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Welcome to FolkWords created by journalist and writer Tim Carroll. FolkWords is focused on what influences folk music, how it's developing and why, unravelling the intertwining threads of folk music to discover why and how folk music relates to people today.
What will you find on FolkWords?
Observations and Comment: getting straight to the point
Latest Interviews: what other people have to say
Latest Reviews: exactly what you would expect
Album of the Month: more of what you would expect
Folk music is many things to many people. It is classified and categorised in varied, strange and often inaccurate ways. From traditional, acoustic, world and roots, to nu-folk, electric folk, medieval folk and folk-rock, via bluegrass, country and Americana, through progressive folk, neo folk and electronic psych, to punk folk, folk metal and thrash folk. Its influences range far and wide - Western and Eastern Europe, America, Africa, India - almost anywhere you can imagine. Those influences ebb, flow and coalesce to create the new, different, strange and sometimes awe inspiring threads of folk. We look at the threads and the people that take the time to weave those threads into the rich tapestry that is folk music.
FolkWords is open-minded, eclectic (without dependence on artificial or pointless definitions) and interested in almost anything that falls under the wider category of folk music written by folk, for folk, about folk.
Folk News and Gigs: press releases and stuff about gigs and tours
FolkWords Blog: our views on anything folk
Folk Quotes: selected observations on folk
Online Folk: podcasts, radio stations and online folk sites
The creative process is a strange and magical experience. Filled in equal amounts with pleasure and fulfilment or bitterness and regret. The outcome usually ranging from what-you-want to what-you-get. The soul of creativity itself is an intangible and transitory beast. Rather like the ancient necromancer who is there when not wanted but elusive when called upon, it has walked its path for centuries and it comes and goes in its own time.
I know musicians that liken the creative process to ‘taking a shit’, being something you can’t stop, it happens when it happens, and just sometimes it doesn’t. The drivers are many, varied and often unidentifiable. People, places, experiences, incidents – itemise whatever list you want – all or any can provide the spark. Also, it can be less than that, sometimes nothing more than a sound or smell fires the furnace. Try as one might, forcing the creative essence to flow can result in the creation of a hybrid beast, neither of sufficient pedigree to generate pride nor representative of any other output. And in the way of such mongrels, oft-destined to a long life, despite the fact its progenitor wants nothing more to see it fade from existence.
Tim Carroll - 2014
Fantasy headline – or not? “Archaeologists uncover remains of the last pub in England.” Is that an undesirable imagining from an expected dystopian future? Perhaps it’s nothing more than an extract from some dark-world science fiction. Then again, as the seemingly inexorable closures of public houses continues at an unprecedented pace it may have too many echoes of reality to stay too long in the realms of fantasy. And while we’re thinking along those frightening lines substitute the word ‘pub’ for the words ‘independent live-music venue’ ... for to quote the words of the song: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” ... it’s not fantasy, it’s potentially a terrible truth and not one confined to the realms of fiction.
I’ve held this view for many years and during that time I’ve experienced a fair amount of disbelief and derision in response but the time has come to make another stand. Or more precisely to endeavour to make it clear that unless future generations want nothing more than monster venues with equally huge ticket prices then to allow pubs, clubs and other smaller live-music venues to slide into obscurity beneath the corporate morass is unforgiveable.
Tim Carroll - 2013
The speed and pervasiveness of today's communication is truly staggering. News of any kind ‘hits the streets’ within seconds and it only takes the word ‘viral’ to come into force and your message can fly around the world. No longer can you be out-of-touch, unless you make a concerted effort to achieve such status. The cell or mobile phone ensures that anyone can reach you anywhere and locate you with ease. No longer can you become part-of-the-crowd without considerable effort to avoid the burgeoning wave of CCTV that swamps our public areas. And unless you really do ‘live off the grid’ then your personal details are recorded on dozens of databases, whether you agreed to it or not. Despite this sea of communication it remains an uphill struggle for musicians to break through.
There is of course an easy route that more or less assures your 'fifteen minutes of fame'. Take part in a ‘Britain’s-Got-X-Factor-Stars-In-Their-Voice’ extravaganza and attempt to break through the barrel-loads of prurient dross such banalities serve up. Sell your talent to the cults of mediocrity, celebrity, pop slush and downright shite - all designed to increase television ratings - and pray that the right someone somewhere will notice.
Tim Carroll - 2012
"With folk lyrics there's often a question over authenticity. How close to the original version is today's rendition of a one or two-hundred year old lyric? Does it really matter and should we even care? The answers are either labelled ‘inquisitive development’ or ‘heretical sacrilege’ – depending of course on your point of view. Indeed, we may ask the same question of the tune. How many variations are there from when a song was first written to today? The answer is probably dozens as subsequent musicians alter the tune and tinker with the melody. So does this tinkering and adjustment have any bearing on the genre? There are divided camps with strong opinions coming from each but is there some case for middle ground?
"The various worthies that researched, transcribed and categorised folk music worked extensively to refine their tomes. Many regard their contribution as fundamental to the continued existence of folk others see their work as irreplaceable, some see it as the prototype not the finished article. However, there are dissenters and although some regard the offerings of Cecil Sharp, Walter Pardon, Vaughn Williams and others as little short of dogmatic gospel there are many that consider it fair game to plunder their work to re-write, amalgamate, edit and re-visit to create their own brands of folk music."
Tim Carroll - 2011
"The future of folk music lies in more than reworking the tradition, it also lies in taking the tradition into the 21st century and beyond. Of course, tradition remains – future without tradition is like trees without roots. However, there are a growing number of artists and bands that extend the 'folk' branches way beyond the roots that bred them. These musicians and singers add a rich (and sometimes unexpected) variety of instruments and influences into the mix. They cover didgeridoos and saxophones, synthesisers and programming – the range is only limited by imagination and experiment. Not too long ago this continual development would be met with disgust. The cult of sacrosanct-folk (that which shall not develop) would howl with derision or mutter vehemently. Some would attempt to extinguish the new. Others would ignore it. The more enlightened would see not competition or desecration but creation and relish the difference."
"However, times change and musicians being creative souls will find a way to express their message in the way they want to express them. Today, there are more bands and artists pushing out the branches than this small exploration will allow but the point to make is these are bands that ensure folk music grows, evolves and regenerates. To illustrate the observation I will discuss a few bands that belong to the ranks of ‘boundary pushers’ – although I suspect none would class themselves thus."
Tim Carroll - 2010
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‘VIP (Very Interesting Persons)’ from Findlay Napier - an album of considerable charisma
‘Medicine for the Soul’ from The Vagaband - Americana with tinges of jazz, blues and rock
‘Cold Old Fire’ from Lynched - ‘tradition with an edge’
‘This Land’ by Kelly Oliver "... an exceptional debut album"
‘The Parts Of Us That Still Remain’ by Michelle Lewis - deep and shared understanding
‘A River Runs Between’ from The Changing Room – ‘swiftly seizes and grips your attention’
‘Something To Someone’ - Run Boy Run - expertly mixing bluegrass, folk and old time
'Speak, Brother' self-titled debut EP of carefully crafted songs
‘Hand Me Down Miracles’ - The Mascot Theory - ‘a complete album’
Album of the Month: