A first for me last night: I went to a folk club evening and didn’t run out within the first ten minutes. You might gather that I am not a folkie, in fact, I am probably in the same relationship with folk music as matter is with anti-matter. But my brother-in-law was going with his teenage son and I decided to join them, if only for a rare night out down here in Cornwall (and up in London, for that matter, seeing I don’t leave work until 10pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, and spend Wednesday evenings travelling back home to here in Cornwall, whether by car or on the train).
But I wouldn’t have missed the guest act for the world: accordion player Kate Tweed and fiddle-player and singer Jackie Oates. They are proof, if proof were ever needed, that there comes a point where music ceases merely to be classical, jazz, Country & Western, pop, rock, folk or what have you, but is simply music.
Kate Tweed was especially enjoyable, hitting chords which would not have been out of place in jazz or classical music, and although Jackie had the kind of virginal, pure folk voice which usually sends me screaming to the loo (I prefer deep, gutsy women’s voices), oddly I didn’t object at all. Then there were the songs: they utterly avoided an - to my ears - insufferable worthiness which spoils it all for me, and instead at times created a kind of quiet beauty.
OK, so I am laying on the ‘isn’t folk awful’ with a trowel rather, and to be more specific I rather like much of the music. What does rub me up the wrong way is the ‘revival’ element in much ‘modern’ folk, which creates a kind of second-hand emotion. In days done by, when a great many people found themselves at the bottom of the pile, could be evicted without warning and for whom crushing poverty was a daily reality, one of the few ways they could express their misery was by singing about it. The songs really did come from the heart and soul. These days, what with a welfare state here in Britain, which might even be said now to parody ‘the welfare state’, when we are able, more or less to insure ourselves against anything except, as the saying goes, death and taxes, when healthcare and education are free (well, make the primary and secondary education) and when a panoply of human rights legislation goes some way to ensuring the kind of high-handed and merciless behaviour of an alleged toff class is more or less impossible, it strikes me as all rather phoney.
I must, however, distinguish between modern ‘folk singing’ and the music played. And much of the music played my Ms Tweed and Ms Oates was, to my ears at least, sublime. The sound of the accordion and fiddle (I’m told by my daughter I can’t and mustn’t call it a violin) are made for each other and are a marriage made in heaven. So all-in-all I’m rather glad I overcame my prejudice and went along to Bodmin Folk Club last night. In fact, there’s some American called Jeff Davis performing in a fortnight’s time, and I might just go along again. You can check out Karen Tweed here and Jackie Oates here.