Black Ox Orkestar – Nisht Azoy

The thing that the Pete Seegers and the Raffis and the Joan Baezs of this world don’t get about folk music (but Harry Smith certain did) is that it’s a low form. As in dirt. Happy Joe’s strumming shiny acoustic guitar and tweeting in harmony may sell big at Starbucks but it ain’t authentic. And folk music is supposed to be a crucible for authentic experience in the musical universe (though don’t ask me how you test for authenticity these days, I think it has something to do with how little money you make). When you scrub it clean and fill it full of warmth (ugh!), you lose the sense of real world struggle, strife and poverty. That’s where folk music emerges, not Greenwich Village. Plus, sorry to break it to you, most folk don’t speak English. English is part of the scrubbing clean. Even the folks who speak English don’t make sense to modern day HMV shoppers (just listen to the folk blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and try to make out what he’s saying). Things have got so muddled that post-rock grubbies from Montreal sound truer to the game than anyone on the stereo at my local fair trade beanery. That’s because they threw the rulebook out the window, carved away at each other’s bodies until they hit soul and let those souls moan in unison. Then the skeletons played the music like only self-taught, ex-hardcore, post-improv beardies know how: one part simplicity plus one part atmosphere, channel the spirit, slow it down and build it up slowly, strum by strum, drum by drum. That’s how they played it in the olden days. (Terence Dick)

CD, Constellation, PO Box 42002, Montreal, QC, H2W 2T3, www.cstrecords.com

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