Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where's the folk?

"The whole singer-songwriter thing has blurred the lines...A person standing there with a guitar is not necessarily playing folk music, but they are presented as a folk musician..." 
-Geoff Muldaur

Once upon a time, Wendy's ran a commercial involving three women pondering a competitor's big fluffy bun which it turns out contained a very small beef patty. Clara Peller became famous for her line "where's the beef?". In this article we ask "where's the folk?".

The annual Boston Music Awards upon us, and again give us reasons for pause.

Reason 1. Where's the folk?
Folk Artist Of The Year
Antje Duvekot 
Rose Polenzani
Kris Delmhorst
Lori McKenna

Where's the folk? All are fine pop singer-songwriters who belong in the BMA's "singer-songwriter" category:
Singer Songwriter Of The Year
Aly Spaltro (Lady Lamb the Beekeeper)
Antje Duvekot
Marissa Nadler
Mike Fiore (Faces on Film)
Rose Polenzani
(well, at least BMA got two of them right).

Reason #2: Where's the old-time? bluegrass? sea chanties????

The BMA's music award categories also include Americana, Blues, DJ, Electronic, Hip Hop, R&B/Soul/Urban Contemporary, International, Gospel/Inspirational, Jazz, Metal/Hardcore and Punk.  But Boston has very strong traditional folk, old-time, Celtic, bluegrass, sea chanty and contradance communities, where are their categories?  

To usurp the word "folk" by calling pop singer-songwriters such and not to include these genre in the award categories is both a misuse of the word and a disservice to these communities. Before next year's program is planned, I encourage BMA to cooperate with organizations such as New England Folk Festival Association (NEFFA), the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston (FSSGB), the Folk Arts Center of New England (FACNE), the Traditional Music Project, the Boston Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, NE Chantey Sings, and other area folk organizations in two ways: appropriate use of the word "folk" and creation of realistic, not contrived, folk music award categories.

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