Folk songs aren't always songs that were written a hundred years ago. Great new folk songs are popping up all the time. Here's a look at some of the best new folk songs released in 2008. (see also Best Folk Music CDs of 2008)
Kris Delmhorst's latest album, Shotgun Singer won't be out for a few more weeks, but this is easily one of the most beautiful love songs I've heard in some time. Her longing and loving lyrics so perfectly encapsulate the feeling of missing your lover. Everything about this song, from the melody to the way Delmhorst's voice swings through it, is a highlight in itself.
Two Man Gentlemen Band is one of the best new groups coming out of the East Coast old timey scene these days, and their kazoo-driven vaudevillian old timey record Heavy Petting is full of great songs. This one, however, comes across as somewhat of an anthem for the band. It's impossible to not get your toes tapping to this tune.
The Wilders recently released their most ambitious project so far, and they absolutely pulled it off. The whole composition of Someone's Got to Pay was built around the three-part song "Sittin' on a Jury," which tells the tale of a murder trial from the point of view of a juror, through statements from the defense, the defendant, and the prosecution.
Rhonda Vincent's latest album, Good Thing Going goes back and forth between heartbreak and true love. Despite the thematic confusion, there's not a bad song in the bunch. Take for instance, "I'm Leavin'"—a hard-hitting tune of exasperation and the decision to end a relationship. Good ol' heartbreak bluegrass.
Shawn Mullins is a great songwriter when it comes to observational narrative tunes, and this one is no exception. From this winter's Honeydew, "Fraction of a Man" is a song about a friend's quest for happiness. Part sad song, part uplifting tribute to a friend....it's just a great song all around.
Sheryl Crow's latest album, Detours, is part breakup record, part protest record. This is the short little folk song that kicks the whole thing off. It recounts the story of how we got into the War in Iraq, and the way it has impacted us both as a nation and as individuals. In just a couple of verses, she nails the whole "mess."
Alt-country singer/songwriter Sera Cahoone's tunes are generally described using words like "sad" and "personal" and "introspective." I tend to think of them more as beautifully honest observational songs...."observational" in terms of observing one's own emotions. "Baker Lake" from her new album Only as the Day is Long is the most stand-out tune on the disc, as it sweetly captures all those descriptors, with a haunting melody to boot.
The Drive-By Truckers started 2008 out with a brand new release, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, which is full of some of the biggest downer songs I've heard in some time (in the best possible way). It's a splendid disc, and "The Home Front" is another downer tune, but it's instrumentalized beautifully by a steel guitar that carries the vocals along.
Tim O'Brien's latest album, Chameleon is one of his strongest records to date. Not only does it highlight his incredible dexterity in juggling musical instruments, but it also displays his undeniably great songwriting skills. "The Only Way to Never Hurt" is one of those universal truths that is so rarely shared in your typical love song.
There's no question about it—Emmylou Harris' All I Intended to Be CD is one of the best of the year. She's got a knack for nailing the sad songs with a voice that sounds like crying. And no sad song is stronger on this disc than "Not Enough," wherein Harris sings about coming home to bury a deceased lover. If this tune doesn't make you tear up a bit, you should check your eyes.