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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:51 am
by Tom McPhillips
as someone who's roots have wandered... I like Greg Brown and John Prine precisely because they have an authentic "folk" voice, yet are contemporary - I'd mention June Tabor in the same breath...


As being of an age to have experienced Bert Jansch reinvent the folk music of that time - I'm sure Bellowhead etc.. are doing the same thing now - it's just that our generation isn't listening so carefully any more and that's why Ian A exists...

Ian overstates our folkophobia - but to refute his position - we're just not that audience anymore... at the point where you've opened your ears to Ojos de Brujos and Lhasa some of the rest has to pale by comparison - it's not that it's bad - it's just that the bar has been raised a lot higher than to what those folkies can aspire to... our exposure to the global has informed us that sometimes the local is lacking...

indigenous BritFolk is now one of many global genres jostling for our attention - and therein lies the rub - there are others and at this point in the early 21st century we have the luxury of cherry picking the very best... just because it's from here doesn't mean we have to pretend it's the best...

and while I admit to Ian that we're a tad internationally biased in our preferences it doesn't mean that good local stuff doesn't stand a chance...

so bring it on!

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 9:51 am
by howard male
As I've said elsewhere, it's just that English folk music is virtually in our genes - it's just too damn familiar. Depending on your temperament and personality you either find this very reassuring and therefore love it, or you find it's covering of the same ground over and over again (musically at least - those oh-so-jolly violin riffs etc) painful in the extreme. Other country's folk music whether it be from Mali or the Balkans isn't so familiar (in instrumentation and melodies) and so offers the excitement we all used to get from rock, soul, reggae etc.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 11:14 am
by RobHall
As in so many cases Howard, I'm afraid that we'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Rob

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 11:53 am
by Ian A.
Tom McPhillips wrote:at the point where you've opened your ears to Ojos de Brujos and Lhasa some of the rest has to pale by comparison - it's not that it's bad - it's just that the bar has been raised a lot higher than to what those folkies can aspire to... our exposure to the global has informed us that sometimes the local is lacking...

indigenous BritFolk is now one of many global genres jostling for our attention - and therein lies the rub - there are others and at this point in the early 21st century we have the luxury of cherry picking the very best... just because it's from here doesn't mean we have to pretend it's the best...


Actually we're in agreement Tom. After several decades of the world's best I find it virtually impossible to listen to mainstream UK/ US/ Euro rock music any more because the rhythm sections are so leaden, the lyrics so banal. I used to be a "singer/songwriter" in a previous life and now there's isn't enough garlic and wooden stakes in the EU anti-undead mountain around to keep the blighters away from me. However, there are always exceptions and when you find them you love them even more because they defeated the odds. I also agree that there is a vast, vast swathe of amateurish, charmless and - yes - embarrassing drivel around on the UK folk scene, some of which I actually like but surely know you lot won't so I wouldn't inflict it on you. But then again most countries probably have that, we just don't get to hear it (I'm always worried when I like some great - to my ears - band from an unfamiliar culture that they may be the local equivalent to the Spinners, and I don't mean the Motown ones!)

All the more reason that people might trust us boundary crossers a little more when we do stick our heads up and say "actually, there's something here you might just like". When you get the likes of me, Antonija, Roger Armstrong, Ben Mandelson, Verity Sharp etc all raving about Bellowhead's gigs, doesn't it make you want to see one? In some cases obviously not!

I have no problem with people having different tastes from me - the world's a better place for it - simply with, to re-iterate, the "I won't try it because I don't like it" attitude. Don't you just hate it when people turn into their parents?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:20 pm
by NormanD
Ian A. wrote:Don't you just hate it when people turn into their parents?
I got my head snapped off when I dared to suggest this in one of my first postings here, and got involved in the first of many later, entertaining, on-line spats. "Anger is an energy", sound advice from Rotten Johnny or whatever he calls himself, mutter mutter....

Back to the topic: when I heard Charlie's Live From WOMAD this year, the play-out song by Chango Spasiuk sounded vaguely familiar. What did it remind me of? An English country dance band! Was this Ben Mandelson's benign, or mischievous influence?

