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Do You Perform or Record Covers?

Stephen L. Rich 06 Apr 05 - 11:54 PM
michaelr 07 Apr 05 - 01:04 AM
Sooz 07 Apr 05 - 04:43 AM
mooman 07 Apr 05 - 05:15 AM
GUEST, Clarty Sough 07 Apr 05 - 06:27 AM
The Beast of Farlington 07 Apr 05 - 07:02 AM
mooman 07 Apr 05 - 07:37 AM
GUEST, Hamish 07 Apr 05 - 07:54 AM
The Beast of Farlington 07 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM
Mooh 07 Apr 05 - 08:26 AM
Willie-O 07 Apr 05 - 08:46 AM
JedMarum 07 Apr 05 - 09:33 AM
The Beast of Farlington 07 Apr 05 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,joseacsilva 07 Apr 05 - 11:05 AM
GUEST, Hamish 07 Apr 05 - 12:08 PM
Richard Bridge 07 Apr 05 - 12:09 PM
Once Famous 07 Apr 05 - 12:22 PM
jimmyt 07 Apr 05 - 01:16 PM
Clinton Hammond 07 Apr 05 - 01:28 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 07 Apr 05 - 01:28 PM
Mudlark 07 Apr 05 - 01:37 PM
PoppaGator 07 Apr 05 - 02:29 PM
JedMarum 07 Apr 05 - 04:40 PM
Phil Cooper 07 Apr 05 - 05:33 PM
Bobert 07 Apr 05 - 07:48 PM
GUEST 07 Apr 05 - 07:49 PM
Seamus Kennedy 07 Apr 05 - 11:45 PM
JedMarum 08 Apr 05 - 12:03 AM
rich-joy 08 Apr 05 - 12:39 AM
alanabit 08 Apr 05 - 02:12 AM
rich-joy 08 Apr 05 - 04:46 AM
Lanfranc 08 Apr 05 - 05:21 AM
Wrinkles 08 Apr 05 - 07:28 AM
John Hardly 09 Apr 05 - 07:15 AM
Alaska Mike 09 Apr 05 - 07:32 AM
George Papavgeris 09 Apr 05 - 09:15 AM
Mike Regenstreif 09 Apr 05 - 09:48 AM
Mike Regenstreif 09 Apr 05 - 09:54 AM
Stephen L. Rich 10 Apr 05 - 08:19 AM
Stephen L. Rich 11 Apr 05 - 06:55 PM
alanabit 12 Apr 05 - 03:03 AM
GUEST,Slickerbill 13 Apr 05 - 12:58 AM
GUEST 13 Apr 05 - 02:01 PM
Once Famous 13 Apr 05 - 02:23 PM
Stephen L. Rich 15 Apr 05 - 12:53 AM
Stephen L. Rich 16 Apr 05 - 12:39 AM
Eric the Streetsinger 16 Apr 05 - 01:54 AM
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Subject: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 06 Apr 05 - 11:54 PM

The title may seem like an odd question, but give it moment's thought. Most of the singer/songwriters that I know do almost exclusively thier own material. I'm the only one I know who is willing to absord the expense of actually recording covers. I write some, but not a lot. Most of the time other writers can do a much better job of it than I. Whenever I send out a request to a given writer to record a given song of thiers the first response tends to be surprise that someone in folk music is willing to do covers.

    That having been said, do any of you do any of you perform or record any covers?

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: michaelr
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:04 AM

Yes, absolutely. There are a number of Richard Thompson songs that cycle in and out of my repertoire, and on my band's latest CD, we included a cover of "Pharaoh", as well as "One Last Cold Kiss" by Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins. If your release is under 1000 copies, the cost is reasonable; in this case, $80 US for each song.

Lately we've been performing Karine Polwart's "Follow the Heron" a ;ot -- a lovely song. Heck, as long as they write `em better than I can, I'll sing `em!

Cheers,
Michael

www.celticfusion.org


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Sooz
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 04:43 AM

Of course! As per Michaels comment "Heck, as long as they write `em better than I can, I'll sing `em!" However, our version is our version and not a trbute style copy. (A friend of ours used to insist that the cover version should even be in the same key whatever it was suitable or not!)


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: mooman
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 05:15 AM

We perform some favourite covers, usually heavily rearranged, but have only ever recorded original material (and one or two "trad." pieces).

