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20,000 voices, singing as one

The Latvian Song and Dance Festival has existed in some form or another since 1873, held roughly every five years. Along with similar festivals in Estonia and Lithuania, it has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the world's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The approximately 35,000 amateur singers and dancers who travel from all around Latvia to perform the weeklong festival comprise 1.5% of the country's entire population. The centerpiece of the festival is always the final night, when the full complement of roughly 20,000 singers perform the most iconic Latvian folk songs a cappella. In 2013, a song performed on the final night was "Līgo" (a word meaning both "sway" and "summer solstice festival"). But for sheer spine-tingling pleasure, 2008's "Gaismas pils" ("Castle of Light") can't be beat.
posted by ocherdraco on Jul 1, 2014 - 18 comments

It all started in Washington Square...

The Coen Brothers latest film "Inside Llewyn Davis" is fictional, but it aims to portray the very specific time and place of the Greenwich Village Folk scene in the early 60's. Reviewers have already noted the similarities between the movies characters and some real life counterparts, starting with Llewyn Davis himself and legendary folk singer Dave Van Ronk. [more inside]
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI on Dec 29, 2013 - 42 comments

The Transcendental Transatlantic Sessions

The other day, I woke up humming Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues." That terrific performance is from Transatlantic Sessions, a long-running project uniting musicians from different countries and varying musical backgrounds. "For almost two decades, the sessions have been inviting American musicians – from Rufus Wainwright to Emmylou Harris to James Taylor – to the UK to collaborate with British musicians steeped in the folk tradition, and filming the results. Imagine Later with Jools Holland, if all the acts played on each other's songs. And with more accordion." Drawing from Wikipedia's list of performances, I offer for your listening pleasure... Transatlantic Sessions. [more inside]
posted by MonkeyToes on Dec 23, 2013 - 18 comments

Christmas Time in the Trailerpark

Y'all, consisting of Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and James Dean Jay Byrd, first surfaced in New York city in 1992, touting themselves as the first openly gay country music act. That same year, they preformed Y'all's First Xmas Xtravagaza: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. [more inside]
posted by 1f2frfbf on Dec 20, 2013 - 8 comments

Debo Band: Ethiopian pop, and then some

Debo Band's Ethiopian pop music mixes traditional folk music with American soul and funk rhythms. Listen to their critically acclaimed self-titled album from 2012 for gems such as Akale Wube, Not Just a Song, Asha Gedawo, And Lay and Habesha.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Jul 15, 2013 - 7 comments

Music videos from Kevin Ihle.

Acoustic musicians, mostly in Colorado, beautifully documented by photographer Kevin Ihle.
posted by xowie on May 4, 2013 - 3 comments

Que estando triste, cantava

Fado is a Portuguese musical genre which originated in the 1820’s in Lisbon. It has been enjoying a revival over the last twenty years, one of the most prominent recent voices being that of Mariza. In 2006 Simon Broughton did a documentary exploring the roots of the music. Via youtube, here is Mariza and the Story of Fado. [more inside]
posted by winna on Apr 6, 2013 - 13 comments

Mike Seeger & Alice Gerrard. Mike Seeger. Mike Seeger in Concert.

Homemade American Music, a movie by Carrie and Yasha Aginsky: A history of rural southeastern traditional American music, as told and played by Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard. Mike and Alice recount their own involvment with this music, and briefly trace its history as we meet their mentors: the late Tommy Jarrell, Lily May Ledford, Roscoe Holcomb, Elizabeth Cotten and many other musicians.
Mike Seeger interviewed (mp3 link) by an inexperienced but eager young Oberlin student in 2003. Mike also plays gourd banjo and jew's harp on air. He talks about Dock Boggs toward the end. Mike Seeger playing (mp3 link) at the Oberlin Folk Festival in 2003. About minute 18 he gives a lesson on playing jew's harp.
posted by OmieWise on Jan 17, 2013 - 4 comments

Whips, whiskey, women, work, weapons, cars and cadence. But no hockey.

