Features | Retconning

V :: Seventies Folk

By Mark Abraham | 3 January 2007

I don’t have a whole lot to say by way of introduction this month, since I think the contextual history is pretty well known. Folk music had already been irrevocably altered in concept and form in the early and mid-sixties, first by Dylan and then by the Byrds and other folk rock groups. What’s surprising, I think, is just how far certain folk musicians took experimentation in the early seventies to move away even from folk rock, and how many of these albums, whether because of willful disregard for audience demands or all sorts of horribly handled marketing campaigns, have languished in that wasteland of "critical acclaim" but still seem to have little popular value.

Lately, more than any other genre, it’s sometimes it’s hard to keep up with new discoveries. A certain Banhart’s growing popularity (soundtracking horror films?) has caused a spate of obscure folk albums loosely associated with "freak" to be reissued in the last few years, but most of the ones new to me just don’t match the quality of the ones on the list (although, thankfully, the same push has caused most of the more rare ones here to be reissued as well. Except Starsailor. Somebody reissue Starsailor already). Most of the music here only loosely qualifies as "folk" insofar as what it sounds like, but you probably could have guessed that given my other tastes. I mean, Blood on the Tracks is all fine and good, but do we really need Dylan to define folk music in every decade? I say "snore," and while I’m well aware that’s a highly unpopular opinion, Comus would eat Bob for breakfast.