Category: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Sandy of Slowcoustic
stops by with sweet covers of Lionel Richie and Damien Jurado

July 25th, 2010 — 10:30 am

As before, I’m still in the folkfield, due to return Monday. But we’re not the type that leave our readers bereft here at Cover Lay Down. Even when we’re hanging about stageside in a field somewhere, trying to get our favorite singer-songwriters to cover Freebird.

Instead, we asked Sandy, aka Smansmith, the ever-eloquent host of Slowcoustic – “a blog about the unhurried side of Americana/Alt-Country/Folk/Indie/Down-Tempo music” which has truly caused me to rethink the very nature of folk music over the last year or so – to stop in for a visit. And though he’s been hard at work on Folk Music For What Lies Ahead, a very promising compilation he’s been curating for Yer Bird Records which is due to drop this coming Tuesday, Sandy came through swimmingly, with a pensive piece on the nature of coverage, and its generative purpose from the artist’s perspective. Take it away, Sandy!

Hello everyone! Firstly, don’t get too excited, this is a guest post (or part post) from myself, better known as Sandy from Secondly, thank you to Boyhowdy for inviting me to bring my $0.02 on the pages of Cover Lay Down! Being a fan of this very site for a while now, I am taking part in filling the void left from your regular in-depth read to try provide a small morsel of food for though along with a couple of covers (!!) to take away. Remember, just a small morsel…

I didn’t really know where to start with this post, so I decided to find a couple of covers that I thought I would use. Sounds simple right? Well not as easy as you think when trying to come up with covers for a blog that covers covers better than myself (see what I did there?). So I did end up finding two covers and when listing them it hit me on what to post on…”why do artists perform covers in the first place?”.

We are going to discard the obvious reasons of not having enough of your own material to fill a show or album and go into whether it is for amusement or as an homage. Sure there may be more reasons, but in this instance I wanted to provide these two sides or examples of the cover track. You see where I am going with this now. If you are aware of my blog Slowcoustic, you are aware that I enjoy the hushed and slower side of things and folk ballads tend to hit home with me. So a great acoustic version of a Lionel Richie song is a fantastic place to start, isn’t it? Let’s listen to a cover that I think might have been done for “fun” or just because it seems absurd to have something like Lionel Ritchie covered by a deep south man-of-the-cloth type like Evan Birdsong of Blackbird Harmony.

Now, what about the cover song that isn’t done because it was a song that you wanted to change, but a song that you simply like and wanted to play it because you want to. It might not be specifically like you are performing a “cover song” so to speak, but simply playing the song originally performed by someone else. If you get what I am saying. I feel this next track is something like this as it isn’t wildly different than the original and is clearly not done tongue in cheek. The band is Theodore, but the track is actually a solo performance by the lead singer Justin Kinkel-Schuster who does a great performance of Damien Jurado’s “Fuel”.

There you have it. A cover that might have been in fun and one that was simply performed – in my opinion, both work better than most.


Cover Lay Down will return Wednesday with a fresh outlook on life. Thanks to Sandy and Chad for covering so well in my absence!

1,671 comments » | Guest Posts

Guest Post: Chad of Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands
shares covers of Paul Simon, Journey, Neil Young and more!

July 21st, 2010 — 11:04 am

As noted earlier, I’m off in the fields this week, trading indoor plumbing and wi-fi for pop-ups, port-a-potties and mud as we hit our summer round of folk and bluegrass festivals. If you, too, want to at least approximate the experience from the comforts of home, slather on the sunscreen, grab a beer from the cooler, move the camping chair into the living room, and head back to our earlier posts on Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival for some vicarious pleasure.

But never fear, loyal readers: I’ve not left you to your own devices as easily as that. Long-time blogger Chad of now-defunct music blog Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands – whose early support really helped me get going in the blogworld – has kindly offered to step in for our usual midweek post; he’s got some great faves below, and a nice subjective take on the communal beauty of coverage, so keep reading for some tasty acoustic folkpop and more from an excellent writer and a wise, wise man.

When I was invited to contribute a guest post to Cover Lay Down this week, it was a no brainer. As a former obsessive music blogger myself – long since burned out and now much more leisurely about things over here – I have loved, followed, and appreciated this site since its earliest days. The dedication Boyhowdy puts into this site – into every aspect of it, every post – is at once admirable and amazing. Hopefully, I don’t drop the ball today in his place.

A good cover is a thing of beauty, a communal moment in the very best sense of the word. One artist approaches another’s song and re-appropriates it for his or her own purpose, casting a different light on things merely by taking a stab at it. Among my favorite covers, I find no distinct pattern. Some hew rather closely to the original version, honoring its melodies and phrasings, paying tribute to a good song the best way they know how. Others completely change the style, sound, or scope of the song, offering a brand new vantage point on familiar terrain, providing us with a companion piece of sorts to set alongside the original and remind us that there’s another way of looking at things. Though there’s perhaps no formula for success, no road map for creating the perfect cover, in the end the ones I find myself returning to again and again have one thing in common: they breathe new life into something, and make it matter to me again.

With all that in mind, here’s a handful of covers that I consider some of my favorites over the past few months…

    A stripped-down take on Paul Simon’s glorious 1986 tune, delivered to you in a cathartic, nasally voice just this side of early Dylan.

    In lead singer Eef Barzelay’s capable hands, this lite-rock/slow dance staple becomes something altogether different. By coming at things earnestly (and acoustically), without any winking, the band is able to pull off a rather fantastic trick: making you actually care about a Journey song.

