One disc I can highly recommend (and that I've been using as a reference for the past year or so) is "The Elizabethan Session" album produced in 2014. This is a recording of 13 songs from 8 different current UK folk artists all inspired by the times of Queen Elizabeth I. There are a number of standout songs and performances and this is a good introduction to the work of all of these artists, in addition the album is very well recorded in a period house with great sense of space on many of the tracks
..a couple more..
I think it's safe to qualify Calexico as folk., you will not find a much better group musicians than what make up this band.
Tift Merritt, I saw her on the Traveling Alone tour. I believe John Convertino was on drums (Calexico), and the pedal steel player, the name is escaping me right now, however, I found it hard to keep my attention on Tift, because of the "ease" in which these two musicians excelled in their craft!
Tift is so relaxed and comfortable live, isn't she Slaw? Saw her at the Troubadour opening for Lucinda---good show!
One guy who "went" Folk after being in a Power Pop/Garage Rock band I liked a lot (The Plimsouls) is Peter Case. T-Bone Burnett produced his early albums, but I find him a little too self-conscious and deliberate, if you know what I mean. I feel the same way about Gillian Welch, though I acknowledge her talent.
Mary Gauthier can be considered Folk, and she's really something. Very personal, yet universal. I like her a lot.
Tift Merrit is a real gem, but I have to admit, I was a "UGE" fan of the period when she performed with the band featured on the Home is Loud album. Saw them at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA. Not the best acoustics, but what a great combination of rockin’ out and ballads. She came out w her band and they had the lights up and after they turned them down she observed that it was "a little sexier, a little more rock and roll" and tore up the place.
I must respectfully, but emphatically, disagree that a group like Calexico, with a synth, a drum kit and contemporary lyrics, is in any sense "folk." They are without a doubt damn good, but if what they are playing is "folk," then anything is "folk." Nor are contemporary singer/songwriters "folk." The list of singer/songwriters who frequently call themselves "folk," but aren’t, is endless. The aforementioned Antje Duvekot, Lucinda Williams, Ani DeFranco, Mary Gauthier, The Avett Brothers, The Stray Birds and on and on and forever. Many are VERY good at what the do (and I’ve seen/heard most of them in concert), but what they do is in no rational sense "folk." (The Birds are "folk" only occasionally these days...) If these people are folk performers, then so is Billy Joel, who is also an itinerant troubadour playing an acoustic instrument and singing songs of his own composition about contemporary, mostly love, concerns. If someone is singing heartfelt pages from their diary, they simply aren’t "folk."
I’ll freely admit to being a curmudgeon concerning the much debated question of what is folk music. The point, however, is not to be dyspeptic, but if the term "folk" is to have any utility at all, it has to have some fairly specific meaning. For me, "folk" means that someone’s music has a significant and identifiable connection to a tradition older or broader than the performer him/herself. After having been deeply involved in the production, promotion and personal enjoyment of "folk music" for well over 40 years, it’s an important issue for me.
This is because misapplying the term "folk" has lead to broad confusion in the public’s mind between authentic tradition-rooted folk music and contemporary singer/songwriters. This in turn has made it difficult for most people to appreciate the profound distinction between the two. It has made it likewise difficult to communicate and promote one kind of music or another to an audience. For example, should a show by Ani DeFranco, "The Little Folksinger" who has never in my experience performed an authentic folksong, and I’ve seen her perform and known her personally for 26 years now, be promoted as the same thing and to the same audience as a performance of English folk ballads by Martin Carthy? No. The term "folk music" should be reserved for those performers whose music has some direct and identifiable link to a tradition older than the performer(s) themselves.
I could go on, I’m afraid, but let me re-emphasize that I appreciate and enjoy music of many genres, including at least the best of the contemporary singer/songwriters. I’m not dissing them in the least. But the lesser ones can be embarrassingly bad and, worse, they are commonly a weedy bunch that will promote themselves aggressively, too often as "folk." This in turn results both in "folk music" getting and maintaining a bad rep, and wonderful and authentic folk performers, who are typically much less assertive, getting sidelined or overlooked. The musical genres aren’t at all the same and shouldn’t be called by the same name.
OK, now that I’ve left a bad smell, to maybe sweeten things up let me suggest a few exceptional folk recordings that I’ve enjoyed over the years:
Number one, without question or rival: "Silly Sisters" by Maddy Prior and June Tabor. A 40 year old recording of very traditional tunes with spectacular modern production. I’ve listened to it more times over the years than any other.
For that matter, almost anything by Steeleye Span.
Old-time "Americana": anything by The Highwoods Stringband.
Beautiful voices, not! But OMG!
As for some [not altogether] new, smart, beautifully written [predominantly trad.], acoustic folk inspired music from someone with a good set of pipes, try:
Uncle Earl deserves mention!:
If that’s not enough, under the rubric "World Music" there’s Madredeus:
Teresa Salgueiro’s voice will go straight to the center of your soul and camp there. Read some of the reviews.
OK, that’s enough now.
