|Brown eyed women and red grenadine,
bottle was dusty but the liqour was clean,
sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
and it looks like the old man's getting on...
It can be said, and oft times is, that the history of a musical piece and who created it is ever with us -- restless, certainly ever changing as it's played or sung. Our story this edition concerns some players in The Neverending Session and why they haunt us when we least expect them to do so.
Apt enough, everything reviewed this edition has a musical connotation to it. Be it Deborah Grabien's look at David Smay's book, Swordfishtrombone and the Tom Waits' recording of the same name, Robert M. Tilendis' examination of a Lunasa retrospective collection, or Michael Hunter's review of the Fairport @ Forty film, we see a lot of material of a musical nature here. As you read our reviews this edition, you'll no doubt find something that you'll want to experience for yourself!
A quick note before we let you get on with your reading of this edition -- our next edition will be devoted just to Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud! Mia Nutick will have interviews with all three Frouds, we'll have never before seen art, we will have a detailed look at the various books and other products created by the Frouds, and, oh, there will be a surprise or two. I for one can't wait!
Now do have a dram of the Tasmanian Hawthorn Whisky single malt from the Hellyers Road Distillery which just arrived whilst I finish this edition off...
The Neverending Session has always had more than its fair share of surprises; you
can't really say 'when you least expect them,' because surprises spring
themselves upon you so often there, you come to accept that they'll usually
happen. Head down over your instrument (or over your pint, whatever works for you), it's worth remembering to take a quick peek up and around the
night-darkened pub during a set of tunes.
A quick glance up during 'The Highest Hill in Sligo'. There, near the edge of the circle, playing his fiddle softly, the tune weaving its intricate way up and down and across the fingerboards, that hidden note here and there, setting off the tune ...a mild-looking man, a rather hawkish nose, with an occasional steely flash of the eyes through the rounded glasses...
Ah... here's 'The Wise Maid', that great old tune. And there, across the table, a man leaning back from his accordion but his shoulder held forward, eyes clenched shut in concentration, hair slightly fuzzed up behind the receding hairline -- what amazing style.
Oops... now they've launched into the 'Tarbolton' set -- and a quick glance is rewarded with the sight of a rather slight man, bow quick as a dart, a long, triangular sort of face with a firm chin and pale eyes...
Now we're into 'Willie Clancy's' and -- that piper -- when did he come in? I must have missed him, but I'm not sure how. Tall, almost cherub-faced with a dimple in his chin, acknowledging the whoops with a slight jerk of his chin, no expression as he plays, but always that twinkle in his eye...the man himself.
For here, and perhaps only here, or perhaps not just here, when we share the tunes with each other, we share them across languages, cultures...and years, space, time.
Ed Reavey, Joe Cooley, Michael Coleman, Willie Clancy, yes, and Martin Wynne and Bobby Casey and Michael Gorman and Seamus Ennis and a host of others, some who we could expect to see in any pub we might happen to walk into with our instruments, and others who cross over the borders of not just cities or countries, of actual space, but over what some consider that most final border of all.
Oh, and here's 'The Baltimore Salute' -- and a quick look, there are three flute players in the corner, heads tucked into their shoulders in that baby bird way that Irish flute players have. Jason, who taught me the tune, hulking over his flute. Past him, I can see Emily's blonde head, who learned the tune with me. And I can just barely see the shape of June McCormack behind both of them, who taught Jason the tune...
I'm sure that Josie McDermott, who made the thing, is here in the circle somewhere, if I only knew what he looked like...
Ah, the wee dark girl is singing 'The Factory Girl' now, and there, smiling toothily, banjo slung across her back, an equally dark-haired woman, broad-faced and shawled, is nodding, lifting an encouraging hand, but her eyes are focused on some other time, some other place. You can tell our girl has been listening to Margaret Barry's setting of the thing, and so can Margaret Barry.
Always, the music connects us to those who came before, those who are with us, and those who will come after. But here, here at the Green Man pub, The Pub At The Edge, wherever The Neverending Session finds itself, we can sometimes dimly see these connections a little more clearly...
