Thursday December 5, 2013
As the rest of the world became ever more aware of the vibrant energy fueling American folk music these days, the artists and songwriters who have been deeply rooted in traditional American music all along have only benefitted. While talking heads debate whether what's happening with the milennial folk boom can even be considered "folk," here in the folk world we're well aware that the music is just as lively, creative, imaginative, and honest as it's ever been.
This year's finest albums include efforts from long-time favorites and a handful of newcomers. They encompass progressive bluegrass stringbands, aging mid-Century Revivalists, contemporary folk-pop trouabdours, conservatory grads, and one Gulf State alt-country rocker who stripped away the filigree and laid the truth down hard. So, without further ado, check out these Best Folk Music Albums of 2013. See any glaring omissions? Tell me about them in the comments.
image © Southeastern/Thirty Tigers
Monday December 2, 2013
There's no denying it any longer, folks. The season of giving is upon us and the time has come to gather some gifts for loved ones in the name of whatever year-end holiday you choose to celebrate. Hanukkah is already in full swing, so you may already have some gifts out of the way if you celebrate that one. But there is still time to stock up for that and other winter holiday celebrations.
If you have any folk music fans in your life, and are looking for something other than your standard run-of-the-mill CD gifts (although those are perfectly acceptable), check out this gift guide for picky folk fans. It covers everything from big-ticket items like a trip to a folk festival, to smaller more portable things like books and movies. What's your favorite gift for folk fans? Leave ideas in the comments.
image © Rounder Records
Tuesday November 26, 2013
Spotlights have been turning on folksinger Dave Van Ronk recently, as the Coen Brothers have teamed up with T Bone Burnett (who has teamed up with Marcus Mumford) for a new movie based on the vibrant tradition of American folk music. This time, the team has focused their efforts on adapting the story of Van Ronk to film, and the result - Inside Llewyn Davis - hits theaters next week, Dec. 6, 2013.
Ramping up to that release, the folks at Smithsonian Folkways first released a new collection of everything they had on hand form Van Ronk's years recording for that label - Down in Washington Square. The memoir from which the Coens pulled, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, was reissued with a new cover stating that it was the book that inspired the movie. And now, the folks at Fantasy Recordings are reissuing Van Ronk's 1964 classic Inside Dave Van Ronk album on vinyl.
According to a press release:
Recorded in April of '62 during the same bountiful sessions that produced his first Fantasy album, Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger, this solo set comprises a dozen songs weighted heavily toward traditional themes ("House Carpenter," "Lady Gay," "Kentucky Moonshiner," "He Never Came Back"), many of them acquired from his folk-singing peers during the days when he was a regular presence playing al fresco in Manhattan's Washington Square. There's also an up-to-the-minute "Talking Cancer Blues" that humorously explored the evils of smoking prior to the Surgeon General's original report. In addition to wielding his trusty six- and 12-string guitars, Van Ronk exhibited his skills on banjo, dulcimer, and autoharp.
Learn more about Dave Van Ronk with this introductory bio and profile, or check out this brief history of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk revival.
image © Fantasy Records
Friday November 22, 2013
For 23 years, Ani DiFranco has been dropping albums at a remarkable rate, filling the world with feminism, challenging patriarchy through folk songs, and even occasionally writing a gut-punching, heart-breaking love song or two. She's performed around the world as everything from a solo artist with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, to a sizable band featuring rhythm, keys, vibes, and horns. And, she's developed a style of guitar playing that has influenced countless young folksingers to pick up the instrument and attack it with a certain rhythmical ferocity.
So, it was only a matter of time before someone gave her an honorary Doctorate and music organizations started recognizing her for lifetime achievement. Both are happening this week in Canada, as the Winnipeg Folk Festival awards her the Artistic Achievement Award and the University of Winnipeg presents her with an honorary doctorate of letters. Both are incredibly well-deserved, when you consider her discography and some of her finest songs. So, congratulations to Dr. DiFranco!
image © Mark Dellas