There seems to be something about folk music that attracts more men than women. Could it be the themes of trees, moody weather patterns, ships and trains, the wool of alcohol, fires, wolves, less-taken roads, and politics that are keeping the lasses at bay? If so, then it is no surprise that Laura Gibson, daughter of a forest ranger and originally hailing from a logging town outside Portland, Oregon, fits right in with the gang of guys.
A little more than a month ago, her newest album Beasts of Seasons was released. Since then, it has received great reviews from the likes of NPR and Pitchfork awarded her an excellent 7.2, making her eligible to win the 2009 Webby awards (ooh, ahh) even if they did steal a line from Daytrotter’s 2007 interview to describe her sound…
I mention her now because, to be honest, in trimming the crazy spring growth of my folk rock playlist last weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about the absence of female voices on it…especially when I really started paying attention to what was playing and realized they weren’t even typically the background vocalists. My redeeming artists? Laura Gibson, Alela Diane (who Gibson toured with last year), Lisa Hannigan, Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Marissa Nadler, Sydney Wayser, Sue Merchant, and a somewhat misplaced Brandi Carlile.
Considering Lisa Hannigan has the more recent release, I could go into more detail about Sea Sew, but, truly, I like Laura Gibson better and she is on my mind for two other reasons as well. 1) Since the beginning of April she’s been touring with, (be still my beating heart), Damien Jurado. Now, if you are anything like anyone I’ve ever lived with, you’ll want to begin ignoring me right about now, because otherwise you’ll hear my musings on how great his muted, dismal, story-telling dirges are… but in seeing if he had any shows heading to this neck of the woods, I was saddened to see that I’d somehow missed one earlier in the month, but delighted to see that she was, and still is, his current traveling companion.
2) The other reason she’s on my mind is because I recently headed over to the Hush Records homepage. I wanted to learn more about another group they have (also from Oregon) called Loch Lomond, (about whom I’ve heard figurative whispers for what feels like years now) but who I’ve never thought to explore until two weeks ago, when I found a single of theirs on someone’s blog and thought it worthy of repeat listen, (“The Mountain” for those curious, which sounds very much likes something by Horse Feathers if you need a comparison–as an aside, head over to Daytrotter for Horse Feathers freebies!) and Laura is on Hush too, so there you go. Now you’ve got a couple new names to check out… first and foremost, Laura Gibson, but then everyone else as the mood suits. Enjoy!
[Click on the above image twice and it should become big enough to read…]
Once upon a time, someone wrote a song, performed it, and some time later, someone else heard it and thought, “I could do that sooo much better.”
Maybe they weren’t quite this narcissistic– maybe it was actually two people who both heard someone else perform a song. Afterwards, the non-musical half of the hypothetical couple turned to the other, who happened to be musically inclined, and said, “Hey, could you do that song for me, the one that goes na, na, naaaaa, na, na…?” and when the musically-inclined one performed it from memory, it changed, but neither could quite remember how it went anyway, so it eventually gained legitimacy and became it’s own version. Or, as I often do, maybe someone just took a song they really loved the lyrics to and made it applicable to all their other moods by playing with the tempo etc. and thus a whole new musical “act” was born…
Whatever the conjecture, folk rock musicians have done some incredible covers, and, if you know where to look, they are all over the internet. Posting the Josh Ritter cover of Springsteen a couple weeks back got me thinking that I should connect you to more of the same, sort of, so here goes–
A darling little blog entitled “I am Fuel, You are Friends” (accessible at www.fuelfriendsblog.com) regularly posts AWESOME examples of how folk rock musicians can take a song and make it that much better…or at least get you thinking about it in an entirely different way– time for some examples, no?
First, Ray Lamontagne covers the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” or his cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” accessible at http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2008/10/27/tonight-ray-lamontagne-and-leona-naess/
or how about when one folk rock musician covers another folk rock musician, as Steve Earle has done with the inimitable Townes Van Zandt’s song “To Live is To Fly”? at http://www.fuelfriendsblog.com/2009/04/16/shake-the-dust-off-of-your-wings-and-the-sleep-out-of-your-eyes/.
