Recommended: Anne Briggs – self-titled

Like most folks of my generation, I discovered Anne Briggs through The Decemberists’ cribbing her album title, The Hazards of Love. Given my obsession with this era, I would have stumbled onto her eventually, but that was the recommendation that did it. Before today, my mp3 player had only “Sovay” on it, an excellent track from Sing a Song for You. Brigg’s voice is so captivating and clear that I couldn’t resist adding the entirety of this, her second album, and I won’t be surprised is the same is true for the rest of her short career once I get around to each album.

Because of the vocal-centric arrangements, I’m tempted to contrast her material with Vashti Bunyan, who – like the Incredible String Band – was far less interested in traditions than her own experiences and creativity. But this snippet of a recent interview makes it clear that the traditional material was personal and meaningful to Briggs, despite her lack of songwriting credits. If anything, I think the artists too bound by their own experiences and words are the ones who have missed something vital about folk music.

Favorited Tracks

All of them!

  • Blackwater Slide
  • The Snow Melts It the Soonest
  • Willie O’Winsbury
  • Go Your Way
  • Thornymoor Woods
  • The Cuckoo
  • Reynardine
  • Young Tambling
  • Living by the Water
  • Ma Bonny Lad

Recommended: Sonic Youth – Goo

For someone who was a teenager in the 90s, I somehow came to Sonic Youth exceptionally late, but the timing has been fortunate. Listening to Daydream Nation over the summer helped me understand how to be a punk-y two guitar rock band at a time when I ended up in just such a thing.

At our gig Sunday night, Snarks bassist Dan K and I were discussing future studio endeavors which led to a conversation on musicians who know theory versus musicians who simply have a good ear. He mentioned Sonic Youth as a band not overburdened by theory, and I had to laugh because, listening to Goo earlier that evening, I’d concluded that Sonic Youth had a clue about what they were doing. I don’t know if any of them studied theory, but I believe the staunch artiness of the goofy interviews, the sideprojects in visual art, poetry, and essaying were  – in addition to being sincere expressions of their interests – were an effective way to offset how deliberately poppy their music was becoming.

Which isn’t an insult in my book. They combined the noisey, fuzzed-out side of 80s rock with pop in artful ways, and this is coming from someone who wasn’t into the hype at the time when this opinion was implanted into stale received wisdom.

Favorited Tracks

  • Dirty Boots
  • Tunic (Song for Karen)
  • Mary-Christ
  • Kool Thing
  • Mote
  • Disappearer
  • Cinderella’s Big Score
  • Titanium Expose

Recommended: John Renbourn – Sir John Alot

If you’d asked me a week ago whether tabla and flute belong in folk rock – or early music rock or whatever – I’d have enthusiastically said to give it a shot. However, the collaborations on this Renbourn album suffer from a proto-new-age vibe that smells of misappropriation but mostly just fails to work.

(“White Fishes” here may be the exception – where the flute leans further toward jazz.)

Favorited Tracks

  • The Earl of Salisbury
  • Lady Goes to Church
  • White Fishes

Recommended: The Memphis Jug Band

Once again, this is less a newly recommended record and more a case where I discovered all of the tracks on my MP3 player came from the first half of the 23-track compilation. Hell, my old country band, The Shit House Boys, covered that entire half of the album. There had to be more favorites waiting on the second half, and sure enough, the album scores a high 18/23.

Ages ago on Twitter, I described The Memphis Jug Band as the sound of pure joy. I haven’t changed my opinion. This is a band that continues to inspire me.

Favorited Tracks

  • Lindbergh Hop
  • On the Road Again
  • Stealin’, Stealin’
  • Insane Crazy Blues
  • K. C. Moan
  • Cocaine Habit Blues
  • The Old Folks Started It
  • Everybody’s Talking About Sadie Green
  • Memphis Jug Blues
  • Little Green Slippers
  • Taking Your Place
  • Sometimes I Think of You
  • Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues
  • What’s the Matter?
  • Oh Ambulance Man
  • Beale Street Mess Around
  • She Stays Out All Night Long
  • Fourth Street Mess Around