It's taken me a while to return to British trad.-based music. I appreciate others' comments, but don't fully share them. Any generalisation about "folk" is as pointless, to me, as any generalisation about "world music". You pick and choose, make mistakes, recommend to friends, or try to catch up on the excitement you realise you might be missing out on. The other musical options are wide, diverse, and exciting, and the new discoveries seem never ending. But I don't want to ignore the flowers growing in our own garden.

norman

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 3:18 pm
by RobHall
normand wrote:But I don't want to ignore the flowers growing in our own garden.

Then get hold of a copy of June Tabor's "Aleyn" and listen to her rendition of Maggie Holland's "A Proper Sort of Gardener". In fact, given that one of the songs she covers is in German, you could almost count it as "world music".

Don't laugh: I was in a music shop with my (then 13/14-year-old) son a couple of years ago and noticed him browsing the "world music" racks. Surprised, I asked him what he was looking for; "Rammstein", he said.

Rob

(Edited to sort out quoute formatting)

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 3:40 pm
by Tom McPhillips
But then, I've always thought that Ms Tabor was genre transcendent...

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 4:36 pm
by RobHall
Indeed, as is my own personal CD collection. June Tabor is filed under "T", along with Art Tatum, Richard Thompson, Tricky, Djelimadi Tounkara, the Temptations, John Taverner and Tchaikovsky.

Boredom de-dum-de-dum

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 4:37 pm
by Con Murphy
howard male wrote:Other country's folk music whether it be from Mali or the Balkans isn't so familiar (in instrumentation and melodies) and so offers the excitement we all used to get from rock, soul, reggae etc.


Howard, you appear to be saying that people like us are born with an in-bred boredom with the folk music of our home country, and are predisposed towards eventually succumbing to a similar weariness with everything else that crosses our path. I have to say that although there's a smidgen of a soupcon of a grain of truth in the 'easily bored' theory, it first of all relies on the assumption that folk music is only ever a repetition of what's gone before (the argument here is that this isn't always the case), and secondly it implies that it's only a matter of time before the folk music of Mali and the Balkans provokes similar disdain. I would find that quite a depressing thought if it wasn't for the fact that I'm still listening to the stuff after 20 years or more (and more than that of listening to rock, soul, reggae, etc).

British folk....

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:48 pm
by David Godwin
I guess that this debate has run its course, but, looking at the tv schedules for tonight has sparked a memory.

John Peel was certainly a fan of some british folk, and I remember a programme when he had clearly spent a fairly fruitless "day at the office", listening to material that had clearly left him uinspired. However, during the day, someone had left at the gates of Peel Acres a copy of a new Dick Gaughan album, which he praised highly. He then played (from memory) two tracks on the programe, "Bonnie Jeannie of Bethelnie" and "Willie o'Winsbury", from this 1978 Topic album "Gaughan". I have the album in front of me now.

I take the point on the language of british folk music, and I suppose that this is a matter of taste; but, as an example, nobody can claim to understand Dylan's language, without appreciating the language of British folk music. Michael Gray spends a good deal of time on this in "Song and Dance Man 3". A masterpiece like "Masters of War" lifts more than the melody of "Nottamun Town" - it takes the surreal images and the idioms in the language as well.

Back to my point - there is a programme of a concert of Dick Gaughan on BBC 4 tonight at 9pm.

folk people

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 7:12 pm
by Phil Meadley
Having read this debate with some interest I wanted to ask Ian what he thinks constitutes proper English folk music? What are the nuts and bolts that hold it all together and enable certain artists to be taken more seriously than others? I remember reading in a previous thread that he didn't think that Seth Lakeman was a proper folk artist, so could he give us a definition of the real deal?

Phil

PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2005 11:54 am
by howard male
Con wrote -

...it implies that it's only a matter of time before the folk music of Mali and the Balkans provokes similar disdain


Do not despair my friend. What I'm suggesting is the slightly more far-out notion that the familiarity (which breeds contempt in some and love in others) of English folk is actually part of us at a genetic level.

