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Good Folk Music (2000-05): Shaking Folk Up

Sunday Simmons ItcherThe new millennium was upon us and with it came a huge shift in musical styles. Grunge moved over to make way for hip hop and rap, hair metal was officially out of favour and europop swept the globe.

So where did that leave folk music? Certainly not out in the cold! Today, I bring you The Duhks, Polly Bolton and more good folk music from the years 2000 to 2005. ~ Sunday Simmons

Americana Inspirations

It’s safe to say Appalachian stylings, Americana and protest music of the sixties went a long way to spawning the urban contemporary folk of the noughties, inspiring contemplative singer/songwriters across the globe.

The noughties wasn’t one of the strongest eras in music for folk artists, but it was certainly one of the most interesting in terms of where the genre was taking itself in order to remain relevant.

I’m sharing a few of my favourites from the new millennia today. Read on and prepare for some inspirational folk.

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Breathtakingly Beautiful Folk Music Recommendations

Polly Bolton

Essential Track: ‘Call of the Siren’ (2004)

“Arise and come, and come to me // The moon is soft upon the sea // Oh come and lose yourself in me // And I will be the air you breathe.”

There’s not much I can say about Polly Bolton’s voice that it doesn’t say for itself. Stunning, pure and haunting, Polly’s vocals possess all of those qualities and more. ‘Call of the Siren’ is from Polly’s 2004 collaboration with Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra, and was featured on the album ‘OCEAN: Songs for the Night Sea Journey’.

Polly Bolton’s career started back in the seventies, when she provided vocals for little known British folk band, Dando Shaft. With a stint singing for The Albion Band and collaborations with Show of Hands during the late eighties, Polly’s vocal is second to none in its sweetness and purity.

‘Call of the Siren’ is absolutely sumptuous, relying mainly on Polly’s stunning vocal with just the most simple, ethereal backing to invoke a sense of oceanic tranquillity. As hidden gems go, this one is a diamond.

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Eliza Carthy

Essential Album: ‘Anglicana’ (2002)

“They put the pack all on my back, they all did wish me well // So I set off to London town, some fortunes for to tell.”

The daughter of folk musicians, Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, Eliza’s career began as a teenager singing with her mum and aunt, and then as part of the supergroup Blue Murder. Today, we’re focusing on Eliza’s 2002 solo album, ‘Anglicana’, and what a gorgeous offering from this talented singer and fiddle player it is!

I’ve chosen ‘Little Orphan Girl’ as my outstanding song from the album, although I really could have chosen any and it would still be a perfect showcase for Eliza’s Mary Hopkin-esque vocal style.

A traditional shanty style track, ‘Little Orphan Girl’ is pure, uplifting joy to the ears, and indicative of an entire album packed full of such treasures. Unadulterated British folk, ‘Anglicana’ has the ability to lift the spirits and calm the soul, both at the same time.

Sheer listening pleasure.

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Jack Johnson

Essential Track: ‘Inaudible Melodies’ (2001)

“Slow down everyone // You’re moving too fast // Frames can’t catch you when // You’re moving like that.”

One of the biggest exponents of the noughties acoustic singer/songwriter explosion, Jack Johnson’s blend of folk and soft rock has ensured this talented ex-professional surfer’s rise over the last few years. Today, I’m taking us back to Jack’s 2001 debut album, ‘Brushfire Fairytales’, and the opening track, ‘Inaudible Melodies’.

I love how this song opens up as if it’s going to be a generic acoustic offering, and suddenly, draws you into a bluesy-edged confection of conversational vocal and intimate lyrics. It’s mellow, edgy, and so laid-back it’s almost horizontal. In a word, it’s stunning.

It really is no wonder Jack has done so well over the years; his music is just sublime and effortlessly cool. Without doubt one of my favourite contemporary folk artists!

If you’ve only heard Jack’s later offerings, I suggest you remedy that today and get ‘Inaudible Melodies’ on your playlist!

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Damien Rice

Essential Track: ‘Amie’ (2002)

“Nothing unusual, nothing strange // Close to nothing at all // The same old scenario, the same old rain // And there’s no explosions here.”

This tender track from British folk artist Damien Rice’s debut album, ‘O’, is amongst my very favourite tracks of 2002, although the entire album is pure bliss if I’m being perfectly honest. ‘Amie’ has a touching, almost hesitant quality to it, partially down to Damien’s vocal style, and partially down to the contemplative lyric.

Damien has since taken the music world by storm, but this early offering is often overlooked in the great scheme of things, despite being his breakthrough album. He certainly set the bar for his peers, with the likes of Passenger and Ed Sheeran now finding global success recording this type of thoughtful, acoustic poetry.

For a real treat, I recommend getting your hands on the entire ‘O’ album – you really won’t be disappointed. This is acoustic folk done to perfection, and ‘Amie’ is just the tip of the iceberg.

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The Duhks

Essential Album: ‘Your Daughters and Your Sons’ (2002)

“Annabel Annabel are you free? // Will you wrap me in your legacy? // In a blanket with your sweet perfume // I am always thinking thoughts of you.”

Canadian folk fusion band The Duhks has been around since 2002 and the band’s debut album ‘Your Daughters and Your Sons’ is an absolute pleasure to behold in terms of what this talented modern folk outfit can produce.

Focusing predominantly on Irish folk music, ‘Your Daughters and Your Sons’ is a glorious independent debut by a band not afraid to mix its genres generously. Featuring fiddle and banjo, The Duhk’s brand of folk fusion is hard to dislike, and the vocals have such a conversational tone it’s like you’re being invited into a private chat!

My very favourite track from this glorious debut has got to be ‘Annabel’, originally written by Kat Goldman but performed perfectly by this fantastic band. The harmonies between Tania Elizabeth and Jessee Harvey are super sweet, reminiscent of Dixie Chikcs, and the plaintive fiddle and acoustic guitar backing never fails to give me goosebumps.

A mesmerising, melancholic track with a sad yet hopeful lyric – my absolute must-hear.

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Old Crow Medicine Show

Essential Track: ‘Wagon Wheel’ (2004)

“Running from the cold up in New England // I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band // My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now.”

Representing the Americana side of folk music, my final recommendation today is any track by Old Crow Medicine Show, but I’ve chosen their signature song ‘Wagon Wheel’ just to point you in the right direction.

Dealing in old-time Americana and country folk, Old Crow Medicine Show has become one of the biggest exponents of the genre since the beginning of the new millennium. Today I’m taking us back to the band’s debut album, and the song that’s become eponymous with them – ‘Wagon Wheel’.

With its old-timer intro and Bob Dylan chorus, there’s something wholesome and good about ‘Wagon Wheel’ that makes it impossible to dislike. Add to that some outstanding vocals and tight musicianship, and you’re on to a winner. No wonder this band went on to make such a huge impact on the music world!

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Off the Beaten Track…

With the addition of a little country, indie, Americana and a twist of good old traditional, folk music successfully navigated the noughties. Maybe not with the same vigour as it had once upon a time, but certainly with the same unmistakable flair.

Personally, I really like the folk music of the early noughties. I like that it managed to hold onto its roots for dear life whilst moving with the ever changing tide of fads.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I loved writing it, and don’t forget to drop a comment!

Oi Oi, I’m Sunday Simmons, professional freelance writer and indie author. Born into a family of entertainers, musicians and artists, I chose the pen as my instrument at a young age and I’ve been scribbling stuff ever since. Hopefully some of it makes sense! Writing is my passion, and with three kids and plenty of pets, life is chaos and I love it.
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