Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I'm so crazy about folk music

Cliff and I were discussing this yesterday.  It's become mostly a game, these days, the way he groans if he hears Iris Dememt or Greg Brown or Ramblin' Jack Elliot on the CD player or Pandora.  Don't even get him started on John Prine.
"I just don't get it," he said.  "But you know, you can listen to that stuff if you want to."
Kinda hard to do when I know he's gritting his teeth in the background.

I like the kinds of folk music I listen to because it's real.  It's bare-bones.  My favorite folk singers accompany themselves on a guitar (or piano, in the case of Iris), with no backup music.  They could be singing in my living room.  I shut my eyes and pretend they're here.

During our discussion I mentioned Bob Dylan,and Cliff said, "He's a folk singer?"
"Well, 'Blowin' in the Wind' is definitely folk," I said.  "That one song on the same album with the line 'her eyes were watery and wet' isn't the best example of writing, but it's probably folk too."
"I just don't get it."

I think what Cliff doesn't get is that some of my favorite artists are really not very good singers.  But songs have always been about the words for me, at least with the modern-day writer/singers.

For a long time Iris Dement was my favorite, but she doesn't come up with a lot of new stuff, and nowadays I just listen to her occasionally.  I still resent her being a no-show that time Cliff took me clear to Iowa City to see her in person, and I guess I need to let that go.

I love obscure artists nobody ever heard of, like Ola Belle Reed and Utah Phillips and Kieran Kane.

I treasure the old-timers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and Leadbelly.

My current favorite modern folk singer is Chuck Brodsky.  He actually has a good voice, so I can listen to him when Cliff is around.  Chuck is in the Baseball Hall of Fame because of some songs he's written.  I'm not a baseball fan, although when I can find a Youtube video where he actually explains the story behind the song, I enjoy those.  I included a video of him in an entry the other day.  

Here's my very favorite of his songs.  I love his guitar-playing.

Here's what makes Chuck extra-cool:  You can actually book the guy to play IN YOUR HOME.  You can read the details HERE.   Now that, ladies and gentlemen, puts the "folk" back in folk music.  I won't be having a house concert, since I don't even have 25 friends, let alone friends who are folk music fans.  But I love the concept.  So far, the closest he gets to Missouri is some folk festival in southern Arkansas, but if he ever comes to the Kansas City area, I am THERE, even if I have to hitchhike.  

I do have the opportunity to watch him live on the computer sometimes, though, because get this...  

Every once in awhile there is a live web broadcast, and... get this... I can pay however much I want and watch the show!  Unless we get some really bad weather, we have plans for Saturday night, but the next time one of these web concerts is available, I'm there.  

Check back next year and I'll probably have a different favorite, but if I do, I'm sure they won't be as cool as Chuck Brodsky.  Yes, I realize I have over-used the word cool, a word someone my age shouldn't even be using.  But I can't think of another word that works as well.


Margaret said...

I listened to Iris Dement on one of your posts and thought that the song I heard was beautifully sung. Not my style of music, but I liked it way more than I thought I would.


So you like folk music with lovely lyrics and haunting melodies. What does Cliff like, since he doesn't like your music?

reader said...

Oh, Donna, I love all the same music you do. You might like Mary Gauthier. My husband and I got to see her live at a little church in Kansas City last year. It was wonderful.