    I’m with Paul McCartney on this one: this is one of the greatest love songs ever written. Ben Kweller keeps things simple – just a piano and a fragile voice – but that’s all a song like this really requires.

    This one plays it pretty close to the original – because the original is basically perfect. And hearing Glen Hansard and Sam Beam harmonize is every bit as wonderful as it would seem to be.

    It’s just amazing how fair people can be…

Like what you hear? Visit Chad at his new home base to keep up with his thoughts and favorite sounds. And don’t forget to come back Sunday, when Cover Lay Down will host a few thoughts and covers from the proprietor of Slowcoustic, “a blog about the unhurried side of Americana/Alt-Country/Folk/Indie/Down-Tempo music”.

1,011 comments » | Guest Posts

Pond Crossings: Transatlantic Coverfolk with today’s guest host: Darius

July 27th, 2008 — 11:24 am

Let me open with a warm thank you to Boyhowdy for inviting me to do this, and for helping to bring it to life.

My name is Darius. I have been an eager reader of and listener to this blog for some time now. One day, I followed a link from here and found myself at Star Maker Machine, where I am now an occasional poster. That’s where Boyhowdy found me. Life is indeed a circle.

Many great folk songs found in this country were born in the British Isles, and in some cases, went through wild transformations, both in getting to these shores, and in continuing to change once they were here. This reflects differences in the two cultures, as well as the personalities of the people who performed the songs.

In Britain, traditional songs often serve as mnemonics to teach children bits of folk wisdom. Consider the song “The Cuckoo”. In researching this post, I was unable to find a single “original” version of the song. Instead, there seem to be variations on the set of lyrics below:

The cuckoo she’s a pretty bird
She sings as she flies
She brings us glad tidings
And tells us no lies.

She sucks all sweet flowers
To make her voice clear
She never sings cuckoo
Till summer is near

She flies the hills over
She flies the world about
She flies back to the mountain
She mourns for her love

The cuckoo she’s a pretty bird
She sings as she flies
She brings us glad tidings
And tells us no lies

I found one variant given as a nursery rhyme, where the bird is male, and sucks eggs to improve his voice. The rhyme is apparently older than the music, which would be why there a several different musical settings for the words. The important piece of lore here is that the cuckoo’s song warns of the coming of summer, which marks the end of the planting season. So the song teaches children how to tell when they are running out of time to plant crops.

Nowadays, we have other ways to know when to plant. So modern performers of “The Cuckoo” have added different elements to the song, and it is all but impossible to find a British version with just the lyrics above. Here is John Renbourn’s version.

  • John Renbourn, The Cuckoo
    (from Faro Annie)

    So already “The Cuckoo” is going through changes. But watch what happens when the song comes to America! It is brought to the South by early settlers, and vanishes into the mountains. It passes down through generations of people who have a different climate and planting season, and “till summer is near” somehow becomes “til the fourth day of July”. Characters named Willie and Jack of Diamonds appear out of nowhere.

    In 1961, towards the end of the folk revival, a banjo player and singer named Clarence Ashley was rediscovered. He had been a minstrel show performer and string band player in the thirties and early forties, and then disappeared. His story is quite interesting, and would be worth a post of its own. For now, suffice it to say that he recorded “The Cuckoo” with Doc Watson in 1961. The lyrics he used are the American version. Whereas, in Britain everyone who records the song to this day feels free to change the words as they please, in America the words have become fixed. Here they are, in a beautiful version by Townes Van Zant:

  • Townes Van Zandt, The Coo Coo
    (from Roadsongs)

    Meanwhile, Donovan is originally from England, but has lived in the US for many years. His take on “The Cuckoo” is the American version. Confused?

  • Donovan, The Cuckoo
    (from Beat Cafe)

    Returning to the British Isles, we find many traditional songs which tell stories. That Richard Thompson knows many of these is clear from the number of them he recorded with Fairport Convention. Some of these story-songs contain magical elements, and are survivals of prechristian beliefs.

    Although “Crazy Man Michael” is an original song by Thompson, its characterization of the raven is a good example of this.

    Thompson set the lyrics of “Crazy Man Michael” to a traditional melody. (I have not been able to find what song this was. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.) When Thompson brought the lyrics to his band mates in Fairport, David Swarbrick objected that the words did not fit the melody. So Thompson challenged Swarbrick to write a better melody, and he did. So a traditional song got first new words and then new music, and Fairport’s version is not so much a cover as a smother.
    Fairport Convention, Crazy Man Michael
    (live in Oxfordshire (UK), August 2007)

    When “Crazy Man Michael” came to America, it received a warm welcome from Nathalie Merchant. She changed the arrangement to suit her style, but she left the words and melody intact.

  • Natalie Merchant, Crazy Man Michael
    (from The House Carpenter’s Daughter)

    The tabloid newspaper is a creation of the industrial revolution. To make economic sense, you have to have enough people in one place to buy your newspaper. But people in pre industrial Britain still had an appetite for sensationalized versions of the news. What are now traditional songs originally filled that need. So in 1845, when Lord John Franklin and his crew vanished while seeking the Northwest Passage, a song was written to tell the tale.

  • Pentangle, Lord Franklin
    (from Cruel Sister)

    Over in America, David Wilcox obviously knew the song. “Jamie’s Secret” combines the melody with an entirely new set of lyrics. Wilcox’ tale of a woman’s disappearance gains additional resonance if you know the source of the melody. A “partial cover”, if you will.