Jump steady, Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam!
Yeah, Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam!
Looky yonder Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam!
Whoa Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam!
Yeah, Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam!
She's so rock steady! Bam-A-Lam!
She's always ready! Bam-A-Lam!
Whoa, Black Betty! Bam-A-Lam! [more inside]
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey on Jan 16, 2013 - 52 comments

ARTISTS MAKE LOUSY SLAVES

Singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked "used to be a poet." Who would "write, late into the night, by candlelight." But now, according to a statement [PDF] solicited by the US Copyright office about the current state of royalty payments for songwriters "I work in a candle factory. I scrape flesh from skins of carcasses and process rendered fat into lumpy bars with wicks." [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Dec 17, 2012 - 39 comments

this is the gayest of all the possible things: going to a meshell ndegeocello concert, with a goddamned lesbian, that is being held in a motherfucking FOLK MUSIC SCHOOL.

how do you know if you're on a date with a lesbian or if you're just two pretty girls hanging out?
posted by the man of twists and turns on Nov 30, 2012 - 249 comments

The bandura (або, «Яка в бісу арфа, янголи грають на бандурах!»).

Paparazzi by Lady Gaga. [more inside]
posted by Nomyte on Nov 12, 2012 - 20 comments

We'll be having cake and ice cream when she comes.

Like many other great American folk songs, She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain reaches us through the filter of both religious and secular movements. The music underneath the words has its original genesis in a spiritual sung originally by slaves and later popularized in the black churches of the south; the lyrics we know today – the version which came into the larger cultural vernacular and which spawned various children’s versions – was, originally, a protest song. [more inside]
posted by luriete on Jul 30, 2012 - 36 comments

"If I had my own .45 'matic, I'd be dangerous too."

Dangerous Blues sung by Mr. Joe Savage (SLYT)
posted by jason's_planet on Jul 7, 2012 - 5 comments

RIP, Doc Watson

Iconic bluegrass guitarist Doc Watson has died in a Winston-Salem, NC hospital. Arthel "Doc" Watson, 89 years old at the time of his death, was one of the greatest traditional, folk and bluegrass guitarists in history. He is credited with popularizing the flatpicking style of guitar, and his involvement with the concerts in New York City, Boston and Newport helped popularize traditional mountain music and bluegrass during the 1960s. [more inside]
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare on May 29, 2012 - 106 comments

Right wing folk music

While there were a few attempts at right-wing folk music during the 1960's, most notably The Goldwaters, Janet "anti-Baez" Greene was the darling of the conservative anti-communist right. Her songs include Fascist Threat, Commie Lies, and her most (in)famous, Poor Left Winger
"I'm just a poor left-winger, befuddled, bewildered, forlorn, duped by a bearded singer, peddling his communist corn. In the cafe, espresso, sounds of guitars could be heard, twanging a plaintive folksong, spreading the communist word..."
[more inside]
posted by stbalbach on May 26, 2012 - 48 comments

Present Tense!

First recorded 50 years ago, Peter Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon has a rather sad ending: Puff 'sadly slips into his cave' while little Jackie Paper grows up and puts his childhood behind him. But in 2007, Peter Yarrow published a book, Puff, the Magic Dragon, in which the classic song remains the same, but whose illustrations give us a new glimpse into Puff's future. Here is Mr. Yarrow, performing the song with his daughter Bethany at Woodstock's Bearsville Theatre, in '07. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jan 27, 2012 - 49 comments

Russian shellacing

Russian Records is an online archive of thousands of 78s issued in Russia, or with Russian themes. Just the labels are a visual feast but there's audio as well. Don't miss the whistlers with orchestral backing.
posted by OmieWise on Jan 1, 2012 - 11 comments

The OTHER 12 Days of Christmas

In the mountains of North Carolina an old tradition lives on: Breakin Up Christmas. [more inside]
posted by timsteil on Dec 15, 2011 - 18 comments

he has apparently been forgiven

Ed Askew lost his martin tipple on a railroad platform 20 years ago. In 2009, someone returned it. Now he can play his classic freak-folk songs on it again. Though some of his best don't require any live accompaniment at all. [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Dec 8, 2011 - 13 comments

Can't get to an Unfamiliar Moon when they won't even let you on the plane.

