“Why don’t you do more Cover Wars that feature vocal harmonies?” I was asked last week. A great question, and obviously the motivation for this week’s selection. Helplessly Hoping is a track from the 1969 self-titled debut album from Crosby, Stills & Nash. The song makes heavy use of alliteration, a device that Stephen Stills – who wrote the song – humorously points out at the trio’s performance at Woodstock (which was the band’s only second live performance). After Graham Nash says it’s one of “one of the best ever written”, Stills quickly says into the microphone, “Helplessly Hoping Her Helicopter Hovers Nearby”.
READ ON for more covers of Helplessly Hoping…
Next weekend the granddaddy of all music fests – the Newport Folk Festival – will kick off with three days of roots, folk and Americana music that this year will open on Friday night with a night of “banjo and bluegrass” at the International Tennis Hall Of Fame, before moving to the festival grounds at the historic Fort Adams State Park for two days full of music.
Founded in 1959 by George Wein as an offshoot of his already highly successful and well-established Jazz Festival, and possibly most famous as the site that saw Bob Dylan shun the folk world when he went electric in 1965, the fest fell on hard times and was forced into taking a 14 year hiatus starting in 1971 before it was revived in 1985 – and has been thriving ever since with its diverse lineups.
Over the years the iconic fest has hosted a veritable who’s who of musicians from Joan Baez to Johnny Cash to Muddy Waters in its classic years, and more recently has seen the likes of Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, Neko Case and even Trey Anastasio log time at the tents and stages.
This year’s lineup is no slouch either. A quick glance reads like my iPod on shuffle on any given day featuring HT faves like Levon Helm, The Felice Brothers, Dawes, The Low Anthem, The Avett Brothers and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. With so many bands that I’m genuinely excited about seeing over the course of the weekend, I thought I’d focus on six, three from each day and each stage, that I’ve got my eye on…
A.A. Bondy (Quad Stage, 12:50 PM)
I can’t think of a better way to ease into Newport than with a an early afternoon set from folkie A.A. Bondy. Armed with an acoustic guitar, harmonica and endearingly crackling vocals, the singer-songwriter just seems to evoke the spirit of the festival both past and present with his slow paced meandering folk songs. Bondy, who has two excellent albums to his name, may not be the sexy pick with his set scheduled against Blitzen Trapper and local heroes The Low Anthem – but you should carve some time out to stop by even just for a song or two.
READ ON for more of my picks for this year’s Newport Folk Fest…