Folk Tracks Roundup, May 2024

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It’s time to dip the glass once more into the rich punchbowl of folk and swig deep on the varied content to be found therein.  Ah, folk, it contains multitudes.  And to prove that we’ve got a fairly mixed bag of songs and tunes that come under that broad musical genre.  Genres – so hard to pin down and within folk as soon as you think you have them all, well, there’s another one.  So, we’re starting off with one of our favourite sub-genres, psychfolk.

Ger Eaton (pronounced Jair, short for Gerard) is an Irish multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, hair stylist (!) and retro-vintage aficionado, most recently known as keyboardist/guitarist for Dublin alt-rock heroes The Pale. However, Ger has been a revered mainstay of the Irish music scene for many years as a member of Premonition (EMI), Las Vegas Basement (Columbia), Les Marionettes, Pugwash, The Carnival Brothers and via numerous solo and collaborative recordings.   Ger explains that the subject matter of his slo-mo, psych-folk redolent new single, ‘Season Changes’, “deals with the often inevitable decay of a relationship, from the glowing bloom of its Spring, gradually ebbing away to its wintry conclusion,” while the song itself was “born out of a newly strung guitar and a late night rewatching of The Wicker Man.

Sticking with Ireland for a while, ‘Woman‘ is the poignant and pertinent recent single and title song from Ciara O’Neill‘s new EP.  Ciara O’Neill told us that: “‘Woman’ is an exploration of the beauty and complexities of being a Woman in modern society. Looking at myself, my own female relatives and those Women in history who have lived lives in the shadows, it’s about having a desire for more, not feeling the need to conform to expectations placed on us, and allowing ourselves to be visible and speak our truths.”

Talking of pertinent, we turn now to Frankie Archer who has carved out a place in the electro-folk scene with  a combination of manipulated samples, synths, drum tracks and earthy Northumbrian fiddle and voice.  ‘Lovely Joan‘ is an old tale that resonates today as Archer notes: “When I sing “Lovely Joan” I think about all the women and girls today that have been in a situation where they feel uncomfortable at best and are trying to figure out how to safely get out. Men and boys are expected to ‘make the first move’ and this leads to pressuring and persuading. Women and girls are taught not to kick up a fuss, to oblige and not to offend. The parallels between this 100+ year old song and life today make it clear how deeply rooted these problematic gender expectations are.

And since we’re exploring folk sub-genres here’s a new one for you to enjoy open-minded and musically inclined reader, as Mary Frances Leahy takes us to the world of “Celticumbia” a gernre blend that effortlessly bridges the worlds of Celtic and Latin music. ‘Cheerio‘ really does bring to mind that final super-exuberant dance of the evening at the better kind of ceilidh.  Mary Frances Leahy is the oldest of seven children born to Canadian Celtic-music legends Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, Mary Frances has been performing with them since age 5, playing an estimated 600 shows throughout Canada and the U.S. – but now she’s launching her solo musical career with extensive gigs and a debut album of which she says “If I had to describe the album, I would say it’s a salad – it’s a mixture of many odd things which, put together, create something delicious.

There’s time for just one more genre leap this time – and it’s a twofer, how about that?  Memorial are described as an alt-folk duo, with  riveting indie-folk appeal.  Listen to ‘Silver’ and you’ll probably agree that both labels are apt for Ollie Spalding and Jack Watts’ musical project.  They say of the song that “Silver is about betrayal within friendships. This centres around how some friendships, particularly working relationships, feel so important that there can be a heavy focus on protecting it, which can lead to isolation. Being within that involves sacrifice in other important aspects of life such as romantic relationships, pastimes and opinions.  We witnessed a friend dedicate years of their life to a working friendship, which became an important part of their identity. We witnessed them exiled in absence of validity. We wrote from their perspective, adjusting to life outside of this group, the feeling of abandonment but also witnessing the power of their independence. It’s also about the support from a soulmate who provides a place of safety and stability that can’t be affected by any outside influence.”

About Jonathan Aird 2744 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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