Vance Gilbert is, in his own words, "big in the music business like a barnacle is big in shipping". Performing solo with acoustic guitar, his original music (including songs about Old White Men, Gilligan and the planet Pluto) and some well-chosen covers, as well as his on-stage banter, have charmed audiences all over* for umpteen years. He has made a reply to CeeLo's infamous song, performed alongside Arlo Guthrie while having an attack of gout and in his spare time, he makes free-flying models of antique airplanes. But sadly, he has just gotten the most publicity of his career... as an unwilling participant in one airline's Security Theater. (Story picked up by The Consumerist, the Economist, and James Fallows at the Atlantic.) [more inside]
posted by oneswellfoop on Aug 26, 2011 - 55 comments

Happy Birthday Woody Guthrie

Today would have been Woody Guthrie's ...99th birthday, and the beginning of his centennial year.
"Woody is just Woody. Thousands of people do not know he has any other name. He is just a voice and a guitar. He sings the songs of a people and I suspect that he is, in a way, that people. Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of a people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit." - John Steinbeck
For fans, there's a webpage to organize events and such around his centennial. And here's something for those that don't know his work, and those that want to remember:

This Land Is Your Land
Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done
Talking Dustbowl Blues
So long it's been good to know you
posted by Stagger Lee on Jul 14, 2011 - 48 comments

World Folk Music

Root Hog or Die has an extensive collection of links to world folk music repositories. There are over 60, with days and days of music to listen to. Some are comprised of field recordings, some are from old 78s, and some are from more contemporary sources, so you'll have to use your judgement about which you're comfortable visiting. The sites cover everything from Hmong music to Ossetian music to Northwest Fiddle Field Recordings.
posted by OmieWise on Jun 24, 2011 - 13 comments

Udmurt Grannies

Buranovskie Babushki is a charming group of grannies from the village of Buranovo in Udmurtia, Russia who came one place away from being the national entry to last year's Eurovision with their crowd-pleasing folk number. Since then, they've been covering a few western classics in their native language. Here's a few: Yesterday; Venus; and Let it Be.
posted by madamjujujive on Jun 12, 2011 - 16 comments

Manly Wade Wellman: Writer of the Weird

Manly Wade Wellman is probably best known for his eerie tales of Silver John, stories of a traveling balladeer and the weirdness he encountered in the southern Appalachians. Wellman was also an avid student of southern folklore and mountain music. His associations with Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Obray Ramsey served as inspirations for the Silver John character. In addition to his macabre tales of the American South, Wellman was an award-winning mystery author (beating William Faulkner for the prize) and ghost wrote Will Eisner's The Spirit while Eisner was in the army. [more inside]
posted by marxchivist on Sep 18, 2010 - 24 comments

A Singer Scarred for Life

Sixth-grader Jackson C. Frank was horribly burned when the boiler at his Cheektowaga, New York, elementary school exploded March 31, 1954, killing fifteen of his classmates. While recovering from his injuries, Frank was introduced to the guitar, and the insurance settlement he received a decade later helped fund a trip to England, where he recorded his first and only album. [more inside]
posted by Knappster on Aug 15, 2010 - 34 comments

James Dean? JIMMY Dean!

Jimmy Dean (Aug. 28, 1928 - June 13, 2010) is best known to Mefites for his brand of sausage, although he sold the company in the '80s, and was dropped as its spokesman in 2003; its current owner is Sara Lee*. But his musical legacy is sealed by his 'country rap*' classic "Big Bad John" (performed live in 2008), often imitated, but never parodied better than with "Big Bruce"** (info). But to me, he was the guy with the variety show where he spent several minutes every week bantering with the muppet Rowlf****. Here's Jimmy in Esquire Magazine's "What I've Learned". His final resting place is music-themed, NOT sausage themed. "Here lies one hell of a man." [more inside]
posted by oneswellfoop on Jun 15, 2010 - 48 comments

Paul Morley shows off

Showing Off is a series of videos, audio clips and articles in which noted music journalist and Frankie Goes to Hollywood mastermind Paul Morley explores various facets of music. Each month has a theme, [warning: most links have autoplaying video] Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, classical music, disco, The Beatles, folk music, The X Factor, the Noughties, the next big thing, UK hip hop, jazz, and dance. Here is some of what's on offer: MeFi faves Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip on hip hop, These New Puritans' Jack Barnett, Johnny Marr on folk (parts 1, 2), but isn't all just interviews, there are also a lot of performances, e.g. Michael Nyman and David McAlmont, Badly Drawn Boy, Susanna Wallumrød covers Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, and Cornershop cover Norwegian Wood.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 26, 2010 - 8 comments

I really cannot believe no one has ever posted this.

