In her fascinating account of the origins, demise and resurrection of acid and psychedelic folk, Jeanette Leech explains how it was Lillian Roxon who first coined the term “acid-folk” back in 1969, to describe Pearls Before Swine. The group is now viewed as a pioneer of this intrinsically weird branch of music, identified by an other-worldliness and a genuine sense of experimentation.
In Britain, though Leech rightly cites Davy Graham and Shirley Collins’ brave collaboration (Folk Roots, New Routes) as a starting point, the true godfathers of the genre were undoubtedly The Incredible String Band. Despite their fleeting popularity, what unites the variants of acid-folk in the 60s and 70s was a total lack of commercial success among its perpetrators. Psychedelic folk never rose above cult level, vanishing by the late 70s when it “carried just such a stench”.
Leech traces the genre’s crawl back from obscurity until, in the past decade, once-derided groups such as Comus and Jan Dukes De Grey, or forgotten figures the likes of Mark Fry or Vashti Bunyan, were rediscovered by critics, collectors and artists, including Davandra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Will Oldham, Alasdair Roberts and Espers.
Carefully researched and littered with interviews, Seasons They Change achieves the impossible in drawing together the myriad, disparate stands of a genre which, in its heyday, was usually dismissed as a blot on the musical landscape. It’s only in hindsight that acid-folk is now recognised and appreciated in its own right.