Folk Music
January 11, 2004 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Recommend some good folk music, old or new, please.
posted by item to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Before everbody else jumps on the "i'm going to name a more obscure singer / group than you" train, I'll just say that I saw John Prine in concert last month and loved every last second of it. Bruised Orange would be a good album to get from him.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:31 PM on January 11, 2004

John Fahey - Blind Joe Death
posted by machaus at 3:32 PM on January 11, 2004

Woody and Arlo Guthrie.
posted by The Michael The at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2004

Ani Difranco. I'd label "Living in Clip" as being the pinnacle of her career.
posted by yangwar at 3:44 PM on January 11, 2004

Springsteen - Nebraska
posted by billsaysthis at 4:08 PM on January 11, 2004

Custer Larue. The first time I heard her voice, I pulled off the side of the road for the next hour.
posted by Wet Spot at 4:11 PM on January 11, 2004

I'm a big fan of the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
posted by Aaorn at 4:17 PM on January 11, 2004

I'll second Custer LaRue.

For new folk-ish stuff, try Gillian Welch, Lucy Kaplansky, or Dar Williams. Or Lucinda Williams if you want it on the bluesy, rock-ish side.

Also the album Cry Cry Cry, which is Lucy Kaplansky, Dar Williams, and Richard Shindell doing covers of stuff.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2004

Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)
The American Folk Anthology (6 CDs) - pretty much essential
The O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
Woody Guthrie

on the country side of folk, the Carter Family is essential

If you need help picking certain albums by an artist, the All Music Guide hasn't steered me wrong.
posted by keswick at 4:37 PM on January 11, 2004

I second the Gillian Welch (Time), Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska) and Fahey.

Sufjan Stevens - Michigan [review]
Nina Nastasia - Run to Ruin [review]
Jolie Holland - Catalpa [review]
Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Songs:Ohia - Didn't It Rain [review]
and the best folkie album of the past 5 years,
Okkervil River - Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See [review]

(My tastes aren't quite trad folk, but most of the contemporary stuff that's really traditional is pretty boring, The Boggs excepted.)
posted by Marquis at 4:57 PM on January 11, 2004

Fairport Convention, and especially Sandy Denny. Is this kind of folk music that you seek?

Fairport's A Sailor's Life is one of the best songs ever recorded.
posted by malpractice at 5:04 PM on January 11, 2004

I never know what classifies as Folk these days but

Songs: Ohia (I recommend Didn't It Rain)
Bonnie Prince Billy (Master & Everyone)
Iron & Wine
Super XX Man (IV, MP3s there)
Iris Dement
Joel R.L. Phelps (3 or Inland Empires)
Townes Van Zandt

might suit you.

On preview: Marquis beat me to S:O--you can hear samples of the Sufjan Stevens album he recommends here
posted by dobbs at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2004

Janis Ian
Carter Family
posted by anathema at 5:26 PM on January 11, 2004

Martin Sexton, Mason Jennings, James Keelaghan, and Kris Demeanor are some great singer/songwriters who are still active today. On the older side of things, Woody & Arlo have already been mentioned, but since nobody else has mentioned him I'll throw in Pete Seeger, the capo di tutti capi of the activist folk world. Also not to be missed is the late, lamented Stan Rogers, whose song "Northwest Passage" is one of the most powerful songs I know in any genre.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:30 PM on January 11, 2004

A good way to get a broad idea about folk music is through radio. I know there are a lot of folk-type internet radio shows, and regional NPR stations probably each have their own.

Myself, what got me into folk music in high school (... what?) was this guy, Dan Maher, who did a program that could be heard in my home town. He also toured around and did concerts, and I saw him half a dozen times. The show has a good variety of music, and if you can't find any stations nearby with programs, you can always listen to that one online. I recommend it.
posted by Hildago at 6:26 PM on January 11, 2004

John Wesley Harding. He's been releasing albums since 1988 or so, is absolutely fantastic in concert, and his stuff is mostly in print--there have been a spate of resissues lately, and he has a new album coming out next month. Wes has only done one album of "traditional" folk, and in my opinion, it's his weakest album. My current favorite album of his is probably Awake, followed closely by The Name Above The Title.
posted by eilatan at 6:39 PM on January 11, 2004

Kate Rusby, who happens to have a new CD in stores Tuesday, is amazing. Sleepless got her a Mercury Prize Nomination and her last CD, 10, covers her ten years as a performer.