The Great Empire of China has a fantastic archive of traditional, classical and even modern Chinese music excerpts and several full musical suites, including some pieces from Chinese opera. National Geographic has a short breakdown on regional variations in traditional music in China. Chinese opera is very different than Western opera. Here are some great pictures of singers. [more inside]
posted by winna on Apr 13, 2010 - 7 comments

Folks Singer Kate McGarrigle Dead at 63

Folk singer Kate McGarrigle succumbs to cancer. Perhaps best known for her work with sister Anna, Kate was also the mother of performers Martha Wainwright and Rufus Wainwright. Kate and Anna's music was covered by more popular (in the US) performers, such as Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and others. My favorite thing they did is "The Log Drivers Waltz", available as a video from the National Film Board of Canada. It always takes me back to my mother's house in the Canada. The McGarrigle website has lots of news, information, and links on the performers.
posted by paddbear on Jan 19, 2010 - 82 comments

The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings

The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
posted by Kattullus on Oct 6, 2009 - 35 comments

Richard and Mimi Fariña.

Richard and Mimi Fariña. I doubt I'll ever forget his song, Bold Marauder, or his cult novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. He and Mimi, Joan Baez's sister, made three fine albums before his tragic death. Youtube has a live version of "Bold Marauder." Also, a nice cover by Kendra Smith, and a fanvid for the pirate romance, "Frenchman's Creek," using a cover by John Kay of Steppenwolf.
posted by shetterly on Sep 21, 2009 - 13 comments

RIP Mary Travers, of Peter Paul and...

Mary Travers died today, at 72, of leukemia. According to the NY Times, she provided the sex appeal to Peter, Paul and Mary, which in turn provided mainstream production values for a number of Dylan songs. However, many remember her contributions to (the creepily titled but awesome) kids' record Peter Paul and Mommy. Peter and Paul have written tributes to her.
posted by chesty_a_arthur on Sep 16, 2009 - 129 comments

Folk Music from 1947

To Hear Your Banjo Play is a documentary by Alan Lomax from 1947. It is narrated by Pete Seeger and features Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee among others.
posted by RussHy on May 23, 2009 - 15 comments

Wade Mainer, Old Timey Banjo Player

Wade Mainer played a two-finger style of banjo, between old timey and bluegrass. Here is an interview he did with David Holt at the age of 97. Part 2. Part 3. Still playing strong!
posted by RussHy on Feb 1, 2009 - 9 comments

Utah Phillips.

Utah Phillips: Songwriter, singer, storyteller (May 15, 1935 – May 23, 2008). "Moose Turd Pie". "Get rid of the bum on the plush" and "Hallelujah, I'm a bum". Emmylou Harris sings "Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia". Tom Waits sings "Goodnight-Loving Trail" A tribute to Judi Bari, plus "World Turned Upside Down". Bob Neuwirth sings "Rock Salt and Nails". Amy Goodman interviews Utah Phillips: War and Non-Violence. [more inside]
posted by shetterly on Jan 9, 2009 - 5 comments

A Reactionary Musical Moment?

A recent series of posts on the web site of First Things magazine looks at what could be described as a reactionary moment on the part of some folk and roots musicians in Québec and around the world... and we're not talking The Goldwaters (Wikipedia). [more inside]
posted by Jahaza on Jan 7, 2009 - 10 comments

Julie Fowlis

I had not heard of Julie Fowlis until this morning. [more inside]
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium on Dec 27, 2008 - 61 comments

A Canadian Legend

On this date in 1949, a Canadian music legend was born. Stanley Allison "Stan" Rogers chronicled Canadian life. He wrote his own sea shanty after a song session with the Friends of Fiddler's Green , and the song he came up with, Barrett's Privateers, is still sung today by members of the Canadian navy as they march. Many of his songs were of tragedy or hard times or the loss of a way of life. On June 2nd, 1983, an in-flight fire aboard an Air Canada flight forced the plane to make an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport. Survivors spoke of a large man with a booming voice who helped others to safety, only to perish himself of smoke inhalation. It was believed, though not confirmed, that Stan Rogers was the hero. His music has also saved at least one life. The song "The Mary Ellen Carter" speaks of perseverance and rising to any challenge, and is a fitting legacy to a Canadian legend who died at the age of 33. His son Nathan carries on his musical tradition, as does Stan's brother Garnet Rogers, who also performed on Stan's albums.
posted by newfers on Nov 29, 2008 - 44 comments