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST, Clarty Sough
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 06:27 AM

We do a 50 / 50 mix of trad and self penned stuff but songs by people like Cyril Tawney, Dave Evardson, John Connoly drift in and out of the set from time to time.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: The Beast of Farlington
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 07:02 AM

I do 90% my own stuff but will perform occasional covers. Only Steve Earle songs though.

The people in the session I play at have plenty of covers so I don't feel I need to contribute many.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: mooman
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 07:37 AM

Ah yes Beast!

"My Old Friend The Blues" is one of our favourite covers...!

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST, Hamish
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 07:54 AM

Covers: yes. Copies: generally, no. I like to think I'm adding something of myself when I do someone else's song.

As regards costs, I have only dobe promo CDs thus far, and the cost is trivial (in the UK at least): so long as you don't charge for a copy and have the "not for sale" disclaimer. (otoh, I have been know to give some away at gigs for a donation to charity. Which seems like a win-win-win situation to me.)


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: The Beast of Farlington
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM

Mooman

My old Friend The Blues is a great song.

I do 'Jerusalem' and 'I Thought You Should Know'. The latter is horribly difficult to play and sing at the same time. I saw Steve Earle on his UK tour last year and even he got a roadie to play gutar while he sang solo!

I have also done 'Even When I'm Blue'. I don't have a policy of only doing Steve Earle - his have been the only songs I have been motivated to learn and it is part of my strategy of getting him world music domination.

I don't call them copies either as they are substantially LESS than the original!


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Mooh
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 08:26 AM

Yup, but as others have said, we/I try to add something of ourselves to the song. Tempo, dynamics, key, arrangement and other interpretive elements help make a piece our own.

This applies to everything I play cause I'm not interested in being someone else. The celtoid band, the rockin' blues group, the fiddle/guitar duo all approach the music this way.

In my solo stuff, I deliberately choose lesser known songs if they're not original, trying to do them justice while still being me.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Willie-O
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 08:46 AM

All the time. I play songs that I like and what the gig demands--and if the gig demands stuff I can't or don't like to play, I don't do the gig.

I don't like calling them covers. By the time I'm done with them, they're my repertoire. There's a "second-class" connotation about the word. But the concept really is to play the best material you can find for the occasion. How many singer-songwriters have enough appropriate all-original material to play a wedding reception, "classy dinner music" engagement, or for that matter four sets at the neighbourhood pub that the patrons will enjoy and cause the manager to rehire you? There are lots of ways to make a modest and enjoyable living playing music, and being an "originals-only singer-songwriter" is one of the hardest. Personally, I don't want to work that hard. I've written some pretty good songs, but I don't like the idea of playing a full evenings worth of only my own--I would be reaching into the depths of mediocrity. Better to pick the best five originals and people will remember them.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: JedMarum
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 09:33 AM

That term; "covers" really sucks!

It is typically used today to be a derogatory term. It is intended to insult someone's music, something like "you aren't artist enough to write all your own music!"

There is an arraogance among the musician community that really really annoys the sh*t out of me. That singer/songwriter attitude that says "I'm so good I only sing my own music, and I have to beg your pardon when I sing one that's not my own."

The term "cover song" should be used to describe a performer's attempt to recreate the performance of someone elses performance of that song - and sing it the way we always hear it on the radio. That makes it a 'cover' song - not the fact that someone else wrote it. A 'cover band' plays songs from the radio/recordings just like the way the pop recording sounds sounds.

One manager of a venue I played complained to me that I'd played 'covers' in my set of music, one night. The songs he was talking about?? The Bard of Armaugh and Good Night Irene! This as*hole didn't have a clue! The first song being a long standing trad song and the second a long standing classic, performed many many ways by many many people, over many many years - and my own versoin quite unique --- no matter, I "shook the dust of his venue off my sandals" as I left, and never went back.

The best songwriters I've seen perform always sing the songs of others ... and they usually highlight those songs in performances. I am sure they do it because they love the songs, because they enjoy performing the songs and because they want the audience to see what kind of songs songswriters love, respect, admire ...

I don't mean to go off on your legitimate question Stephen - what one puts on a CD has a number of considerations, cost being a major one - but I hate to see the term 'cover' being used as a slap in the face to people who don't write songs, or who don't write lots of songs or even good songs. I am certain this was not your intent, Stephen - but that is what the term has come to mean. It is a bastardization, and it just plain sucks!

