Another year is over, and with it goes a year of many new discoveries and welcome introductions. I have, of course, loved being in contact with so many new bands, and, being the year when Mumford & Sons became rather old hat, Laura Marling was deemed established enough in British culture for it not to be necessary to say that she is (ironic, I know), and Pete Roe finally released his debut album, it’s fair to say that the modern folk revolution is still in full swing. 2013 was the year when folk hit the charts, and no one batted an eyelid. And so, with folk being a readily accepted genre in the pop generation, and everyone and their mothers adding a banjo to their backing music at some point or another, it was a real pleasure to be at the forefront of real, raw, original and, most importantly, passionately and emotionally motivated, folk music.
The year began with the wonderful discovery of Sunny & Boo Boo, who, after having only heard the track James Joyce, forced me to associate them with relaxation and calming melodies. Like a cup of coffee, they became a necessary end to a stressful day. So, in September, when I came to review the album, I was hesitant, but greatly pleased to be pulled through a variety of impassioned and reassuringly honest music. This was the band that helped me realise that the aftermath of the folk revolution had successfully allowed folk to become just as passionate in recording as it was on stage. A similar feeling came with listening to De’Borah, who came back last year with her Waiting Games EP. The effortless, frank and poetic quality of her EP was the perfect remedy to the waistcoat-laden, banjo-hugging stereotypes the charts have come to love, and provided further proof that 2013 was the year for sincere musicians to start their takeover. If 2012 was the year that folk looked back to the electric 1960s, then 2013 was the year it took its acoustic guitar back, and swapped its studio for a dingy bar once more.
But aside from bars, folk festival numbers continued to rise like sea-levels here in England, and it is no wonder that more solo, acoustic musicians are popping up as a result. It has never been easier to get your music heard, and with more festivals comes more audiences and greater opportunities to have original, unheard of folk music gain the popularity to become recorded. A notable contribution to this movement was Folkstock, a new acoustic music festival, which was like a real-life representation of the Thank Folk For New Bands section, boasting the likes of Connor Bannister, Sophie Jamieson, Minnie Birch, Johnno Casson and plenty more. Artists like Connor Bannister, Minnie Birch and Sophie Jamieson, whilst not (and I’m sure I won’t offend them by saying this) being household names, or selling out headline shows, are becoming successes of the homemade folk world and have already, no doubt, lived out some childhood dreams. Not only have they been able to take their music to audiences across the country, but they are now being requested by a hungry fanbase. I admit, this isn’t a brand new occurrence for 2013, but it certainly proves that new, young folk musicians had never experienced a more welcoming year than the one past.
The wealth of opportunities were certainly not wasted, with new folk musicians jumping at these chances and reaping the rewards. I know I go on a lot about them, but Mumford & Sons didn’t just show folk music (however dubious we deem it) to the masses, but they made musicians hungry for the same success, or at least eager to show the masses what a real folk musician was capable of. A band who I came to be a fan of back in July, Lazibyrd, are a wonderful example of not just capability and talent, but humble appreciation for the prizes those things can bring. They have already proved what simple dedication can do by winning the South West Music Awards Best Folk Act of 2013 and gaining Dave Swarbrick (of Fairport Convention fame) as a fan, being shortlisted for his forthcoming EP. Another honourable mention must go to girl trio Delora, formerly The Folk, who, since being mentioned in Thank Folk a year and a half ago, have worked tirelessly to raise enough money for their debut EP. They are a testament to the modern music industry, which despite being vampirically drained by Simon Cowell, offering itself up like a self-slaughtering lamb to Robin Thicke, and perhaps being forever tainted by Miley Cyrus’ tongue, can still produce diligent and ambitious musicians like Delora.
So all in all, it has been a good year, but I think it is better to think of it as a loaded cannon, which, with its fuse now lit, is set to fire a whole new scene of self-made folk artists and sustainable, impassioned young musicians into our listening habits in 2014.
Happy New Year, everyone.