June Carter and Johnny Cash with Pete Seeger

June Carter and Johnny Cash appear on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest. June reminisces about the Carter family and A.P. Carter. They all sing It Takes a Worried Man. Johnny sings As Long as the Grass Shall Grow. Finally, June sings I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.
posted by RussHy on Oct 16, 2008 - 8 comments

The nearest thing to being alive

The Wall of Death is a great song by venerable British folkie Richard Thompson (covered by REM among others) concerning a carnival sideshow attraction involving a large wooden cylinder and at least one motorcycle (previously on metafilter). The Wall of Death is also the latest permutation in mosh pit chaosity.
posted by philip-random on Aug 26, 2008 - 23 comments

Hang down your head

Guitarist and banjo player Erik Darling died last Sunday at age 74. His arrangements of traditional songs played a significant role in the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. [more inside]
posted by Knappster on Aug 9, 2008 - 4 comments

P'ansori: Korea's National Cultural Intangible Treasure

Pansori (aka P'ansori) is a genre of Korean folk music produced by travelling musicians, a singer accompanied by a lone drummer. Rooted in seventeenth century folk tales, by the 1960's, Pansori was in danger of dying out completely, when the director Im Kwon-taek made the film Sopyonje. [more inside]
posted by PeterMcDermott on Jul 3, 2008 - 6 comments

Back Story to the folk song "Tom Dooley"

Tom Dula was a real person. Who knew? The Kingston Trio's version of Tom Dooley is the most famous. It says here that Doc Watson's great-grandparents were the Dooley's neighbors. They say Ann Melton confessed before she died... "Folk music is serious business."
posted by RussHy on Jun 4, 2008 - 14 comments

Luke Kelly: The Performer

Casual fans of Irish folk-punk bands like The Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys rarely take the time to investigate the sources of their inspiration. Those who do, cannot avoid coming across the The Dubliners. [more inside]
posted by PeterMcDermott on May 19, 2008 - 39 comments

Writer, musician, polymath

Stan Kelly-Bootle began his career as a member of the earliest wave of computer programmers, who wrote prolifically about a wide range of computing issues. Back in his home town though, he's probably best known for his contributions to a lexicon of local slang, Lern Yerself Scouse, and for his canonical and not-so-canonical contributions to the British folk repertoire. [more inside]
posted by PeterMcDermott on May 12, 2008 - 9 comments

Streaming audio from former Soviet Georgia.

Streaming audio of traditional music from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This is some of the strangest, most haunting and blissed-out singing you can hear on this planet. (And check out those swell outfits, fellas!) [more inside]
posted by nebulawindphone on Mar 11, 2008 - 11 comments

Returned from the Sky

By the time Russian folksinger Venya Drkin (Веня Д’ркин) died of cancer in 1999, he had written over three hundred songs. Love songs, happy songs, angry songs, sad songs. He also sketched pictures: strange, lonely, menacing, redemptive. And wrote folktales. He was only 29.
posted by nasreddin on Jan 14, 2008 - 3 comments

Pete Seeger condemns Stalin...

The pleasant but hagiographical Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (production company website w/ trailer) is playing in New York and Los Angeles. The movie is entirely uncritical... prompting this response by Ron Radosh who is interviewed in the film, but whose critical comments were left out. But most interesting is this followup article by Radosh describing Seeger's response and a new song against Stalin. The filmmaker comes out worst in Radosh's account... [more inside]
posted by Jahaza on Nov 16, 2007 - 22 comments

Roots and folk music heaven

Tonight's tribute concert for Red House Records was a glimpse of heaven for lovers of roots and folk music. More than fifteen recording artists of Red House Records put on an amazing show on September 9th at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul in tribute to Bob Feldman, founder of the label who died last year. Each musician sang or played two songs. They all appeared gratis, with the proceeds going to benefit the redwood forests. The vibe was by turns friendly, poignant and joyous. Eliza Gilkyson nearly stopped my heart - I couldn't breathe until I heard 'My love s/he's like some raven at my window with a broken wing.' [more inside]
posted by Rain Man on Sep 9, 2007 - 4 comments

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