  • David Wilcox, Jamie’s Secret
    (from How Did You Find me Here)

    Finally, just for fun, I wanted to present a pond crossing that goes in the other direction. “Pastures of Plenty” is an American song, Woody Guthrie’s evocation of the dust bowl years. In Odetta’s hands, everything becomes a spiritual, which works just fine here.

  • Odetta, Pastures of Plenty
    (from The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie)

    However, the song gets to Ireland, which has certainly had its share of agricultural disasters. And it rocks!

  • Solas, Pastures of Plenty
    (from The Words That Remain)

    Today’s Bonus and Sundry Coverfolk

    Boyhowdy already did a great post on the traditional British ballad House Carpenter. Here’s two jaw dropping American versions that got missed the first time.

  • Kelly Joe Phelps, House Carpenter
    (from Shine Eyed Mister Zen)

  • Rosalie Sorrels, House Carpenter
    (from Folk Songs of Utah and Idaho)

    Folk fan Darius is a regular guest contributor at blog collaborative Star Maker Machine. He has excellent taste in both blogs and music.

  • 5 comments » | David Wilcox, Donovan, Fairport Convention, Guest Posts, John Renbourne, Kelly Joe Phelps, Natalie Merchant, Odetta, Pentangle, Rosalie Sorrell, solas, Townes van Zandt

    Why Do I Love Hank? Country coverfolk with today’s guest host: Paul

    July 25th, 2008 — 10:41 am

    My name is Paul and I usually blog over at Setting The Woods On Fire. Boyhowdy has been kind enough to let me say a few words here while he enjoys a vacation. As you might have guessed from the title of my blog, I’m a big fan of Hank Williams. I also love cover songs.

    Cover songs are fun because they help you separate the song from the performance. Do I love Hank because of the songs he wrote and poularized? Or do I love Hank because of the way he performed them? I’m sure it’s a bit of both, but listening to covers of Hank is a good way to understand what makes Hank’s records so special.

    Except for the Dylan tune, the tracks featured here are new to me. Boyhowdy thought it might be interesting to see how a Hank fan would respond to folky covers of Hank’s work. Some I liked a lot. Some not so much.

    I’ll start with Cold Cold Heart by Norah Jones. This one should generate lots of interest, as it’s one of Hank’s best compositions performed by popular singer. While Norah undoubtedly has a great voice, I’m not sold. I hear it more as a musical exercise than as an emotional plea from a frustrated lover. Lesson: I love Hank because he really sells a song.

    Norah Jones, Cold Cold Heart (H. Williams)
    (from Come Away With Me)

    Since I wasn’t so nice with the first one, let’s move on to my favorite song in this batch of Hank covers, a brilliant medley of Wedding Bells and Let’s Turn Back The Years performed by John Prine and Lucinda Williams. I love everything about this recording. Hank did not write Wedding Bells but it sounds just like something he could have written, which is shown by how seemlessly this “medley” fits together. John and Lucinda do a nice job selling the song without over-singing. Not surprising, considering their talents. (Of course, it might just be the peddle steel guitar that so warms my country-loving heart on this piece.)

    John Prine & Lucinda Williams, Wedding Bells/Let’s Turn Back The Years (C. Boone/H. Williams)

    (from In Spite of Ourselves)

    Speaking of over-singing, here’s a rendition of Long Gone Lonesome Blues that’s just a bit too overdone for my taste. Yodeling is OK (in small doses). Quavery yodeling is pushing it.

    Red Molly, Long Gone Lonesome Blues (H. Williams)
    (from Never Been To Vegas)

    Over-singing isn’t always bad, though. I’m not exactly sure why, but Mark Erelli’s spirited version of The Devil’s Train works well despite the singer’s affected “twang”:

    Mark Erelli, The Devil’s Train (H. Williams)
    (from The Memorial Hall Recordings)

    Another one from Boyhowdy’s batch that I really liked was I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive by Greg Brown. It’s kind of a goofy song (“I was living high until the fatal day a lawyer proved I wasn’t born, I was only hatched”), and it’s a Hank Williams’ signature tune, so it’s not an easy assignment for a cover artist. But Brown pulls it off with aplomb by playing it straight. Just like Hank, I believe Brown’s exaggerated tale of woe.

    Greg Brown, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (F. Rose/H. Williams)
    (from Friend of Mine)

    Only one of Boyhowdy’s batch of folky Hank covers really bothered me, and this is it. The descending harmony party is cloying. And the re-written lyric about the “gay” dog just does not belong in a Hank Williams song (not that there’s anything wrong with gay dogs). Score one point for Hank’s performance trumping his songs.

    Devon Sproule & Paul Curreri, Why Don’t You Love Me? (H. Williams)
    (from Valentines Day Duets #3, 2006)

    Let’s close this post with a Hank song performed by one of the few artists that I would place on an equally high pedestal, Bob Dylan.

    Bob Dylan, (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle (H. Williams/J. Davis)
    (outtake from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)

    I hope you enjoy these tunes. If I’m wrong about my criticism of any of the few I didn’t like, please let me know. It’s just one Hank fan’s opinion.

    Oh yeah, my conclusion from listening to these covers is that I like Hank’s songs, but I love the way he sings them.