Our feature essay is on Tom Waits' SWORDFISHTROMBONES and the book that was written about it. But it's really more of an extended riff by Deborah Grabien on what music really means to her, and why reviewing is at best an affair she has mixed feelings about. Now mind you, we think she's a very good reviewer on top of being a fantastic novelist! Oh, did we mention she has a conversation with David Smay about his book? Do go and read her thoughts thisaway.
All of our featured reviews are by the same reviewer -- Robert M. Tilendis.
He decided he needed to learn more about traditional Celtic music, so he took a musical tour of the Islands of the Mighty. Says Robert, 'When you're dealing with traditional music -- or any music from the past, for that matter -- you're negotiating, bringing the ideas, the attitudes, the dreams of history into our present in a way the rest of us can understand while, one hopes, respecting the integrity of that original work.'
His first stop was Ireland, via Lunasa's The Story So Far. 'It's easy to be enthusiastic about this collection. Yes, there is solid tradition here ... but there is a lot of contemporary sensibility that leads new places, not so much a matter of 'hey, look, we're being modern' as an integral part of the approach ... never obtrusive, never really calling attention to itself, but undeniably there.'
Scotland was next, by way of Live, a recording from a mass fiddle orchestra -- 'When our Editor and Publisher (also known as 'the Chief') first broached the idea of my reviewing a Blazin' Fiddles release, I was hesitant. 'A whole orchestra?' said I. 'Of fiddles?' (Well, that's what he said it was.) Somehow I knew it wasn't going to be Henry Mancini.' He really did like it, as you can read here.
A lightning swing through Wales brought riches galore. 'The more I am exposed to the various traditions of the world's art and music, the more I credit Joseph W. Campbell's observations, from The Flight of the Wild Gander, on the processes of folklore -- in spite of the urge to identify 'national' traditions, folklore is inevitably the result of cultural cross-fertilization. . . . This is the sort of thing that ran through my head as I began to listen to three albums by Welsh artists from the Welsh label Sain Records, presented to me as 'Welsh music.' What makes them particularly Welsh? I wondered.' Ar Log's Goreuon Ar Log (The Best of Ar Log), Meic Stevens' Icarws, and Steve Eaves' Moelyci are reviewed here.
The final stop was Mozaik's Changing Trains -- 'What I'm noticing in my small journey through 'traditional' Celtic music is, first of all, tradition is what you make of it (in other words, anyone who works with traditional music is negotiating with the past), and second, there are lots of traditions (which is to say, everyone who works with traditional music is also negotiating with everyone else). Take, for example, Mozaik. Composed of Andy Irvine (vocals, bouzouki, mandolin and harmonica) and Donal Lunny (vocals, bouzouki, guitar and bodhran), both Irish (by birth or affinity), Bruce Molsky (vocals, fiddle, guitar and banjo), an American folk singer; Rens Van Der Zalm, a Dutch guitarist (who also plays fiddle, mandolin, oud and the low whistle) -- who met Irvine in Slovenia, by the way -- and Hungarian Nikola Parov (kaval, gaida, gadulka, guitar, whistle, percussion, nyckelharp, and fujra), it's hardly what I'd call 'purist.' (They are joined on this album by Liam O'Flynn on uillean pipes and whistle.) And yet....'
So we asked Robert, 'Did you learn a lot about traditional Celtic music?' He responded, 'I'm not sure. But I had a lot of fun.'
And now for the rest of our reviews this edition, read on...
Duke Ellington at the Cote d'Azur and Duke -- The Last Jam Session was something that Camille Alexa surprised just a bit -- ' I was surprised when I opened my new Duke & Ella CD to find no CD inside, but a two-disc DVD set. Surprised, but not disappointed. Not disappointed at all.' Read her review to see why she was so pleased by these DVDs.
A concert got the mojo rising for her -- 'I was so excited last December when I caught John Pointer's live show at 9 Muses Pub on Belmont Street in Portland, Oregon, that I ran the few blocks home and immediately began writing a review. It wasn't the first time I'd seen Pointer perform, but it was the best. His live shows are of consistently high caliber, but each one I see is more thrilling than the last. Is the man just getting better and better, or do I simply forget each time how good he is, and grow increasingly appreciative of his performances?' Read the rest of her review here!