Wow, good one lp2cd! I hereby rescind my Mary Gauthier suggestion, and admit that after considering what you said above agree she should not be considered Folk. But let me point out that the op's request was for suggestions of "acoustic Folk inspired music". That sets a far lower bar than did you in your definition of the term Folk. But yours is a good one!
Lp2Cd -- so dismissing everything Ani DiFranco ever did would also cover "Fellow Workers"? Presumably an album that meets your definition of folk - songs from the movement for social justice and labour rights would certainly fit strongly in anyones definition of folk?
And by that same token what the hell do I make of "1000 years of popular music" by Richard Thompson -- my point being that the folk canon does evolve and the greatest artists link past and present 😉
But back on topic if you really want to connect to the heart of a rich and flourishing folk tradition then look to the British Isles, the enclosed is a great resource
I sometimes have difficulty recognizing specific genres, but I'll try my best here without reaching too far back in time:
Dave Alvin, "Public Domain"
The Be Good Tanyas, "Blue Horse"
Luca Bloom, "Turf"
Bonnie Prince Billie, "Master and Everything"
The Brothers Comatose, (self-titled)
Crooked Still, "Shaken By a Low Sound"
Steve Earle, "I Feel Alright"
Rice, Rice, Hillman, & Pedersen, "Out of the Woodwork"
Jolie Holland, "Escondida"
Hurray For The Riff Raff, "Small Town Heroes"
Iron & Wine, "Creek Drank the Cradle", "Our Endless Numbered Days"
Mark Selby, "and the horse he rode in on"
Gillian Welch, "Revival"
I re-read the op's post. (I just wish we could hear back from the OP's friend as to (his/her) thoughts on our posts?
(( My thought would be when there's no feedback from the OP's friend, so all of this becomes an exercise in talking amongst ourselves without the original intent (I) had of hopefully getting some feedback and if we are helping at all)). Having said that, the OP's friend wasn't too interested in a strict interpretation of (folk) in his/her request? It was "acoustic folk inspired".
lp2cd:, I do take your point for a strict interpretation of "folk". I listened a little to Eddi Reader that you posted above, it may be "folk inspired" but I believe every one of my recommendations are "folk inspired" as well. I focus more on the song/lyrics and their interpretation/presentation when I try to classify a song.artist into a specific genre. Like I said above, I think classifying specific genres are very hard to do these days. That's just my humble opinion. I would never think of Billy Joel as folk.
bdp24:, I thought Mary Gauthier was a great recommendation! If not, how would others classify her, in one word?
I would recommend a recent record show find, The Stone Ponies "S/T". I believe it would fit in the traditional "folk" genre very well but would not fit into the OP's friend's request who also wanted, "new, smart, beautifully written". It just doesn't fit the "new" portion.
Yep Slaw, Mary Gauthier is one of the best somewhat new artists, imo. But after lp2cd suggested she and some of the other recommendations aren’t really Folk (according to his definition), I could see his point. I guess she could be considered Singer/Songwriter (though that's two words ;-), which includes Folk, whereas not all Singer/Songwriters are folk. lp’s definition is from and of a purist point-of-view, whereas the request was for, as we’ve noted, Folk "inspired" artists/music. Is Mary inspired by Folk? Seems like it to me, but I’m no Folk music authority!
You may find this interesting....
An old family friend who has always been interested in my systems throughout the years and has been/is a vinyl lover and an aspiring song-writer/guitarist, recently told me that while he was living in Atlanta years ago, shared a stage with Mary Gauthier on some sort of talent night I suppose. (This is my brush with greatness).
Sometimes it's hard to define genres, but reminds me of the line re: porn-"I can't define it, but I know it when I see it"- if we're willing to expand recommendations to :"it gives me goosebumps or brings a tear to my eyes sometimes", I'd second Milk Carton Kids, Civil Wars, & add: Amber Rubarth, I Draw Slow, Trampled By Turtles, Doc Watson & Dave Grisman, Jerry Garcia & Dave Grisman (Hell, Dave Grisman & just about anybody), Yarn, Sammy Walker, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark-I get many of these are not new, but the 1st time I heard them they were new to me & I really appreciated the folks that showed them to me. The 1st thing I did when I 1st saw this post was go to Spotify & Amazon & listen to the names I hadn't heard before-I can't say I loved them all, can't say as I thought I would, but I thank you all for sharing your recommendations, & I feel like I expanded my horizons a bit-& ain't that what it's all really about?
Couldn't have said it better!
At this point, I'm holding on to the OP's post for his/her friend's post.
Still, after all of the effort and some conflict, we don't know how or even if, we've had any positive or negative difference regarding this (main) issue)?
I will "unfollow" this discussion now.
Without ANY input from a secondary OP, ... see what I mean?
Slaw, Mary Gauthier on an amateur night?! Ya gotta start somewhere, I guess! Living in L.A. for as many years as I did, I saw some surprising things. One night I arrived at a little club I was playing at in an instrumental trio, and as I loaded in my gear I recognized the drummer then playing on stage: Don Heffington. Don was in Lone Justice, and has played with Victoria Williams, Buddy Miller, and other really high-quality artists. Playing for fifty bucks that night, same as the rest of us ;-).