Denison Witmer put a new spin on “contemporary” country by re-working Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
(You’ll have to forgive me for posting the entire page, rather than just the song link, but this set of 20 songs is so solid you should be acquainted with them all. For example, the clangy, fun “Get Yourself Home” by These United States listed above Denison’s makes me want to take a road trip just so that I can blast this song while bopping across the flat green plains of Wyoming, a 7-11 slushy sweating into oblivion in the cupholder and a fast-food burger wrapper doing somersaults on the passenger side floor because of the wind ripping through the open windows…camera full, wallet nearly empty, and a borderline murderous Motel 6 waiting at the end of the line…it’d be great. Sigh.)
If I’ve not mentioned it, I secretly love The National too. Now, I’m not so smitten as to be blind to the fact that a lot of their songs sound the same…put them on shuffle, take a nap, wake up and your brain will, if only for a moment, try to remember if it’s heard this one already or not, but I like ’em anyway, so there. I also really dig Carolina native Eric
Bachmann of Crooked Fingers. I saw him open for Josh Ritter last spring and thought he was a subtle phenomenon.
When these two factors come together, you get The National’s cover of Crooked Fingers “Sleep All Summer” and you can’t help but want your heart to break just so you can feel the full mourn of the chorus:
“Cold ways kill cool lovers/ Strange ways we used each other/Why won’t you fall back in love with me?/There ain’t no way we’re gonna find another/The way we sleep all summer/so why won’t you fall back in love with me?”
Not yet satisfied? Head over to www.stereogum.com and just see what comes up when you type “cover” into the search bar. For those who are curious but don’t want to go exploring just yet, I’ll have you know that there are over 2000 posts that have something to do with musical coverings of one kind or another…get excited and go kill a couple hours. Not into Stereogum? The same thing happens at The Hype Machine. Blog posts galore if you just type in one word: “cover.”
I spent about 3 hours last week trying to figure out how to seduce vodpod into being a working widget for me, and having finally succeeded after a steak dinner and a promise to call it back later in the week, I now have video links up. SO, for those of you who have failed to notice my newest addition, my latest blog pride and joy, behold–I have video on the left-hand side. I plan to add more, according to the acts I already have listed, but if there’s something, or someone, I need to see, let me know, and I’ll find out if it can be arranged.
Summer is beginning its slow but steady descent upon us, which, for us music lovers, means one thing–road trip time.
I.Summer Folk Festivals
A. By location and date
B. Volunteer opportunities/cost
C. Other considerations…
2. other folky events/activities
4. food and drink!
Mind you, I don’t plan to keep perfectly to the outline because we all know that, as in lecture, the tangents are actually what makes the presentation. Think about it–all the interesting classes and sessions you’ve ever had in your life have been so solely because of the completely tangential sidetracks the lecturer has brought to the material, or because of those you were able to create based on the experience. I’m sometimes of the opinion that it’s not the love of learning so much as the love of other people’s anecdotes that keeps people attending school year after year…but, case in point, I digress, so back to the music.
Where to start? How ’bout Canada?
-Each year, Ontario has a festival called “Summerfolk” that takes place in Owen Sound, Ontario…former performers have included Dar Williams, Martin Sexton, Bruce Cockburn, and the inimitable Moxy Fruvous (King of Spain, anyone?) This year it will be from August 14-16th.
-The American Folk Festival will be in Bangor, Maine this summer, and will include The Lost Bayou Ramblers from Lafayette, La, and Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials from Chicago, along with several other cool acts from across the country and Canada. August 28-30, 2009.
-Lowell, Massachusetts has the Lowell Folk Festival to offer again from July 24-26 th this summer. This year’s performers include groups playing zydeco and New Orleans jazz, as well as Tuvan throat singers, which, if you’ve never seen, you should most definitely experience before you die…(to get a vague idea of what I’m talking about–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw9hizi5heM check out this piece).