Linda Thompson has a haunted voice and came back from hysterical dysphonia to release Fashionably Late last year.

Eva Cassidy, who passed away in 1996, has seven CDs to choose from. Imagine is probably the best place to start.

These fall more in the alt-country vein, but I find that they could easily be filed under folk:
* Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker
* Peter Bruntnell Normal for Bridgater
* Richard Buckner's Bloomed
* Jayhawks' Hollywood Town Hall
* Uncle Tupulo's March 16-20, 1992

Also The Best of the Bothy Band is an intense mind-blowing collection if you have any interest in Celtic.
posted by boost ventilator at 6:44 PM on January 11, 2004

Correction: Peter Bruntnell's Normal for Bridgwater
posted by boost ventilator at 6:45 PM on January 11, 2004

Oh yeah, there is also the soundtrack to Cold Mountain, featuring Jack White, The Reeltime Travelers, Tim Eriksen, Riley Baugus & Tim O'Brien, Alison Krauss, The Sarced Harp Singers, Stuart Duncan & Dirk Powell, Cassie Franklin and Gabriel Yared. It was put together by T-Bone Burnett (who was behind Oh! Brother) and I am still warming up to it.
posted by boost ventilator at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2004

Yep, Ani DiFranco's Living in Clip is great. Some of #mefiswap didn't agree, thus proving that they were scrawny white guys who lacked funk.

Thanks for the suggestions, I might get some of these too.
posted by holloway at 7:01 PM on January 11, 2004

If you can afford it, the 6-disk Anthology of American Folk Music, collected and edited by an amazing guy named Harry Smith (cf the MeFi thread by, of course, y2karl) is the bible of folk music—all the folkies of the '50s and '60s cut their teeth on it. On the art-folk end of the spectrum, I highly recommend the great singer Richard Dyer-Bennet; some of his records have been transferred to CD and are available through the Smithsonian.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 PM on January 11, 2004

Paul Burch!
posted by corpse at 7:28 PM on January 11, 2004

Dave Van Ronk. Brilliant folk/blues/ragtime guitarist and song interpreter with a voice like nobody else's. A couple of amazing albums to start with are Sunday Street and Going Back to Brooklyn. And if you like Greenwich Village folk-revival stuff (i.e. early Bob Dylan), definitely pick up Inside Dave Van Ronk, although you may find yourself skipping over a few of the unfortunate autoharp tracks. He died last year, and his passing might have gotten a little more press if he hadn't been in the same death cohort as Waylon Jennings...

Chris Smither is another great guitarist who falls on the blues end of the spectrum.

Peter Case. Victoria Williams. (Weren't they married at one point?)

Also, a strong second for John Wesley Harding, especially if you enjoy erudite, wry, self-aware lyrics. (Dan Bern is another songwriter in a similar vein.) Be aware, however, that some of JWH's albums are arranged and produced much more like pop/rock albums than folk albums, so it depends what you're after. They're all worth checking out, though.

And if you like the Anthology of American Folk Music mentioned above, try David Johansen and the Harry Smiths or Dave Alvin's Public Domain, two recent albums that do a nice job of covering early folk tunes. Not that they haven't been covered to death by everyone, but these are coherent albums with a thoughtful mix of faithful and electrified versions.
posted by staggernation at 7:40 PM on January 11, 2004

Ani DiFranco: Living in Clip, Not a Pretty Girl, Out of Range (new school, righteous babe)
Bob Dylan: Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 (made folk evolve)
The Pogues: Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (Irish punk folk)
Shawn Colvin: Steady On (good acoustic guitar effects)
Billy Bragg: The Peel Sessions (some good wordplay relationship songs)
The Story: Grace in Gravity, The Angel in the House (smart Boston girl harmonies)
posted by onlyconnect at 7:42 PM on January 11, 2004

