Today is Folk music. This is an interesting one for me, as before writing this post I don’t think I could've told you what sounds, or musical elements define the genre. So, I enlisted my friend, Google’s help and he informed me Folk music has developed over the centuries. From originally being music “transmitted orally, with unknown composers” to now mainly being characterised by it’s use of acoustic instruments.
There are 2 distinctive sub-genres of folk: traditional and contemporary (aka. revival). My guess is that many of my picks for today’s post will be Folk revival, as for my virgin ears this is likely an easier transition, than to that of 17th century traditional Folk.
With Spotify’s copious genre-filtered playlists, I was at no loss for today’s chosen subject. But I wanted to start off this exploration revisiting music I have been a fan of that is considered folk. My first thought was musical sister duo The Pierces and after some investigation I discovered they are indeed labelled “folk-pop, folk rock and psychedelic folk”. I remember my family had their 'You & I' album, I loved it, and even to this day I continue to add songs off their 3rd and 4th albums to my current playlists.
A few recommendations from the pierces would be 'Glorious' (this one makes me feel like a bad bitch witch from the middle ages), 'Three Wishes' and 'We Are Stars'.
So after discovering a childhood favorite of mine is indeed contemporary folk, I felt a bit more confident about what I was looking for. So I went onto the Folk & Acoustic section of Spotify and the first playlist was one titled 'Lost in the Woods'. Liking the sound of it, I had a gander. Here I discovered Lucy Rose with her song 'Question It All'. This song has such a haunting melody and her voice compliments that eerie feel perfectly. My initial thought was it reminded me Laura Marling, an artist my parents listened to when I was younger. After having a deeper look into Lucy Rose's Spotify I see this is a known comparison! 'Question It All' is well worth a listen, as is its lockdown inspired music video!
So after discovering a more recent release, I wanted to have a listen to some contemporary Folk but from the 20th century. So I thought to look through an 'Essential Folk' playlist, with many of these records having been released in the 70s & 80s. It came to my attention there were various artists I knew like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison! Though a song that really stuck out to me on this playlist was 'Carry On' by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which my dad informed me where a really big group from the time. 'Carry On' is a super upbeat track from the 70s, that early in the song encapsulates that distinctive acoustic sound that seems prevalent among the whole folk genre. However, as the song progressed it seamlessly transformed into a classic 70s pop-rock record. I love when artists don't confine themselves to one style of music and this is a perfect example!
During this search I've found it clear that Folk with a darker haunting feel seems to be what appeals to me most. There's something really earthy and mysterious that comes with these records and they feel way more emotive, which I love! So I thought to look for a playlist with a focus on this sound called 'Southern Gothic'. On here I discovered a song titled 'Ribbon' by Billie Martin which was what I was looking for: dark, yet calming. It felt reminiscent of 'Safe & Sound' by Taylor Swift. Another honorable mention off this playlist is 'Work Song' by Hozier (which I was already familiar with), but the drama in this song is unmatched!
For my final pick I've chosen a song by Six Organs of Admittance called 'When You Finally Return'. A super cinematic track, predominantly instrumental with some vocals throughout but no lyrics. This song is so soothing and was added straight away to my sleep playlist. Have a listen below.
So that concludes my exploration into the Folk genre! What I like best about this segment is that I always feel like I've learnt something every time and today is no exception. Before writing this post I felt pretty clueless about this genre, but I've realised Folk is way more diverse than I had originally imagined.
I had expected it to be defined by a particular sound but it's not, it seems to be more about the composition and the acoustic elements of the song. Because of my original preconceptions, I hadn't realised the number of artists I'm already a fan of that are considered Folk! Some examples being: Ben Howard, Nick Mulvey, Hozier, Bon Iver and Half Moon Run.
Another teaching moment from this post today is: if I'm ever walking through the woods and it's raining Folk music is the perfect accompaniment.
Hope you enjoyed today's post,