Captain Bogg & Salty have three CDs (Bedtime Stories For Pirates, Pegleg Tango, and Prelude To Mutiny) which pirate fanatics Kathleen Bartholomew and Kage Baker found quite blood curdling -- ' There are certain adventurers, bold and ruthless men who face the most dangerous foes -- bored schoolchildren -- and manage to bait them into laughing hysterically. They venture into the sacred precincts of libraries and deliberately make noise. They fearlessly approach danger with a laugh and a squint. And clothes 300 years out of date. And a xylophone. They are that rare and dedicated breed of historical re-enactors who travel from school to library to community center, giving kids the kind of assembly they really want. The kind with cutlasses, peg legs and a hard guitar beat: rock and roll pirates with just enough historical accuracy to fascinate their audiences into learning something. They have recorded three CDs of some of the funniest and best-played original pirate music I have ever heard. May I present: (drum roll, please) -- Captain Bogg and Salty!' Dare ye read their broadside here?
Kathleen sans Kage also looked at a cool collection -- 'There has been a growing movement in recent years to showcase genre music in the hands of non-genre artists -- or at least artists in another genre. Rod Stewart tried his hand at Cole Porter and his ilk (scary). Pat Boone tried hard rock (really scary). There was Rogue's Gallery (Anti, 2006), an uneven but glorious two-disk compilation of pirate songs featuring just about everyone still breathing in contemporary music. I expected something similar from Old Wine/New Skins, based merely on the title. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find out it is, instead, a classical collection of folk songs and singers. The CD is a companion piece to The Folk Handbook: Working With Songs From The English Tradition (Backbeat Books, 2007). Clean and straightforward, it showcases 17 songs from the book in an exquisitely simple presentation: Good songs. Good singers. Good musicians.'
Donna Bird says 'Our friend Gavin Marwick sent us this CD a while ago. It's evidence of yet another of his many musical projects, which include both performance and composition. Bellevue Rendezvous is a trio, with Gavin on fiddle, Ruth Morris on nyckelharpa, and Cameron Robson on bouzouki and guitar. Tangents is 47 minutes long, comprising seven relatively long instrumental tracks, most of them medleys of tunes. As the rather scant liner notes indicate, their repertory is 'broadly European.' While Gavin wrote a number of the compositions himself, many of the rest are traditional -- French, Breton, Serbian, Finnish and Welsh. Again referring to the liner notes, Ruth learned some of these at the Saint Chartier Festival of Instrument Makers in Central France.' Read the rest of her review here!
Donna says 'These CDs [Kristine Heebol's 10 Point and Henrik Jansberg's Omnivor] arrived in the same small package -- I love international deliveries. They often use interesting wrapping materials, many are hand-addressed, and of course they are liberally ornamented with wonderful, exotic postage stamps! We are well-known to all the local delivery people for getting almost daily deliveries of goodies like these.' Packaging aside, how did they fare? Read her review to see what she said!
Live music is always an interesting experience as you never know what you'll be getting when you attend a concert -- 'I think we have a copy of every CD available from this awesome singer-songwriter. You can certainly find other glowing reviews of his work on GMR (see, for example, Cat's write-up of Live on 11th Street and Camille's of a show Casey and the Norway Rats did at the Mission Theater in Portland, Oregon, in May 2007)! Cat asked me to review this release, which has been sitting on my CD review shelf for a while. It happened that Casey just did a solo gig at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine, giving me a good reason to move this review to the top of the priority list.' Now go read her review to see how a comparison of the same songs, live versus recorded, fared.
Oh, the goodies that come in to the Green Man mailroom. Here's one that delighted Faith J. Cormier -- 'The Kingston Trio started recording the year I was born. I didn't realize how much they and the Weavers had shaped my childhood tastes until, as an adult, I finally found out where the songs my parents loved had come from. I'm sure you can imagine how fast I jumped at the chance to review Once Upon a Time and Twice Upon a Time when they entered the Green Man building.' Go read her nostalgic review here.