    Prolific blogger and tastemaster Paul pays regular tribute to country, rock, bluegrass, and jazz over at Setting The Woods On Fire. He is also a founding member of collaborative music blog Star Maker Machine.

    1,013 comments » | Bob Dylan, Devon Sproule, Greg Brown, Guest Posts, Hank Williams, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Mark Erelli, Norah Jones, Paul Curreri, Red Molly

    The Holy Modal Rounders Cover Tradfolk with today’s guest host: Brendan

    July 23rd, 2008 — 09:51 am

    It is an honor to share some words on boyhowdy’s page, as I am a frequent fan of his writing, and most especially, the subject at hand. When composers write a song, they undoubtedly want others to sing it, play it, reproduce it either in their mind, living room, or on record. In this sense, I couldn’t agree more with the headline up above, “In the folk tradition, music belongs to the community.”

    The Holy Modal Rounders reinvented songs in an incredibly unique way. Their approach was as follows: “hear song, forget song, try to remember song while adding your personal wrinkles, bingo!” Material was taken almost exclusively from Harry Smith’s American Anthology of Folk Music, a 1960s anthology that played a large part in the folk revival, and playfully distorted through a thick layer of irreverence and heavy drugs. In their version of Hesitation Blues, Stampfel made sure to alter a verse to “pyscho-delic shoes” (rather than “hesitation shoes”), marking the first recording with the word “psychedelic.”

    Though cacophonous to the uninitiated, there is something joyous in their haphazard sound. The DIY harmonies, lazy fiddle, and fingerpicked guitar magically turn in to something beautiful. Unsurprisingly, Rounder originals hold up as well as any of the warped folk numbers they chose to cover. And all their albums have my wholehearted recommendation (especially a very special record featuring the Unholy Modal Rounders, Have Moicy).

    This past autumn, I went to see the screening of Bound To Lose, a new documentary about the Rounders, where Peter Stampfel (fiddle and high harmony) introduced the film. During his unforgettably eccentric speech, he unhesitatingly claimed that the Rounders had spawned the genre of freak folk. His word is good enough for me, though I can’t think of any competition otherwise. See if you can hear it yourself.

    You can really hear the influence of the Holy Modal Rounders in Today’s Bonus Coversongs:

    Brendan blogs about lost gems and overlooked classics in the genres of Garage, Country, Prog Rock, Psych Folk, and other fringe musical forms at The Rising Storm. He is also a regular contributor to blog collaborative Star Maker Machine.

    875 comments » | Guest Posts, Holy Modal Rounders

    Single Song Sunday: Gallows Pole and Variants with today’s guest host: Dean

    July 20th, 2008 — 09:40 am

    Greetings, music lovers! I’m Dean from snuhthing/anything and I was invited to be your guest blogger for the day. You might also know me from Star Maker Machine, the group music blog that both Boyhowdy and I participate in. I was excited by the invitation because it gives me a chance to discuss a song that’s been part of music’s collective memory for hundreds of years, the story the ballad’s based on stretches back to 438 BC with Euripides’ Alkestis. There’s literately hundreds of versions, some titles you might be familar with: The Golden Ball, Maid Saved, By a Lover Saved, Down by the Green Willow Tree, Girl to be Hanged for Stealing a Comb, Hangman Slacken, Ropeman’s Ballad, Hold Your Hands Old Man, Old Rabbit the Voodoo, Mama Did You Bring Any Silver, Freed from the Gallow, among others. The two we’ll be concentrating on today is Gallows Pole and The Prickly Bush.

    The Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary defines Folk as “music of the common people that has been passed on by memorization or repetition rather than by writing and has deep roots in its own culture” – Gallows Pole surely fits the bill. The Child Ballads is a good place to start with the modern version of the song, since it found popularity during the 19th century via the collection.

    Child Ballads

    The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century. The collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads between 1882 and 1898 by Houghton Mifflin in 10 Volumes. The ballads vary in age; for instance, a version of “A Gest of Robyn Hode” was printed in the late 15th or early 16th century, and the manuscript of “Judas” dates to the 13th century. The majority of the ballads, however, date to the 17th and 18th century; although some probably have very ancient influences, only a handful can be definitively traced to before 1600. Moreover, few of the tunes collected are as old as the words. While many of them had been individually printed, e.g. as broadsides, Child’s collection was far more comprehensive than any previous collection of ballads in English. (However, there were comprehensive ballad collections in other languages, like the Danish collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, which Child referred to in his comments.)

    One Child number may cover several ballads, which Child considered variants of the same story, although they may differ in many ways (as in “James Hatley”). Conversely, ballads classified separately may contain turns of phrase, and even entire verses, that are identical.

    The Child Ballads deal with subjects typical to many ballads: romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes. On one extreme, some recount identifiable historical people, in known events. On the other, some differ from fairy tales solely by their being songs and in verse; some have been recast in prose form as fairy tales. A large part of the collections is about Robin Hood; some are about King Arthur. A few of the ballads are rather bawdy.

    For a listing of all the Child ballad types, and links to more information on each individual type, see List of the Child Ballads.

    This brings us to John Jacob Niles, who recorded The Maid Freed From The Gallows (Child Ballad No 95).

    John Jacob Niles

    John Jacob Niles (b. Louisville, Kentucky, April 28, 1892; d. Lexington, Kentucky, March 1, 1980) was an American composer, singer, and collector of traditional ballads. Called the “Dean of American Balladeers”, Niles was an important influence on the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, with Joan Baez, Burl Ives, and Peter, Paul and Mary, among others, recording his songs.

