One of the songs I might have played most in the past years, is '1922' by Phil Cook from his album Southland Mission. I soon found out it was a cover, by some artist named Charlie Parr. And, like so many times before when finding a 'new' artist to discover, down the rabbit hole I went. And there's plenty to dive into, the blues musician from Duluth, USA has so many records out, you could listen to nothing else for a full day without repeating a tune. When The Dead Tongues recorded his session for The Influences, he covered Parr's 'Hobo' and said this about his friend and collaborator: "One thing that really struck me is how it feels like every time he sings and plays, he’s all in." A couple of weeks after that session, I met up with Charlie Parr backstage at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, where he played two traditionals and his own version of 'Hobo'.
Usually recording a session after a live show isn't the best idea. Musicians are tired, happy the job's done and either want to enjoy a great experience or forget it as soon as they can. But, at Take Root festival, I would take any chance I got to film with Molly Tuttle and her band, and they were incredible. Within minutes, they made us forget we were in an redecorated office and blew our minds with covers of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Zero', Neil Young's 'Helpless' and a version of her own 'Light Came In (Power Went Out)'. Norwegian songwriter Ole Kirkeng supported Tuttle on a recent tour and volunteered to write a short guest essay for us.
If you’re interested in music and based in Utrecht like I am, Robin Kester isn’t a new name. She still only has one ep and a handful of singles out, but she’s been building and building steadily over the past few years. She gathered a new band around her and teamed up with producer Marien Dorleijn (who you might, no, should know from the band Moss) – and played support shows with Alela Diane, Haley Heynderickx and – multiple times - Villagers. Her ‘dreamy folk pop’ became more and more distinguished as she released several singles from her upcoming mini album ‘This Is Not A Democracy’ – out September 11th on AT EASE. If you’re based elsewhere, it won’t be long until your friends will know her, so this right here is your chance to get ahead of them.
Earlier this week, Americana songwriter Justin Townes Earle died. He was 38 years old. It’s incredibly sad – first and foremost for his family and friends, and also for music lovers everywhere. We lost a great songwriter. Back in 2015, I met Earle at soundcheck in Paradiso Amsterdam for a session. Due to a miscommunication, I ended up with just some test footage, shot while setting up. But, we did take some photos and had a nice talk about a lot of things in the space of ten minutes. Of course I was disappointed we didn’t get the session we hoped for, so I had not looked back at all since. Until this week, and I was surprised to find footage of almost all of the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ that Earle and Paul Niehaus played.
"You know me so well, write anything you want about me." Ross Clark's text message was pretty clear - I've got carte blanche. So, the first time I met Ross Clark in Glasgow, back in March 2009, I wasn't sure I liked him very much. And I had no idea what he thought of that weird Dutch guy either. Pretty much all I knew was that the session we had just filmed in the upstairs of Oran Mor was really good. But, since then we've worked together many times and became - I dare say - very good friends. I like him a lot now and he thinks I'm sort of okay I guess. He's developed so much as a songwriter - through his years with Three Blind Wolves - and perhaps even more so after that band split and he became Fiskur. This month he released Fiskur's debut 'Cold Hands, Burn Slow', a true masterpiece. Back in November 2018 he played our night at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow and we filmed a Velvet Underground cover and a song off the record.
There aren't many surprises and secrets left in life. Not of the good kind anyway. Remember when you'd read about an artist in some magazine, or just found an unknown song on one of the first obscure music websites? Now, everything just a few clicks or swipes away. And it tends to bite off the pieces of wonder that those discoveries used to deliver. All the more reason to cherish the moments we still are surprised. Which is why I - after we finished filming Nicole Atkins' second session, which will appear soon - immediately said 'yes please!' at Atkins' suggestion I should film her guitar player to. Ten minutes later, I had another session on tape and the musician in question, Davey Horne from Scotland, had a new fan. He played a cover of John Martyn's 'Over The Hill' and his own 'Sentimental Horse In The Rain' - featuring Atkins on harmonies.
The first time I heard Caroline Spence's single 'Sit Here And Love Me', was in a plane - somewhere in between Amsterdam and Glasgow. When Ryan Joseph Burns picked me up from the airport, I just had to play it for him in his car. Five times in a row. I had heard her music before, but this was the first time I really connected with it and registered it was Spence. Ever since, her albums have been on high rotation. At Take Root festival in Groningen, late 2019, we met and recorded this session. Caroline Spence and her guitarist Charlie Whitten played covers of Sheryl Crow and Lucinda Williams, and her own 'The Long Haul'.
Caleb Elliott and I spoke about staying hungry for music, discovering fairly late there’s more than just classical music and the important people in his development; his high school orchestra conductor, his cello professor at the liberal arts college and his mother who, after his dad passed, got a degree, raised four children and started a women’s shelter by herself. I know, what have we been doing with our lives, right? What her youngest son has been doing, is focus on his songwriting rather than being the cellist, with his 2019 Single Lock records debut album ‘Forever To Fade’ as the first stunning output. Shortly after its release, we met at the Down by the River festival in Venlo, The Netherlands. Elliott, who was touring with Nicole Atkins at the time, recorded covers of Neil Young and Johnny Cash and one beautiful original from his debut on this session.
Back when traveling and going to shows were still things people did, I met up with Kentuckian artist Senora May in Utrecht. Her self-released debut ‘Lainhart’ has been a very nice surprise and so was recording this session where she covered Rilo Kiley and Beyoncé. Seeing her perform live in Utrecht, on a double bill with Erin Rae, it was actually like an extra layer was added to her songs. Her stage presence, the stories and her expression made the songs come to life – possibly more than the record had done for me previously - as much as I liked it. “That’s my goal: I want to have a connection with the audience and I want them to feel a personal connection. I want to express what I feel and when I do that in shows, people are more open.”
'When We Last Shook Hands: Cover Songs Volume 1' is a collection of cover songs that Great Lake Swimmers has recorded over a period of roughly 12 years, between 2007 – 2019. Most of the songs have been released in one form or another as part of compilations, live sessions, outtakes, or album bonus tracks, but there are also a handful of tracks which are seeing the light of day here for the first time. It will be digitally released on June 5th 2020, exclusively on Bandcamp.