Monday, 14 October 2013

Connecting Folk

I've been listening to a lot of good music these last couple of months.  And a lot of its classed as folk but I don't want people to immediately think of the Hey Nonny No Morris Dancer stuff, the folk I'm referring to is rooted in all that but its given modern production, and the combination of old an new renders something quite stirring and energetic and beautiful. Now I'm no expert on anything really but this is good tunage. 

Folk and acoustic has its place these days, as it should. With the advent of Mumford & Sons and that sort of folky irish beat (dum dum da-da da-da, repeated fast, you know the one I mean) has established a footing in the mainstream. Avicii's hit Wake Me Up is like Mumford combined with dance. People always liked that beat even if they didn't know it, its a fine beat and folk has known it for a good many years. I actually quite like that track, dance has always sampled so its not really copying. As for Gavin Degraw's Best I Ever Had its got that beat but its plagiaristic of all of the above and more, its a bandwagon-jumpin-on abomination, its awful turn it off. But same beat; James Vincent McMorrow's Sparrow and the Wolf is excellent, don't avoid that.

So lets get to the folkin' point. This is what I've been listening to; Cara Dillon: her voice is pretty beautiful, her album Hill Of Thieves is eloquent and evocative.

I didn't know until after I had listened to it that it won the album of the year at the radio 2 folk awards in 2010. There are numerous collaborations on this including John Smith on guitar on the title track and Seth Lakeman on Spencer the Rover (the only song I know that mentions Rotherham). Both great songs. Now John Smith's album Great Lakes is another good album, his songs are catchy and his guitar playing is excellent and has its own unique style and sound. (Which you will notice straight away on Cara Dillon once you  know it's him) the only problem with this album is that an innocent guitar must have been ruined for the cover.

Now to Seth. I saw Seth Lakeman at Scunthorpe Baths Hall about a year ago. This was my starting point in folk. To be honest I just wanted to go to a gig (any gig) because I'd moved into town and the Baths Hall was new. So I saw Seth Lakeman on the bill and watched this excellent live version of Race To Be King to see what he was like.

I was sold and the tickets were bought. This guy is an accomplished musician and songwriter firmly grounded in the stories and heritage of the country. He was excellent live, one of my top 3 gigs I think, they even had a hammer and anvil (a full anvil!) as part of the percussion.

Seth has recently joined a collective known as The Full English. In fact their Self-Titled Album has just been released. They were created to produce a full album from the Full English itself: The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. The Library is The worlds largest FREE digital archive of English Traditional Folk Music and Dance Tunes. Check it out follow the link if you are interested. A place to be inspired and absorbed. Its not what I would call a folk super-group (although it is) because that word doesn't seem quite right for folk, a super-troupe perhaps.
The Line up:-

  • Fay Hield - Commissioned with creating the album, Vocals
  • Nancy Kerr - Fiddle, Vocals
  • Seth Lakeman - Vocals and anything with Strings, seriously
  • Martin Simpson - Guitar (from Scunthorpe so instant legend status)
  • Sam Sweeney - Fiddle
  • Rob Harbron - Concertina
  • Ben Nicholls - Double Bass (he played with Seth at the Baths Hall and On Cara Dillons album and he's in that video above as well)

Its a great album. I love old songs given a modern production. Apparently they each dived into the archive and found the stuff they like and then pulled it all together. You couldn't go far wrong for a folk starting point. 

As a final connection Martin Simpson's intricate playing of the guitar reminds me of John Martyn and didn't John Martyn punch Sid Vicious for heckling him. It seems Folk has connected with Punk as well...

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