    Niles learned music theory from his mother, and began writing down folk music as a teenager. He became a serious student of Appalachian folk music by transcribing traditional songs from oral sources while an itinerant employee of the Burroughs Corporation in eastern Kentucky, from 1910 to 1917.

    Starting in 1938, he recorded a number of his compositions and transcribed songs, performing the material in an intense, dramatic manner. He employed a trademark very high falsetto to portray female characters, and often accompanied himself on an Appalachian dulcimer, lute, or other plucked stringed instrument.

    Lead Belly recorded the cover most modern day artists draw from.

    Lead Belly Version

    Legendary folksinger Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Lead Belly), who also popularized such songs as “Cotton Fields” and “Midnight Special” first recorded “Gallis Pole” in the 1930s, and set the stage for the song’s popularity today. Lead Belly’s rendition, available through Folkways music and recently re-released by the Library of Congress, differs from more familiar recordings in several notable ways. The Lead Belly version is performed on acoustic twelve string guitar, and following an introductory phrase reminiscent of the vocal melody, Lead Belly launches into a furious fingerpicking pattern. His haunting, shrill tenor delivers the lyrical counterpoint, and his story is punctuated with spoken-word, as he “interrupts his song to discourse on its theme”

    After a few years, Huddie made it his own.

    Time to back up a bit and discuss The Prickly Bush variant.


    The song likely originated in a language other than English. Some fifty versions have been reported in Finland, where it is well known as Lunastettava neito. It is titled Den Bortsålda in Sweden, and Die Losgekaufte in German. A Lithuanian version has the maid asking relatives to ransom her with their best animals or belongings (sword, house, crown, ring etc.). The maiden curses her relatives who refuse to give up their property, and blesses her fiancé, who does ransom her.

    Francis James Child found the English version “defective and distorted”, in that, in most cases, the narrative rationale had been lost and only the ransoming sequence remained. Numerous European variants explain the reason for the ransom: the heroine has been captured by pirates. Of the texts he prints, one (95F) had “degenerated” into a children’s game, while others had survived as part of a Northern English cante-fable, The Golden Ball (or Key).

    Child describes additional examples from Färöe, Iceland, Russia, and Slovenia. Several of these feature a man being ransomed by a woman.

    The theme of delaying one’s execution while awaiting rescue by relatives appears with a similar structure in the classic fairy tale “Bluebeard” by Charles Perrault in 1697 (translated into English in 1729).

    The song is also known as “The Prickly Bush”, a title derived from the oft-used refrain lamenting the maid’s situation by likening it to being caught in briery bush, wherein the brier prickles her heart. In versions carrying this theme, the typical refrain may add:

    O the prickly bush, the prickly bush,
    It pricked my heart full sore;
    If ever I get out of the prickly bush,
    I’ll never get in any more.

    Here’s some great versions of The Prickly Bush, a real treat for the ears.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t include these fun variants – though I must warn you that In Extremo labels itself a German folk metal band, you might want to turn the volume down.

    Modern day arrangements.

    I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. For more information about Gallows Pole and Child Ballad Number 95, I recommend The Prickly Bush/The Prickle-Holly Bush and The Child Ballad Collection.

    Dean blogs about all genres of music at snuhthing/anything. He is also a regular contributor to blog collaborative Star Maker Machine.

    1,423 comments » | A.L. Lloyd, Fred Hewett, Guest Posts, Ha Ha Tonka, In Extremo, John Jacob Niles, Judy Collins, Lead Belly, Page and Plant, Spiers and Boden, Steeleye Span, The Stairwell Sisters, Weavers

    The Tradfolk Revival: Young Brit Femfolk with today’s guest host: Divinyl

    July 18th, 2008 — 11:41 am
    This post has absolutely squat to do with the picture above, but it is a feast of British folk, therefore I thought that the picture was fitting; just ignore the artist listing. I shall start with a confession – I am entirely rubbish. I am a terrible procrastinator and someone who often does things at the very last opportunity. And that is the case here. I feel slightly shame-faced tarnishing such a wonderful blog with my efforts, but honoured to have been offered the privilege, therefore I could not resist posting just a little something.

    Due to time constraints and slight inebriation, I have limited this post to talking about only three of the darling dames of the very much thriving young British folk scene (hey, maybe Boyhowdy will invite me back some time to introduce a few more?!). It is my understanding that, despite these times of t’internet and music easily accessible to all, often folk music does not seem to cross borders and oceans very quickly. I am continually surprised when I converse with fellow bloggers from the other side of the pond, people I consider to be far more musically-knowledgeable than me, to hear that they are not familiar with even the ‘bigger’ names. I am here, therefore, to begin the process of rectifying that!

    All of the songs included below have one common theme – they are traditional songs; songs that have been sung and loved by many over the years, that have done the rounds with folk festival crowds and back-room-of-the-pub singalongs. The particularly interesting thing, then, is these ladies’ interpretation of these well-known tunes, their very understanding of what is at the core of each song, and how they may make it their own.

    First up is Kate Rusby – a charming Barnsley lass (that’s South Yorkshire FYI) with a strong northern accent, a down-to-earth attitude and a love of sea shanties and other traditional songs. Accordingly, you will often find her sweet-as-apple-pie voice singing tales of lost love, violence and death! Courtesy of parents that were in a ceilidh band, she grew up around folk music and folk music festivals.

