Category: Patty Griffin

New and (Re)Covered:
Carolina Chocolate Drops, Patty Griffin, and Suzanne Vega

January 27th, 2010 — 07:55 pm

The mailbag is bursting with delight – so full, in fact, that I’ve decided that next week will be New Artists, Old Songs Week here at Cover Lay Down, featuring a whole host of new artists who have kindly sent along their demos, one-off tracks, and pre-releases in anticipation of greater recognition for the next generation. It is, as always, an honor to be able to share these folks with you; I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do, and pursue the links provided here to support their emerging talent.

While we compile and winnow the wonderful new voices that have come our way in the last several weeks, let’s clear the palate a bit by regrounding our ears in a few more familiar faces and thematically relevant songs which have popped up in the inbox alongside that cornucopia. Here, that means yet another installment of our popular (Re)Covered feature, with news, new songs, and newly-found tracks that have come our way, and should be coming your way, too, now that the new year has turned.

I finally managed to catch the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who we first featured back in April, last weekend at the Somerville Theater, and was utterly thrilled to find they are even more stunning in concert than I had imagined. Their infectious joy in not just recovering but truly rejuvenating a whole set of found song, from old country blues and minstrel-show jazz to stringband and rural jugband classics, is evident in every smile, holler, and nuanced move on an array of authentic instruments, from quills and autoharp to banjo, fiddle, guitar, voice and bones. And as performers and ethnomusicologists, their patter and performance offers a first rate journey through the folk traditions of Black America.

New album Genuine Negro Jig, which will include a studio version of their infamous Blu Cantrell cover and a delicious take on Tom Waits’ Trampled Rose alongside a whole new set of resurrected stringband and old-time jazz and blues tunes done in their inimitable Piedmont style, drops on February 16. Here’s two delightful cuts from the newest – the aforementioned Blu Cantrell cover, and a sweet, wry newly-recorded version of old stringband classic Cornbread and Butterbeans – plus a live cut to keep your feet moving in the meantime; for more, preorder Genuine Negro Jig, sit back, and wait for the magic to arrive.

Patty Griffin‘s new album Downtown Church is a true blue Americana Gospel album, not folk, but I hardly care; despite my ambivalence about her overproduced sophomore release Flaming Red, which recently caused a minor inter-blogger firestorm over at Star Maker Machine, it’s no secret that Griffin is one of my favorite artists, having first featured in our pages way back in our first few weeks as a blog, and several times since. And Downtown Church’s dustbowl gospel is utterly amazing, in no small part because of Griffin’s achingly, hauntingly, drivingly beautiful approach to a series of gospel classics, not to mention stellar support from Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale, and a host of other powerhouse artists.

The result: a true gem of a new album that has the Americana world drooling in anticipation of what may well turn out to be the biggest release of the year. The NPR full-album stream disappeared yesterday upon the album’s release, but there’s a live concert over at No Depression tonight at 8:00 EST, full-length samples at Paste, and of course, you can and should buy the whole thing here. The whole damn thing comes with my strongest recommendation, but I really, really love the sparse piano and voice of final track All Creatures of Our God and King, and the power of the penultimate We Shall All Be Reunited, which, like Heavenly Day before it, has Grammy written all over it, especially now that an appropriate nomination category has been created.

The coverblogger code doesn’t usually consider a remade song a cover if it’s the same artist performing it – else we’d have to count pretty much every demo as an original, and every live performance an incident worthy of note. Wikipedia, however, seems to beg otherwise. And so just this once, I’m going to give honorable mention to the newest from Suzanne Vega, Close Up Vol 1: Love Songs, in which the once-ubiquitous singer-songwriter comes out of the shadows after years of living off residuals to put forth an utterly lovely album of acoustic versions of her own songbook – the first of four rounds of such self-coverage, if Vega’s press release is to be believed.

We featured Suzanne Vega in our first Mother’s Day post way back in ’08, noting at the time that she had decided to focus on motherhood first and foremost after her daughter was born in 1994; it’s good to see her back in the studio, and though there’s a part of me that aches for a new set of songs, her early work is certainly strong enough to support reframing. So while you head over to her website to preorder, here’s a remade “original” from the newest, a pair of older Grateful Dead covers from Cover Freak’s least favorite album, and a few other takes on a personal favorite from the Suzanne Vega songbook for balance.

