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As the noughties progressed, more folk orientated tracks found their way into the mainstream charts. The era was an ‘anything goes’ time for music, and folk fully cashed in on that trend. With bands such as La Vent du Nord and Celtic Thunder popping up on playlists across the board, folk music was clearly still alive and kicking.
I loved this exciting era in folk music, and the artists I’ve chosen here all have firm places on my playlist. Join me for a small step back in time and check out some of the best folk music of the noughties!
Essential Album: ‘Words Are Dead’ (2006)
“The wall breaks on the phone if at all, if you call // A hole from which to see your head // If words are dead.”
Portland indie folk band Horse Feathers have a subtle, unique sound that just gently assaults the ears and insists you listen to one more song. That’s my take on this incredible noughties folk band anyway; a hidden gem, and a must-hear to kick off our list, Horse Feathers’ debut album ‘Words Are Dead’ is perfect thought-provoking acoustic music performed beautifully.
Horse Feathers now have four albums to their name, and I could have chosen any one as my must-hear, as each is just as sublime as the last. I’m a fan, can you tell? But what’s not to love here? A hesitant, tender vocal from Justin Ringle, beautiful lyrics, pretty melodies and a whole array of traditional instruments from mandolin to cello.
There’s something of David Gates’ vocal style to Justin’s sweet tone, and a real earthy, rustic vibe to the entire ‘Words Are Dead’ album that I find hard to resist. If you’ve never heard of Horse Feathers, remedy that today!
Essential Track: ‘I Saw You Blink’ (2006)
“Yes I need to know, are you the one? // I need to know // Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?”
Indie folk band Stornoway (not actually from Stornoway!) first hit the music scene back in 2006 with their debut EP ‘The Early Adventures of Stornoway’, and ‘I Saw You Blink’ is taken from that impressive first offering.
I do love how mellow this track is, how it just jogs along in a jangly, semi-acoustic fashion just begging you to catch the hook. There’s a little baroque pop at play here, but with a lovely folky overtone that makes all the difference.
Stornoway have done pretty well since this early release, becoming a Glastonbury Festival favourite, and finding some chart success with their later albums. I love the energy of ‘I Saw You Blink’, the laid back vocal from Brian Briggs fits this track perfectly. A great band that started out small and I reckon will go from strength to strength in the coming years. Watch this space!
Essential Track: ‘The Meadow’ (2007)
Northern Ireland folk noir band The Winding Stair have only produced one album to date, the self-released ‘Finisteré’ in 2007. I do love their brand of dark, Irish folk, and the lilting yet powerful vocal of original vocalist Mary O’Halloran is simply lovely.
I’ve chosen ‘The Meadow’ as my must hear track by this unusual folk band; it’s a perfect showcase for a band that doesn’t get anywhere near as much recognition as it should. Still unsigned, The Winding Stair has played Glastonbury Festival and found a firm following on the live circuit after extensively touring, but they’re yet to break into the world of commercial success.
An absolute treat of a track that definitely deserves more love than it gets, make sure ‘The Meadow’ finds a place on your playlist today!
Essential Track: ‘Soul Swimming’ (2010)
“Somebody help me // Is there someone out there? // Someone console me // And show me that you care.”
An interesting one now, in the shape of actor Billy Boyd’s folk orientated band, Beecake. Billy is best known for his role as Pippin the Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, where he starred alongside Dominic Monahan’s Merry to provide the comic relief.
I’ll admit I’d never heard of Beecake until my eldest daughter took a liking to their debut album ‘Soul Swimming’ in 2010, proving she’s inherited my great taste in music! The entire album is lovely, and Billy’s vocal has a super sweet quality to it, particularly on my song choice, album title track ‘Soul Swimming’. It’s eclectic, electric folk with a touch of psychadelia. Sheer brilliance!
If you’re a fan of the LOTR’s and Hobbit movies, you’ll no doubt have heard Billy’s track ‘The Last Goodbye’, performed by the man himself for the end credits of ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’. Check out Beecake and give your ears a treat!
Essential Track: ‘Lovesick’ (2010)
“You tell me that you love me // Then you go and leave me // Why you do this to me, baby? // I’m lovesick.”
US psychedelic indie folk rock band Never Shout Never brought something entirely new to the table when singer/songwriter Christofer Drew began streaming his music on MySpace, gaining himself quite a following.
After independently releasing a couple of EPs, Never Shout Never finally released their debut album ‘What Is Love?’ in 2010, swiftly following this up with ‘Harmony’ in the same year.
My track of choice today is the poignant yet understated ‘Lovesick’ from Never Shout Never’s second album, ‘Harmony’. This pretty piano ballad has such a rustic feel to it, and the sweet melody is just gorgeous. I love Christofer’s vocal on this track, there’s something very resigned about his tone as he sings about being ‘Lovesick’. Haven’t we all been there!
A fantastic indie folk track with a relatable theme from one of my son’s favourite bands, ‘Lovesick’ belongs on your playlist!
Essential Track: ‘Ragged Wood’ (2008)
“The spring is upon us, follow my only song // Settle down with me by the fire of my yearning // You should come back home, back on your own now.”
Just when I thought the only thing Seattle could spawn was grunge bands, along came Fleet Foxes and their impossible to dislike brand of indie folk. There’s baroque pop with a fantastic folky feel at play here, and my track of choice, ‘Ragged Wood’ is a perfect place to start your love affair with Fleet Foxes.
Featured on the band’s eponymously titled debut album, ‘Ragged Wood’ is a sumptuous, joyful track. It has a sound of the sixties about it, along the lines of Crosby, Stills and Nash, but with a contemporary feel. I really can’t fault it.
I’m citing Fleet Foxes as my must-hear; there’s something very appealing about their sound that manages to transport you back to another time, and in this day and age, that’s pretty special. Check out ‘Ragged Wood’ today, and I guarantee you’ll end up seeking out the entire Fleet Foxes debut album!
We’re almost up to date with our good folk music archive, and it’s been an interesting journey from the US protest songs and British folk revival of the sixties, all the way through electric folk, alternative folk, and back to the contemplative singer/songwriter!
Folk music has almost come full circle, and it’s fantastic to see how those incredible elements of tradition instruments finely blended with a contemporary sound, the close harmonies and introspective lyrics have been absorbed into many other genres.
Of course, there are countless more artists that deserve a place in this article, so who would you add?
Get commenting and let us know!
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