Music is what matters - not authorship!


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: The Beast of Farlington
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 09:47 AM

"There is an arraogance among the musician community that really really annoys the sh*t out of me. That singer/songwriter attitude that says "I'm so good I only sing my own music, and I have to beg your pardon when I sing one that's not my own."

Well, that's one way of looking at it. When I do my own stuff, I feel honoured that anyone will let me do it and suspect that they might prefer me to do other artists songs most of the time.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST,joseacsilva
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 11:05 AM

I usually play lots of songs from Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor,Neil Young besides my own material when jamming with other friends or in Gigs, and lately love to play blues covers from Jorma Kaukonen(playing Gary Davis and others old-time blues players)

Joe


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST, Hamish
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 12:08 PM

Jed, Willie-O (et al): I agree. I choose my set on the basis of what's good and fitting. My originals have to jostle for their place with the best of 'em. Mind, I might give them an occasional helping hand (cos Richard Thompson never "covers" my stuff!!!


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 12:09 PM

Well, folk singers often sing folk songs, y'know. They tend not to be self-penned.

Unless, I suppose, the author has been around since time immemorial and everyone has forgotten he wrote the song, which might apply to some. In that case the song must ex-hypothesi have been handed down in the oral tradition.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Once Famous
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 12:22 PM

I agree with Jed Marum.

I perform songs that have been recorded by a wide variety of artists, many of who didn't write the song, either.

I always give credit to who wrote the song or where I learned it from.

The audience likes this. They also seem to like to hear songs interpreted that they are somewhat or completely familiar with.

Too much so called artistry gets in the way of entertainment.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: jimmyt
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:16 PM

Amen Jed and Martin and others. I appreciate and respect other musicians'talents for writing songs, but the whole concept that music is self-written and performed is add to me. In fact, The Boston Symphony is "Covering a Beethoven number soon. Does anyone question the legitimacy of the conductor or musicians in the orchestra because they didn't write the damn thing? Until I started coming in this room i always thought of music as a Performance art in a different vein than a creative art. Most of the fine musicians I have ever been acquainted with were performers. I have a lot of respect fot he creators also but I for one would rather hear some well-performed songs I am familiar with than an entire evening of songs that the guy wrote be performed.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:28 PM

'That singer/songwriter attitude that says "I'm so good I only sing my own music,'

Funny... most of the people I've heard that ONLY do 'their own stuff' suck... I've told a few of them, "Man, you should do some covers...."

I WISH I could write songs that I wanted to play in front of people... So in the meantime, I gotta play songs by other people, that I really like...


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:28 PM

"Too much artistry gets in the way of entertainment".

Well put Martin. I always find that I enjoy performers who are obviously in love with the song, and get less out of those (fortunately few) who are communicating a "Look how cleverly I'm doing this" aura.

For myself, I can only give my best with songs that I love to sing, be they my own, or someone elses. Like several others on this thread, I do not copy. I arrange to suit my style, and I am pleased when sombody says "I've not heard it done that way before, and I liked it". What better accolade?

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Mudlark
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:37 PM

I agree with most of the above...some fine singers have included songs written by OP...whole albums, in fact, including Joan Baez and Judy Collins, Fred Neil, lots. And it's always interesting to hear a variety of interpretations of a good song.

And where did this word "cover" come from, anyway? I started noticing it cropping up in music articles in the local paper a few years ago...granted, I'm not in the music business, but I do read a lot about music and it took me a while to figure out what was even meant by the word. I agree...cover means copy, as far as I'm concerned, not doing a song someone else wrote. A lot of people would never even know about that great singer/songwriter Michael Smith, if Steve Goodman hadn't sung The Dutchman.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 02:29 PM

As someone who is, at this point, strictly a "hobbyist," no one should be interested in whether I perform covers (I do) or record them (I've never recorded anything). However, I'm stating my two-cents'-worth anyway.

I can understand why people would avoid recording copyrighted material written by anyone else; it makes obvious financial sense to restrict your recorded efforts to originals and/or public-domain traditional stuff. But performance is something completely different ~ there are so many great songs out there to be sung, how can you not sing at least a few of them? A performer's repertoire, after all, needs to include a much larger number of pieces than the dozen or so per album required to assemble a recorded legacy.

