The Barclaycard Mercury Prize shortlist was announced last week. The contest celebrates the best of cutting edge British music. Of the 12 CDs included, two are already being played on Folk Alley (Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons) and three others are acoustic enough to warrant a listen(Biffy Clyro, I Am Kloot and Villagers). Recognizing that the UK and USA music scenes can often be as different as they are similar, I still thought the rising popularity of a new new wave of folk music over there could be a sign of things to come over here. If a band can build enough recognition creating music that favors lyricism and melody over pyrotechnics, that could mean the next generation is thinking for itself and picking out music it likes – not just that it’s being told to like. And, the music world is getting much closer. Waves of folk singers could wash from the streets of London on to the radio beaches in the U.S.
Or, I’m just being wildly optimistic. Like so much of my homeland’s culture, the American music business loves the big hit, the bigger stars and the biggest stage shows. The biggest trend in touring bands right now are tribute bands – basically pop hit cover bands that pick the catalog of a single artist. I’ve yet to see a tribute to Pete Seeger, even though there is roughly one Beatles band for every ten residents of Ohio. Young kids need the inspiration that Paul and John found in blues and roots music – start at the beginning and make there own way.
So, let’s applaud the Mercury Prize people for thinking outside of the box, and let’s open all of our boxes to make it easier for all generations to connect with what we already know is great – folk music of heart and substance that deserves to live on with younger listeners hungry for a new sound that’s actually aged like a fine wine.