Saturday, March 23, 2013

Post 4: Saying hi to the Folk

   This week’s theme is particularly near and dear to my heart. Folk music isn't something that I tend to listen to super frequently, but I have no idea why. Every time I do start listening, I realize how much amazing folk music there is in the world, and then I’m covered in a tidal wave of nostalgia that is frankly completely inappropriate for a 20 year old. I don’t want to talk too much about myself on this blog, since that’s the not point of what I’m writing, but my love of folk largely stems from a childhood spent listening to my dad’s records, and so some of that might slip in when I’m not paying attention. Think of it as bonus!

   First up, Peter, Paul and Mary. I suppose if I wanted to get technical and Authentic, I should start off with someone like Woodie Guthrie or Pete Seeger, but while I love their stuff, the only reason I got interested enough in folk to listen to them is because of hearing stuff like If I Had a Hammer and Leaving on a Jet Plane when I was a kid. Peter, Paul & Mary songs have some of my favorite ever harmonies; I would highly recommend taking some one rainy afternoon to sit down and listen to Leaving on a Jet Plane, and wistfully consider the good old days. I don’t care how old you are, everyone can and should take time to listen to some classic folk and think wistful thoughts.

   Actually, pretty much every song that I’ll be mentioning for the rest of this article is well served with a side of wistful thoughts on a rainy afternoon, so you can pretty much take that for a given from this point on. For example: Ally Ally Oxen Free by the Kingston Trio, which is coincidentally my favorite song by the Kingston Trio. As a side note for those reading who are not related to me by blood, the Kingston Trio are a folk group who were absolutely massive in the mid to late 60’s, and who I suspect strongly have been almost completely forgotten since then. Anyway, they made lots of good stuff, and like Peter, Paul and Mary, had pretty phenomenal harmonies. For anyone who’s interested in hearing more of their stuff, another good piece by them is The Patriot Game.

   Moving away from harmonies and loveliness for a bit, let’s talk about Bob Dylan briefly, because Dylan was freaking amazing. He’s one of those musicians whose stuff I keep meaning to listen to and then forget, but whenever I do, I’m blown away. For one thing, it’s incredible. Seriously, everyone should go and listen to Like a Rolling Stone (aka HADDAZUH FEE, because Bob believed more in writing words than he did in pronouncing them), because that song is still mind-blowingly great. Second, he wrote a TON OF IT. According to the Wikipedia article on his discography (remember to cite your sources, kids!) he has 35 STUDIO ALBUMS. I want to be clear here: that is just the studio albums I’m talking about. He also has “58 singles, 13 live albums, 9 albums comprising The Bootleg Series, and 15 compilation albums. The list also includes three home videos, a bibliography, and a filmography.” I DO NOT EVEN. Anyway, the point I was trying to make about folk before I had my mind blown in half is that pretty much every song from the movement was lifted off of Dylan. I’m not going to list them here, because I want to talk more about him  in a later post,  but take my word for it: Bob Dylan wrote every song ever.

   As my favorite example of that, here’s one of my favorite Dylan songs, and here’s one of my favorite covers of said song. Notice, as you pass, that both are pretty much rad. Also worth noticing, pretty much every Dylan cover was much more polished and melodic than his originals were. That doesn’t mean one was better than the other, I just think it’s interesting. Dylan’s stuff has a raw vitality that no one that I know of has equaled, and we should all be glad for everything he added to music (ie, the entire discography of the 60’s)
I actually have a lot of other folk songs that I want to share, but I’m not going to list all of them right now, because I don’t want to use up every idea that I have before Cool Older Cousin hits its two month mark. Well, more accurately I DO want EXACTLY that, but wisdom tells me that I should avoid it if possible. Be prepared to hear a butt-ton more on Dylan and Dylan covers a few weeks from now, but before that, I've got two last folk songs for today: the first is one of the most powerful songs I know of,  We Shall Overcome. I’m linking a version by Pete Seeger, partly because I love it, and partly because I think it represents one of the things that make folk music so powerful. The whole point of the song is that it’s meant to sung as a group; the structure is very simple, the lyrics are incredibly easy to memorize, and after the first time you hear it, you can pretty much sing the whole thing from memory. The whole point is that it’s meant for people to share. In this particular case, it was meant mostly for people to share as a message of hope during the Civil Rights movement, but basically all good folk songs share that sense of empathy. Even if it’s not some great message of hope and world peace (once again, see Leaving on a Jet Plane), it’s a message of of connection, and everyone can share that feeling.
   Second and lastly, this song is much more recent, and I’m not even sure if musically speaking it technically qualifies as folk. However, I really like this song and I've been listening to it a lot the last week or so, so I wanted to put it on here. The song is Wolfmoon by some band called Modest Midas, and as far as I can tell the version I linked is the only decent quality one on the web, which is kind of frustrating frankly. The song itself sort of reminds me of 500 miles by Peter Paul & Mary, but with brass, hints of flamenco, and a bit of surfer vibe. Which is to say it’s awesome, go listen to it.
   Last of all, here’sa bonus song! MGMT is one of my favorite ever bands, and recently I've been listening to a lot of their earlier stuff, getting psyched up for the new album they’re recording. Their second album, Congratulations is by far the best thing they've ever made and anyone who claims that Oracular Spectacular was better is profoundly wrong and should feel deeply ashamed, for reasons that I will go into more depth in at a later date, but when I say that I don’t mean Oracular Spectacular was a bad album. It was really good, it’s just Congratulations is GREAT. Be that as it may, Love Always remains is a pretty radsome song, and I would like more people to hear it.

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