Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Folk Revival, Revival.

The 1960s saw an unprecedented revival in folk music in the United States, fueled by student culture coming to grips with difficult social issues they felt strongly about.  The discovery of music by American folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger, who's politically charged songs resinated as much if not more in the 1960s as they had in the 1930s.  The 60s saw the Folk become intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti Vietnam protests.  Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger & Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez & Bob Dylan (pictured left) , and countless others began work on a body of songs that have stood the test of time, discussing the difficult topics of race, social strife and nuclear war.

As the 60s slid into the 70s this revival of the Folk mutated into Folk Rock with bands like The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (pictured right.) blending Folk melody and vocal harmonies with Rock's electric guitars and drums.  By the mid 70s this Folk Rock sound had become a comercialised stereotype of it's self with band's like The Eagles working to the Country/Folk Rock formula.  By the end of the 70s the Folk Revival had petered out and returned to the shaddows.

Mirroring the resurgence in Americ, the British Folk scene gained new momentum with the late Davy Graham (pictured left)astounding listeners with his eastern twinged folk arrangements of Traditional & original compositions.  He pioneered the use of the DADGAD guitar tuning.  Opening a whole new avenue to guitarists in the 60s.
Graham along with groups like Pentangle and other solo artists like Bert Jansch & Nick Drake.

But whereas in America Folk music just sat on the back burner, with hundreds of dedicated Radioshows, Folk slipped from the mainstream in England.  However it's back. The London 'Nu-Folk' scene has spawned a whole slew of Bands that have risen to prominence including Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling (below),

Mumford & Sons, Emmy the Great, Alessi's Ark & Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit to name afew.  Noah & The Whale's 2005 debut album charted at #5 in the UK, While the Mumford & Son's (pictured below) debut charted at #7.  But the charts mearly indicate the trend, the music of this Folk Revival - Revial has been critically acclaimed.  Laura Marling was recently described as 'a female Bob Dylan' - praise doesn't get much higher than that for a songwriter.

I find it interesting to note the influences of these bands.  While London bands like Mumford & Son's draw heavily from American roots music other bands like The Unthanks, from Northumberland, draw from traditional English folk music. I think this resurgence in popularity for this kind of music is great and the diversity of the music being produced is inspiring.

Folk music is dead.  Long live folk music.

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