Thursday, August 04, 2005

Psych folk / wyrd folk music part one

The evolution of new Wyrd Folk Music by Mark Coyle

Chapter 1 - Let's Awake The Green Man

With this article we will explore the emergence of a new alternative folk music, often called for want of a better description, ‘
wyrd folk’. This music builds on the foundations of bands like Incredible String Band, Pearls Before Swine and Vashti Bunyan from the 60s and 70s to create a new more personal folk derived music that brings in a range of influences from outside. Often strange, psychedelic, mystical, exploratory and sonically more ambitious than the original form, this music takes the tradition into new realms.

This is not a form of folk music that grew from the folk clubs, reads the folk magazines or has connection or often is more than casually aware of important past and current traditional folk artists. In the strict sense much of it is not traditional folk music as purists would know it, but the instrumentation, crafting of the songs, the telling of stories and the outsider position often adopted all use this form to help the artist express their vision. With the strict need of the media to tag music with genres, we hope that being associated and part of a new folk evolution will help them find natural audience and in turn refresh the music reflecting it’s continuous change over previous decades.

The media overuse of the phrase 'wyrd folk' to try and pigeon hole these artists unduly restricts them and we use the term merely to draw a comparison between the alternative acoustic music of the sixties and the possible similarities of recent artists in intent and sound, even is this is unforeseen and accidental by the artist.

We hope to show in the article that the current explosion of interest in this music is not new but has been evolving for twenty years from the underground. Inevitably we cannot cover every artist in such an article but we have attempted to be reasonably broad in coverage and to give a feeling for the evolution of the genre. Indeed this site was developed to provide a linkage between folk music old and new and to make more explicit its context and relevant to old traditional customs and folklore (of which
more here).

As we explore the new folk related artists we do not support or express any views on the religious, spiritual or political aspects of any artists.


In 1980 folk music was withering, the rise in folk rock in the late sixties and early seventies had given rise to some chart success but the commercial focus had moved ever onwards to progressive rock, punk and new wave. In the era of emerging cheap synth-pop and two minute bursts of electric guitar energy folk music suddenly seamed old fashioned. Traditional folk music had continued in the pubs and clubs it’s image by now was of fingers-in-the-ear and beards for the mainstream. Folk music was ignored, ridiculed and deemed irrelevant. As the eighties progressed new wave gave way to indie and power rock and artists such as Shirley Collins retired. A revival in folk music did not seem close at hand....

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