Many years ago, when I set out to try my hand at a musical career, I fully intended to "become" a songwriter. I was not bursting at the seams with ideas for original songs, not by any means, but I considered songwriting to be a worthy artistic calling, I knew I had the ability to play and sing, I knew I could write (prose, anyway), and I hoped that by immersing myself in music, practicing and performing every day, I would develop the "vocabulary" to eventually start creating songs of my own.

Never happened. I certainly loved performing, and I'd like to think I developed some skills and got pretty good at it, but I never made the transition from "cover artist" (although I would prefer the term "songster") to "singer/songwriter." Simply working at better and better ways to deliver my interpretation of existing material seemed to satisfy my creative urges completely; I had no itch that needed to be scratched by writing songs.

Another way to look at it, of course, is that I simply was never up to the job. If that's the case, so be it. I eventually quit, anyway, never having "made it" in any significant sense.

I've gotta say this, though ~ I have pretty high standards for what makes a good song, and part of my problem may have been that my standards were too high for me to measure up to. Never allowing myself to write that really lousy first song, I denied myself the opportunity to write a tenth or twentieth or one-hundredth song that might have been passably good.

As a fan/listener/punter, my usual reaction when a band or singer performs one of their "originals" ranges from boredom to outright distaste. It's usually a big comedown from their performances of familiar numbers. There are many musicians and singers who can perform beautifully given decent material, but who are less than brilliant at creating their own music, and I think it's unfortunate that the financial realities of the music biz almost force these folks to write and record mediocre stuff when they can be much more entertaining and compelling doing tried-and-true classics.

During my years scuffling as a busker and basket-house performer, I hung out with plenty of aspiring songwriters, and with a single exception, none of them were any damn good at all. Most were at least pretty good as performers, some were excellent, but they were all at their best with "cover" and/or "traditional" material. Their original stuff, almost invariably, ranged from forgettable to embarrassing. (That single exception, by the way, was a frighteningly talented 17-year-old named Cindy Williams, who would grow up to use her full first name, Lucinda. Needless to say, she really had that rare gift and could write truly excellent songs, even way back then.)

I'm not saying that all contemporary songwriting is shite, or anything like that, but a lot of what many very good singers and players feel compelled to write is, let's say, less than memorable.

On the other hand, everyone's rendition of a classic piece like, say, "Goodnight Irene" has some individuality to it and is worth hearing. Whether the performer is consicously trying to imitate Leadbelly, on the one hand, or trying equally hard to be completely original and different, the reality is that the song is being sung by that individual, is at least a little bit different that anyone else could do, and (since the song itself is mysteriously eloquent in its simplicity) is well worth a listen.

No offense to present company, of course. And let me also observe that the one songwriting Mudcatter among many who has already made an appearance here in this thread, Jed Marum, is a great songwriter with a very unique approach to the art. But then, as he's already told us, he performs plenty of material that's not his own, and his recordings generally include a few traditional songs, and/or songs by other writers, along with his own compositions.

I would think that many members of this "folk music" forum are not only not songwriters, but are completely oblivious to any songs written by anyone currently alive (or even anyone whose identity is known!). I think that part of the appeal of working within a "tradition" is that you have a huge reservoir of material to choose from without having to make up your own. Even those who are moved to write occasionally, and to perform at least a few of their best efforts, are completely free to construct most of their repertoire from long-established sources.

There are just too, too many good songs already in existence to feel that you have to add to them unless you really need to.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: JedMarum
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 04:40 PM

Wow - good stuff here! I was almost afraid I'd catch hell for my comments, but I'm glad to see so many folks agree.

It's funny; I am a singer/songwriter - but sometimes I hate singer/somgwriters! Not literally, of course - but I can't stand that superior attitude that says "I'm a real artist because I tell good stories with clever rhymes. I'm a singer/songwriter and you're just someone who sings music."

Well, sh*t - it's the music that matters, and once you've written a song, it ain't yours for long - except maybe for royalties and credits. Once it's out there in world; people either sing it or they don't. A song leaves you ... and that's a positive.

Sometimes when I finish singing a great song, I think to myself, "wow - what a great song!" and now and then I have had that passsing thought about one of my own songs! As if it didn;t matter that I wrote it. And the truth is, at that moment it doesn't! THAT moment for me, is the best compliment I can get ... and it's a completely private thing.

