex currents of past tense grammar, why not reach back in time a bit more? Here’s yet another installment of our popular (Re)Covered series, wherein we cover new and newly-rediscovered songs that dropped into our laps just a bit too late to make it into earlier features on the same subject.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that American expatriate Richard Shindell is one of my absolute favorite singer-songwriters. In fact, looking back in the archives, I find that we’ve covered the one-time Fast Folkie in depth several times, both as a solo coverartist and as a member of Cry Cry Cry.

I last wrote about Shindell in (Re)Covered V, back when he was soliciting micro-financing for his upcoming album; since then, I’ve received my own copy of Not Far Now and companion alt-takes collection Mariana’s EP, and I’m happy to report that a) it’s a topper, and b) it contains a marvelous cover of Dave Carter’s The Mountain. One day, I aspire to a full set of covers of the late great Dave Carter’s work, both with and without his still-touring partner Tracy Grammer. In the meantime, this one’s just too good to hang on to.

Richard Shindell Bonus: We posted a studio version of modern Celtic folkband Solas covering of Shindell’s On a Sea of Fleur de Lis way back in our very first post; here’s a hopping live version of the same from their 2004 live CD/DVD, which brought together all past and present members for an amazing set of songs.

I’ve written about Ruth Ungar Merenda‘s work a few times here, too, most recently in her role as one third of nu-folk trio Sometymes Why. But as I noted in our first full feature on her work as a solo artist and co-founder of now-defunct neo-trad group The Mammals, these days Ruthy spends most of her time with her husband and fellow ex-Mammals member Mike Merenda and their new tiny son.

It’s Mike and Ruthy we’re interested in today. The two just came out with a new album called Waltz of the Chickadee, and in addition to the usual diverse set of intimate, old-timey originals, it includes some wonderful covers of some familiar old tunes. Here’s two vastly different takes on the long-ago past from the new work: a loose acoustic old-time jam take on Guthrie classic Dust Bowl Blues, and a mellower, sweeter, more indie-folk Hang Me.

Ruth Merenda Bonus: Dad Jay and stepmom Molly Mason invited Ruthy in to sing harmony on an old Leadbelly tune given the acoustic swing treatment on the title track to their 2003 album.

I hadn’t planned on returning to our feature on native YouTube covers, but as I mentioned at the time, more and more artists are producing work in front of the cameras, and it just doesn’t seem fair to them or their producing organizations to strip the sound of its innate visual component without acknowledging the work in its original multimedia form.

Here’s a simply stunning eighties cover from new folk-crush William Fitzsimmons, a still-rising star from the same hushfolk school as Sufjan and Iron and Wine, recorded last summer on a Deep Rock Drive session.

William Fitzsimmons Bonus: Fitzsimmons’ modern indiefolk lullaby cover of James Taylor’s You Can Close Your Eyes is but one of many powerful tracks on the previously-featured sixties and seventies tribute Before the Goldrush.

Speaking of video, and as a nod to our recent set of U2 covers, here’s a slightly precious but oh so gorgeous popfolk video cover from a recent TV appearance by a collection of Norwegian pop singers. Seems this cover is the first single from their new tour, or something. Totally guilty pleasure, but I love it all the same. (Less impressive, unless you like American Idol fauxfolk: their 2007 cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.)

U2 Bonus: here’s an old Redbird outtake, ragged but equally gorgeous in its own fragmented way, rediscovered through a reader (thanks, Jeff).

As always, Cover Lay Down is proud to support artists directly, without middlemen or megastores. If you like what you hear here, please consider following links to artist websites and preferred points of purchase.

1,269 comments » | (Re)Covered, richard shindell, U2

Covered in Folk: U2
(Bell XI, Peter Mulvey, The Walls, Luka Bloom, and seven more!)

March 17th, 2009 — 08:23 pm

In introducing last year’s surprisingly popular St. Patrick’s Day entry on the folkier side of Sinead O’Connor, I noted that I had almost exhausted my collection of U2 covers. Since then, however, discovery and a surprisingly rapid pace of coverage have widened the playing field of potential, making for a lovely set.

So raise a glass, and let’s begin. It’s St. Pat’s, and the folk is flowing.

I came to U2 too late to be cool, hitting Top 40 puberty in the beginning of their stadium days. I hardly remember the single mid-eighties show I attended at the Boston Garden, though I do remember the experience of being too far back in the maddening crowd to make out anything except a tiny stage, and a tinier blob that was supposedly Bono, and deciding that I never, ever wanted to be that far back from the stage again.

