In the post-Mumford world of folk music, purchase it may seem like there is little innovation or stimulation to be found, but this is far from the truth. It may be that folk is no longer as brazen or as loud as in the heady days of the waist-coat-wearing, foot-stomping sensation of Marcus Mumford and his gang of West-London Hillbillies but it is ever present in today’s charts. Influences of folk music can be found from Kodaline through to The Coronas and can even be stretched all the way to artists like Jake Bugg and George Ezra, but what about the hardcore and traditional folk sounds? Well that’s where the genre starts to get truly exciting.
Folk and traditional music are, by their very nature, slow to evolve. If they change too quickly they lose the things that make them special, however it’s often in the fusion and pioneering of traditional sounds that brilliant music is born. At the forefront of the experimental-traditional field is the multi-talented Dublin-born musician Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. With an impressive arsenal of instruments including the fiddle, tin whistle, Uileann pipes and Norwegian Hardanger his name seems to pop up in every project that pushes at the boundaries of modern Irish trad music. His signature trademark is his ability to blur the lines between instruments, making the fiddle sound like the Uileann Pipes and adding a whole new dimension to what was once thought to be a strict and limited style of music. One of his most successful endeavours ‘The Gloaming’ is collecting an international fan-base for its contemporary take on traditional sounds. The band which includes such masters as Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill cuts out most of the “Diddly-eye” and replaces it with electrifying and classy piano and fiddle combinations while retaining the identity and distinctiveness of Irish folk.
Across the pond, Scottish Folk trio ‘Lau’ are mesmerising audiences with their take on traditional Scottish folk music. Their songs are a mixture of comforting familiar sounds with unusual and unexpected contortions. After winning the “Best Group” at the BBC Folk awards in 2008, the band went on to release two more critically acclaimed albums. With appearances on The Jools Holland Show and multiple tours, the band are gaining popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, with a growing number of fans in Canada and North America.
In terms of more popular music for those less accustomed to the gravities of folk music, there are hundreds of artists who are adapting and incorporating traditional folk expressions into their songs. Artists like Bob Dylan and John Martyn have paved the way for a whole new generation of folk-influenced musicians such as Ben Howard, Damien Rice, Hozier and Justin Vernon to name but a few. Even bands like Sigur Ros, Bon Iver and ‘Alt-J’ are making waves in the charts with their own interpretations and elaborations on folk sounds. The folk revival of the 60’s and 70’s may be over but a whole new era of folk music is only beginning. The future of traditional music is full of exciting potential.
by Kevin O’Rielly