I’m a self confessed learner at this whole ‘Folk Music’ thing… or so I thought. Turns out I’ve been loving everything in the nu-folk genre and many folk influenced sounds for a very long time, I just didn’t pay enough attention to the music world to know it, or buy it. I’ve run a folk music festival, but I didn’t really think it was a folk festival until Timber and Steel writer Evan Hughes pointed it out to me. Seems ‘Folk’ isn’t the old fuddy duddy music so many in today’s society have tried to dismiss it as.
Now, I don’t listen to the radio often these days, but the snippets I do hear have all kinds of music, but it turns out I was loving the Nu-folk/ folk-pop that is rapidly increasing in popularity. In January I attended the Laneway Festival in Sydney, eager to see Mumford and Sons who I had heard so much about (and of, it turns out). I had refused to buy the album first, I was working on the theory that I knew from everything friends had said I would enjoy them live, buying their album after seeing them live would allow me to relive their live show every time I listened to it. Works a treat! Whenever I hear key songs from their Sigh No More album, I am instantly transported back to their phenomenal set on the Laneway stage.
But sadly, I can’t get to every gig and see all the bands before buying their albums. So I asked Evan to take me on a shopping expedition to expand my music collection and educate me on the nu-folk scene all at the same time. My CD collection already contained Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine as discovered at the Laneway Festival. Also, splashings of John Butler Trio, Josh Pyke, Crooked Fiddle Band, Kate Miller-Heidke (listed as pop-folk in my iTunes), The Audreys and Angus and Julia Stone made it a decent basis, but I was lacking something fresh and new. Under the wing of Evan Hughes, we took on our local music store in search of some new additions. We searched high and low finding some gems stashed away in a variety of sections, especially in to popular, indie and alternative – proof that nu-folk slides so easily between multiple genres.
The easiest first choice was Laura Marling’s latest album, I Speak Because I Can. Evan had already extolled her virtues to me for weeks (as he does here frequently) and mere days before our planned shopping expedition, I heard her strummy, upbeat “Devil’s Spoke” on triple j and found myself tapping the beat on the steering wheel and nodding along to. An easy purchase and high rotation choice right there.
The next was Lisa Mitchell’s Wonder. I had liked her enough on Idol and was surprised when another male friend had her album as a regular in his car and raved about her lyrics and overall sound. With Evan assuring me her special edition album was full of delights, I was ready to take his word for it. I constantly find myself smiling to her music.
In flicking through their random folk-like section, we came across The Swell Season’s Strict Joy and I was intrigued by the cover and the familiarity of the two people on the front. When Evan revealed they are the duo from musical movie Once, I knew I had to have it. I loved their lyrical harmonies from the movie soundtrack (though I’ve only seen it the once). When I hear Glen Hansard’s soft and soothing voice throughout this album, it’s simply magical.
I purposefully sought out She & Him and chose their Volume Two based solely on the fact that it’s Zooey Deschanal’s band, I have a great big Girl Crush on her and I’d seen the film clip to their single In the Sun recently on rage. While I enjoy the album and love Zooey’s sensibilities and cruisey melodies, it’s sadly a little same same on listening through all at once. Not a bad album, but not as outstanding as some of Evan’s suggestions.
Finally, Evan had recently been to see Boy & Bear and had bought their band t-shirt at the gig which he happily wore on out trip . After searching high and low, we found the Boy & Bear EP With Emperor Antarctica and given his description of their folky style and catchy sound, I was sold.
With a great bundle of nu-folk and folk inspired cds to listen to, I was keen to go and listen. But Evan had one last surprise for me, his recommendations and gift of compilations of music I was not likely to find in our retailer of choice. Having made a ‘Folk It!’ playlist on my iPod, I have marvelled over the last couple of weeks, as I listen, that I have really strong affinity with and enjoyment of certain songs, and when I check to see what gem it was that I’d purchased, I discover it’s one of Evan’s compilation. Most commonly it’s been Noah and the Whale, The Middle East, Georgia Fair, Darren Hanlon, and who couldn’t love Just Pretend by The Bens?
So the moral of the story? Go out and buy some new music of the nu-folk variety, you may have the staples, but spice it up with some of the latest releases and you won’t be disappointed.