Simple Folk wanted.
October 31, 2013 4:12 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend any contemporary folk artists producing uncontemporary folk music?

I'm a big fan of old folk songs, roots, blues, mountain songs, sea shanties etc in the vein of recordings found in Alan Lomax's collections. I was recently introduced to some current musicians playing similar stuff, some original and some reinterpreted, like Frank Fairfield, Sam Amidon and Tim Eriksen, and found it very refreshing to hear new voices sing these old tunes with little embellishment, maintaining simple instrumentation and mastering. I also liked their own compositions. If you know of any solo performers, gropus or bands doing likewise I'd be grateful if you'd share.
posted by Caskeum to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Fay Hield comes from a folk singing in pubs background and retains that stripped down style on much of her work.
posted by einekleine at 4:15 AM on October 31, 2013

They encompass a variety of styles, but I bet you'd like a lot of the Handsome Family.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:36 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nicole Reynolds, particularly her first album, sounds very much like a young Bob Dylan. She is more refreshing than that description gives her credit for being.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on October 31, 2013

So by mentioning Alan Lomax you specifically mean "Continental US American Folk Music"? Rather than folk music from, say Spain or Ireland yes?

I recommend you check out the musician Entrance's album Wandering Stranger.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:11 AM on October 31, 2013

Maybe something like Hem?

Some sample songs:

Half Acre
The Fire Thief
Lord, Blow Out the Moon Please
Leave Me Here
And my personal favorite, Pacific Street
posted by ladybird at 5:13 AM on October 31, 2013

I love Christine Pizzuti's take on blues standards (and not-so-standards)
posted by timshel at 5:17 AM on October 31, 2013

You might like The Sacred Shakers.
posted by JanetLand at 5:24 AM on October 31, 2013

Check out Greg Graffin's album Cold As The Clay. Half of the material is traditional.

Graffin is from the seminal punk band Bad Religion, but his takes here are traditional (and excellent).
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:43 AM on October 31, 2013

Sample: Talk About Suffering.


Also good:

The Current 93 perform some traditional songs and hymns.

On their album Black Ships Ate the Sky, several artists perform vocals on several different covers of Idumea. Here's Marc Almond's take, here's Bonnie "Prince" Billie's take, here's Pantaleimon's take, and here's Antony's take.

Current 93 has some excellent covers of "All The Pretty Little Horses". Version with Nick Cave, version with Shirley Collins.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:54 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Gibson Brothers play great traditional bluegrass.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:55 AM on October 31, 2013

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, my favorite.
posted by lydhre at 5:59 AM on October 31, 2013

You've probably already found this, but if you haven't: try Tim Eriksen's old band, Cordelia's Dad. Some of their work is rock-influenced, but some is extremely traditional.
posted by ostro at 6:08 AM on October 31, 2013

You'll probably like the Black Twig Pickers.
posted by Ted Maul at 6:22 AM on October 31, 2013

Gillian Welch!
posted by Specklet at 6:27 AM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Linda Russell


Dramtreeo (My favorite and GodDAMN, check out their rendition of "No Man's Land")

The Virginia Company, which doesn't seem to have a web site but they're on Amazon and one of the members is here
posted by Melismata at 6:28 AM on October 31, 2013

Mary Gauthier
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:31 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Carolina Chocolate Drops.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:43 AM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Adam Hurt
Rayna Gellert
posted by capricorn at 7:19 AM on October 31, 2013

Oh hey, you're me!

Yes yes to Gillian Welch, Mary Gauthier, and especially the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

It's from 1991, so only 'contemporary' in the sense of 'not old-timey', but I highly recommend Lucinda Williams' first album Ramblin'. I like most of her later albums as well, but that one in particular fits your requirements.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:26 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

In an Appalachian-ish vein, you might like some of Bruce Molsky's work--the guy's a brilliant multi-instrumentalist but I I feel like his arrangements are never overwrought and stay true or pay homage to the source material. Solo. With the Jumpsteady Boys. The Transatlantic Sessions.
posted by drlith at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2013

Also I am obsessed with Hurray for the Riff Raff, so maybe check them out too.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:32 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Meg Baird
Alasdair Roberts

Both record a lot of their own compositions, but also traditional songs.

Also Noah Saterstrom's album Thistle, which is a quiet delight.
posted by pipeski at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Alasdair Roberts is British folk, which is why I asked before about what nations "Folk" covered in the question.

Since you mentioned Sea Shanties OP have you checked out Rogues Gallery I and II? Great compilation albums of old timey sea songs redone.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:39 AM on October 31, 2013

Molsky's co-conspirator in the Jumpsteady Boys Joe Newberry does some lovely stuff too.

Clifton Hicks — just banjo and a very distinctive baritone voice — is another favourite.
posted by scruss at 7:53 AM on October 31, 2013

Have you heard about "Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War," a 2-CD compilation of best-selling sheet music songs from the Civil War covered by contemporary artists? It might be up your alley.
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 8:23 AM on October 31, 2013

You want to listen to Pokey LaFarge.
posted by brentajones at 9:17 AM on October 31, 2013

Marisa Anderson is my go-to traditional guitarist right now. She plays electric, meandering through a variety of styles, with a base in the folk-blues Elizabeth Cotten picking style.
posted by bendybendy at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2013

Crooked Still.
posted by alms at 11:01 AM on October 31, 2013

You might also like Diana Jones. Here's a kind of dark song of hers I like.
posted by TwoStride at 3:29 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if he is folky enough for you, but I love what Damien Jurado does. Here's a song called "Ohio" from a 1999 album, but he still puts out albums.

My wife says the music is depressing, but I think it is soulful.
posted by tacodave at 3:50 PM on October 31, 2013

Suzy Bogguss is a country musician, not primarily a folk musician, but her latest album is called "American Folk Songbook" and features her reinterpretations of 17 U.S. folk standards.
posted by epj at 4:30 PM on October 31, 2013

The Darrell Webb Band is an almost-traditional bluegrass band. Great players!!
posted by nosila at 5:32 AM on November 1, 2013

No one has mentioned The Floorbirds yet, so I will. They are excellent and wonderful, with male-female vocal harmonies and acoustic instruments and fantastic songs, both old and new.
posted by acridrabbit at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2013

Thanks all! Lots to explore, favourited stuff I've found hit the spot immediately but will investigate the rest over next few days!
posted by Caskeum at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2013

From Portland there is Ah Holly Fam'ly or Jeremy Lee Faulkner and the Final Dorm.
posted by Kale Slayer at 5:54 PM on November 2, 2013

This might hit you the right way too ~ Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer.
posted by Kale Slayer at 6:04 PM on November 2, 2013

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