Listen to this track by sisterly New Jersey vocal folk trio The Roches. It’s “Runs In The Family”, a cut off of their 1979 eponymous debut album The Roches. The group was made up of the three Roche sisters, those being Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy, hailing from Park Ridge New Jersey from a solidly Irish-American background.
The Roches’ sound isn’t the genteel and polite one that we might expect from folk-singing sisters. There is a distinct edge to it, with three singers who don’t stay in their lanes even as they mesh their voices, and with those voices marked by idiosyncrasies instead of by standard purity of tone. And talk about unexpected musical combinations. King Crimson-honcho and prog-rock prime mover Robert Fripp not only played guitar on the record, he also produced it.
Even the material undercuts what we expect of a folk tune. This is no fey tale that tells a story of times past. This is decidedly contemporary, concerning itself with an important question that very few of us can honestly answer; why do we make the choices we make and in some cases, do we even have a choice at all? Read more
Listen to this track by traditional song enthusiast, singer, and guitarist Nic Jones. It’s “Canadee – I – O”, the lead track as taken from his acclaimed 1980 album Penguin Eggs, a work that is commonly cited as a touchstone that would inspire a whole new generation of traditional folk singers, particularly in Britain. This is to be expected considering how emotionally connected the performances are to the traditional material found on it, rendered not as a scholarly exercise but rather as a labour of love. This is not even mentioning the sound of Jones’ guitar work, which is delicately virtuosic and vital, but also warmly rendered as a recorded element to match his authoritative vocals.
With all of that behind it, this song in particular is lent quite a backdrop for the tale of a maiden at sea with her wayward sailor lover, kept in the hold of a ship so that she can sail away with him. As it may be assumed of an English folk song that takes place at sea, all does not go according to plan, at least not in the way the poor maiden initially hoped.
As it happened, this very same sense of things not going according to plan would run in parallel to the career path of Nic Jones only a few years after this song was recorded. Read more
Yesterday, I was once again aware of a phenomenon that a friend of mine once described as “Jungian Radio”, an avenue to the collective unconscious. This is a fancy name for a song that pops into your head for no apparent reason and stays there for a long enough period of time to make it notable. Sometimes, it’s welcome and sometimes it’s not. But, I thought I’d write about a few of the welcome ones. And this is the first in a possible series.
‘Jolie Louise’ by Daniel Lanios, from the album Acadie.
I always liked this one, for a number of reasons. First, its another story-song, which is a weakness of mine. Second, it sounds like a Acadian folk song and it isn’t; Lanois wrote it, and he’s from Hamilton, Ontario. Third, it’s not of its time in that there’s nothing late 80s about it. I like songs that are written without a date stamp on them. Fourth, this tune is about as far from Lanois’ style as a producer as you can get, the flavours of which are on Lanois-produced albums like Peter Gabriel’s So, U2’s The Joshua Tree, Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy, and Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking ball, among others.
His production style is distinctive – lots of echo, tremolo, and ambient tones. This atmosphere is evident on Acadie as a whole, but not on this little song, which is like a little oasis of simplicity in the middle of some very slick production on the rest of the record. There are light touches of gentle electric guitar, brushes on snare, and Cajun/Acadian accordion. Lanois was based in New Orleans for a long time, which may have inspired the sound. The song is basically folk tune about a working class guy who loses everything when he takes to the drink. The tale is told to a gentle, jaunty singalong melody, yet is infused with pathos too. It’s one of the happiest sad songs I can think of.
Watch and Hear Daniel Lanois’ ‘Jolie Louise
To view the clip, hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing window, click the magnifying glass icon in the top right hand corner. Enjoy!