Category: Laura Love

Laura Love Covers
Steve Miller, Nirvana, Laura Nyro, Wayfaring Stranger, and more!

August 8th, 2009 — 09:47 pm

I picked up my first Laura Love album in the early nineties, and can’t for the life of me remember why. Nor can I remember what happened to it, though I still have the CD booklet for Pangaea — an especially regrettable turn of events, given the album’s lovely, sparse cover of Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, and the utter dearth of available downloadables from this and several other rarities from Love’s early career as an artist dancing on the edge of genre.

Pangaea may be long gone, but the eclectic afro-celtic sound which typifies bass player and vocalist Love’s recorded output has stuck with me through the years all the same. I’ve still got widely praised and equally out-of-print 1997 release Octaroon, its title a sly nod to Love’s multiracial background, and pass along its great solo cover of Nirvana’s Come As You Are on cover mixtapes whenever I can. And when a recent serendipitous trip to our local library turned up several other Laura Love albums, appropriately split between the rock and folk sections, I was reminded how much I enjoyed her distinctive style, both as a vocalist and folkrock bandleader, and the way she applies it to a vast spectrum of musical styles and genres.

Love hasn’t released anything new since 2007, when she turned her sights and sounds towards the bluegrass and African American spiritual canon, rediscovering herself as a neo-traditional grass tenor along the way. But though the music is centrally American in origin, as with her other work, NeGrass is eminently modern: worldbeat and wild, oft-danceable and generally joyous in tone, the funky bass-driven music supporting Laura Love’s unmistakable pure and lusty alto/tenor. Here’s a few from the in-print stacks.

As alluded to above, due to frequent label shifts, much of Laura Love’s early albums are hard to find, especially Pangaea, which is oft-cited as the definitive collector’s item. But her 1995 Putumayo collection offers a solid introduction to her early work, and her more recent work is consistently good, including several live concerts available through FestivalLink and the currently under-construction LiveBand. 1998 release Shum Ticky is an equally great ride, featuring two songs about her booty, and a surprisingly effective duet with Sir Mix-a-Lot. Get ‘em all here, with Laura’s blessing.

As an afterthought: Laura Love studio collaborator and touring companion Barbara Lamb — a performer and fiddle teacher who at the age of 14 taught an 11 year old Mark O’Connor how to play, and whose fiddle-playing has since graced the stages and records of the likes of Tony Trishka, Peter Rowan and Riders in the Sky — has just released Twisty Girl, a new digital album whose experimental, electrified tracks lean heavily on looped percussion and fiddle to create a surprisingly engaging sonic landscape; though the record is a significant departure from her earlier work, it’s hard to deny its raw, hypnotic charm.

Here’s a few covers from Lamb’s previous album, 2006 bluegrass outing Bootsy Met A Bank Robber, with a dollop of luck on her continued success as a solo artist pushing her own boundaries.

Cover Lay Down shares musings on music, community, and culture, framed around coverfolk sets from a broad variety of sources and local heroes, every Sunday and Wednesday. Coming soon: we hit the far reaches of Cape Cod, and sing surely of the sea.

1,410 comments » | Laura Love

Covered In Folk: Birthday Boys T-Bone Burnett, Dave Grohl, LL Cool J, Allen Toussaint

January 13th, 2008 — 03:59 am

It is my honor to share a birthday with a seminal hip hop balladeer, a grunge god, the hands-down master of New Orleans R&B songwriting, and the best soundtrack and pop-americana producer in the business. Since it was too hard to pick just one, instead of focusing on a single artist or genre today, I’m featuring some of my absolutely favorite covers of the work of LL Cool J, Dave Grohl, Allen Toussaint, and T-Bone Burnett, all of whom were born on January 14.

If I didn’t have an outlet for celebrating these four incredible musicians, I’d probably spend the day moping around the house, feeling old. Instead, I get to spend a few hours researching, listening to, and celebrating the songs of their younger days, and mine. Not bad for the last day of my 34th year. Though to be fair, it also helps to realize that I’m younger than all of them.

Today’s piece de resistance is Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ incredible cover of Fortune Teller from Raising Sand, their recent all-cover release, which owes its existence to not one but two of these four deities of the musical realm. But the rest of this fine set is worthy of your consideration, too. The envelope, please…

Though Allen Toussaint (b. 1938) has always been recognized as a performer and songwriter in hs own right, most of the songs he’s written found fame in either his own hands or the hands of other R&B and rock artists. But his works are so prevalent, they show up in the folk world, too, especially where folk and blues-tinged rock meet. Bonnie Raitt‘s funky cover of Toussaint’s 1970 hit What Is Success pays tribute to both the R and the B. Meanwhile, Fortune Teller, penned pseudonymically by Toussaint’s alter ego Naomi Neville, and recorded by bands from the Rolling Stones to the Who, is just incredible in the hands of Plant, Krauss, and our next birthday boy.

T-Bone Burnett (b. 1948) spends most of his time behind the scenes in the music world. But even if you’ve never heard his work as a roots rock Country singer-songwriter, you know his work as a Grammy-winning producer and song-writer for a bevy of musicians you really do admire (Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, Spinal Tap, his wife Sam Phillips) and for a rash of award-winning soundtracks (Cold Mountain, O Brother Where Art Thou, Walk The Line). Burnett plays guitar on the above-mentioned Fortune Teller, and produced the album, too; here’s four more amazing covers of songs he either arranged or co-wrote.

Hip hop artist and actor LL Cool J was born in 1968, and he dropped his first album of major label tracks at 17 years old, which makes the entire hip-hop genre older than you thought. Here’s a pair of playful indiepop folk covers of 1987 Def Jam release I Need Love, the first “romantic hip-hop ballad” to hit the top of the pop charts, just to prove it can be done, and done well; irish folk-rock singer-songwriter Luka Bloom and indie folktronic group Sexton Blake do excellent coverwork here and elsewhere, and come highly recommended.

Before he formed the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl (b. 1969) was Nirvana’s last and most famous drummer. The folk scene is long overdue for some good Foo Fighters covers; while we wait, check out Laura Love‘s sparse bass and vocal, Patti Smith‘s soft banjo-tinged americana, and Kathryn Williams tense string quartet jazz folk — some of the best from an infinite series of covers of Nirvana songs penned and recorded during Grohl’s tenure.

All artist and album links above go direct to label and musician homepages, so you can best support artists directly, and avoid supporting the faceless megacorporations which commodify those artists. Please, folks: buy what you hear if you like what you hear, and help me realize my birthday wish for a future bright enough to contain the infinite possibility of homegrown music, in a world in which artists can sustain themselves without having to keep their day jobs.

Just can’t get enough? Cover Lay Down publishes every Sunday and Wednesday, and some Fridays and Holidays. Our archives are open late, but they don’t stay up forever, so don’t forget to hit up older posts before the songs go back to the ages from whence they came.

1,066 comments » | Alison Krauss, Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, Covered in Folk, Dave Grohl, k.d. lang, Kathryn Williams, Laura Love, LL Cool J, Luka Bloom, Patti Smith, Sexton Blake, T-Bone Burnett