I have been asked before and I say again … yes these comments are off the top of my head apart from obvious biographical detail or where I have acknowledged otherwise.
I said back in #112 … "I went through a 60s folk kick in the mid 80s. The kick was largely based on the fact that there were many, many old folk records on the Vanguard and Elektra labels to be found in op shops".
What I like about American folk is the narrative, which is central to the music. Vocal trickery, stupendous singing, guitar pyrotechnics, marshall stacks, flashy costumes, studio trickery and techniques, stage moves, flashing lights, fashion and fads aren't important. That's not to say that traditional folk singers can't sing (they can and often sing better … which I put down to all that microphone-less singing), can't play (they can usually outplay their equivalents in rock), or don't incorporate other elements into the music (Dylan, Ochs and others added all manner of instruments and non-instruments to the folk sound). They do. But what is most endearing is, despite occasional preachiness and pretentiousness (depending on the artist and the audience), there is very little cock in hand.
And I think that is largely because the music is of the aforementioned narrative and story style – aural storybooks or tales to be passed from generation to generation with changes being made along the way so they are applicable to current events. The idea of folk music as some sort of a musical newspaper or history book is something distinctly American I suspect. More so the beauty of American folk lies in the fact that America is, by and large, a nation of migrants so the original Irish and Scottish melodies that folk was based on have been added to as waves of migrants (and slaves) came to the States. Every community (including Native Americans) could use the basic folk structure and adapt it (in instrument and theme) to concerns, stories and history of their communities. This was especially noticeable in the US as a result of the large, significant migrations there, and that probably indicates why, "folk" music was not as significant in similar "new world" countries like Canada and Australia.
Folk music, being the music of "the rural people" (not surprisingly most of the US population was rural in the 19th and early 20th centuries) became the music of protest in the 30s, 40s, 50s (Woody Guthrie, The Weavers, The Almanac Singers) and in the 60s when it crossed over into the urban educated middle classes and created a explosion of talent: Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Hamilton Camp, Buffy St Marie, Peter Paul and Mary, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, The Limeliters, Chad Mitchell, The Kingston Trio, a revitalized Pete Seeger…
Folk usually dealt with the "big" issues, universal truths and morality tales disguised as personal narratives while its cousin, country music, dealt with internal issues, private matters, and the skin and bone of living though, as usual, there was much blurring of lines. The folk movement of the late 50s and especially the early 60s incorporated both the "big issues" and the "personal concerns" – not always seamlessly within a song but from song to song on an album (the medium to which folk music most suited) .
The things I like most about folk music is that to me it's Sunday morning music … possibly because the subjective themes, tales, tone and mood remind me of (Catholic) church on Sundays … at its best it is contemplative, peaceful, and stirring music.
Gibson was one of the leaders of the folk explosion of the 60s … this was his 10th album (his first was in 1956).
Bio: wikipedia: Samuel Robert ("Bob") Gibson (November 16, 1931 – September 28, 1996) was a folk singer who led a folk music revival in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was known for playing both the banjo and the 12-string guitar. He introduced a then largely unknown Joan Baez at the Newport Folk Festival of 1959. He produced a number of LPs in the decade from 1956 to 1965. His best known album, Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn, was released in 1961. His songs have been recorded by, among others, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, the Byrds, the Smothers Brothers, and the Kingston Trio. His career was interrupted by his addiction to drugs. After getting sober in 1978, he attempted a comeback, but the musical scene had changed and his traditional style of folk music was out of favour with young audiences. He did, however, continue his artistic career with albums, musicals, plays, and television performances. In 1993 he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). He died from PSP on September 28, 1996 in Portland, Oregon.
Gibson co-wrote many of the tracks here with his former duo partner Hamilton Camp or with legendary satirist Shel Silverstein (a genius) and though he did a lot of "historical" folk songs, traditionals and mood songs he generally avoided direct political statements (unlike a lot of the 60s new wave: Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton). He also incorporated a lot of personal concerns into his songs though not so much as to make the songs personal statements of faith. Importantly, he led the way in the early 60s in making the rural folk songs palatable to "pop" audiences, albeit, selective "pop" audiences. His music is clean (but not sanitized), energetic and committed, and occasionally humorous and jokey (as was the style). Either way, as with most folk, the music is distinctly American, and the imagery is vivid. His music fits in nicely with Oscar Brand and The Kingston Trio and he was extremely influential on 60s folkies.
This was Gibson's last album of the 60s. He didn't record again till 1970. He did not incorporate rock into his music which marginalised him though I suspect even the experimentation in folk itself (in the 60s) washed away his straightforward style.
Where I'm Bound (Gonna Be Singing in That Land) – Gibson, Thompson – Written by Gibson but very much in the uplifting utopian folk song mould of the 60s – come with me to that land with rejoicing and singing. Optimism should always be this optimistic and, importantly, its not saccharine despite it's themes. Stirring …
The Waves Roll Out– Gibson, Silverstein – a song of the sea (or near sea) … I'm a sucker for sea songs and I'm not sure why … though Croats (coastal ones, derrr) seemed to be sailors (or boilermakers making ships) so there are a lot of songs about the sea and family stories of the same. Interestingly alternative folk / Americana Will Oldham has done a soundtrack for a documentary on "Seafarers" which features a song on a Croatian sailor …
Anyway this "sea" song is suitably evocative …
Come along boys, I'll sing you a song;
Of the days when the fish were thick and I was young and strong.
We set sail in the morning,
In the teeth of a howling wind
And the waves roll out, and the waves roll in
And the waves roll out, and the waves roll in
12 -String Guitar Rag- trad – it is what it says … no false advertising here …
Wastin' Your Time- Gibson, Silverstein
The New "Frankie and Johnnie" Song- Gibson, Silverstein – another track co-written by Shel Silverstein and quite humorous naturally – especially if you know the original.
Fog Horn – Gibson, Silverstein – fog horns and loneliness ….
Baby, I'm Gone Again – Gibson, Silverstein – another leaving song.
Farewell My Honey, Cindy Jane- Gibson – another leaving song …
Same Old Woman (There Is a Woman) – Gibson, Silverstein
Stella's Got a New Dress – Camp, Gibson
The Town Crier's Song (Ten O'clock All Is Well) – Camp, Gibson
What You Gonna Do? – Gibson, Neil, Silverstein
Betsy From Pike – Gibson – a spooky frontier type song with a ominous bass (?)
Fare Thee Well (Dick's Song) – Lomax , Lomax
I'm not sure how many Bob Gibson albums I will need but this is a fine album and I'll keep it … it will fit in nicely into my medium sized folk section …
Where I'm Bound (Gonna Be Singing in That Land)
The Waves Roll Out
The New "Frankie and Johnnie" Song
Betsy From Pike
a who's who of folkies ….
The Bob Gibson Class Reunion in Nashville, July 25, 1994.
(top row) Cathryn Craig, Tom Paxton, Peter Yarrow, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, John Brown, Kyle Lehning;
(second row) Dennis Locorriere, Oscar Brand, Bob Gibson, Ed McCurdy, Glenn Yarbrough;
(bottom row) Barbara Baily Hutchinson, Shel Silverstein, Spanky McFarlane, Josh White, Jr.
(originally posted: 31/01/2011)