“Under The Radar” – Folk Aint What It Used To Be….

More from our mysterious OIW music mogul “Keefy” in Under The Radar no.2! Btw we also have a shiny new Facebook page so join yerself up for your exclusive invites to OIW’s events here.

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” You better do what your radio tells you to do” is a line coined by Johnny Wignap, wordsmith with Sheffield’s, currently “resting”, Black Light Theatre in a tune titled “say something”. He’s not wrong. While glossy periodicals adorn their covers and articles with preening tastefully wasted “top man” indie “stars ” who inform us that they “make music for the mad fuckers who are gonna be watching us” or “i drive around on a dirt bike with a gun. thats my politics” and heroes of the past reform and sell out stadiums to top up their pension funds and c/d sales. Something else may be going on. Way over the hill, in the musical hinterland of a far off country that used to be known as “folk”, something is stirring in the wastelands.

I had a slight suspicion that there was “something in the air” a couple of years ago when someone passed me a CD “Black Water ” by Kris Drever. Exactly. I didnt know either. On the cover a rather moody looking lad depicted in black and white. Inside I discovered a finely crafted album of great songs including the insightful “harvest gypsies” and the moving “navigator”. My musical tastebuds were tingling. Whats this? I discover Roddy Woomble of Idlewild (remember them ?) – shock horror he’s “gone folk” as though this was some horrendous disease to be avoided at all costs. Well, there he was on the album cover resplendent in arran sweater, beany and beard hanging out on some far off moorland. His album is nothing short of excellent. Like Drever he is lyrical and thought provoking.

Fast forward to last summer. Along with a rather nice introductory letter from NAVIGATOR RECORDS via the wonderful Proper Music came a sampler c/d. I was encouraged to see that you only paid £1.99 for the pleasure and that the names Drever and Woomble were lurking on the track listing but hey who are Mary Hampton and Dean Owens? They are some of the new folks on the block. Jon Boden, whose album “Songs from the Floodplain” is an apocalypic song cycle commenting on social ills and drug abuse. Its not all doom and gloom though, Boden offsets his social commentary with some glorious folk grooves. He’s got something to say! So has Mary Hampton. “My Mothers Children” is an atmospheric unearthly slice of modern folk thats sends shivers down the spine while Heidi Talbot and Karine Polwart have away with melody and words that are lovely.

The afore mentioned Drever, Woomble and their mate John McCusker’s “Before the Ruin” is another high calibre offering that tempted Radiohead’s Phil to be involved. There’s Bellowhead whose burlesque folk is really unusual and something called “The Martin Green Machine” that is truly mad and must have been created at midnight on midsummers eve. All this is just slightly removed from Devendra Banhart and company’s “new wierd psychedelic” scene, the difference being that, Drever and company, Jim Moray, who was castigated by the old folk brigade for his superb groundbreaking “Sweet England”, have emerged from the dusty folk heritage into the modern scene with verve and vigour.

Now I’m not advocating we all rush out and buy sandals, fleeces and smoke a pipe because that’s not what this is about. What is cool is that on the hidden musical fringes, where we might rarely venture, the phoenix of folk is rising again. A shed load of responsible talented artists who in the true tradition of the contemporary musical bard, have something to say to our weary land and have a good time doing it!
Now pass me that pint of Real Ale………

You can here Johnny Wignap’s “say something” at www.myspace.com/johnnywignap
Further investigation… “tunng”, “john barleycorn must die-dark britannica”, “this is navigator”(if you cant find this drop me a line).

Keefy.

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