English vs. American folk culture
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English vs. American folk culture

GUEST,Musket 22 Feb 14 - 03:33 AM
GUEST,airymouse 21 Feb 14 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 21 Feb 14 - 06:57 PM
Leadfingers 21 Feb 14 - 06:56 PM
Desert Dancer 21 Feb 14 - 06:36 PM
Will Fly 21 Feb 14 - 08:22 AM
GUEST 21 Feb 14 - 08:09 AM
GUEST 21 Feb 14 - 07:55 AM
Allan C. 21 Feb 14 - 07:37 AM
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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: GUEST,Musket
Date: 22 Feb 14 - 03:33 AM

And yet.

I played at a folk club the other night and my set had four American songs in it, the rest being my own. I noted that the floor turns sang mainly American songs.

I meant to end with an English traditional song but forgot..

I see more and more acoustic music nights as opposed to a Jim Carroll defined folk night. The term folk seems to be evolving. Conversely, I found an excellent sing around night in the UK tradition in a bar in Santa Monica CA a few years ago.

That said, I think the pub v coffee house roots together with the geography has led to different overall scenes.

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: GUEST,airymouse
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 07:23 PM

I think Will Fly makes an important distinction. Hidden away beneath the "folk revival" of the '60s the traditions were kept alive by people like Larry Older (NY), Hortie Barker (VA), Nellie Galt and Jean Ritchie (KY), Almeda Riddle (AK) and many, like Mary Lomax(GA), who were not being recorded at that time. The experts on this site could add many many other names. Here in southwest VA we have Friday night jamborees and jams, but with the exception of a few standard dance songs, you almost never hear old songs in public. The crooked road is not about preserving traditional songs; it's about getting the tourists' dollar.Let's face it, old songs are not money makers: you are not going to get people to hum along or dance if the tune changes in the last two verses, or the song ends in 13 seconds, or goes on and on telling a story with every verse different. And it's natural to like songs with which you are familiar, so the interesting unrecorded versions of old songs are trumped by the better-known versions of Jerry Garcia, the Carter family, Joan Baez etc. I like to think that the recent publication of Mary Lomax's songs shows that the American hidden folk culture has survived the "folk revival", but I'm not sure.

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 06:57 PM

You obviously don't live in the Appalachian area. If you did you wouldn't need a folk club. There is a real living tradition there with picking sessions all around not to mention fiddle festivals and bluegrass festivals.

Just because there aren't any folk clubs near you doesn't mean that there aren't any singers and musicians in the area.


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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 06:56 PM

The UK Folk Revival was VERY Pub based , whereas the American revival was Coffee Bar orientated , so there is a major difference straightaway . Also , as GUEST at 8.09 said , the US equivalent of PRS is far more active .
However , it is also ~VERY patchy - Washington DC area has a plethora of Open Mics , sessions , and House concerts . Same goes for Boston , and several other urban connotations

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 06:36 PM

If you can't find it, it's probably because you're not looking! Or you're not willing to drive more than a few miles...

for example...

Greater Los Angeles area calendar (granted, this is a high-density area)

Sing Out! festival list (not entirely current, but shows you what's been out there)

Yes, the scene for singing is different, I have envied the English folk club idea from afar. But, that sure does not mean there's nothing going on.

~ Becky in Long Beach, CA

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 08:22 AM

I'm not sure that the traditional music scene (I prefer that to "folk") in America, through the years, can be compared to ours. For a start, the musical environments were and are very different, and I think there's a subtle difference between the grassroots music of America and the US Folk Revival and its subsequent history.

I'm going to start at an odd place: Western Swing as personified by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys - a band that soared to great heights from the early 1940s onwards. As well as broadcasting, the band toured all over the south and west, playing in dance halls and community halls - a wonderful mixture of country music, fiddle tunes, comic songs, big band jazz, etc., played on brass, electric guitars, pedal steel guitars, fiddles, drums, bass etc. Hugely eclectic in style and content. Just listen to their recording of "Take Me Back To Tulsa": starts with a corny old country riff on two fiddles, goes to a vocal chorus, switches to a hot honky-tonk piano solo, repeats a vocal chorus, goes into a hot fiddle jazz solo, then more singing followed by two electric guitar half-solos on electric guitar and pedal steel guitar - and finishes on the vocals and fiddle duet. They literally mixed up all sorts of styles - often in one tune.

I've analysed this in some detail because it demonstrates how much more homogeneous American country/folk/traditional appeared to be than music over here. Music was embedded in the community and the barriers between one type of music and another were blurred. It was just what you played in your home, in a local bar, at a party on the back porch, for a dance. The Everly Brothers, for example, were not a lone phenomenon but one set of musicians in a long line that started with people like the Carter Family, Jimmy Rogers, the Delmore Brothers in one strand, and with a host of others in other strands. Listen to the Harry Smith Collection to see what was there. The Holy Modal Rounders could take stuff from that collection and whoop it up in a whacky but affectionate way. No hangups about it being one thing or another.

The Folk Revival, which was influenced partly by the Harry Smith Collection, was to my mind a much more self-conscious "folk" movement, with social and political motives, as exemplified by the Weavers, Pete Segger, Guthrie, and so on.

So, when you speak of the "folk culture" of the US and try to compare it with our own, you might be trying to compare apples and oranges... :-) Just my take on the question.

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 08:09 AM

I have been an active member in many folk clubs over the year including one in Northern Virginia patterned on the english model.

A big problem in the states is that the copyright agencies continually shake down folk venues to the point that musicians often have to carry documentation with them to prove that what they perform is all public domain. The result is that may open mics, coffee houses, etc no longer have live music.

In SW Michigan where I now live we have many venues and festivals.
P.S. I perform much nautical and English fold music myself.

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Subject: RE: English vs. American folk culture
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 07:55 AM

yes, come on Americans, take those bloody cowboy hats off and put your old moth balled Aran jumpers back on !!!!

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Subject: English vs. American folk culture
From: Allan C.
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 07:37 AM

One of the things I miss most about no longer living in England is the folk culture that still persists there and some would even say it thrives. Sure, all of the other forms of musical expression are there as well, but folk is still very much alive in the UK. I can't help but to wonder what happened in the US to cause it to become so diminished. Even at its peak in the States its adherents were for some reason thought to be subversive and were virtually if not in fact, shunned by "polite society". What happened? How come the UK has folk clubs and the US doesn't? Why is the American calendar not filled with folk festivals like the UK calendar? Any thoughts?

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