Thanks for the compliment, PoppaGator - and for the well thought out comments.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 05:33 PM

We perform songs written by other people all the time and have recorded a few, too. I recall reading in Sing Out that Dave Van Ronk, while admiring folk singer/songwriters, compared the movement to a donut (there was something missing in the middle).


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Bobert
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 07:48 PM

When I perform it's 25% originals and...

...75% thouroughly Bobertized covers of blues songs that were recorded anywhwere fro 40 to 80 years ago...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 07:49 PM

Composition and performance are totally separate skills. Some people can do both, some can't. Those who can get two bites at the financial cherry when recording but it doesn't make their performance more "valid" in any way.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 11:45 PM

I ONLY do my own stuff on CDs.
It took me a while to write Jed Marum's Sweet Ellen Joyce, and Mike Campbell's Wilderness Letters, as well as Alastair McGillivray's Kitty Bawn O'Brien, and Robert Burns's Ae Fond Kiss, but I think I nailed them.
Much less difficult for me was writing Tommy Sands' When The Boys Come Rolling Home, and Eric Bogle's The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, not to mention Chuck Barr's Let The Music Take You Home.
Writing Aengus Finnan's O'Shaughnessy's Lament and Chuck Rogers' Sons Of Molly presented a special challenge, but with a bottle of Bushmills and a sharp no. 2 pencil, I did it.
And it's such fun introducing them in shows: " Here's a Tommy Makem song I wrote - The Town Of Ballybay."

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: JedMarum
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 12:03 AM

LOL - Seamus!!

And what superior intellect and refined taste you show in your selection of songs to write!!


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: rich-joy
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 12:39 AM

what Jed said.

AND Guest of 7.40pm.

Yes, it's always amazed me how many people seem to think that just because an Artist/Group writes their own material, that it MUST therefore be superior!!! (However, crap and mediocre songs will just about always remain that way, no matter who sings them!!!)

What then of The Greats like Roy Bailey and June Tabor, e.g. who mostly do other people's material???
Being a fine Interpretor of other people's songs is a great skill - and sadly, not all of us have it, but being a good Interpretor of one's own material is a skill often sadly lacking too!!!


very interesting thread - thanks all!

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: alanabit
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 02:12 AM

It is an interesting question and I am one of those who plays a few covers live, but does not record them. There is another reason why I mainly play originals. Unlike some of the performers here, I do not have the musical skills to make great versions of other people's songs.
Jed Marum has described a superiority complex among some writers. Point taken, but I personally often ask myself, "Couldn't the audience be getting a bettter version of this somewhere else?" Unless I really feel that I can offer a song something which they can't get from everywhere else, I think the reson for the audience to come is that they might like my songs.
Oddly enough, I also do "Irene" sometimes. Mississppi John Hurt did a very different version to Leadbelly's, which is very charming. It is a song which you almost can't fail on. There are not many songs I feel the same way about.
All the other points are well taken. The fact is that above all it is your job to entertain the audience, rather than to try and impress them with your songwriting skills. I have no illusions that being a songwriter makes me any more creative than being a musician. I admire good musicians very much.
Busking and lots of pub gigs made me very aware of what makes material performable, so I try to put the emphasis of my gigs where I think my strengths are. If I thought I was really adding something by doing great versions of other songs, I certainly would.
Just a view from another angle...


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: rich-joy
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 04:46 AM

Just realised as I re-read this thread that I agreed with MG's post above too!!! - shakes head in wonderment ... *BG* :~)

My singing companions and I also try to always credit the songwriter, when in performance. A VARIETY of good songs is very imporatnt to us - whether performing OR recording, so we wouldn't hesitate to record other artist's songs (and of course, pay the royalities!)

As has been suggested already, "FOLK" has such a HUGE catchment area of material - WHY limit yourself to the self-penned??? (OK OK, it increases your APRA/AMCOS return $$$, sure!!)
Oz festivals now (probably like the USA?) are FULL of artists doing almost exclusively their own material - I'm afraid I get a little bored ... I find Variety the most entertaining ... and there's SO MUCH GOOD STUFF out there, that still needs to reach more people!!!

Cheers! R-J


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Lanfranc
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 05:21 AM

I have written a handful of songs that I felt were worthwhile and maybe said something that I wanted to say that wasn't said elsewhere. I have also set a number of poems to music, mainly by Charles Causley.