Cat Eldridge is attempting to whittle down his review pile so here's the first of a number of reviews from him this edition -- Aly Bain & Ale Möller's latest recording, Beyond the Stacks, was very much to his liking -- 'Like the music of Frifot, which Ale is a member of, I think of this sort of Nordic music as being intimate, more personal in nature than the music made by Nordic groups such as Garmarna and Gjallarhorn, which are FHL (faster harder louder) in nature. That Möller tells witty tales during their concerts adds to the feeling that you're sitting in their Great Hall with a blazing fire roaring on a cold winter's night, a wee dram in hand, and a handful of good folk hearing them perform.'
He follows up with this superb CD -- 'Crooked Still is marketed as an alt-country and/or an Americana group, depending on who the target audience is perceived to be. Damn marketers! Like The Sevens, the Red Clay Ramblers, and The Duhks, what you have here is the rather tasteful result of the modernity where a group absorbs a lot of influences, both individually and as a group, so that the sound is not reflective of a single tradition. Crooked Still as a band is quite tasty, but they are not based on a single tradition. I firmly believe that any reasonably good sort of trad music is always worth giving a listen to, and indeed Shaken by a Low Sound is worth hearing!
Feast of Fiddles's Still Live is impressive indeed -- 'Phil Beer (violin)... Joe Broughton (violin)... Hugh Crabtree (melodeon and vocals)... Ian Cutler (bridge aquila and 8ve violins)... Dave Harding (electric bass)... Peter Knight (violin and bridge 8ve)... Tom Leary (violin)... Chris Leslie (violin)... Dave Mattacks (drums)... Brian McNeill (violin, bridge 8ve and bouzouki)... John Underwood (electric guitar)... Martin Vincent (electric guitar)... Oh, my! Yes, that's who's in the Feast of Fiddles for the current tour. If you're not awed by that roll call, you're definitely not someone who should bother reading further in this review -- you'll find it to be very irritating, because this is not your sort of music at all. Still here? Good. You are in for a treat when you get to hear the entire recording, which is on my list of best recordings of 2007.' Go read the rest of his review here!
Valiant is from a group which few outside of their region of heard of, but we here at Green Man think it's worth your time to discover them as Cat notes here -- 'Some of the best American Celtic music being played and recorded these days is being made by bands that you'll never hear live unless you live near where they play in small concert halls and bars. Even the better-known bands such as The Duhks and Solas started out as this sort of band. (I once heard Solas play to a few dozen very sweaty audience members in bar that was so hot and smoky that I had to both shower and wash my clothes when I got home, but it was a great concert!) Based on this latest album from The Sevens, I'd love to live near where the band lives and plays. It is certainly not a surprise to me that, as Sevens fiddler Sarah Blair notes, 'The Sevens frequently play for contra dancing at dance weekends and festivals such as Falcon Ridge, The Champlain Valley Festival, and Lake Eden Arts Festival.'
He finished his reviews off with a look at a very tasty recording -- 'I'm writing this while enjoying a fresh baked blueberry muffin (with real butter) and a damn fine cup of coffee (with a splash of cream) at Arabic Cafe in downtown Portland, Maine. That means I can't tell you which Väsen recordings are sans percussion and which are not. What I can tell you, dear reader, is that we own everything Väsen's released including some Swedish only recordings which were so damn hard to find that I thought I'd need Orient from Emma Bull's Finder novel help in locating them. Everything on Linnaeus Väsen is quite listenable -- the percussion here is done just right. And the boys are very much at the top of their game on this recording! Linnaeus Väsen is a fine introduction to a band that has more than enough recordings to keep you enjoying fresh music for quite some time to come. Don't believe me? Just go listen to this recording of 'Carl Linnaeus polonaise' from this album. Cool, isn't it?
