I’ve started to explore some folk music and rekindle my interest in blues a bit. It seems like every few years, I’ll find another genre of music to explore. I listened to pretty much exclusively classical music until high school, at which time I started listening to some alternative and metal music. A few years later, I picked up electronic music and diversified my taste for rock-based forms. A few years after that, I explored jazz and a little blues. Of course, each step of the way really added new layers, as opposed to losing one thing in favor of another (though I don’t listen to a lot of metal these days).
Over the past few years, my interest in folk has definitely grown. Probably the thing that sparked this in the first place was Four Tet’s Pause album, and later, Rounds. They are electronic, but have elements of folk music as well, among other things. I also found myself interested in all of Nick Drake’s material, particularly Five Leaves Left.
When I start learning about a new genre, I take a fairly haphazard approach, trying to find a mix of old and new and everything in between, usually including some things that are borderline or that encroach on other genres as well. Definitely not a purist’s approach.
Recently, I read Pitchfork Media’s review of Califone’s Roots and Crowns album. I had heard of Califone before, probably around 2000, but never paid any attention. And I don’t usually agree with Pitchfork, but the review made it sound incredible, so I bought it. I’m very glad I did! I find stuff like this incredibly inspiring, a mixture of electronics, folk, blues, and rock that really works.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s exquisitely produced, sounding organic, aged, withered, and pristine, all at once. Tapping and scraping sounds jump out at you and make you wonder if you just heard something behind you, or if it was the CD. The vocals are subdued, yet effective, with just enough haunting melodies to keep you hanging on for more. To a certain extent, it also reminds me of the music of a fellow DMusic artist, Zed Salt (of Mezmariah). I remixed and added onto some of his material for the song Last of the Lost (see My DMusic Artist Page).
Anyway, I digress. In addition to that Califone album, I also picked up the American Roots Collection, put out by Smithsonian Folkways. It has an ecclectic mixture of folk, bluegrass, and blues music — perhaps too ecclectic for my taste. I like a lot of the stuff on there, but some of it I’m not too fond of, and it’s all over the place stylistically. Perhaps something more focused would’ve been better. On the other hand, I suspect that some more of it will grow on me.
I also picked up Richard Buckner’s Meadow album, which didn’t turn out to be as folk-oriented as I’d hoped (it’s closer to rock), but is still good. Today, his Devotion + Doubt album arrived, which I’ve only listened to once so far, and it’s more country-oriented than Meadow. I’m not sure what to make of it yet, in the past I’ve been pretty much repelled by anything remotely country-sounding, but I didn’t feel that way about this. It did seem pretty devastating, which makes sense since it’s about divorce.
There are other things I could mention, but I’m running out of steam for now talking about other people’s albums. I haven’t worked on any music of my own in ages, but I hope to soon. I bought a mandolin on Saturday, and I’m hoping I can learn to play it fairly easily, since it’s tuned the same as a violin.
I’m already thinking about possibly doing FAWM again next February. If I do, I hope that I can tap into some of these (and other) folk influences, and hopefully do something that uses more real, acoustic instruments. I also have my gourd plucky/drummy thing that I’m dying to put to use. If I do go that route, I’ll definitely need a better mic or two and some additional gear, so I’m starting to think about what I might need.