STRANGE FOLK REVISITED

Further adventures in the psych-folk wonderland, where vinyl gems can demand prices of over £1,000. By Richard Morton Jack

STRANGE FOLK REVISITED

Since RC first covered ‘strange folk’, in April 2005, the genre has grown in popularity to an extent unknown since its early 70s heyday. Artists such as Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens enthusiastically cite the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Donovan and COB as influences, and albums once known only to a handful of devoted collectors are now acknowledged as part of the canon. As well as reflecting the easier availability of rare music through file-sharing and specialist reissue labels, this is perhaps symptomatic of a wider return to the values of a simpler era, away from the excesses of the modern rock business.

It was all so different at the start of the 60s, when British folk music was proudly governed by tradition. “Folk was very much outside the mainstream,” says legendary producer Peter Eden. “I can remember when even taking a guitar into a folk club seemed very modern, but people slowly realised that folk could mean a lot more than endlessly playing the same old material.”

As early as 1965, performers such as Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, initially perceived as traditional, had begun to display new influences. The following year, Donovan, arguably England’s only successful protest singer, was incorporating exotic instrumentation and philosophy into his songs. …

by Richard Morton Jack
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