A Christmas Rose:
Rose Polenzani and the Boston folk crowd cover Xmas

We’ve featured singer-songwriter Rose Polenzani several times here on Cover Lay Down, but to my regret, our ongoing celebration does not seem to be causing the artistic renaissance I had been hoping.

Today, then, as a last-minute holiday present to both artist and readers, I’d like to ask each of you to take a moment to consider the primary purpose of Cover Lay Down - to wit, the support of great and oft-undersung artists - and, in the spirit of the season, consider purchasing Polenzani’s most recent work, the utterly lovely 2008 release When The River Meets The Sea.

But first, here’s Rose, in a nutshell.

Rose Polenzani’s history speaks achingly of the difficulty modern artists have in building and retaining audiences beyond their initial foray into the folkworld, and in moving from local sensation to globally recognized talent. Despite an early career feature spot at the 1998 Lillith Fair, and a subsequent decade of mid-level awards and recognition in the New England area and beyond, the sweet-voiced, impish singer-songwriter with an unerring ear for sly-yet-heartwarming lyrics and delicate, deliberate composition - who first came to my attention for her strong 1999 sophomore album Anybody, and her work with Voices on the Verge along with Beth Amsel, Erin McKeown, and Jess Klein - remains sadly undersung outside of her adopted East Coast base of operations.

And though her label output in the last five years has been sparse at best, the circumstances of When The River Meets The Sea, a live-in-studio collaboration with lo-fi, high-energy acoustic roots band Session Americana originally recorded in the summer of ‘06 and not released until May of last year, strongly suggest that it is the business, not the talent, which may be keeping Rose from garnering her due in the marketplace.

Still, as her steady output of delightfully playful YouTube video covers and her leadership of the Boston-based collaborative Sub Rosa over the last few years have shown, Rose remains cheerfully upbeat, working and sharing with friends in the same situation, hosting them at every opportunity on small screen and stage. Her taste in partners, her eminently talented performance and craft of all things musical, and above all her positive, lighthearted approach to the work and play of musicmaking only reinforce my sense that this is an artist who is deserving of ongoing celebration, both for who she is and what she creates, and for the community she gathers around her.

Today, then, some holiday covers from Rose and friends, including a hilariously playful Peanuts tribute posted on Rose’s YouTube channel just yesterday, with the genuine hope of many good things to come in the year ahead for Rose Polenzani, her constant collaborators, and every fan of hers that I can muster.

Rose Polenzani and Rose Cousins: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (orig. Brenda Lee)

Laura Cortese, Rose Polenzani, Jennifer Kimball, Rose Cousins and Matt Malikowski: O Christmas Tree

Interested in seeing Rose and friends live in concert? Rose Polenzani’s “secret society of friends and strangers” Sub Rosa - with currently-confirmed artists Chris O’Brien, Aoife O’Donovan, Anne Heaton, Dave Godowsky, Dave Champagne, Dinty Child, Elana Arian, Melissa Ferrick, Joel Ninesling and more - will appear at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA on Dec. 29 @ 9:00. Knowing the Cambridge folkscene, I’ll be one of several bearded middle-aged guys in the crowd.

Of course, whether you’re in the area or not, in the spirit of looking back over the year, it’s worth noting that, counting the above bouquet, our ongoing celebration of Rose Polenzani now includes over a dozen gorgeous blossoms. Previously posted covers here on Cover Lay Down (with and without frequent collaborators Anne Heaton, Rose Cousins, Jennifer Kimball, Laura Cortese and others) include Neil Young’s For The Turnstiles, Bill Callahan’s Eid Ma Clack Shaw and Sharon Lewis’ She Is A Rainbow, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson duet Say, Say, Say, Feist’s The Park, and old movie soundtrack oddity turned sweetheart sonnet Lonesome Polecat. Also worth noting on YouTube: a recent collaborative cover of 80s classic Broken Wings. And Polenzani’s take on Death Cab For Cutie’s Soul Meets Body is just to die for.

Speaking of both the Boston music scene and seasonal blooms: late news of an inevitably joyous new holiday collaborative comes this week via email, and though I couldn’t be more disappointed to have missed their performance at Club Passim this past weekend, locals looking ahead to New Years would be well-advised to plan ahead for a final First Night performance from the short-lived holiday project Winterbloom, which features Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton, Meg Hutchinson and Natalia Zukerman with a now-completed holiday tour and an eight song EP Traditions Rearranged, recorded in a three-day session at WERS and featuring classic carols and holiday originals from these four stellar voices of the Boston folk set.

The whole album is achingly beautiful, a perfect mix of sweet familiarities, seasonal folk songs in their original language, and well-crafted original contributions from Anne, Meg, and Antje, but their arrangement of Greg Brown wintersong Rexroth’s Daughter is especially stunning. Check it out below before heading over to the Winterbloom MySpace page to stream more stunning originals and Christmas coversongs, visit Antje’s homepage for a free download and video of her aptly-titled original Thanks For The Roses (Merry Christmas), set your radio clock for 6:00 pm on Dec 25th to catch a Christmas Day replay of their Nov. 18 in-studio performance at WUMB, and - if you’re in the area - don’t miss their 9:30 set at the Hynes Convention Center, part of the First Night Boston celebration.

And finally: she’s not local, but who could resist one more pair of beautiful bonus roses, for the holidays?

Category: Holiday Coverfolk, Rose Polenzani, Rosie Thomas

4 Responses to “A Christmas Rose:
Rose Polenzani and the Boston folk crowd cover Xmas

  1. Maine Character

    Thanks for cluing me in! And Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Winning Resources

    Great stuff, thanks for another enjoyable read, I enjoy returning to your blog to read your latest news.

  3. Jade Leonard

    This is great! I am an independent singer songwriter and I learn a lot from reading blogs like this - thanks so much for sharing.

  4. jesselun

    Rose rules

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