Silverwheel's self-titled EP get a less than enthusiastic review from Deborah Grabien who's been settling into her new Green Man corner office -- 'I should preface this particular piece with a flat statement -- I absorb music through muscle and pore. There's no intellectual component at all. I don't do theory. I don't deconstruct the symbolism. I don't try to connect the dots. I don't give a toss for the cerebrals of music. Music -- for me -- comes from, and goes to, an entirely different place. It's a completely visceral reaction, varying from style to band to expectation and back again. Rock is all about the groin and the soft underbelly and the way the hips move. Jazz is about shoulders twitching, trying to find a comfort zone until the moment when Mingus or Coltrane or Miles hits me with the big zap.' Read her ever-so-nuanced look at this group now.
Her last review is of two recordings from Wake The Dead, Blue Light Cheap Hotel and Camogie Celtic Americana. She says in her lead-off to the review that 'Here are two related releases by Danny Carnahan and friends; one a Grateful Dead tribute, one an extended CD single of singer-songwriter material.' More crucially, is her feelings on The Dead -- 'I was a fan of the Dead myself, back in those days. While never a Deadhead in the true sense, I knew them, hung out with them, mostly liked them as people, and seriously appreciated them musically. How in hell could anyone not appreciate what Hunter and Garcia were doing? Given that, how did these Dead influenced CDs fare? Oh, just go read her thoughts here as I think she's 'bang on the ear' perfect in what she says!
The good folks at Matty Grooves sent us a DVD that Michael Hunter was very happy to review -- 'On the occasion of Fairport Convention's twentieth anniversary all those years ago -- 1987 to be precise -- a video called It All Comes Round Again was released. It was an excellent work, being a combination of historical document and record of that year's Cropredy festival. Fast-forward to the band's fortieth birthday last year, and the resulting DVD Fairport @ Forty could have taken the same route. Instead, there is comparatively little by way of history; the main focus is on the musical performances of the current line-up at Cropredy 2007.' Read his ecstatic review here.
Three self-titled recordings from Tab Benoit, Honeyboy Edwards, and JW Jones get a look-see from David Kidney -- 'Here we go again with a batch of blues albums from all over the map. Authentic old time blues from an authentic living legend, New Orleans blues from a younger guitar hero, and the rockin' blues of a Canadian bluesman.' Read his bluesy review here!
Jack Merry reviews the first recording from a much loved group in nigh onto a generation -- 'So how good is Blowzabella now? As good as they ever were. I honestly can't say they sound any different on Octomento than they did on Bobbityshooty or Vanilla to give two earlier recordings. It's not quite as FHL as Pingha Frenzy which is one of the best live recordings I've ever heard, but it is still one of the finest albums I've ever heard. Don't believe me? Just go listen to the album at the Blowzabella MySpace site. After hearing the selections there, go to the Blowzabella Web site to order this fine recording!'
Flogging Molly's Float elicited a confession from Kestrell Rath -- ' I'm going to admit right up front that I am a newcomer to the music of Flogging Molly. I mean, a very recent newcomer, as in, I just became aware of the band this past St. Patrick's Day.' Despite her unfamiliarity, she went on to say 'If you are looking for some Irish music with an edge, some masterful playing, and a profusion of thoughtful lyrics, I recommend taking a few listens to Flogging Molly's Float.'
Amelia's A Long, Lovely List of Repairs and Kevin Barber's Burn are according to Gary Whitheouse, 'a couple of Oregon acts that flirt with the borders of country, jazz and pop music. Read his review to see if you'd like them to flirt with you!
Gary found a delightful bit of Scottish pop -- 'I'm delighted to be back with another review of a disc by the Scottish band Dropkick. The Taylor brothers, Andrew and Alastair and crew, have another winning effort with dot the i. ...Dropkick has taken the best features of British Invasion-era pop, added plenty of twang, and made it their own. dot the i is great fun!
Gary finishes off his reviews with one by an old favourite of his -- 'One Hell of a Ride celebrates Willie Nelson's 75th birthday, collecting hit singles and tracks from 60 albums he's cut on a dozen different labels since 1954. It's a picture of an American original, a songwriting genius and a singer who finally came into his own two decades into his career, after he left Nashville behind and became an 'outlaw' artist and led a revival of Texas-style country-rock. And finally, an artist who continues to explore fearlessly wherever his muse leads him, from standards to gypsy jazz to bluegrass to gospel to reggae, touring constantly, living on his tour bus with his family band, making music as easily as you or I breathe.'