Looking past the horizon, I note that Carrie Rodriguez, who we first featured here upon release of her 2008 album She Ain’t Me, will be coming out with her first covers album in April, and on first listen, at least, it’s sounding like a practically perfect fiddle-driven Country-Americana Folkpop collection.

We’ll have more to say about this eventually, and a song to post, for sure, but I’ve been asked to keep the buzz and the songsharing on the down low until the date creeps closer. Still, Carrie’s currently on tour with Ben Sollee and Erin McKeown – a great choice of companions for the achingly sweet-voiced Rodriguez – and she’ll also be doing a few dates with Alejandro Escovedo and Los Lonely Boys in the next few, so if your town is on her touring schedule, make it a point to stop in to preview a track or two from the upcoming disc in a live setting.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk features and songsets each Sunday and Wednesday. And remember, folks: February 1st marks the kick-off date for New Artists, Old Songs Week here at Cover Lay Down, so don’t forget to head on back with your ears handy for a first-rate set of covers from a solid crop of up-and-comers come Sunday.

1,543 comments » | (Re)Covered, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Carrie Rodriguez, Patty Griffin, Suzanne Vega

Elseblogging: Rare Patty Griffin at Star Maker Machine

April 29th, 2008 — 12:48 am

New collaborative blog Star Maker Machine is only a few weeks old — previously, it was a well-written solo-author music blog — but thanks to host Six and a growing team of familiar trustworthies of diverse taste and tight writing, the site has already found its voice, and it’s a powerful one. I couldn’t hold back any longer; as of today, I’ve joined the fray.

So head on over for a rarity from Patty Griffin’s unreleased third album Silver Bell, plus a growing collection of songs on this week’s theme of City Songs, and a long set of Flower Songs from last week. I expect to be back over there regularly, posting originals and practicing my shortform. Membership is open to all; maybe I’ll see you there, too.

Want a bonus to whet your whistle? I’m still song-gathering for a future post on Griffin’s coverwork, but in the meantime, here’s folk chanteuse Maura O’Connell with a rocking version of Long Ride Home, plus a link to an old but still-live post Griffin fans might have missed.

  • Maura O’Connell, Long Ride Home (orig. Patty Griffin)

    Previously: The Dixie Chicks (and others) cover Patty Griffin

  • 681 comments » | Elseblog, Maura O'Connell, Patty Griffin

    Caroline Herring, Lantana: covers of Kate Wolf and All The Pretty Little Horses

    February 19th, 2008 — 08:46 pm

    Ever wonder what happens to the artists who win Best New Artist at SXSW? If they’re Caroline Herring, they release a strong second album and then disappear, putting their recording career on hold to focus on marriage and motherhood. Now, after a long hiatus, Herring returns to the forefront of the folkworld with Lantana, a stunning, intimate collection which I’ve already shortlisted as one of my top ten folk/roots/Americana albums of 2008.

    Taking time off for family is an especially risky move in today’s music world, where momentum is king — bloggers, who constantly seek “the next big thing”, share no small responsibility for accelerating this process. But with true genius, Herring turns her time out of the limelight to her advantage, treating it as both subject and sustenance, crafting a strong, polished set of tunes which speak to the the complex balance between traditional family roles and career ambitions which women are asked to internalize in modern society.

    The result is a revelation. Herring’s five years out of the studio only intensified what was already a stellar ability to create and deliver poignant, powerful songs about the world around her in a pure, rich southern-twanged voice reminiscent of some of the the best female folksingers of the past thirty years. The songs on Lantana are simultaneously authentic and new, applying traditional folk storytelling and verse structure to stories of women in today’s rural South who, like Herring herself, have struggled to find their place between the demands of the heart and post-feminist possibility.

