Friday, October 14, 2011

Folk Rock Gates Opened

It is starting to look like I have been enticed into a small folk rock craze, mostly thanks to the Association. Listening to the Association was at some point like a learning session aiming at a deeper understanding of the band. Now, every second with the Association is like being in heaven... While getting acquainted with the band, I also learned to appreciate folk rock style, melodies and aesthetics more than ever. Now, when I put on anything that has those folky melodies my mind screams: aah yeah, folk rock, this is the good stuff!

Well, this isn't really the first time I have been interested in folk rock. However, we may have to say something about the term folk rock at first. There are countless different manifestations of folk rock. There is folk rock, folk pop, folk metal, neo-folk and who knows how many other variants of music that is based on folk. There are also local variants of folk and folk rock all around the world. For me, the starting point is the Association, so that defines my current interest. I am mostly talking about music that was inspired and developed from American folk music. Still, I don't wish to limit myself. Instead, I hope to keep an open mind. If I discover a great Arabic folk music band, I will definitely check it out...

Anyway, probably the most famous folk rock band I have listened to before is the Byrds. Both the Byrds and the Association have recorded Bob Dylan songs. If I haven't misunderstood all of this, those jangly and harmonic Dylan covers played a big role in the American folk rock success. Dylan himself also went electric which made him more and more popular.

We could now perhaps define folk rock as being folk decorated with elements that make it more appealing for large audiences. A traditional folk song is bare and has little decoration. There isn't much auditory spectacle. A folk troubadour singing alone and playing a guitar can obviously be wonderful, but a band like the Association with its rich full band arrangements and enormous vocals gives the music a whole different treatment.

This question has a lot in common with the dilemma of how much a song needs decorations, different instruments and production. Some people want more, some people want less... And it depends on the song, time, genre, etc. In my opinion, the composition (with its tunes and chords) is the core of any traditional (pop) song. Still, a rich sound with an excellent, carefully conducted arrangement can make a song rise to a whole new level. So, even though the bare song, the idea, is the most important thing and an achievement in its own right, it also helps a great deal to make it sound as appealing as possible.

My next goal is to find out and compare how different bands transform their folk songs into more ambitious arrangements – or decide to stick to more simple arrangements. I have a list of interesting performers. On that list there are the Mamas & the Papas, the Beau Brummels, the (New) Seekers, Donovan, and P. F. Sloan. Finally checking out Bob Dylan would probably be pretty useful, too.

I have to say I don't really know much about folk rock. I only know a few artists and I know who the most influential UK and US folk artists were. So, I could say that the search is now on. The real gems are often hidden I would be more than happy to get recommendations. What are your favorite folk rock bands?

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