Mudcat Café message #1479256 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77564   Message #1479256
Posted By: Santa
06-May-05 - 06:25 AM
Thread Name: Contemporary song in folk music
Subject: RE: Contemporary song in folk music
Too late, I guess, but I'm surprised that Steve Tilston wasn't mentioned.

As others have said, perhaps better, it is a matter of definitions. There is a purist view of folk music, held by many on this board, which may not be as strict as Cecil Sharp's but holds true to the spirit of same. There is the wider view of folk music being anything you might find under that heading in HMV. In that sense contemporary writers are important, and there is a spread in that contemporary writers do not restrict themselves to contemporary subjects. Do we actually need another song telling us that WW2 was bad? Not really, but they keep coming and some of them are damn fine songs. We've already got Tommy Armstrong's mining songs, do we need Johnny Handle and Jez Lowe's reworking of similar material? Well, yes, where they give a fresh view and a some wonderful additions.

Some of these (and many others) will prove to be ephemeral and fade, others will stick around, as Shoals of Herring and Fiddlers Green have stuck around. Much as I love the traditional songs, any good working definition of "folk music" has to be wide enough to include these others.

Another point not discussed above is how a contemporary approach to arrangments can change the older songs. Here it is impossible to avoid mentioning Steeleye Span and Bob Dylan: how many times are their versions of traditional songs sung in folk clubs rather than the older versions? All part of the folk process, methinks. It is perhaps in this area that avoiding outside influences on British folk music is impossible. Not that anyone would, of course, it would certainly be the Last Thing On My Mind.