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Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)

GUEST,Gadaffi 07 Jun 10 - 10:00 AM
GUEST 07 Jun 10 - 10:03 AM
Jack Campin 07 Jun 10 - 10:59 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 07 Jun 10 - 11:00 AM
GUEST,Jonny Sunshine 07 Jun 10 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,PeterC 07 Jun 10 - 03:17 PM
Old Vermin 07 Jun 10 - 07:24 PM
greg stephens 08 Jun 10 - 03:49 PM
GUEST,hebrides 08 Jun 10 - 06:25 PM
Folknacious 08 Jun 10 - 07:54 PM
Leadfingers 08 Jun 10 - 08:43 PM
Rob Naylor 09 Jun 10 - 10:40 AM
matt milton 09 Jun 10 - 12:18 PM
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Subject: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: GUEST,Gadaffi
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 10:00 AM

Every Sunday, I enthusiastically read 'The Observer' for mentions of the latest CD/concerts of the new wave (and old wave) of what's hot on the folk scene. I mean, of course, The Unthanks, Jim Moray, Emily Portman - those that grew up with and despite the folk scene over the last 10-20 years.
Increasingly, I'm finding this august newspaper reviewing work by people I've never heard of, whose names you might just about find at Larmer Tree and many more indie festivals (should any of the organisers know of them) such as The Magic Numbers, Mumford & Sons, etc.
No axe to grind, believe it or not. But within what parameter do these people or others justify the tag 'folk', bearing in mind that Ian Anderson dropped the 'folk' when FolkRoots became fRoots because America had a different definition of the word? Alternatively, are we to leave fRoots and ED&S to be sole arbiters of what is deemed 'folk' in the second decade of this century? Should the organisers of cherished UK folk festivals such as Sidmouth be sitting up and taking notice?

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 10:03 AM

Do we really need another 'What is Folk' thread?

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 10:59 AM

This turned up on Footstompin...

I don't think it's a "what is folk?" thread, but the messages there don't inspire me to rush off and find some to listen to. (When "anti-folk" was on the go in the US about 10-15 years ago, that didn't either).

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 11:00 AM

I too read these reviews with puzzlement. I can only conclude that the Observer's reviewers have a number of labels ('pop', 'rock', 'jazz', 'folk' etc.) which they store in a hat. When they are presented with a CD to review they shake the hat, draw out a label at random and stick it on the CD. Most of the musicians that they choose to review are drawn from a small coterie of ultra-trendy (but obscure) British and American 'yoof' who all make the same general sort of 'noise'. Because very few people have ever heard of these 'artists' the reviewers can get away with the random labelling. Occasionally they review music from Mali, Mongolia or Moldova. For these they use the label 'world' - a label which is not stored in the hat.

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 02:18 PM

It's very simple. The Observer's music editor looks at the CD and uses this test:

Add 2 points for each band member with a beard
Add 2 points if the singer has a regional accent (other than London)
Add 2 points for the following instruments: acoustic guitar, double bass, smaller-than-usual drum kit, "quirky" keyboards, stylophone etc
Add 5 points for any of the following instruments: fiddle, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, accordion, harmonica, melodica, flute, whistle, glockenspiel (Note: ability to play them competently counts less than novelty value)

If it scores 10 points or more it goes in the "folk" section.

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 03:17 PM

Jonny, you forgot 5 points for self penned material

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: Old Vermin
Date: 07 Jun 10 - 07:24 PM

Does *anyone* still read the Observer?

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Jun 10 - 03:49 PM

The main nu-folk staples seem to be melodica and ukulele. The melodica has to be played with a tube coming from the mouthpiece to the mouth. (Putting the mouthpiece in the mouth is for reggae).

