When Americans talk about folk music with someone from the British Isles, they are very often talking about two very different animals. English, Scottish and Irish musicians regularly perform songs that can be traced back hundreds of years – while people in the US think that acoustic Dylan is old! Jefferson Hamer was inspired by traditional music from across the pond. With Anais Mitchell, he recorded a collection of child ballads (hear more about this adventure in a Folk Alley Sessions captured at Folk Alliance). With Eamon O’Leary, he formed The Murphy Beds and made another great album of songs with long roots.
Billy Bragg works the absolute other end of the British spectrum. On Tooth & Nail, his first studio release in five years, he offers the best folk take on contemporary life and everyday people just trying to get by (although he does stop to cover a Woody Guthrie tune). Bragg writes story songs in a language that is relatable to the world around us.
An amazing thing happened to Josh Ritter following his divorce. He birthed a top-notch collection of songs. Introspective and examining in a way that makes it engaging and not annoying, The Beast in Its Tracks is on its way to making many people happy – even if it was spawned from emotional break-up.
I <3 John Denver! It makes me sad to consider how much he could have accomplished in today’s singer/songwriter-friendly climate. A group of artists – including My Morning Jacket, Dave Matthews, Kathleen Edwards, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and many other big names – are featured on The Music is You: A Tribute to John Denver. Sixteen of Denver’s biggest hits have been reinterpreted for a new audience with a portion of proceeds going to The Wilderness Society.
More music recently added to the Folk Alley playlist: