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Various - What the Folk

  by Philip Vincent

published: 8 / 2 / 2007

Various - What the Folk
Label: Butterfly Recordings
Format: CD


Disappointing compilation of British folk artists on ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong's new Butterfly Recordings label

I was really looking forward to this compilation. The idea of someone doing an on location Alan Lomax style recording of British folk artists got my juices flowing. Having listened to it a few times now, however, I have to say that it is something of a soggy attempt. The thing that made all those American recordings good and even the 60’s UK folk revival good was that you could hear the suffering and the lives coming out of the voices of those involved. The majority of the tracks on this record (with a few notable exceptions) sound like they have been created by people with aspirations of being Damian Rice or Jeff Buckley, but who have nothing new or noteworthy to say. Folk and blues music is born out of struggle and the want to pass stories on. Perhaps there just aren’t any good stories to tell anymore and perhaps the continuous advancement of home comforts has stopped everyone suffering. Stories of junk mail coming through the door and not being able to watch what you want on telly doesn’t really compare to being persecuted. It’s an issue of authenticity to me. When I listen to these tracks I don’t get that tingle I do when I listen To Dylan or Robert Johnson, and that feeling of hearing through their voice the tiredness and weariness they are feeling just doesn’t come through. It seems the performers on this record are listening to these types of tracks and trying to recreate that feeling without having had the experiences to really pull this off! That isn’t to say that some of the songs and voices aren’t good. Lisa Knapp and Samantha Marais' tracks are enchanting. The Dilettantes fuse together a drum machine and dixie blues guitar well, while Daniel Orcese is the nearest to sounding like the old blues/folk greats that this record gets. If you love acoustic music then this is a good album to listen to. It has some beautiful melodies and voices but, if you are looking for a British equivalent of US folk and blues, then you may have to continue your journey a little further.

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