-New York offers many folk festivals of various and sundry sorts, but two offering music can be found in Hillsdale, NY for the Falconridge Folk Festival from July 23-26th, 2009 and, later in the season, the Turtle Hill Folk Festival in Rush, NY, September 11-13th. Both are rather obscure, but remember, the size of one’s name never affects the weight of one’s sound…
-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will serve up one of the season’s larger, more awesome shows with the Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, Pa from August 14-16th. I have one “word” to describe this year’s event: ohmygoshthelineupisincredible. And yes, it gets me that excited. Check it out– Alela Diane, Del McCoury Band, Iron and Wine, Joe Pug, Marissa Nadler, Langhorne Slim, Works Progress and much, much more. All the folk rock you could ever want in your life in roughly two days time. Sigh. The other taking place is the Heart of the Alleghanies Folk Music Festival earlier in August (7-9th) in Bradford, Pa.
-Traveling further south, “to the land of the pines,” Virginia also has a folk festival recognized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) that’s been held for the past several years in Richmond. The Richmond Folk Festival will be this October 9-11th, so once the weather gets cooler, but before you “fold your wandering in,” I urge you to see what the place has to offer.
-Heading westward, Manchester, TN will once again be hosting the Bonnaroo Music Festival June 11-14th. The lineup is lovely, though it does neglect the fact that some major folk rock acts could be included that aren’t…anyway…Wilco, Band of Horses, Gov’t Mule, Bon Iver, Neko Case, Okkervil River, the David Grisman Quintet, and A.A. Bondy are reason enough to go, and if you are more into the heavy hitters like Bruce Springsteen, Phish (now back together since Bush is outta office) and David Bryne, never fear, they’ll be there too.
–The Pitchfork Music Festival will be in Chicago, Illinois this season from July 17-19th. I must confess, as skeptical as I am of my Pitchfork devotee friends, they’re planning a damn good show this summer–Yo La Tengo, The National, Grizzly Bear, the Dutchess and the Duke and more yet to be announced? Delicious. What they’re going to serve up hot in Chicago would keep you warm and satisfied til the Winter Solstice…
-Ozark, Arkansas will offer up the Wakarusa Music Festival , June 4-7th. Yonder Mountain String Band and Joe Purdy definitely catch my folk rock eyes, and having seen Trombone Shorty at the New Orleans House of Blues, I can say he makes my heart flutter more than a little too. Again, if the big names are what get you going, The Black Crowes and Les Claypool (to name a few) will be there too.
-You may well ask yourself, what does Montana have to show for itself? Is the National Folk Festival enough for you? The eclectic lineup includes, if you can believe it, the Jeff Little Trio from Boone, NC. Do you know how big Boone is? If the United States were a deer, Boone wouldn’t even be a good-sized tick on that deer– it might not even be a worthy flea…! Boone would be like, a speck of pollen in the grand scheme of things…but you get the idea, I’m sure, it’s bitty. The festival, in its 71st year, will be held July 10-12th in Butte.
Folk rock is influenced by many things; war, peace, and protest, hard times, heartbreak, social justice, coal mining, trees…you name it, it’s probably appeared in a folk rock song somewhere at some time. The styles of folk rock that emerge reflect much the same; rockabilly, country, americana, a cappella roots and acoustic roots all shine through the sonic layers to show the many influences that musicians find and bring to their music-which brings me to Darwin. Charles Darwin.
From here, follow the fine and rather tenuous thread of logic to Shrewsbury, England where you will find the Shrewsbury Folk Festival (Charles Darwin was a native of Shrewsbury over a century ago). The Shrewsbury Folk Festival, which will take place in August of this year brings you to The Darwin Song Project, an event of the festival where folk musicians come together to, well, sing about Darwin.
