Equal now in importance to gospel, jazz, blues, and country as tributary of contemporary rock. Traditional folksong, as opposed to jigs, reels, etc., which adapt like a dream to rock treatment, has always been essentially non-rhythmic, and bass/drum underpinning of folk/rock has evolved to satisfy eclectic ears conditioned to rock but liking folk melody and lyrics. Joe Boyd’s stable of Witchseason artist, Fairport Convention and Incredible String Band in particular, have been so crucial to development of folkrock, Boyd himself, as their producer, could almost be called the inspiration of the genre.
Fairport Convention from The Old Grey Whistle Test
First album to be promoted as folkrock was Fairport Convention’s classic album “Liege and Lief”, but key moment had come on previous set “Unhalfbricking” when traditional fiddler Dave Swarbrick joined band for extended duet with Richard Thompson at end of “A Sailor’s Life”. Up to this point, Fairport had no more than flirted with folkstyle rock.
Chronology of what might be referred to as the Fairport academy has been listed on sleeve of “The History of Fairport Convention”, and includes Sandy Denny and her shortlived band Fotheringay, Richard Thompson, Ian Matthews, and Ashley (Tyger) Hutchings.
Original Chrysalis Records promo video for Steeleye Span’s 1975 hit ‘All Around My Hat’
Hutchings has made various attempts to isolate English, as opposed to Irish and Scottish influence, firstly through Steeleye Span, which he formed and then left to form the Albion Country Band, which emerged out of gathering of folkrock musicians backing Shirley Collins on “No Roses”, recordings of Albion Country Band’s “Battle of the Field”, not issued until 1976, three years after demise of band. Hutccings moved on to experiment with Etchingham Steam Band. and also made two recordings “The Complete Dancing Master” and “Rattlebone and Ploughjack” tracing history of various forms of English dance.
Parallel to this school are blues’n’spacey ragtime guitar pickers, who have also become in some cases original and important songwriters. Purely instrumentally, the giant is Davy Graham’s “Folk Roots new Routes”, whose guitar solo Anji was B-side of Simon and Garfunkel’s first single, “The Sound Of Silence”.
Graham’s eclecticism spotting parallels between sitar music and Irish modal music and using bluesy rhythms to accompany traditional songs as early as 1964 was far ahead of it’s time.
The legendary Bert Jansch playing Rosemary Lane -1971
Bert Jansch and John Renbourn joined up with jazz bassist and drummer Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, and singer Jacqui McShee to develop similar ideas as basis for Pentangle.
From folk/rock viewpoint, Jansch’s solo “Jack Orion”, which consists entirely of traditional material, is most important. Most important guitar stylist in this school is John Martyn.
Meanwhile bands whose function lies in rocking up traditional jigs and reels, sometimes known as Celtic rock, includes Horslips, and Planxty’s “Planxty”, best of them all. Alan Stivell brought about Breton and Irish rock fusion, and also added political wing in his revival of Celtic folksong, in actively campaigning for preservation of Celtic culture.
The Chieftains, an entirely acoustic band, who don’t flirt with rock music at all, but nevertheless, because they play contemporary Irish folksong in such vivacious manner, have acquired support of strong and swelling rock audience. Similarly, the Bothy Band produced by Donal Lunny, ex-Planxty ,asserted them selves.
The Bothy Band September 1976 in the Embankment Tallaght Dublin
Most complete anthology band, incorporating every influence under the sun, was Incredible String Band, who also inspired host of other bands which used at various times religio-mystic poetry, acoustic instrumentation, and folk intonation.
Best album of all in this field, however, is “Bright Phoebus” on which Mike and Lal Waterson are supported by many leading figures of folk revival, including Martin Carthy.
The Electric Muse, a book written by Dave Laing, Karl Dallas, Robert Shelton, and Robin Denselow, documents transition of folk from an acoustic to an electric-based music. It was accompanied by a four-record set “The Electric Muse”. a somewhat piecemeal selection of most influential songs and artists, rather heavily biased towards Fairport axis.
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