... folk music is on a roll

(December 05, 2017)

So there it is ... the continued rise of new folk artists, festivals, programmes and online resources, plus increased published and broadcast media coverage proves that folk is no longer a niche genre. Folk is scaling the heights. Perhaps not the heights attained by those in the vacuous pop world but everything tells us it's on its way up nonetheless.

Well, I’m not sure perhaps only segments of folk are on the rise. The reason for casting this shred of doubt is that the folk we are talking about is a different animal to the one that was ridiculed and derided when it lived in relative obscurity in dusty upstairs rooms in real ale pubs. It’s no longer the risible folk portrayed by countless comedians, neither is it the folk of string-knit sweaters and braying vocals delivered in a quasi-West Country accent. In short, it is no longer the musical sanctuary for old folk.

Folk has changed, even though some would argue vehemently to the contrary, folk has changed. The music has changed, the artists have changed, the venues have changed and the appeal has changed. Folk is now working in a way that not only spreads its appeal it has changed its nature.

The folk that pervades today is that delivered by ‘young folk’ as well as old folk. Young folk that does more than regurgitate traditional songs, its music is ‘updated’ with a revised and innovative version of the original. Young folk that searches out and delivers obscure lyrics sourced from dusty poetry tomes or borrowed from psychedelic murmurings of many earlier bands. The old folk of folk are still there but the banner is now carried by a newer folk, and there's absolutley nothing wrong with that.

You only have to glance at those described as ‘rising folk stars’ to see the evidence ... new ideas, instruments, arrangements, approaches, sources and inventions. And while you do, don't forget to look at those artists that have ridden the new wave and subsequently turned away from its subtle seduction. There are many that having dallied with the freshly-packaged world of folk, pack their bags, metaphorically or otherwise, and return to their roots. Does that step, perceived as retrograde by many, damage their career? I hope not and it would appear not. Perhaps the case is more than sticking with what you’re good at, perhaps it's expanding your horizons and becoming good at many things. There’s also a case for catching a wave and when you see a chance to become ‘newer than new’ exploit it.

Whichever direction you choose, leading edge or retrograde, all that matters is remain prepared to leap from the bandwagon before it smashes into the inevitable wall that exists at the end of every ‘fashionable’ track. Because fashion in folk is much like fashion in everything else, attractive, fragile and always looking over its shoulder for the bigger, better and new coming along.

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