The other two or three hundred songs that I sing I perform because they are enjoyed by audiences that I play to at gigs or sessions. Some are traditional, but the majority have been written by songwriters whose work I respect and enjoy myself. Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Pete Seeger, Richard Thompson, Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Jake Thackray, Brian Bedford, to name but a few, all find a place in my repertoire with songs of a quality I could never achieve.

I prefer to consider that I interpret the songs that I sing, rather than perform a slavish "cover". I try to find something new wherever possible, seldom use the same accompaniment as the original and rarely the same key. As a singer who plays guitar, rather than a guitarist who sings, my accompaniments are usually secondary to the presentation of the lyrics, which has never been particularly fashionable at any time in the 40-odd years that I have played in Folk Clubs. Nevertheless, audiences generally seem to approve.

I have seen too many aspiring singer/songwriters whose performances amount to little more than self-indulgent ego trips and who forget that the purpose of music and song is communication with one's audience.

So, yes, I perform and record "covers" - though I prefer the term "interpretations" - and regard any expenditure on royalties as money well spent.

Alan


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Wrinkles
Date: 08 Apr 05 - 07:28 AM

It's been a _long_ time since I performed professionally, but when I did my set was about one third my own stuff. Never did "covers" as such though; _interpretations_ on the other hand....

If I loved a song, if it really meant something to me, then I'd want to perform it and use _my_ emotions to deliver to the audience the meaning the song had for me, ie my own "take" on it. Sometimes my take was subtle; just a different emphasis in the lyrics; and sometimes much more radical - from very different arrangements from the original to "tweaking" the lyrics and melody.

I don't really see any other way to learn new rhythms, progressions, keys, harmonies, _except_ by doing something new to you. Otherwise you just get stuck inside the limits of your skill and knowledge. Other people's tunes expanded the vocabulary of what I could do, and eventually that vocabulary would be incorporated in my own work.

As for artists that do only their own stuff, well, there's Greats who do/did that; guys like Harry Chapin or Jim Croce for example, and Greats who do very few of their own numbers; such as Maggie Holland or Christy Moore - which just goes to show the truth of what's been said in this thread - the Performance is the thing - not the composer. The Singer/Songwriters I've admired are the ones who put as much effort and craft into their performance as their composition. (BTW: rather than singer/songwriter I've always preferred the term Harry Chapin used; Songsmith; for people who put effort into every aspect of their craft including the performance).

But most of the artists I know of who stuck exclusively to their own stuff were pretty mediocre - if they'd put other people's stuff into their set then their own work may have suffered from the comparison!

I remember the example of one Irish girl who wrote and performed what I called "music to test drive Prozac to" who for some reason decided to put her interpretation of Christy Moore's "Ride On" on her 2nd album (with Davy Spillane on pipes) - and BANG! It was possibly the most spine tingling awesome version ever done. Huge air-time hit on Irish Radio too! But it didn't half make her own stuff look like crap; I wasn't the only one who bought her album just to tape Ride On off of it!

Wrinkles


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: John Hardly
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 07:15 AM

"play me something I know so I can tell how good you are!"

I know a few who guys who are trying to make it as fingerstyle guitarists. They adamantly insist on only original and yet their audiences (when they have 'em) usually drop of into a stupor after the first few minutes of stunned amazement at the pyrotechnics of technical proficieny.

The audience wants something they can relate to. Once you've walked them through that door, then you can introduce them to what you're up to. They'll be more receptive and have a better understanding of your "style".

"Cover", from what I understand, does have a severely negative connotation -- at the inception of its use in the music world. That's because "cover" used to refer specifically to "covering" over race recordings so as to hide the "distasteful" "colored" attribution. It was whites more or less stealing race music for their own enjoyment without attribution. Big business to make race music palatable to a racist population.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 07:32 AM

I record only my original songs. I'm working on my 4th CD and have been quite successful so far in this endeavor. When I perform live, only about 2/3 of my set will be originals. I routinely include "covers" of traditional and contemporary songs that many in the audience recognize and can sing along with. Many audiences get tired of hearing one "new" song after another and they seem to zone out if that's all that is performed. IMO by mixing in songs that the audience has known for years, you are better able to keep them interested in your performance.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 09:15 AM

Like Alaska Mike and alanabit, I too only record my own songs. Until recently I have also only sung my own songs at my solo gigs (when I sing with Breezy we do all sorts of stuff, some mine, but mostly songs of Ben Campbell, John Warner, Jez Lowe to name but a few).

