Sunday, January 04, 2015
My Sunday Feeling
A friend invited me to go with her to a folk music concert put on by the local folk club last night. I confess that I was lukewarm about this as I am not much of a folkie. But I like her and I had watched about all of the football that I could stand for one week. So off we went.
My father was a big folk music person. I remember listening to the Weavers-Buck owned the album inserted above-a lot when I was a kid. I remember thinking at the time that Pete Seeger was funny and that he could really sing. I was also fascinated by the fact that bass Lee Hayes (the big guy wearing glasses)was from Arkansas. After all, nobody was from Arkansas. We also watched Hootenanny and some other folkie show that was on TV in those days. And he was into early Simon and Garfunkel which was pretty much a folk act in their early incarnation.
As I have written before, my father was no leftist. But folk music, with its themes of brotherhood and justice, obviously spoke to him on some level. I wonder if his experiences in World War II, experiences that he rarely if ever talked about, lit this spark in him.
I don't know. He died long before I had sufficient gumption to try to mine these thoughts. After all, the Weavers were damn near Communists and my father tended to vote for Republicans. At least Republicans as existed back in those days. Way back before the GOP was taken over in these latter days by snake-handlers.
But I ramble.
I forget the name of the act that performed last night. Some husband and wife duo from Northwest Arkansas. They were fine musicians. But the performance, at least during the first set, was interspersed with highly tendentious and occasionally tedious disquisitions about Ozark culture and the environment and the imperative to preserve same.
At least it was tedious to me. I was there to listen to music. Not to attend a lecture.
Look. My sister-in-law Judy does folk music for a living too. She dresses up in period attire and plays at various county fairs and the like. Judy gets on with it and spares her audience her insights into current events. She preserves the culture by doing the culture and she pretty much lets it go at that from what I can tell. It's not my cup of tea, and she knows that, but I have deep respect for her as an artist. And I hope she knows that.
But you know what? I'm not the target audience for these acts. The crowd there last night-mostly older, older than me even-loved it. They had a blast. They bought all the CDs the performers brought with them to sell at intermission. I was in the distinct minority.
And even though I thought the performers last night veered perilously near self-parody at times-one of their songs was actually entitled "Too Much Information" which almost put my friend and I on the floor given all the sermonizing-there was no denying the earnestness and sweetness-for lack of a better word- of the evening. These qualities of the genre are perfectly captured by comedians Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Micheal McKean as "The Folksmen" which is a parody.
But folk music is as American as American gets. A lot of is meant to be political. A lot of it is about preservation of culture. And it continues to inform us today even if some of us aren't particularly aware of it. I was fooling around on the guitar with Wilco's "California Stars" the other night. At least I thought it was Wilco's. Turns out that it was written by Woody Guthrie. I had no idea. Shows you what I know.
The local folk club puts on a show every month. Maybe I will go back sometime. Maybe I won't. I'm glad I went. It was something different to do and I enjoyed being in the company of people-many of which were probably recovering hippies- that were having such a good time. Like I said, it's not my cup of tea.
But something about folk music obviously spoke to my father who voted for both Nixon and Ford. I wish we had talked about it. Maybe I would have learned more about both folk music and my dad.