    At its best, this album is haunting and beautiful, combining strong songwriting with solid, effective production and stunning vocal delivery. Paper Gown, a murder ballad of the finest order which retells the chilling story of Susan Smith, is especially gorgeous example of Herring’s ability to create song of the first order: catchy, thoughtful, sympathetic, and deep, the song roots itself in your soul, lingering long after the music has faded from the ears. Even in her quieter, more peaceful numbers — including a deceptively simple cover of traditional lullaby All the Pretty Little Horses and a beautiful, wistful version of Kate Wolf’s Midnight on the Water, both of which we feature below — Herring brings a depth of emotion which few contemporaries can muster

    Universally accessible yet rooted deeply in the sounds of Herring’s native south, Lantana is the best singer-songwriter CD I’ve heard in a very long time. Let’s hope it’s the first of many more to come from this up-and-second-coming talent.

    • Caroline Herring, Midnight on the Water (orig. Kate Wolf)
    • Caroline Herring, All The Pretty Little Horses (trad.)

    Lantana doesn’t come out until March 4th, but you want more of Caroline Herring as soon as possible, so pre-order Lantana over at Signature Sounds today. Act now, and you can pick up this magnificent album for under ten dollars — a real steal in today’s market.

    Still not convinced? Check out Paper Gown over at fellow folkblog Here Comes The Flood. Their description of Caroline Herring’s sound as “gothic country” is right on the money.

    Today’s bonus coversongs include another take on Kate Wolf, and a set of songs which used to be my favorite versions of the slave lullaby All The Pretty Little Horses before Caroline Herring hit it on the nose:

    • Nanci Griffith, Across The Great Divide (orig. Kate Wolf)

    • Calexico, All The Pretty Horses (trad.)
    • Shawn Colvin, All The Pretty Li’l Horses (trad.)
    • The Chieftains w/ Patty Griffin, Whole Heap of Little Horses (trad.)

    929 comments » | Calexico, Caroline Herring, Kate Wolf, Nanci Griffith, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, The Chieftains

    Covered in Folk: The Dixie Chicks do Patty Griffin

    October 7th, 2007 — 08:10 pm

    You may not have heard of Patty Griffin. But if you’ve had your ear to the radio over the past decade, you’ve heard her songwriting: Griffin is one of those rare singer-songwriters whose songs are bigger than she is, and in her case, it’s a shame and a blessing. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the bittersweet lot of the oft-covered and not-yet-famous. We call it Covered in Folk.

    According to legend, the production on Patty Griffin‘s first album obscured her authentic sound so much that her label buried the studio tracks, remastered her demo, and released it pretty much as-is. The result, 1996 release Living With Ghosts, is a comprehensive masterpiece of raw folk power. The siren sounds of the city through her open apartment window only reinforce the realism inherent in the languid grit of her hard-driving guitar, and her hallmark seen-it-all wail.

    But we’re not here today to talk about Patty’s breathy voice, or her rough, busker’s streetcorner sound. We’re here to talk about her songs.

    Those who have seen Patty in concert agree: there’s nothing quite like the powerhouse Maine woods twang-and-wail to lay bare the bones of her earlier, darker lyrics of battered women and lost rural souls. But I’d rather have her songs channeled through other voices than let them languish in the A&M vault. And luckily, Griffin’s songs are so powerful as written, it’s a genuine joy to hear them handled well by others.

    No performer in today’s market has benefitted more from Griffin’s songwriting than country sensations and anti-Bush badgirls the Dixie Chicks, whose three-part harmony and careful handling make the songs their own while retaining all the original power of lyric and melody. Today we offer three Patty Griffin covers, one from each of three different Chicks albums.

    • Let Him Fly, off Dixie Chicks Fly
    • Truth No. 2, off the Dixie Chicks Home
    • Top Of The World, off the Dixie Chicks live album of the same name

    The Dixie Chicks are great musicians in their own right, but now that you know the pen behind the music, put your credit where credit is due: pick up Patty Griffin’s Living with Ghosts, her stellar opus of smalltown loners 1000 Kisses, and the rest of the Griffin catalog at ecotunes, her preferred sales source.

    Today’s bonus coversong bonanza:

    • New folkfemme combo Red Molly covers Griffin’s Long Ride Home
    • Alt-countrified Emmylou Harris covers Griffin’s One Big Love
    • Covergirl chanteuse Maura O’Connell covers Griffins Poor Man’s House
    • Patty Griffin covers Springsteen’s Stolen Car
    • Patty Griffin covers John Hiatt’s Take It Down

    340 comments » | Covered in Folk, Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Maura O'Connell, Patty Griffin, Red Molly, Springsteen