Boost, Linda but not Richard?
posted by billsaysthis at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2004

Phil Ochs. I second Lucy Kaplansky. And Bree Sharp for folk-rock kind of stuff. And blogger Shannon Campbell, formerly of Folk You Harder, has some really good stuff.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:14 PM on January 11, 2004

Speaking of T Bone Burnett: although he's best known as a producer, his solo albums are fantastic. The folkiest, and also my favorite, is T Bone Burnett, which Amazon for some reason has for only $6.98 (new).
posted by staggernation at 8:20 PM on January 11, 2004

Boost, Linda but not Richard?

I guess I was just giving her a vote on her own because she is often in his shadow. I don't have a lot of Richard's solo stuff, but I do like I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight and the early Fairport Convention albums, especially Unhalfbricking. What other Richard Thompson CDs are a must have?
posted by boost ventilator at 8:58 PM on January 11, 2004

Loudon Wainwright III.
posted by waxpancake at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2004

When we still lived in New Orleans it was a Sunday morning ritual to listen to Hazel the Delta Rambler's country and bluegrass show on WWOZ, which is where I discovered one of my favorite Bluegrass artists, Alison Krauss. Here are a couple of Hazel's playlists: 1, 2; her shows air at 10 a.m. Sundays, and you can hear WWOZ broadcasts live from here. My favorite song from Alison is "Steel Rails" from this album.
posted by taz at 9:47 PM on January 11, 2004

Thanks folks. I should've mentioned that I really dig Burt Jensch, Scott Walker, and Nick Drake, loathe Okkerville River and Ani Defranco, as a rule dislike alt-country (indie-bar rock? No thanks!), and am I seeing things or did someone suggest David Johanson?

I'm looking for minimal and as unslick as it goes (without stepping into, say, Sebadoh territory). Dark is good, too. I'm really curious about finding some lost early/mid sixties stuff that's not too protesty or upbeat and has nice harmonies. Anyone?
posted by item at 9:53 PM on January 11, 2004

Hm. Except for the fact that you don't like alt-country, Iris DeMent might be a good bet. She's dark and brooding. Her voice takes some getting used to, but once she has her hooks in you, she won't let go. Great stuff, especially her album "Infamous Angel". But, as I say, perhaps more alt-country than folk. She's outstanding in concert, too.
posted by jdroth at 10:35 PM on January 11, 2004

For the source, go here: Yazoo's Early American Rural Music

For the Folk Music as in Folk Music of the 60s and thereafter,

Stefan Wirz's American Music presents the essential artists
posted by y2karl at 10:38 PM on January 11, 2004

Cheryl Wheeler. Good lyrics, great voice, wonderful live performer.
posted by tdismukes at 5:23 AM on January 12, 2004

am I seeing things or did someone suggest David Johanson?

I wasn't suggesting his New York Dolls or Buster Poindexter or earlier solo incarnations, but specifically his more recent David Johansen and the Harry Smiths albums, which are devoted to excellent covers of songs from the Anthology and other folk and blues from that era.
posted by staggernation at 6:11 AM on January 12, 2004

I still get out the Michelle Shocked stuff regularly.
posted by clever sheep at 7:12 AM on January 12, 2004

Dar Williams

Jim Infantino / Jim's Big Ego. "alternative folk"

Eddie From Ohio - Get "Looking out the Fishbowl", amazing CD. See them live and you'll be a convert.
posted by bondcliff at 8:29 AM on January 12, 2004

There isn't really anything alt-country (in the "indie-rock-bar-band" sense) about Iris; she's just old school country that Nashville ignores. "Wasteland of the Free" is a great song.
posted by keswick at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2004

Mimi and Richard Farina
posted by maurice at 11:25 AM on January 12, 2004

Greg Brown
posted by dhacker at 12:34 PM on January 12, 2004

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