Seasons They Change
by Jeanette Leech

A year-round companion for freak-flag wavers everywhere

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.

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Jawbone | ISBN 9781906002329, 366 pages

Reviewed by Mick Houghton
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