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I'm a Minnesota Girl, living in the south. I tell my friends I try not to talk and think like a Yankee, but sometimes I slip up!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Folk Music & Me

Wikipedia: Folk songs are commonly seen as songs that express something about a way of life that exists now or existed in the past or is about to disappear (or in some cases, to be preserved or somehow revived). However, despite the assembly of an enormous body of work over some two centuries, there is still no certain definition of what folk music (or folklore, or the folk) is.

It started for me some 45 years ago. I was able to distinguish a difference between my parents music (they loved their crooners: Martin, Martino, Sinatra, Bennett, Connie Francis, Andy Williams) and my Aunt Alice's influence... she was a guitar picker, and she encouraged us to listen to the Kingston Trio, the Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary. It was easy to go from those groups to the folk-protest songs of the late 60's from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. And so many years ago today, all the songs of that time still resonate with me....lost a little in the glitz of the 70's and '80's and recovered with some more current artists in the '90's.

Although I've branched out some, I still have a natural affinity for what I'll call folk music for lack of a better term. Probably the most successful artists affiliated with it today are Allison Kraus & Union Station, Jewel, and Emmylou Harris. In many ways, folk music is more keenly idenitified with female voices and harmony than with males in our current society. Bleeding into country, gospel, the blues, and sometimes pop, folk music is probably, for some, a strange antiquity.
For 20 years now, since 1988, I've been following the folkie duo called "The Indigo Girls"... they started in the Atlanta area... truly identified with anti-war and gay and lesbian causes, the girls are pictured above when they were starting out. I saw them recently on a talk show appearance and marveled at how old they look. Then I compared the picture of them above to one of me in 1988, and took a good look in the mirror. Same infusion of wrinkles and wisdom.
The chief appeal of Emily Saliers (the redhead) and Amy Ray as a duo is the magnificent harmony, the use of many acoustic instruments, and the lyrics, the lyrics, the lyrics. It is these lyrics... tributes to the way things were in America, songs of love and loss...cynical ballads whose theme is war and bigotry -- that keep their music alive for me. In this week's blog I'm going to try and give the readers something of the best of Emily and Amy.
No better way than to start with my favorite Indigo song, from my favorite LP, 1994's "Swamp Ophelia".... "Least Complicated". The video is a masterful compilation of E & A setting up for a concert on a darkened stage, with black and white images and the lyrics of the song playing out on the curtain. There has always been debate about what drove this kind of a love song...was it their own complicated relationship?


Pam said...

I like the Indigo Girls, Allison and Amy Lou. I was also a HUGE fan of the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary.

PP&M hang out here in my neck of the woods.

So, yes, I've always been a fan of folk music myself.

Kelly said...

I have to admit.... I lean more towards crooners than folk music. That said, I do enjoy some folk music. Dylan, Guthrie, PP&M to name a few.

Hal Johnson said...

In my early twenties, I discovered Texas-based singer-songwriters such as Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark, Steve Fromholtz, Kinky Friedman, Bobby Bridger, and Townz Van Zant. They sort of primed my appreciation for John Prine, Nanci Griffith, Richard Shindell, and John Gorka.

I'm more into acoustic music in general these days. Maybe it's a full-circle kinda thing: it brings back those days as a kid when I would listen to my dad, family, and friends get together with guitars, mandolins, and banjos.

Donna said...

Musically speaking, folk music is just too monotone for my taste. It bores me all too quickly. I like the Indigo Girls, but I much prefer music beyond a five note range.