This March, 8 folk artists convened for a week at the 350+ year-old home where Darwin was born in South Shropshire to write songs that, as the website states, “have a resonance and relevance to the life of Darwin.” These artists will re-group to perform their songs in August during the festival. Now, while it is too soon to tell, methinks it may happen that these songs find their way to the interwebs as free downloads (eventually), especially if one considers the potentially “educational” aspect of them that might make their release more liberal than otherwise, but only time will tell… they’re working on the live cd now. In any case, the line-up of contributing artists includes the marvelously talented Mark Erelli (who I have a not-so-secret musical crush on), Rachael McShane, Stu Hanna, Jez Lowe, Emily Smith, Chris Wood, Karine Polwart, and Krista Detor. So, if you find yourself in Shrewsbury this summer, check out the festival and tell me how cool the Darwin songs are, then buy me the cd, because I feel like it probably won’t be one of the most requested imports this fall, even if it should be. Now go evolve!
I’ve been good thus far in not going overboard in singing the praises of Canada’s Great Lake Swimmers, but with the mention of Jason Bajada and the hints and name-dropping that I’ve done before, along with the release of their newest album, Lost Channels, I feel it’s time to honor them with their own post. Released on March 31st, Lost Channels is the band’s fourth major release following their self-titled album, Bodies and Minds (both released in ’05), and 2007’s Ongiara. However, it’s more like their seventh if you count their live album from ’05, their Hands in the Dirty Ground EP, and View from the Floor.
Having come together in the early 2000’s like many of the other now-popular indie bands from Canada (see the Bajada post), the Great Lake Swimmers have kept a pretty low profile, even as they have grown more popular. Ask the average individual, and they won’t have heard of the group, but the online community has embraced them and supported their continued spread, which is especially apparent now since “everyone” seems to be picking up what the Swimmers are putting down–just look up Lost Channels and you will be amazed at how well-covered this release is…both NPR and the BBC covered ’em, as have several print sources (including in Filter and Paste Magazine) and on all my favorite websites and blogs, from Last.fm’s “listening party” prior to release, to stereogum.com’s ” ‘Gum drop” review of “Pulling on a Line,” (the album’s first single) and You Ain’t No Picasso’s freebie release of “Everything is Moving So Fast”. So go ahead, look into Tony Dekker and the Great Lake Swimmers…you may just find yourself “part of a large family” of fans…
So as not to neglect Canada, allow me to introduce you to Jason Bajada,
a folk singer-songwriter from Montreal. While his latest album Loveshit debuted in Canada at the end of January this year, it wasn’t until February that it inched its way into U.S. territory, and I’m only just now beginning to see more substantial mention of him and his songs around the web. This surprises me because Loveshit is actually his third full-length release, and the prior two, Up Go the Arms (2006) and Puer Dolor (2005) were both well-received by his Canadian audiences and the music review mags and blogs in the area…It doubly surprises me because of Canada’s recent renewed claim to indie folk rock fame since the early 00’s with the likes of the Great Lake Swimmers, Rufus Wainwright, Hawksley Workman, Kathleen Edwards, Stars, Feist, and The Stills–how has Jason Bajada been kept under wraps? [This isn’t even half the list!] A quick search of Seeqpod doesn’t find him, and the information provided on Last.fm shows him as only having 505 listeners, when he should, in my opinion, have at least as many as Cotton Jones (roughly 4100 as of today).
This all means that your job today is to support the underdog. Support the obscure local music of somewhere, even if that somewhere isn’t YOUR somewhere–I mean, we’re all citizens of the world, right?
Check out the elbo.ws reviews, and the free music posted there…
¨You Are a Runner, and I Am My Father´s Son¨ originally performed by Wolf Parade, if you were curious…
¨Home´s Still Your Bones¨ there is a review for Loveshit on this link as well, but the reviewer is simultaneously encouraging ¨Jason Bajada is very talented, he´s got a great voice…¨ and damning ¨but he´s nothing spectacular and more or less mediocre on the album.¨ So if you choose to read it, approach it with a grain of salt, and observe that the author admits to not particularly liking what he describes as ¨sad, sappy albums.¨ For those of us who do-Smiths fans raise your hands now- this mild moody folk rock will be right up your dark and lonely alley…If you still don´t believe me, then check out the music video for ¨Ten Days in Miami¨ posted to the upper left of this entry, or that for ¨Cut, Watch, Leave.¨
First off, Happy Easter to one and all!