    She is perhaps my very favourite of the set, her voice almost tear-inducingly beautiful. She is also immensely likable and is absolutely brilliant live if you should ever have the chance – I have seen her twice to date, and her performance was astounding on both occasions. Rusby has truly mastered the art of inter-song banter and the whole stage presence conundrum, which I believe to be almost as important as the music itself in a live environment.

    Rusby is getting on a bit now, in terms of this theme, at age 34 (ha!), but started out waaay back in 1995 and has since released eight solo albums, in addition to releases with Kathryn Roberts and her former band The Poozies. She has garnered much praise from the British press at large, and even more in folk circles, resulting in her receipt of four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (including Folk Singer of the Year in 2000). She was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1999 – a contest that spans many genres and that often makes highly influential, independent choices. Here she is with a sea shanty and one about fighting a dragon!
    The Wild Goose – Kate Rusby (trad.)
    (from Sleepless)
    Sir Eglamore – Kate Rusby (trad. arr. Kate Rusby)
    (from Hourglass)

    Ruth Notman was only 18 years old when she released her debut album, Threads, last year, which only made it all the more impressive. Less well known, to date, than the others in this post, she is definitely a name to watch. Notman hails from Nottingham, in the Midlands of England and started performing in folk clubs in her home county and neighbouring Derbyshire at the age of 13.

    The most consummate thing about the traditional songs (and cover songs in general) on her album is her interpretation; her arrangements evidence a wonderful musical maturity and a solid understanding of composition and tune. Yet just as tenable is that 18 year old spirit – despite the tradsong, you can hear that this is a young woman equally familiar with modern music and pop sensibilities; someone who knows Independent Woman and other such fluff, just like her peers. Oh, and she is also a cracking pianist (and multi-instrumentalist).
    She, too, has been noticed by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards people, reaching the final of the Young Folk Award in 2006.
    Present here is the usual happy folk subject matter of neglect, beating, and suicidal ideation! Fause Fause is one that you can also hear by the likes of Kris Drever and Kathryn Tickell.
    Still I Love Him – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
    (from Threads)

    Fause Fause – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
    (from Threads)

    Another lass with a love, and sound understanding, of the traditional is Northumberland’s Rachel Unthank, who has released two albums with The Winterset – her sister Becky (who actually appears as a co-lead vocalist), Jackie Oates (the viola player who was replaced last year by Niopha Keegan) and Belinda O’Hooley (who is also impressive as a solo artist and is a stunning pianist).

    A lot of the music that Unthank delivers is very closely tied to the region – a region which has a very strong folk identity, with Northumbrian dialect and tales of border battles with Scotland. It is also startlingly untrendy, in the very best possible way…this is honest, unfussy, bare bones tradfolk. In fact, Rachel and Becky Unthank started out performing as an a capella duo. But tradfolk does not tell the whole story. For example, there is a Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) cover on their second album The Bairns (which is even better than their debut Cruel Sister…just the kind of trend we like to see!). Just to clue you in, “bairn” is Northumbrian and Scottish dialect for ‘child’.
    Again the folkies at the BBC are impressed, and she/they were nominated for three awards just this year, winning the Horizon Award. Rachel, pre-Winterset, also reached the finals of the Young Folk Award. Do you see a theme starting to develop here?

    Like many, the Unthank sisters come from musical stock – their parents are both singers, and father George is part of North East folk group The Keelers. I love that the music they choose is so intrinsically about the region in which I live. The first track below is an amalgamation of several traditional songs (The Wedding O’Blythe, When the Tide Comes In, Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion, The Lad With the Trousers On, The Sailors Are All at the Bar). Rachel, in the liner notes of the album on which it appears says,

    “The songs provide a snap shot from a period of history when the shores of the River Tyne saw the hectic comings and goings of press gangs, soldiers, sailors and tall ships.”
    Blue Bleezing Bling Drunk is, on the other hand, a good old domestic violence ditty! It is also, apparently, one of the very first songs to depict a drunken Scottish woman…I’m sure that there must have been many more since!
    Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad.)
    (from The Bairns)

    Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad./Belle Stewart)
    (from The Bairns)

    Divinyl holds forth on a broad assortment of music from folk to Feist at Ceci N’est Pas un Blog. She is also the sole female member of the collaborative at Star Maker Machine.

    615 comments » | Guest Posts, Kate Rusby, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Ruth Notman

    Guestfolk: In the clearing stands a boxer…

    May 21st, 2008 — 03:07 am

    Hi everybody. I’m Jamie from Fong Songs, a cover blog you may know since Boyhowdy has been over once or twice (or thrice) to guest post. Unless I completely imagined it, there was an open invitation at some point for me to return the favour and guest post here on Cover Lay Down. Boyhowdy’s still hampered with technical difficulties at the moment, so it’s a perfect excuse for me to step into his usual Wednesday timeslot and lay down some folk covers for you. If you go back to the very first post ever on Cover Lay Down, Boyhowdy once praised my “incredible ability to compile cross-genre coverlists the likes of which [he's] never seen”. That just warms my little ego, but I think what he’s getting it at is that I sometimes come up with bizarre excuses to thematically link random cover songs. With the prospect of producing an all-folk cover post, I struggled to come up with an appropriately Fong Songs-esque theme of folk covers, but luckily whatever I do is inherently Fong Songs-esque.

