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Folk straddles a fine line between beautiful and boring. It’s a difficult game to get right.

Most musicians operate on a bit of a tightrope. Classical musicians don’t want to be too transcendental, rappers don’t want to be too obscene… I’m fairly sure there are other genres of music than just classical and rap but my analogy has exhausted itself. Anyway I think you get the picture.

When people ask me what kind of music I like, and I flick on my computer to show them, they always say, yeah it’s nice, I’d probably listen to it in bed, drifting to sleep.

It probably wouldn’t help much if the music I showed them was coming out of The Low Anthem, a four-piece folk set from Rhode Island. It’s slow, sad and sometimes you have to struggle to catch the lyrics, but I reckon Music You Have to Work for can be so much more rewarding than stuff delivered straight to your eardrums.

What I love about The Low Anthem is that on any of their songs you are just as likely to hear acoustic guitars and drum kits as you are pump organs and Tibetan singing bowls. According to Wikipedia you can also hear something called a ‘Fun Machine’, but I’m not really sure I want to know what that sounds like.

I’ve been writing essays all week and consequently want to attack this post with a formula, so here comes my big conclusion. Folk doesn’t have to make you want to sleep. It is the Swiss Army Knife of genres, capable of fitting any scenario or situation you expose it to. Run to it, cry to it, dance to it, drive to it. Juxtapose strange moments of your day to it, and discover the collage that emerges. Just don’t fall asleep.

14

May 2010

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