Johnny Duhan's Just Another Town was a blissful experience for -- Mike Wilson 'is a very different experience to many albums you will listen to. Across its 17 tracks, it remains engaging to an extent that I've never witnessed before; it really involves you and envelopes you with its hymnal aura. This really is an epic that deserves close attention.'
A Scottish artist caused Mike to say very good things -- 'Though born in Edinburgh, Aonghas Grant was brought up in Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands. He mastered the highland fiddle style as a boy, without lessons but by osmosis of the plentiful musical sounds that surrounded him. It is this natural process that provides the foundation of Grant's truly organic sound. Grant went on to be a four-times winner of the fiddle championship at Scotland's National Mod, and a much revered teacher of the fiddle to younger generations. Grant released his first album in 1977, Aonghas Grant Highland Fiddle, but was to wait 30 years before recording The Hills Of Glengarry, the eagerly anticipated follow-up.'
We end this edition with a bit of a treat as we asked some well-respected writers as to what was their favourite folk song and why. The answers were illuminating to say the least!
First up is Kage Baker with a Grateful Dead-ish answer
Probably 'The Rambling Sailor'. The lyrics are sort of heartless, but it makes a helluva dance tune, especially a morris dance. I was once at a morris-ale held in an oak forest one summer night in northern California. Kate and I were providing the ale. The conditions were perfect -- a full moon, thunder rumbling around the sky, there was a big turnout of dancers, we had a fairly full band-- two fiddlers, a concertina, a standing bass, a couple of pennywhistles and a shawm.
There was a lantern strung up in the branches of this one big oak tree that must have been about 400 years old, and the dancing was done in the open space underneath. The different sides did the usual tunes, with the sword dances and the sticks, but then everyone got out the white handkerchiefs and the band struck up 'Rambling Sailor'. There must have been fifty or sixty dancers moving in perfect time, and my memory insists the boys were all as beautiful as young satyrs and the girls all looked like wood nymphs. The white cloths flashed like seagull wings. The little gold bells rang. The ground shook. It was one of the most perfect moments of my life.
Elizabeth Bear wants her songs to be playable... and murderous as well...
If the question is, which one do I have the most versions of, it's either 'Stagger Lee' or 'The House of the Rising Sun.' If the question is, which one is my favorite to play, 'Duncan and Brady.'
I'm a sucker for a good snarky murder ballad, and the tune of 'House of the Rising Sun' gives me goosebumps.
Peter Beagle has a wonderful answer
I know way too many folk songs to have a special favorite, Cat. Besides, I'm not always sure what counts as a folk song. Big Bill Broonzy used to say, 'I guess all songs is folk songs - I never heard no horse sing one.' When Merle Travis was asked to write an album's worth of folk songs and explained to the producer that you don't write folk songs - they just sort of spring up, like grass - the producer replied, 'Well, then write some stuff that sounds like folk songs.'' Travis came up with, among others, 'Sixteen Tons' and 'Dark As A Dungeon,' which any number of people still present as a folk song. And Aristide Bruant (Toulouse-Lautrec's buddy, the guy in the black hat and red scarf) wrote 'Sur La Route De Louviers' - I don't know how many times I heard that as a folk song in Berkeley, in the old days...
I do love the haunting old French song ''A La Claire Fontaine,' and my friend Phil and I still love to sing 'The Miller of Dee' when we get together. But if I had to pick just one, it might be a strange, utterly surrealistic tune called 'Nottymun Town' that I picked up from Jean Ritchie. I'm teaching it, on the rare occasions we're able to jam together, to the guys of Emerald Rose, a great Celtic band, who could do it justice.
And then there's wonderful 'Tumbalalaika' in Yiddish, and 'La Llorona' in Spanish...But in the end, my favorite song of all is still 'Au Bois De Mon Coeur,' which is not a folk song, but was written by Georges Brassens - so there you are. Go figure...