    As Boyhowdy can attest to, the definition of folk music is rather elusive with modern folk festivals pushing the boundaries of what’s considered folk music. I’ve gone with some relatively safe bets: Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and a couple “man and an acoustic guitar” covers. I strongly associate folk music with storytelling and that certainly applies to the following batch of cover songs… even if it’s the story of Rocky Balboa.

    Today on Cover Lay Down: tales of boxers as told via folk covers.

    • Ani DiFranco, Hurricane (orig. Bob Dylan)
In 1966, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a pro middleweight boxer, was arrested and later convicted for a grisly triple murder, a crime for which he steadfastly maintained his innocence. In 1974 while in prison he wrote his autobiography, which inspired Bob Dylan to take up his cause and write this protest song. Eventually he was released on appeal in 1985 after nearly 20 years in prison. Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison directed a film version of Carter’s story, 1999′s Hurricane, with Denzel Washington in the title role. Even though there was controversy regarding the fictional liberties taken in the film (in addition to debate of Carter’s innocence in the first place), I remember it being an excellent film with strong acting as usual from Mr. Washington who seems to be drawn to these real-life roles. Just don’t ask me what really happened.

    • Lucas, Harry Kein (orig. Bob Dylan)
      Here’s an acoustic Spanish language cover of Hurricane by a musician that simply goes as Lucas. My Spanish is downright non-existent, so for all I know this very well may be a Spanish parody about a guy named Harry Kein.
    • Colin Linden, The Boxer (orig. Simon & Garfunkel)
      I remember taking my dad’s Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits CD, lying in the dark, and cranking The Boxer on my discman. Li-la-li, kaBOOOM! Still gives me shivers when I’m in a particular mood. I first heard this cover by Colin Linden (woo, Canadian content!) during the end credits of the Coen Brothers film Intolerable Cruelty. I’m somewhat notorious among friends for lingering around to watch movie credits and sometimes it’s just because I’m listening to the music (plus the song credits always come at the very end!).
    • Bob Dylan, The Boxer (orig. Simon & Garfunkel)
      I’m not particularly well-versed in the Bob Dylan canon, so needless to say I was shocked to hear this “other” voice he sometimes sings with, completely unrecognizable from the oft parodied Dylan vocals. From 1970′s poorly received Self Portrait, a double album of mostly cover songs, Dylan takes on the now classic ballad by Simon & Garfunkel, though the original itself had only been recorded in the previous year. Some have speculated that Paul Simon actually wrote The Boxer about Bob Dylan, but there doesn’t seem to be any solid evidence behind this claim.

    • Josh Joplin, Eye of the Tiger (orig. Survivor)
This great acoustic cover is from the Australian cover compilation Andrew Denton’s Musical Challenge, which features artists covering unlikely songs. Want to hear children’s group The Wiggles cover Lou Reed? Now you know where to go.

    Today’s bonus coversongs (and bonus non-coversongs):

    • Cassius Clay, Stand By Me (orig. Ben E. King)
      Yes, Muhammad Ali recorded an album titled I Am the Greatest under his birth name Cassius Clay in 1963 at age 21 before his name change and even before he became World Heavyweight Champion. I haven’t actually heard the whole thing, but I understand it’s a spoken word album with poetry readings, sketches, and him answering questions from a live audience. The track listing includes titles such as I Am the Double Greatest, Funny You Should Ask, and Will The Real Sonny Liston Please Fall Down. Luckily for our purposes, Ali also recorded a cover song of Ben E. King’s classic Stand By Me.

    • Bette Midler, Boxing (orig. Ben Folds Five)
      From their debut self-titled album, Ben Folds wrote this poignant song about an imaginary conversation between Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell, in which Ali contemplates hanging up the gloves. Probably the only studio-released cover of any Ben Folds Five song is by, of all people, Bette Midler, who recorded this for her 1998 album Bathhouse Betty.

    • Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People, The Ballad of George Chuvalo
      Meet George Chuvalo, he’s from Toronto, he is the hero of this here story.

      And so begins the tale of George Chuvalo, legendary Canadian heavyweight champion who twice went toe to toe with Muhammad Ali, though lost both by decision. Known for having never been knocked down in the ring in 93 fights during a professional career that spanned over 20 years, perhaps his greatest legacy evolved outside the ring. As told in this tribute by Ontario musicians Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People, Chuvalo tragically lost three of his sons and his wife in drug-related deaths (full story in this in-depth Maclean’s article). True to his stalwart nature, since 1995 Chuvalo became a tireless anti-drug advocate and today still gives talks to students, parents, and other support groups. In 1998, he was appointed to the Order of Canada for his work. Visit George Chuvalo’s Fight Against Drugs for more on Chuvalo’s story and cause.

    • Colin Linden, George Chuvalo
      Colin Linden, who is also one-third of folk group Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, wrote his own tribute to George Chuvalo. Little bit of trivia for you: Chuvalo took on some bit parts in films over the years including a bar patron named Marky who has an ill-fated arm wrestling match with Jeff Goldblum in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Check the CBC digital archives for numerous fascinating video and audio clips of George Chuvalo including the original CBC radio broadcast of his fight with Ali and his 1977 appearance on a CBC talk show with his thoughts on the newly released Rocky. Amusingly, when he’s introduced by host Peter Gzowski, the house band plays a 15 second muzak version of The Boxer as Chuvalo walks on stage.

    Thanks to Boyhowdy for letting me stop by and share some folk covers with you. Hopefully his computer issues get sorted out soon!

