Song barkers: Cutting through the 'Heys'

  • Pin It
Song barkers

Song barkers (January 23, 2013)

Their music is also, of course, part of a neo-folk revival that may well be a flavor of the month, but is a flavor worth celebrating. At the forefront is Mumford & Sons, bringing its love for American folk back to these shores from England.

Of Monsters and Men has credited the Mumfords — also big winners in this year's Grammy nominations — with paving the way for their sound, but Fleet Foxes and The Avett Brothers have been toiling in folk-tinged vineyards for years, as well.

There's enough of this traditional acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonizing going on — add The Head and the Heart to the list — that there is, of course, backlash. "Mumford and Sons Can't Believe They All Got Each Other Mandolins For Christmas," read an Onion headline in December.

"(Bleep) The Lumineers and all these post-country-twee-(white folks)-drankin-beer-at-a-festival bands," wrote the blogger at recently, setting off on an epic rant that lumped the genre together as "Civil-War-reenactment-wave music."

Fair point.

Is some of this a little calculated, a little formulaic, like many critics seemed to think in reviewing Mumford & Sons' latest album, "Babel"?

Is it maybe starting to go too far when "It's Time," the current hit by Las Vegas pop-rock band Imagine Dragons, on Jimmy Iovine's Interscope Records, relies on hand-clapping-front-porch-stomp to drive its percussion?

Is it extraordinary that a place like Old Town would be experiencing "a big surge in banjo classes right now," according to Tomasello?


But better those calculations, better this trend, than the one that breaks songs into beats per minute and takes a dozen songwriters, producers and name performers to make a hit that sounds exactly like every other hit.

"There's a continuous folk revival going on in the United States," says Bau Graves, Old Town School's executive director. "There was a bit of a peak that the Old Town School was born on in the '50s and '60s. But it doesn't go away. There are always young musicians going, 'I can learn from that. I can pick that up and do something new with it.' That is what's so exciting about traditional music. It's a never-ending stream."

If only there were a way to boil that sentiment down to one, exultant syllable.

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

  • Pin It

Local & National Video