While the music we listen to and rave about here at Timber and Steel may have its roots in a tradition that stretches bakes decades if not hundreds of years the way we consume that music in today is vastly different to even five years ago. High internet speeds, portable music devices and music on demand have shaped the way we discover music, share music, value music even think about music. In this series of articles we look at and recommend the best in folk music in the new media space.
Part 1: Blogs and Web Sites
While we’re sure you’re getting all the folk news, reviews and opinion you need right here on Timber and Steel we don’t mind if you occasionally have a look over the fence and see what else is out there in the online folk world. We can’t cover everything after all – just as long as you come back once in a while. So here’s a list of our favourite folk-related blogs and sites on the web:
Striking a balance between indie, nu-folk, traditional and contemporary, Folk Radio UK is a not for profit Internet radio station broadcast out of, obviously, the UK. Surviving on donations from its supporters (similar to community radio stations in Australia) and a handful of advertisers, FRUK operates twenty four hours a day. It also is a great source of folk news, specialty mixes and reviews (plus the occasional free MP3).
The companion blog of the fantastic folk, alt-country and Americana show of the same name on Sydney’s FBi Radio written by presenter Emma Swift. Swift only updates In The Pines about once a week (usually a day or two after her show on Tuesday nights) but when she does it’s insightful, funny and full of gorgeous music, both classic and new.
Stemming from the tradition in folk music of covering and reimagining music as a way keeping it alive, Cover Lay Down specialises in exploring folk covers of familiar songs, reimagined versions of folk songs and everything in between. Not only does Cover Lay Down unearth some absolute gems, it’s also so well written it makes us want to try so much harder.
If there’s one blog we aspire to emulate it’s the UK’s For Folk’s Sake with its mix of news, reviews and artist spotlights. For Folk’s Sake leans quite heavily to the nu-folk end of the spectrum and consistently introduces us to new and exciting music from the other side of the world
Another UK folk site Spiral Earth is one of the most highly respected resources for traditional and contemporary folk on the web. You won’t find a lot of cross over into the indie scene here (although they occasionally champion Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons) but their knowledge is second to none and if you love your international folk music you’re likely to read about it here first.
Jon Boden’s epic A Folk Song A Day podcast may have finished (for now) but the website is still a fantastic resource for information on all of the songs performed including a new audio file each day (at the moment Jon Boden is repeating all the folk songs from the very beginning). More new material from A Folk Song A Day is promised soon – we’ll just have to wait and see what exactly that new material is.
Taking his lead from Jon Boden, John Thompson of Cloudstreet fame is attempting the folk-song-a-day challenge but focusing only on Australian music. The thing we love most about An Australian Folk Song A Day? Every song comes with lyrics.
Rhythms Magazine is probably the best roots related publication in Australia and they’ve transitioned very well to the online world. They have pretty up to date news articles, blogs, reviews and coverage of most of the major festivals on the roots calendar.
Another magazine that’s made the successful jump to the online world, Properganda is like the UK’s version of Rhythms Magazine. They get access to some of the biggest names in folk so their exclusives are usually very exclusive – well worth a regular visit.
The Johnny Cash Project has to be one of the most innovative and artistic uses of the internet we’ve seen to date. Basically artists are asked to take a single frame from Johnny Cash’s final video, for the traditional track “Ain’t No Grave” and then illustrate over the top of it. All of these illustrated frames are then voted on and thrown together to create a unique animated video. As more and more artists illustrate frames and the public continues to vote on their favourites so to does the video evolve. Take a look to see exactly what we mean.
We’ve tried to make this list about folk specialist sites only, which NPR Music clearly isn’t. But we’ve included it just for the sheer volume of folk related content they have available – from streaming full albums to exclusive concert audio to interviews and more. We’ve been lost on NPR Music for days at a time.
If you don’t manage to get to a gig or festival its quite often impossible to get your hands on an artist’s recorded music – so many folk artists self produce their CDs so they’re not readily available in stores or on iTunes. Luckily Trad & Now have a wide range of hard to get CDs in stock and if it’s not on the web site you can usually reach out to guys and they’ll be able to help you track something down. Now if only we can get them into the download business…
Folk Alliance Australia is probably the best resource online for all things folk. We use it mainly for its mailing lists, festival calendar and useful links.
So hopefully we’ve managed to help you discover some corners of the web you’ve yet to explore. Next up on Timber and Steel’s iFolk 2.0 series we look at the best in folk related Phone Apps.