    71 comments » | ani difranco, Ben E. King, Ben Folds, Bette Midler, Bob Dylan, Cassius Clay, Colin Linden, Friendly Rich and The Lollipop People, Guest Posts, Josh Joplin, Lucas, Simon and Garfunkel, Survivor

    Guestfolk: I’ll Be Folk For ChristmasSongs from Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

    December 22nd, 2007 — 02:23 am

    Hello folk fans! Kurtis from Covering the Mouse here, for one more guest post before the end of 2007! This time, I’m taking a break from Disney but sticking with a cartoon theme. Folk covers of cartoon Christmas songs!

    One of my favourite parts of the holiday season are the Christmas television specials. I love them. A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Garfield Christmas, A He-Man/She-Ra Christmas Special, I love them all!

    Pioneering the Christmas special tradition was a small animation company called Rankin/Bass who specialized in stop-motion animation. I will be focusing on these specials today.

    • Raffi, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
      Rankin/Bass’ first Christmas special was an adaptation of the famous Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. Originally by Johnny Marks, this cover is by the famous Canadian children’s folk singer, Raffi.

    • Johnny Cash, Little Drummer Boy
      In 1968, Rankin/Bass produced their second stop-motion animated Christmas special, this time based on the popular song, Little Drummer Boy, which was originally written by Katherine K. Davis and popularized by the Vienna Boys Choir. More recently, David Bowie and Bing Crosby sang a duet that has become a Christmas standard. This cover of the song by Johnny Cash actually came out in 1959, a decade before the TV special.

    • Fiona Apple, Frosty the Snowman
      The last special I will be covering today is Frosty the Snowman. The song was written for Gene Autry after he recorded a version of Rudolph that sold millions. In 1969, Rankin/Bass created a new story around Frosty that tied him into the Christmas holiday. The unique thing about this special is that it is done in the traditional cel animated style instead of stop-motion animation. This version comes from 2005 alt-rock compilation Christmas Calling.

    Today’s bonus coversongs:

    Along with cartoons, I’m also a big fan of the Muppets! Here are a few tracks from the Christmas album they did with Folk legend John Denver!

    [Looking for more last-minute holiday coverfolk? Click here for the full run of Cover Lay Down holiday posts, including multiple covers of Joni Mitchell's River, some non-denominational wintersongs just right for solstice, and a full set of Christmas songs penned by Jewish songwriters!]

    323 comments » | Fiona Apple, Guest Posts, Holiday Coverfolk, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Muppets, Raffi

    Covered in Fluff…I Mean, Folk: Songs from Disney’s Winnie the Pooh

    November 26th, 2007 — 04:15 pm

    This is Kurtis from Covering the Mouse sharing a little bit of my Disney collection with all of you folk lovers! Boyhowdy has been a guest poster on my site a few times and now he has asked me to be one for his site! And I am more than happy to help him out! And if you’re looking for Boyhowdy, then you’d better head on over to Fong Songs where he is today’s guest poster!

    I have chosen a trio of Winnie the Pooh songs for today’s post by three very different acts. But first let me bring everyone who has been living under a rock up to speed about Winnie the Pooh:

    Winnie the Pooh is a book series by A.A. Milne from the 20s. The bear in the book is based on a stuffed bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne. The stuffed bear is based on Winnipeg, a bear from the London Zoo originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Christopher named his bear Winnie and asked his dad to write some stories about him.

    In the sixties, the Walt Disney company adapted the stories into a trio of animated shorts. It is here that we are introduced to the characters as we now know them as well as the classic theme song.

    The theme song was written by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman for the 1966 short Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. It is one of the most recognized of all Disney songs and is heard in almost every Pooh production ever made by Disney.

    But enough about history, let’s get to the covers!

    • Carly Simon, Winnie the Pooh
      While Simon’s main body of work filled the rock world in the 70s and 80s, she has really mellowed out having released albums of standard, lullabies and two soundtracks for Winnie the Pooh movies. This cover was written for the 2003 feature film Piglet’s Big Movie and was heard again in Pooh’s Heffalump Movie in 2005. She adds a really nice folk touch to the song and the only part that I really don’t like is when it breaks into the string bridge. Otherwise, it’s a great cover! The track can be found on both soundtrack albums.

    • The Chieftains, Winnie the Pooh
      Boyhowdy wrote up a review of this cover on my site and reviewed it better than I could so I encourage you to visit that post by clicking here.
    • Tommy and Amanda Emmanuel, Pooh Bear Medley
      It is said that Tommy Emmanuel is the best guitar player in Australia. He started playing when he was four and never stopped learning and practicing. He has had several albums since the seventies and if you listen to them you will hear that they he is an excellent guitarist. In the cover, off the sadly out-of-print Disney Duets: A Family Celebration, he plays a medley of two songs: The classic Winnie the Pooh theme as well as his version of the theme song from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh television series from 1988. Interspersed throughout the track are readings from the book by Tommy’s daughter Amanda. The father/daughter team up is very touching and really captures the essence of the silly old bear.

    Today’s bonus coversongs:

    I’ve included two Jungle Book tunes for you to hear. Please check out my site for more information about these artists.

    • Michelle Shocked, Bare Necessities
    • Gabriel Rios, I Wanna Be Like You

    850 comments » | Carly Simon, Disney, Gabriel Rios, Guest Posts, Michelle Shocked, The Chieftains, Tommy Emmanuel, Winnie The Pooh