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Bye-bye, folk: hello, noisiness

BY RYAN FOSMARK | JUNE 11, 2009 7:26 AM

Each Thursday, the snarky Arts reporters at the DI will rip apart the upcoming trends that the masses will undoubtedly be talking about in favor of promoting the brilliant innovations everyone should be discussing.

In 20 years, folk music will be remembered fondly, but longingly.

Oh, it has made a hell of a run. It survived the onslaught of rock ’n’ roll, disco, metal, nu metal, black metal, melodic death metal, techno, and the vast chasm of a genre dubbed “experimental.” So far, that is.

The days of the folk artist are arriving at their final encore. We should have seen it coming. When the soft-sounding acoustic guitars of the pre-Big Band era were morphed into hot-wired, blaring instruments by Rickenbacker in the 1930s, the singer/songwriters of yesteryear, the cofounders of Americana, kept cautiously quiet.

While the rock hooligans of the ’60s and ’70s used newfangled overdrives and stomp boxes, throwing wires around to make their guitars sound raunchy and loud, Joan Baez held steady to the easy-listening sounds of her roots (at least for a while).

It’s a continually changing thing, that folk music. Even Lady Baez herself succumbed to the pressures of pop and rock evident by the grooves and fills in her 1975 hit “Diamonds and Rust.” It’s a trend witnessed throughout the history of those traditional sorts of tunes. Someone always has to come and muck it all up with so-called “progress.”

I’m taking no shots at the importance of change here. However, skewing and constantly shifting the sacred genres of our music into each other can subvert the integrity of the art like some sick, song-savvy version of Maxwell’s Demon. Just look at such bands as Rascal Flatts or BrokeNCYDE. It’s a horrible thing to watch (seriously, look BrokeNCYDE up on YouTube; emo-meets-crunk-meets-house results in abdominal spasms).

It’s not always that obvious, though. Some pop artists masquerade as folk artists (i.e. Jewel, Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews) and manage to infiltrate and infect the true nature of the folk musician, which is inherently devoid of sexy music videos and Kid Rock.

The deceit runs both ways, too. Christian music, which should never be heard over anything but an acoustic guitar, a jankity old piano (the tools of the folk artist), and/or a gospel choir, has been slammed by the likes of Reliant K and Emery. These are no mere flesh wounds, y’all ? the condition is critical.

Therefore, the demise of folk music is an event sure to come as more and more people use their guitars like synthesizers and down-home lyrics get traded in for sick rhymez and trite twang. Artists such as Deer Tick and Catfish Keith might provide a last stronghold in homage to the Dylans and Baezs of yore, but when closely examined, I think you’ll find the rust outweighs the diamonds in the soil of our beloved folkies.


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