I’m of the mindset that, no matter the holiday, (but especially if it is one with religious overtones), the emphasis of the day should be on giving and caring for others. While this may not be the best segue in the world, this brings me to the topic of today’s post which is the Dessner brothers (of one of my quiet and dark favorite bands, The National) new AIDS awareness compilation album entitled Dark Was the Night. Although the album came out almost two months ago, I finally spotted it on the shelves of the nearby record store last week, and am relieved to know that now others in my area can pick up the 31 songs that they have heard SOOO much about–from the requisite Pitchfork and Rolling Stones posts to itty bitty blogs like this one, word has got out that it’s a pretty solid album cover to cover. For a fellow WordPress perspective, check out the blurb posted on the Music Mule blog: http://musicmuleblog.wordpress.com/2009/02/06/dark-was-the-night-a-red-hot-compilation/
Almost all of the reviews I have read have made mention of the fact that, in the collective conscience, compilation albums are akin to fruitcake, appearing annually and dreaded months in advance. Yet occasionally, as is the case with Dark Was the Night, that fruitcake is really, really good, so the albums keep showing up, and despite ourselves, we keep sampling them, albeit tentatively, season after season.
But, you ask, what does this have to do with folk rock? Everything. Just check out some of the offerings on the 2-CD set…
1. Knotty Pine by Dirty Projectors + David Byrne
2. Cello Song by The Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
3. Train Song by Feist + Ben Gibbard
4. Brackett, WI by Bon Iver
5. Deep Blue Sea by Grizzly Bear
6. So Far Around The Bend by The National
7. Tightrope by Yeasayer
8. Feeling Good by My Brightest Diamond
9. Dark Was The Night by Kronos Quartet
10. I Was Young When I Left Home by Antony + Bryce Dessner
11. Big Red Machine by Justin Vernon + Aaron Dessner
12. Sleepless by The Decemberists
13. Die by Iron & Wine
14. Service Bell by Grizzly Bear + Feist
15. You Are The Blood by Sufjan Stevens
1. Well-Alright by Spoon
2. Lenin by Arcade Fire
3. Mimizan by Beirut
4. El Caporal by My Morning Jacket
5. Inspiration Information by Sharon Jones & The Dap-kings
6. With A Girl Like You by David Sitek
7. Blood Pt 2 by Buck 65 Remix (featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti)
8. Hey, Snow White by The New Pornographers
9. Gentle Hour by Yo La Tengo
10. Another Saturday by Stuart Murdoch
11. Happiness by Riceboy Sleeps
12. Amazing Grace by Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues
13. The Giant Of Illinois by Andrew Bird
14. Lua by Conor Oberst + Gillian Welch
15. When The Road Runs Out by Blonde Redhead + Devastations
16. Love vs. Porn by Kevin Drew
Many of these tracks are the sound of modern folk rock! Cello Song, the second track on the compilation was originally a Nick Drake song, which should tip off anyone listening of its folky roots, even if the prevailing sound of what can only be described as muted electronic rain fills the background. 8 tracks down, another lovely cover, “I Was Young When I Left Home” is the newborn offspring of a Dylan song! Skip down five more songs and you will find yourself in Sam Beam country with Iron & Wine’s melancholy but hopeful “Die”. Need I mention the appearances by Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver? Well might you ask, but what about the second cd? Same deal-SOLID. Beirut, Andrew Bird, Gillian Welch…you should be convinced by now…if not the very presence of the Dirty Delta Blues should tell you you’re in the right place. Anyway, it’s a weekend and a holiday, and a good cause–do right by it, give it a listen and buy it-it’s the kind of fruitcake that’ll have you licking the knife and looking forward to next year… http://www.darkwasthenight.com
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