The first in our 5-to-Try series seemed to do pretty well indeed, so here we are again with another batch of British folk songs. We’ve lined up a second motley crew of folk-performing luminaries and layabouts, each one eager to tell you which British folk song really makes the hairs on their neck stand up and why they think you ought to add it to your playlist.
There are, as most of you will know, at least two Ian Andersons connected with music from the late 60s onwards. The one we are concerned with for the purposes of today’s interview is not known for his legs (as far as I’m aware), but has been known to give the occasional leg up (my sincere apologies – I’ll stop now) to upcoming musicians on the folk scene.
“His love for folk music manifests itself throughout this lovely album.” – Folk Radio UK
“Songs From the Attic is a genuine, carefully considered album which is made with a lot of heart. It deserves to be noticed.” – Bright Young Folk
Songs from the Attic, the album, was the result of nine months spent researching and writing traditional folk songs here on this blog. Each song at some point began to get under my skin and, following a lengthy process of fairly obsessive study and performance, I found I’d fallen in love with them – just as many, many people have done before me and will do again.
Fresh from my Steve Roud interview, having learnt that the folk singer is an entirely modern construct, today I found myself itching to get my guitar out and dive into an old sea shanty. Let’s be clear, though: while this is some kind of performance of ‘The Greenland Whale Fishery’, it doesn’t in any way bear any resemblance to the original ‘Greenland Whale Fishery’ [Roud 347]. Nor can I claim to be a folk singer. In fact, it’s probably best that you – the reader – limit yourself to thinking that this isn’t really a performance at all. More a murmuring. Possibly an accident. I don’t think you’ll find that too difficult.
Over the eight months I’ve been running this blog, I have – because it genuinely interests me – repeatedly asked interviewees for their folk music definition. It hasn’t been terribly easy, to be honest with you. Some react well, clearly delighted to be asked the very question they’ve been secretly pondering for years themselves, while others insist it’s a pointless task and seem rather put out to have been bothered by something so apparently trivial.
This article on traditional folk music is part of an older blog series called Grizzly Folk. Since it was made, I’ve started making a series called…
If you’re a fan of the contemporary folk scene, the chances are that you’ve been listening to Andy Bell’s work for some time. A kind of unsung hero, he has been working with some of the genre’s biggest artists for a decade or more, and his relatively new label – Hudson Records – is home to The Furrow Collective, Jon Boden, The Transports and an ever-growing roster of well-loved artists.
There are so many ways to interview musicians these days – phone, Skype, WhatsApp (yes, it’s possible) – but nothing beats sitting backstage at a festival, face to face, with the music from the main stage pounding away in the background. That’s the setting for the second half of this double interview with Ross Couper and Tom Oakes, two musicians who come together to play music heavily influenced by a variety of traditions (Scottish, Irish, Shetland, Scandinavian), mixed together with driving contemporary rhythms and a smattering of jazz, all played on stripped-down fiddle and guitar. If that sounds remarkably complex, then it’s a complexity that is very cleverly disguised on their debut album, Fiddle & Guitar.
The life of a folk musician in 2017 is something of a nomadic ritual. In search of audiences, you spend huge amounts of time traversing A-roads, B-roads, deserted night motorways lit in murky orange and country lanes lit by nothing at all. It’s time spent thinking, working things out, meandering down half forgotten memory lanes, wondering how many times you’ve known this road before or whether it’s a new one that just looks like all the rest of them. Many musicians find inspiration in the journey – others are driven round and round the bend.