The main reason for this is that, still after 4 years of songwriting, I simply seem to be churning out too much new stuff, which I want to "bring out" at gigs or in singarounds at my regular clubs. The rate has slowed down somewhat - 50 in the first year, 25 in the second, 34 in the third, 35 in the fourth. But that still makes 144 in total, of which only 60 made it into my albums so far and another 5-6 get occasionally requested in the singarounds (only my "locals" know them, as they are not on CD).

I only keep some 40-50 songs "current" (remember the words and can perform them unpracticed). I was more than once embarrassed by having to refuse a request (once by the organiser of a festival I was playing in) because I was not 100% certain I could remember the words. As it is, I have enough current material for more than 3 hours' continuous playing.

The above may sound cocky - though those who know me can vouch that I am not like that. But here's the thing: As a songwriter, I feel the urgency to get my songs heard as widely as possible. I think this is natural, even though I don't believe my songs are "the best thing since sliced bread". In the interests of achieving this, I have been known to drive from London to Manchester and back in a day, just to take part in a singaround! Given this urgency, and the number of songs still coming out, I have been avoiding doing other people's songs until recently.

There is also the fact that I never thought of myself as a "performer" or "entertainer", but only as a songwriter - again until recently. I still don't feel that I can add much to other people's songs, because of that. But after 2 years of gigging, the voice got stronger, the patter has settled into a decent shape, and just the last 6 months or so I started getting some very positive remarks about the quality of my performances from credible sources (mates like Breezy & MGAS don't count). And so...

...two weeks ago I did my first "cover" at a couple of floor spots: Billy Joel's "And so it goes". It went down well, and I have now resolved to slowly bring into my gigging repertoire 3-4 songs like that: i.e. songs that are about subjects I don't feel ready to tackle myself, that are at the top of my listening list, that few others sing, and that I feel I cannot damage too much with my performance. For this reason I started a thread a few days ago (Songs that should have been folk songs).


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 09:48 AM

Back in 1998, I sat through an opening act performance by a not-very-accomplished singer-songwriter. At one point, in response to a request from the audience, he said something to the effect of: "I'm an artist and a songwriter and true artists only perform their own songs."

"Oh," thought I, "there's an idea for a radio show." So, all of the songs on the January 14, 1999 edition of Folk Roots/Folk Branches were performed by songwriters whose work I really like. However, none of the songwriters wrote the songs they performed on that show. You can see the playlist by clicking here.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 09:54 AM

P.S. John Prine has a new album coming out on April 26 that includes a Blaze Foley song and a Carter Family song.

On Monday I'm recording a conversation with John that will be heard on the April 21 edition of Folk Roots/Folk Branches. You can listen live that day and the on-line archives will be available for two months following. The listening links are available from the Folk Roots/Folk Branches site.

Mike Regenstreif


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 10 Apr 05 - 08:19 AM

Interesting comments, all.

    While the term "cover" carries a negative connotation in mainstream showbiz circles I think that may be somewhat less true in folk music. Art Thieme, for example, almost never writes songs. Would any of us begrudge him the wonderful "covers" of old traditional or composed songs? Of course not.

    I'm familiar with the type of singer/songwriter being derided in this thread. I've been fortunate to encounter only a few, over the years; the type that the late Fred Holstien used to call part of the "about myself, by myself, for myself" school of sonwriting; songwriting as therapy rather than communication, art, or entertainment. These people have been the dominant force in acoustic music for most of the last 30 years. Toward the end of the 1990's the pendulum began to swing back the other way. The songwriters I have encountered in the past few years have been more focused on interacting with the audience than staring at thier own shoes. I find it encouraging. I also find that it has raised the qualitative bar for songwriting. I've rediscovered something which I have not experienced for a very long time -- hearing a NEW song that grabs me by the throat, shakes me up and down, and screams, "SING ME!!!".

    alanabit brought up another interesting point; that of judgement. One does have to be, to some degree or another, careful about which covers one performs ( although, in alanabit's specific case, I think he's selling his singing ability short). There's a trick to matching up your voice to the right song. Some songs ("Goodnight, Irene" has been mentioned) transcend almost any singer's style. Others do not.

