If, for whatever reason, you've decided to have a go at discovering the joy of folk music, there are a few things you should know before you hit your local record store's folk section. Especially because the "folk" title can cover pretty much any type of music - from bands like Yonder Mountain String Band to The Duhks. So I thought I'd give you a few tips about where to look for the type of music that best suits your tastes.
First: Know Your Folk Sub-Genres
Just like any other type of music, "folk" is generally an umbrella term used to describe pretty much every type of music people have created. Traditional music, Americana
, Old Time
, Folk-Pop, even Hip-hop
. The more topical, the better. We love songs about the country and songs about the city. Songs about love, break-ups, and whiskey. Songs with lots of fiddle, banjo, and bass (a.k.a. Bluegrass), as well as solo singer/songwriters.
Second: Don't Bother With Chain Record Stores - They're Hopeless
Yikes! Okay, so I said it. Not because I have something against chain stores. I've done my share of looking (and looking, and looking) at chain stores for great folk CDs. Folk sections generally consist of three Woody Guthrie CDs, something by Kingston Trio, and a copy of Alice's Restaurant
. Not a terrible place to start, but not a fair representation, either. Check out one of the online retailers here, go directly to the Folk record companies
, or peruse the artist list
on this Web site.
Third: Folk Fesitvals Hold The Key
If I were you, I'd look up a folk festival
in your area. Go to the festival and take notes. No recording ever does a folk artist the amount of justice that you can witness from their live performance. Folk was never focused on making records, and never will be. It's all about communities gathering together to share the experience. So if you want a taste of what folk music is about, you'll shut off your stereo and head out to a festival.