Mudcat Café message #3177756 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #138735   Message #3177756
Posted By: theleveller
28-Jun-11 - 09:53 AM
Thread Name: Do purists really exist?
Subject: RE: Do purists really exist?
"I've heard few* new Folk Songs that capture The Spirit of the Old Songs because the living idiom has been lost to us"

My experience has been rather different to yours. I think the thread linking us to the past still exists, but often at a very local (or even family) level and that new songs are emerging from this but they probably won't be heard outside this small niche, nor do they tend to exist in isolation, more as part of memories that are passed on.

I agree with Art Thieme that context is paramount. If you've the patience to bear with me, I'll give you an example which I've quoted before. I used to know an old Yorkshire Wolds farmer who would sometimes come to the first folk club I went to and, as well as telling us about how farming used to be, he loved to sing a version of "We're All Jolly Fellows Who Follow the Plough" that I've never heard since. Incidentally, The Watersons happened to be at the club one evening and were fascinated by the song and asked him to sing it several times (I don't know if they ever performed it themselves). I later asked my grandfather (who had been a ploughboy in the Wolds at the age of 12) if he knew the song and he said he did recall it.

Anyway, years later I wrote a song based on what the old farmer had said about the change from heavy horses to tractors and it starts with a verse of the 'Jolly Fellows' song. This has now been passed on to my folkie-inclined daughter together with the story. Whether it will go any further I don't know. As an aside, we once sang the song in a pub, appropriately called The Chestnut Horse, which happened to be in the very village where my grandfather had gone to school. After we'd finished, a massive, weather-beaten old chap turned round and, with tears in his eyes, said that the song exactly captured his memories of losing the heavy horses on his father's farm, and he asked us to give him a copy of the words.

I think this is a good example of a new song having a resonance and preserving a memory that goes back much further. It's not an isolated example; I know a number of local singer/songwriters who are doing a similar thing with their songs and that's what I would call new folk songs. Maybe one day a collector will chance to hear one of these songs and preserve it but I doubt it because I suspect the collectors are themselves a dying breed.