My Folk Playlist
Lizzy Schroff | Tuesday, February 19, 2013
“Young Man in America” – Anais Mitchell
I gushed in a previous article about my love of Anais Mitchell (my review of her 2010 album “Hadestown,” to which I gave five out of five shamrocks). Her 2012 album “Young Man in America” does not disappoint either. The narrative lyrics are influenced by the recession and uncertainty in modern America, Mitchell says, and her unique girlish voice brilliantly expressed these words and interweaves the songs’ beautiful harmonies.
“Barton Hollow” – The Civil Wars
This song starts on a memorable note, keeping a strong foot-stomping beat throughout. The harmonies between John Paul White and Joy Williams are impeccable, filled with emotion, heart and just the right amount of twang. (No wonder Adele has said they are the best live group she has seen in concert.)
“Please Read the Letter” – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Rock god Robert Plant and bluegrass/folk queen Alison Krauss? Who ever thought that would be a good pairing? I know that’s what you’re thinking, but believe me, it works. OH so well. Just look at the all of the Grammys their album “Raising Sand” and its single “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)” won. Six. That’s right. SIX.
“Talking Empty Bed Blues”- Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames
I came across the “New Multitudes,” an album consisting solely of Woody Guthrie covers, just by happenstance. But I am so glad I did. The album honors the 100th anniversary of the birth of folk god Woody Guthrie, putting new spins on his legendary songs in a variety of genres.
“For the Roses” – Joni Mitchell
I think Joni Mitchell has one of the most beautiful voices. It’s pure, honest and unabashed. And it’s backed by a unique playing style on the guitar and deeply introspective lyrics. This song professed her ensuing period of absence from the music business and the demands of fame.
“Everything is Moving So Fast” – Great Lake Swimmers
The Great Lake Swimmers have a way of evoking an atmosphere of openness and peacefulness in their music with echoing vocals and acoustic instruments. You can’t help but feel enticed to go for an afternoon walk in the woods and breathe in the great outdoors.
“Dearest Forsaken” – Iron and Wine
This song has an old-style feel about it, from the twangy intonation of the acoustic guitar to the rough vocals. It’s featured on Iron and Wine’s compilation album of B-sides and rarities that make you feel like you were dropped down in the middle of a scene from “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?”
“Star Witness” – Neko Case
Neko Case has one of those voices you’ll never forget, which makes the poignant and melancholy lyrics of “Star Witness” all the more effective. There are so many layers to this track – acoustic and electric guitars, harmonies from Neko, gentle and steady drums, cello and much more. And if you’ve got the time, check out the YouTube cover by Canadian students Kate Macdonald and Janelle Blanchard.
“Just a Boy” – Angus & Julia Stone
This song from the brother and sister duo from Australia has a beautiful simplicity about it. No flashiness or special effects – just pure and plain melodies, relatable lyrics, piano and some harmonica thrown into the mix that make for a charming tune.
“If I Had a Boat” – James Vincent McMorrow
I just have to start out by saying that I LOVE this song. The track begins with haunting a capella vocals before gliding into the ethereal and enticing body of the song, filled with piano, banjo, beautiful backing vocals and expressive guitar. James Vincent McMorrow’s voice has a slight roughness that brings out a depth of emotion that pulls you right in from the get go.
“Place to Be” – Nick Drake
Though Nick Drake tragically passed away at an early age, the brief time that he spent making music has left a lasting legacy. He almost never performed live, which led to his lack of fame during his lifetime. It’s a shame that more people didn’t experience his genius in a live setting. His songs feature intricate, nonstandard rhythms and alternative tunings that practically set his music in a category of its own. This, along with lyrics inspired by British writers and symbols from nature, make for a mystical musical pairing.
“Ship Out On the Sea” – The Be Good Tanyas
I just had to round off the playlist with a track from this Canadian all-girls group. Their old-fashioned bluegrass style is sure to satisfy your folk cravings.
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