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: GUEST,hebrides
Date: 08 Jun 10 - 06:25 PM

You're all over-exaggerating. Yes a lot of people call themselves "nu-folk" and they are just bad songwriters with ukeleles and toy xylophones, and it annoys the hell out of most people, and they disappear pretty quickly. But there are some genuine young songwriters out there who ARE nu-folk and do go down well at Folk festivals as well as indie gigs etc - for example, a band called Feldspar who I believe are from the Leeds / Manchester area. Although not traditional "folk", there are the roots of folk there - solid, genuine story telling, quality songwriting where the importance is placed on the song itself rather than the arrangement or just the noise made, and a connection with people, along with singing and instrumental talent.

I've seen Feldspar at numerous real folk festivals and the audiences love them.

Laura Marling is another fine example, writing excellent songs which stand on their own as well as in highly produced environments.

Most nu-folk are idiots writing quirky songs with novelty arrangements - but not all of them are so.

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: Folknacious
Date: 08 Jun 10 - 07:54 PM

The UK's general music press and newspaper music critics all use the American shorthand that anybody who plays an acoustic instrument and writes their own songs is folk, so add a banjo and the odd accordion and beard and it's brain switch off for them. However, I read somewhere recently that Mumford & Sons have sold 750,000 albums. If only 10% of their audience went and tried some folk because they are told that's what Mumford do, and 10% of those liked what they heard and bought an album, that's 7500 sales we wouldn't have had. Best to stay "Glass half full".

Isn't nu-folk simply the latest name for what used to be called contemporary folk but isn't any more, or at least no more than what used to be called modern jazz is modern? Nothing dates faster than things so-tagged like new wave, art nouveau, new labour and so on.

Emily Portman's recent album managed the difficult trick of sounding ancient, timeless and fresh all at once, without needing any media friendly labels applied to it.

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Jun 10 - 08:43 PM

The Bane of ANY half way decent Entertainer is Bloody Labels ! If you dont fit it any of the 'Convenient' pigeon Holes , you're Stuffed

          I am happy to sing A Capella , or with guitar , banjo , or mandolin ( AND at least one song I do fills on Whistle), and am happy with Trad , Contemporary (English AND Other) Music Hall , Blues
and even a bit of light Jazz ! What Pigeon hole do I Fit In ?

          But I am NOT Nu Folk , until I find a Nu Folk song that is worth doing , that is !!

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 09 Jun 10 - 10:40 AM

Well when my similarly-aged neighbour asked me if I'd be going to the Kent Hop Farm festival to see Bob Dylan, I said that I probably wouldn't bother to go and see Dylan (seen him several times in the past), but I'd happily (if wasn't booked to go on holiday that week) go to see Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons.

IMO what they're doing is fresher, more interesting and more lively than listening to Dylan rehashing his back catalogue.

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Subject: RE: Nu Folk? - UK (Discuss)
From: matt milton
Date: 09 Jun 10 - 12:18 PM

I find Mumford & Sons utterly insipid: their songs don't seem remotely distinguishable from your Keanes and your Coldplays.

Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn have a bit more interesting stuff going on. Can't say I actually like either of them.

But I've been listening to Laura Marling's new album, I Speak Because I Can, quite a lot on Spotify.

Mainly because it's the best-produced album I've heard in years. It's a sonic masterclass in how to mix acoustic instruments. All the guitars and vocals sound unbelievably present and intimate. It doesn't sound that compressed (though I'm sure it must be).

From a recording-geek point of view, anyone interested in recording ought to hear it. Whoever mixed it is very, very, very good at their job.

Like I said, I don't really enjoy it - it's way too in thrall to its influences (Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell) for me. She even adopts that kind of funny upper-class American accent (over-enunciated, slightly-English accent) that you'd hear in some of Joan Baez and other 60s singers. Which is kind of funny coming from a 20-yr-old English girl.

And her lyrics are really terrible, as most young peoples are when they're trying to be clever. (Bob Dylan is a very very bad role model for teenage singer-songwriters. You will try. You will fail.)

But she can certainly write a tune. There's a nice tune on it that's like a third cousin of On Top of Old Smokie – I think it's even called 'Covered in Snow', which is of course a quote from it.

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