But there was a time when The Joshua Tree was a regular on my turntable, and a time, a bit later, when a turn towards alt-radio pop in the very early nineties meant following the band into their experimental, post-ironic anthemic phase. And I do have an affinity for the band as a symbol, having traded a copy of Achtung Baby to some girl in college for a bathrobe.

Years later, “that girl” and I have been together for almost two decades, our copy of Achtung Baby has long since been hocked to pay for food and rent in our leaner days, and I don’t really care that U2 came out with yet another disk in the past few weeks. But I still appreciate their songbook, their evolution, and their influence. And if the vast and varied covers and tribute albums out there are any indication, so do a whole mess of current artists, including those with a sensibility on the folkier side.

We begin our exploration with a quartet of Irish musicians and bands playing tribute to their own, as befits a late St. Pat’s Day tribute to what has turned out to be perhaps the most influential Irish band since the Pogues, or perhaps ever.

And here’s more U2 covers from around the world that easily make the cut, from Mulvey’s slinky skifflebop growl to the Cash classic, from the quiet folkpop of WAZ to UK indieband Elbow’s folk-rock anthem. Vieux Farka Touré is some serious African worldbeat delta blues, while Waldemar Bastos rings delicate and powerful all-at-once like Cesaria Evora, putting that old Sixpence None the Blander cover to shame. Ol’ Yeller is a bit country, but pulls it off nicely, too.

The forecast for Sunday includes warm weather, a bit of drizzle, and yet another of our popular Single Song Sunday posts. Until then, why not check out the green over at Star Maker Machine?

1,156 comments » | Covered in Folk, Holiday Coverfolk, U2

Peter Mulvey: Ten Thousand Mornings (Los Lobos, The Beatles, U2, and more)

October 17th, 2007 — 08:30 am

I first encountered Peter Mulvey at the 2003 Green River Festival, where he appeared as part of lo-fi folk covergroup Redbird along with folk blues artist Jeffrey Foucault and his recent bride, the full-voiced Kris Delmhorst. Though at the time I was more impressed with the others, it is Mulvey’s interpretations I keep coming back to — though Delmhort’s work is sweet simplicity, and Foucault can play the blues like nobody’s business, it is Mulvey who has the versatility of the true cover artist, and the knack of bringing new meaning to a wide breadth of song.

Peter Mulvey fans speak mostly of his songwriting and guitarplay, which play off the similar strings but equally defined style of his constant sideman and collaborator David “Goody” Goodrich to create a rich slackstring sound; Mulvey’s voice falls more into the Tom Waits and Dylan camps, full of feeling but hardly melodic. As a member of Redbird, this lends a rough edge to harmonies. As a solo cover artist, though, the spare voice recasts lyrics powerfully.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Ten Thousand Mornings, a 2002 album of covers — the up-and-coming folksinger’s bread and butter — recorded live in Mulvey’s old stomping grounds: the Davis Square subway station just outside of Boston. It’s a neat concept, designed to call to his roots as a struggling busker, and it works exceptionally well: the echoes of the brick and tile underground lend an air of realism, and the trains and passersby screech and shuss, becoming part of the music, making the experience — and the songs — truly live.

It’s hard to pick just two cuts from this album, both because there’s so many gems and because there’s a surprising diversity among them, given that most are just a guy and his guitar (and his guy, and his guitar). In the end, I decided to save his best covers of folk artists for other posts, so you’ll have to wait for his amazing interpretation of Dar Williams’ The Ocean, and his Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, and Dylan covers. Two of my remaining favorites from the subway series, the second with backup from Jennifer Kimball Anita Suhanin (thanks, anonymous fact-checker!):

  • Peter Mulvey, Two Janes (orig. Los Lobos)
  • Peter Mulvey, For No One (orig. The Beatles)

Ten Thousand Mornings is one of many fine Peter Mulvey records from folk label Signature Sounds; Mulvey sells them directly through his website, so you know where he prefers that you buy them. And now you know why you should, too.

Today’s bonus coversongs:

  • Peter Mulvey unplugs and overhauls U2′s The Fly
  • Mulvey croons 1930s classic You Meet The Nicest People In Your Dreams
  • Redbird make Moonglow their own

1,036 comments » | Los Lobos, Peter Mulvey, Redbird, The Beatles, U2