Pamela Dyer-Bennet says
Jane Yolen is a total treasure. And of course she's right. [See comments by Jane below.] I went through all the Child ballads when I was trying to think of a frame for Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary, and the only other remotely feminist ballad I could find was 'Riddles Wisely Expounded,' which is not nearly as active for the young woman as 'Tam Lin' is.
Well, there is the one where a young woman ransoms her guy and says, 'The blood had flowed upon the green afore I lost my laddie,' which is nice, but all she does is take all her money and hand it over.
Stephen Brust picked a current singer-songwriter
At this moment, it's probably Leonard Cohen's 'Halalujah' because it's stuck in my head. Are you counting Cohen's work as folk songs? [We said yes.]
Cassandra Clare has a cool one as she says here
'Tanglewood Tree' by Dave Carter. Mostly because of the awesome lyrics and the cool double harmony.
Love is a garden of thorns
Love's garden of thorns, how it grows
And a crow in the corn
Black crow in the corn hummin' low
And the brake growing wild
Brake nettle so pretty and wild
And thistles surround the edge of the
Cold when the summer is spent
Dim dark hour as the sun moves away
In the jade heart's lament
Lamenting a lost summer day
For the faith of a child
Chris Fowler has a surprising answer given the folk motifs found in his Bryant and May novels
I don't have any folk, unless you count Rufus Wainwright, in which case I would name Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, because 'everything I like is just a little bit stronger, a little more harmful for me'.
Christopher Golden says he's not much of a folkie so he says
I'm far from an expert on folk music. In fact, a lot of it just doesn't interest me. But I do love Common Rotation. Their song 'All Smiles' is a favorite of mine for several reasons. It's beautiful and sounds like a happy tune, but the lyrics are about the people of New Orleans being abandoned to fate during and after hurricane Katrina. Great song.
Deborah Grabien says 'Heh. Are you asking me? Favourite folk song?' I said I was so here's her reply
Answer -- what time is it? Because they move with my head, my mood, the tides. If there's a gun to my head at this particular moment -- one song only! stop dithering! Good, she's picked one, boot her off the boat onto the desert island with just the one! - I'd have to be completely traditional and go for 'Matty Groves', yes, the Fairport version from Liege & Lief. All it's missing to fulfill every requirement I've got is Martin Carthy, but everything else is there.
Elizabeth Hand pondered her answer while consuming some excellent chocolate that was part of the Elevenes we were serving them
Favorite folk song? Hmmm. If we're talking melody and not words, then I'd have to say the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, which I first heard (and saw the accompanying dance performed) about 25 years ago at a performance of John Langstaff's Christmas Revels in DC. You can find it on a CD of the Revels, and also on various websites where you can download or stream other versions. It's a very simple melody, but I find it utterly haunting -- it seems like the musical accompaniment to something like Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood. The tune also shows up, with words (''I saw a pig went out to dig ...''), as ''Christmas Day in the Morning.'' I have no idea how old the tune actually is, but it sounds ancient, and whenever I hear it I see the eerie dancers with their reindeer horns and the weirdly incongruous costumes -- hobby-horse, man/woman, boy hunter, etc. I'd never heard of it when I first saw it, and it had a powerful effect on me. Researching it since then I've found all kinds of strange resonances with ancient myths and folklore, none of which can be proven, of course. But they're still intriguing.
Runners-up would be ''In the Pines,'' a superbly creepy murder ballad that Kurt Cobain famously covered (under the title ''Where Did You Sleep Last Night'') during the Nirvana Unplugged sessions, and ''John Barleycorn Must Die,'' because I always liked the idea of anthropomorphizing beer or ale, even though I don't like drinking it.
Last thoughts on this subject come from Jane Yolen...
Actual folk song? Any one of a number of brutal Scottish songs like 'Long Lankin' and 'Mary Hamilton' and 'Little Musgrave' because of their storytelling. And the one truly feminist Scottish ballad, 'Tam Lin.'
But of semi-folk, i.e. written by a known writer, the one that gives me pleasant tingles is the wonderful 'The Girl from the Hiring Fair' by Ralph McTell, especially as sung by Fairport Convention.
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