I've long held the idea that we perhaps at some subconscious level we have the memories/experiences of our ancestors - for one thing it's a more rational explanation for hypnotic regression stories than the idea that we've literally lived previous lives. I was therefore thrilled to see, I think it was Horizon the other night, which stated there was now scientific evidence to back up this idea. It always seemed perfectly reasonable to me that if you inherited your grandmother's nose and your father's talent for art, then why not something of their life experiences too?

Therefore Malian music will always sound fresher, newer, than English folk or even 19th Century classical music, because it wasn't part of the life experiences of our direct ancestors!

And I would like to add that I will be checking out Bellowhead. There is a point at which one is nudged enough times by enough people, to take a step in a direction one otherwise might not go in. In the rock world I've recently discovered the fun world of Arcade Fire simply because the hype seemed to be more than just hype this time.

Re: folk people

PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2005 5:31 pm
by David Godwin
Phil Meadley wrote:Having read this debate with some interest I wanted to ask Ian what he thinks constitutes proper English folk music? What are the nuts and bolts that hold it all together and enable certain artists to be taken more seriously than others? I remember reading in a previous thread that he didn't think that Seth Lakeman was a proper folk artist, so could he give us a definition of the real deal?

Phil
Isn't the first question difficult, or rather impossible to answer, and rather like "what is jazz?" or "what is blues?. As a folk fan, let me say what I do not like first. There is a side to some folksongs that I find sterile, and dull beyond belief. One example of this is the song "Matty Groves", which I find absolutely tedious; I often think of this song, because Fairport Convention played it when they changed to what they called their English folk-rock style from the style of their first three albums; a disastrous change in my view. Another example of this sterility is those tedious "drinking" songs by such as the Ian Campbell Folk Group. I always thought that they could do much better than that, for example, in their interpretations of Tom Paxton's songs.

However, some of these traditionals excite me still, almost forty years on. Bert Jansch's album, "Jack Orion", exclusively of traditionals, works wonderfully well. There is a wildness in these songs, which coupled with Bert's voice, and his and John Renbourn's playing, makes this an album that I never tire of.

I suppose that the great quality of English folksong is that it lends itself to reinvention. This is what Bert Jansch and others did in the sixties, and Nic Jones did in the eighties before his accident, in "Penguin Eggs" . Dick Gaughan is still doing this. I don't have a problem with the language; on the contrary, I like the idioms and phrases.

nothing as queer as folk

PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 11:56 am
by Phil Meadley
David writes: "I suppose that the great quality of English folksong is that it lends itself to reinvention"

So does a bona fide English folk artist have to reinterpret traditional English folk songs for them to be considered legitimate? I must admit to being a bit confused because I always (rightly or wrongly) thought that folk music was about reflecting the contemporary social issues of the time. I've always considered the essence of great folk song to be about challenging the system both on a social and political level. It seems to be a little bit regressive these days, at least amongst the hard-line folk fraternity. I don't think it's necessarily the case on the peripheries however.

Personally I think punk was folk music of the late seventies, and quite possibly guys like Mike Skinner from The Streets, are the folk music of the noughties. I think the whole idea of what constitutes 'folk' music has been lost because it's become typecast as one type of music instead of an idea of free expression, talking about real life in the here and now.

Bet Ian's heard all this before

PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 7:06 pm
by Con Murphy
Phil Meadley wrote:Personally I think punk was folk music of the late seventies,


Andy Kershaw likes to say that London Calling is England's greatest folk album (or something like that), doesn't he?

Phil Meadley wrote:and quite possibly guys like Mike Skinner from The Streets, are the folk music of the noughties. I think the whole idea of what constitutes 'folk' music has been lost because it's become typecast as one type of music instead of an idea of free expression, talking about real life in the here and now.


If Folk is music by and of the people, then you are probably right, Phil. In fact, it could be argued that the more popular a song or artist becomes, the more they approach 'folkdom'. And taking it to an even more absurd level, if folk songs are those passed from generation to generation and made popular through repetition, then karaoke is the new folk club and instead of singing about spying pretty fair maids upon grey mares in a quivering voice, Spiers and Boden should be entertaining us with drunken renditions of Let Me Entertain You.

Maybe what they do should be called English traditional, or something?