Monday, 17 May 2010

It's the Easiest Decision I Have Done

Ireland and Scandinavia have something in common: they both generate excellent modern folk.

I've thought about the reasoning behind this, and I've come to a conclusion. It seems, perhaps, the colder you are, the better your folk. For anyone still confused, I asked one of my housemates studying economics to whip me up a handy little formula to prove my point:

There. Not too difficult is it? I suppose, though, you might want some physical evidence of this ambitious little statement. Well, I'm more than happy to provide.

Let's start with Scandinavia. José González, Jens Lekman, Kings of Convenience, all these musicians come from a land of ice and snow, strumming acoustic guitars beneath massive snow drifts while simultaneously fending off reindeer and hypothermia (I can only assume). Perhaps my favourite of them all right now, though, is Sweden's Kristian Matsson, or as the 27 year-old of reasonably average height prefers to be called, The Tallest Man on Earth.

Maybe this is Sweden's 21st century answer to Bob Dylan, but somehow, despite the croaky throat, and poetic lyrics Matsson seems to take his version of folk just that little bit further than Robbie-Z. If you're still in doubt, listen to him covering Paul Simon's Graceland. Is there nothing greater than someone taking a perfect song and making it even perfecter?

Now follow me a couple hundred miles Southwest, down to Ireland where modern folk was arguably born (emphasis on the arguably if you try telling this to Papa Burns). The unending list of contemporary folkists like Lisa Hannigan, Fionn Regan, Glen Hansard, etc. makes it really difficult for me to choose just one to add to your growing compendium of folk. Ireland seems to spawn so many fantastic musicians, and there's something particularly wonderful about the stuff that comes out of there. Nevertheless, I've only room for one Irish musician and, if you're ever guided to the end of a rainbow by a little folk leprachaun, there's really only one person you'll find plucking away at the bottom.

Assuming in your past you've drunkenly belted out 'The Blower's Daughter' alongside some stranger with a guitar at the dénouement of someone else's party, you'll most likely already be familar with Damien Rice. The 36 year-old from Kildaire is an important foundation to any established repetoire of folk, and Older Chests are the rafters. It's probably the first fingerpicking tune I ever learned to play and it's become an institution in the family household.

So what is it that links cold climates with good folk? Perhaps it's something to do with having to stay indoors all the time (that might explain comfortable Swedish furniture and warm Irish pubs). Whatever it is, the Scandis and the Irish are doing something right. Still, you shouldn't fret if you live within a few degrees of the equator. Grab a guitar and prove me wrong. You'll probably have to come up with a counter-equation if you want to change my housemate's mind though.

To my two and half or so regular readers: I've fixed the commenting system! You don't have to have an account to comment now.


  1. Mistah Sistah17.5.10

    There was a girl in my kitchen listening to music and I had an internal debate inside my head for ten minutes trying to decide if it was Bob Dylan or Tallest Man on Earth. They sound so similar that I was embarrassed to take a guess. Finally I got up my courage to ask the girl 'is this Tallest Man on Earth?' and she very sullenly nodded at me and went back to cooking. So much for making friends.

  2. Anonymous17.5.10

    Is it cold where Josh Ritter lives?

  3. Luke mah boi, you're missing out on a great little folker from Ireland.

    Mick Flannery from Cork.

    Other than that, great post! Keep 'em coming.

  4. I like how you gave us the ages of The Tallest Man on Earth and Damien Rice! Very informative. We need to figure out how you can embed music in this blog because as you started naming all these people, I was itching to listen to them. Maybe you can embed YouTube videos, at least just to start.

    Also, well done on fixing the comments! You are a Sean-in-training.

  5. Anonymous18.5.10

    I am very pleased to see the mathematical integrity behind this equation.

    The first order conditions apply correctly.

    Good post. Josh Ritter > Damien Rice


  6. Okay, I just stumbled across your blog and I LOVE FOLK MUSIC! That version of Graceland is perfect. I'm totally adding you to my feedreader. :D

  7. Luke - this blog is folking brilliant, keep it up!