Category: Ray Lamontagne

Covered in Folk: The Kinks (Ana Egge, Kate Rusby, Trappers Cabin, Sia, Old 97′s and more)

August 30th, 2008 — 10:08 pm

For most of my life, The Kinks have been one of those bands that other kinds of people listened to. That I respect these people, and appreciate their inclusion of the odd Kinks tune on mixtapes and playlists, is kind of moot; the end result has been that while I like the poppy sound The Kinks bring to the table, it’s the kind of music I accept as background music, enjoyable but already there, part of that diverse mix of sound which fills the air around us. And the continued prominence of Kinks classics on soundtracks and classic rock radio has served the occasional itch in a surprisingly timely manner, leaving me perfectly happy to let the songs come up through the environment, rather than seeking them out.

There’s a hole in my musical education that swallows the British Invasion wholesale, in fact. Some of this is purely an issue of age and experience — growing up in the seventies in a household centered on Blues, Soul, and the American Folk Revival, I heard plenty of music that had been influenced by the jangly guitars and quirky, almost pre-punk pop sensibility, but very little of the actual Brits themselves; by the time I moved on to my own record collecting, it was the late eighties, and I was so excited by the emerging hip-hop, grunge and new folk scenes to find the time to go back and discover their musical roots.

But the more I hear The Kinks catalog done tenderly and with feeling, the more I regret missing out on developing a real love for this music. So many musicians have made real things of beauty out of The Kinks songbook that I have to assume there’s beauty to be found in the originals.

So for a while, I’ve been collecting Kinks tunes where I find them, both originals and covers, letting the bloggers I trust (that’s them on the sidebar) bring the right tracks to my attention; Divinyl sent along a few greats recently, lending fuel to the fire. And when three great covers came to my attention in the past few weeks, it seemed high time to share the best of a growing collection of tributes and covertracks from the pen of Kinks mastermind and songwriter Ray Davies.

Here, then, are Kate Rusby‘s gorgeous-voiced britfolk version of The Village Green Preservation Society, a delicate lo-fi bedroom cover of Shangrai-La from the huge collection of downloadable covers and originals at the Trappers Cabin website, and a sliding, bluesy take on Sitting in the Midday Sun from southernfolk fave Ana Egge, who is currently offering her wonderful all-covers album Lazy Days for under four bucks over at Amie Street (where the code “coverlaydown” will net new members $3 free towards your purchase). Plus a few more of my favorite, folkiest Kinks covers, just to make a proper playlist of it all.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk content Wednesdays, Sundays, and the occasional Friday and Holiday. Coming up in the next few weeks: more old songs from new artists, one final summer folk festival preview, and yet another installment in our Single Song Sunday series. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

406 comments » | Ana Egge, Dar Williams, Kate Rusby, Mark Anthony Thompson, Mark Lanegan, Old 97's, Ray Lamontagne, The Kinks, Trappers Cabin

Covered in Folk: The Bee Gees (Feist, Kathryn Williams, Moxy Fruvous, Ray LaMontagne +6 more!)

June 29th, 2008 — 10:07 am

Bee Gees Gold was the first record I ever bought.

It was a used copy, already ragged; I remember the frayed cardboard at the edges when I opened up the album. I picked it up from some older kid at our elementary school swap meet. It cost a quarter, I think.

And to be honest, I have no memory of listening to it.

What I remember is the thrill of ownership. I grew up in a house full of grown-up records, but they weren’t mine, and I wasn’t really ready for folk and blues, country and soul. Like any suburban child of post-hippie parents, I had been given a small collection of great, authentic kidsong albums, but those were my parent’s choices, and already behind me. The Bee Gees greatest hits were the first music I could hear on the radio, and then play again as many times as I wanted. Whether I played it or not wasn’t the point. Buying it, taking it home, pulling against the slight vacuum that held it inside its sleeve, making a place for it on the shelf: it was a revelation, like discovering the key that unlocked the universe.

The experience of buying Bee Gees Gold, plus the rapid-fire acquisition of a used copy of AC/DC’s Back in Black, and a few records released that year — Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, Toto IV, Michael Jackson’s Thriller — would spark a lifetime of collecting and audiophilia. A quarter century later, my closets are full of long-dormant vinyl; the attic is stuffed with milk crate collections, and archived jewel cases. I download far more than I should, and digitize everything I can. My digital collection passed the 25000 song mark just this morning.

My students have always been amazed at the sheer amount of music on my iPod. But true audiophiles know that there’s an awful lot of great music out there, and what if you have a hankering for something and you don’t have it, ready to call up in the database? I live in a world of shuffle and playlists, theme and artist retrospectives, and new albums and discoveries. I cannot drive without a soundtrack; I look forward to mowing the lawn, in part, because it means an hour of meditative activity with headphones on. I build my summer around folk festivals. I spend almost every evening writing about music in one way or another, here and at collaborative blog Star Maker Machine. Listening, collecting, owning, sharing and enjoying music have become fully intertwined.

But though my tastes have turned towards the acoustic and the authentic over the years, you never forget your first.

In tribute to the record that started it all, today we present some of my favorite folk and folk-tinged Bee Gees covers. Most are recent indie-folk — as we’ve mentioned previously in our Covered in Folk series, the tendency for artists to bring the songs of their childhood cultures into their own repertoires means that a whole new set of indiefolks in my age group have recently begun adding Bee Gees songs to their performance canon. And a few are tongue-in-cheek; it’s hard to be earnest about something which will forever be associated with sequined bell-bottoms and high-pitched discopop harmony.

But under the glitz and glitter, there’s a surprising power here. Turns out the Brothers Gibb actually knew how to write songs with meaning, after all. Not a bad choice, for a nine year old kid suddenly opened to a world of possibility.

Like what you hear? Eschew the big anti-artist commercial megastores; click on links above to purchase small circular plastic carriers of audible joy direct from artist and label websites.

Or, if you prefer downloads, and are interested in an equally artist-centric solution, why not join up at Amie Street, where artists receive 70% of all profits, and retain all rights to their work…and where, thanks to a sliding-scale pricing model, tracks generally cost less than almost anywhere else? As an added incentive to Cover Lay Down readers, the folks at Amie Street are offering you $3.00 FREE towards your purchase; to get it, all you have to do is enter the code “coverlaydown” when you sign up. Totally worth it, dude.

PS: If anyone knows of a produced version of Sarah Harmer and the Weakerthans doing Islands in the Stream, please pass it along — I love Sarah Harmer, but the CBC recording that’s been making the blogrounds is a little too heavy on the crowd noise and tape crackle for my taste…

429 comments » | Bee Gees, Constantines, Damien Rice, Eagle Eye Cherry, Feist, James William Hindle, Kathryn Williams, Keller Williams, Leah Kunkel, Moxy Fruvous, Ray Lamontagne, The Bird and The Bee