Faerie Folk, Frolics and Fiddles

Not to brag, but yesterday I wept in an orchard.

It was all very Lizzie Siddal of me. The lichen-covered stone wall, the twisted trees, the refreshing pint of cider I imbibed shortly afterward – it all got me in the mood for some whistles and fiddles.

I was raised in a folkie household, with a cupboard containing a healthy collection of British folk-revival and prog rock LPs (yes, even ‘Morris On’). At the time, the regular folk sessions we attended as a family were the bane of my existence. I found it all very silly, this singing about cows, the faerie-folk and their arbitrary rules (‘you must complete these wishes three’), this kidding on it’s the 15th century and you’ve lost your bonnie, sailor lad. I dismissed prog rock, with its nerdy, boastful musicianship and eldritch themes, as “boy music”. But, as I have grown older, I’ve found that I actually have a very soft spot for it all: that 1970’s-does-the-medieval-ages-but-with-synths moment in music history, the real-ale-drinking-druid tunes, the Arthurian legend references, even the nasal, shouty singing and Ye Olde typefaces on the ugly album covers. Sure, its a bit silly sometimes, but its all just quite nice – really.

So, here is a playlist of faerie, folkie tunes, from the folk revivalist movements on the 60s and 70s, some prog rock, and a few, more contemporary favourites of mine as well.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dougie says:

    As an older person who lived through the ‘folk revival’ in Scotland from the early sixties, I recognised only a few artists, and fewer songs, from this selection.

    But that may be because, like most ‘folkies’ of the period, I treasured the music not because of any ‘medievalist’ nonsense, but because it was and stubbornly remains, the music of the people. It was honed by up to centuries of oral repetition and love; from long before the time when publishing, far less recordings, dominated our musical culture.

    It was and remains OURS, and NOT the music of those who seek to make profit from it. And us.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Being of a similar vintage, I can remember in the 1960s going to the Glasgow Folk Club which was up a close in, I think, Montrose St, which is where I first heard the kind of songs Dougie mentions and, more importantly, also heard the stories behind the songs. Amongst the other attendees were many, such as Billy Connolly and the others in the Humblebums, who went on to have pretty successful careers in the music business. Bert Jansch put in an occasional appearance.

      These songs were literally FOLK songs in that they were the songs of the local people and served to help sustain and develop traditions and provided a sense of belonging to communities.

      1. Dougie says:

        It’s a pity the Star Club appears to be no more Alasdair. Arthur Johnstone started it in the 1970s, but it was never the same after it had to move from Carlton Place.

  2. Stuart Murphy says:

    Classic Richard Dadd artwork.

    1. Iona Lee says:

      Indeed, ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’

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