    The point of having opened this can of worms was the fact that I was begining to feel a bit freakish about doing covers. I feel less so now. Thank you, all.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 11 Apr 05 - 06:55 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: alanabit
Date: 12 Apr 05 - 03:03 AM

I use covers in my set to provide musical textures which my own songs do not have. I can't really do jazz chording, so I don't write in that style. However, a stripped down version of "Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?" seems to be popular, as does my (very simple) version of "Nobody Knows You When You Are Down and Out".
There are a couple of virtuosos here, who are able to play and write in blues and ragtime styles as well. Jed Marum is one. I would not feel comfortable doing that. I don't have the musical skill or cultural background.
The covers I select are more to bring something into the show that I would not or could not have written myself. I can do sing along songs, humourous songs and character songs along with ballads etc. I am never going to write anything with the grace and universality of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" or "Singing In The Rain" though, which is why I sometimes use one of those songs to close an evening. The songs seem more effective when they catch an audience by surprise. This may sound a little arrogant, but unless I feel a song says or does something which I would not have, I do not use it.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST,Slickerbill
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 12:58 AM

Interesting thread. Haven't recorded a cd as yet; but when I get to it it'll be all original material, not because covers are an issue (Some of the coolest tracks i've come across are guys like Steve Earle doing Townes Van Zandt, Beatles, Dylan, etc. Lyle Lovetts Come Inside This House is all covers of Texas songwriters, and it's superb. Both of these guys are ridiculously good songwriters), but because I want to get my 10 best songs out there and see how they do.

In terms of performing, I always try to choose some covers for the audience's sake. I think it gives them a break from the original stuff which requires closer listening. And, hell, I like the tunes too; they're fun and they're the reason I wanted to write my own stuff. I think they also give a bit of a bench mark for your own material. If the original stuff I've selected for the set holds up against a cover of a really fine songwriter, then that tells me something about my tunes. If the requests I get at my gigs are for the stuff I've written, that tells me I'm on the right track.

I definitely hear what folks are saying about singer/songwriters. I think if you're serious about writing you need good feedback from a group of some sort that can offer constructive criticism. But hey, go easy on these folks. It's bloody hard to get up and do your own tunes well and actually get through to an audience. For all the great old tunes folkies love to sing, realize there are thousands of crappy ones that had to be written as well. That's just the way it goes. sb


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 02:01 PM

... better make it 12 songs.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 02:23 PM

I really feel that the the term "cover" regarding how it was used during the race music days is really quite dated today and does not have the same connotations in today's world.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 15 Apr 05 - 12:53 AM

Martin -- That's a good point. These days it simply means singing or recording a song written by someone else. Back then it was the only way that the song of black artists could get distribution -- if some white artists "covered it. Wfat was being covered was the skin color of the author.


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 16 Apr 05 - 12:39 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Do You Perform or Record Covers?
From: Eric the Streetsinger
Date: 16 Apr 05 - 01:54 AM

I have been known to reel off 12 hours worth of covers during a long set on
rent day at the Park Street "T" Station in downtown Boston. Started in the
early morning with Christy Moore's "Ride On" finished just after midnite
with Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut" I always give credit where its due, and
try to furnish some brief explanation as to why I'm choosing which song
when. As for recording, I tend to do a mix of a (few) originals, and quite
a few songs from the public domain, i.e. Child ballads, old English and
American work songs, things I've picked up in the folk tradition (which means
my own version is twisted through the twenty other versions that went before!)
I don't do the lyrics the same every time- sometimes during a long set on the
street, I'll improvise lyrics for songs requested that I can't remember- and
when I have the presence of mind to hit "record" on my MD recorder, I get
the raw material for other new songs that way.
The best way to learn what makes a song great is to sing a few great songs,
and I've never known anyone who wrote "great songs" when they were starting
out by anything other than a bizarre and never to be repeated accident.
If you listen closely to anything the so-called singer/songwriters are producing,
you will find that there is an element of "covering" there- they just don't credit
the lick they stole from Leo Kottke (which he'd previously stolen from John
Fahey, who lifted it from a William Blake poem pirated by Tchaicovsky)
If our contemporary music culture was a bit more healthy, everyone would
be singing everything, the only qualifiers being that a song should be great,
and appropriate for the venue of the moment. We have a culture that is stifling
itself with pride and competitiveness- (you can't sing the song I stole from leadbelly-
cause I beat you to the copyright)


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