Although the vernacular music of England has always been around, many of us have been distracted by the pleasures of pop music and put off folk music by witnessing middle-aged men in pubs singing through their noses. Which is a shame as traditional folk songs, with songs covering a variety of subjects including yearning maidens, laments, farewells, daring lassies, murders, drowned sailors and blowing winds, offer much in terms of storytelling and social history.
Thankfully, contemporary musicians including Northumbrian sisters The Unthanks have hauled it back into our consciousness by recording old songs as well as writing their own. Many others have picked up the folk baton with sub- genres including ‘alt-folk’, ‘psych-folk’ and ‘nu-folk’ springing up.
Download our Spotify playlist for a selection of our favourite new folk, including Lady Maisery, Telling the Bees, Mad Magdelen, The Black Feathers and the Hare and the Moon.
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Bright Young Folk is a compendium of interviews, reviews, directories and listings of traditional British folk music artists.
HAVE A GO
If you fancy singing a few traditional ballads, join a folk choir, now growing in popularity. The Great Sea Choir in Bristol welcomes singers of all ages without an audition. The Morris Choir in London is fairly full but welcomes those who can sing, play a fiddle or bang a bodhran.
Turn to page 91 of June's The Simple Things for a run-down of dance, craft and folk traditions through the year.
Words: Clare Gogerty
Illustration: Alice Patullo