In a genre where it’s now almost impossible to be totally original, up and coming folk and acoustic artists are under increasing pressure to find a niche. Be it the profound lyricism of Laura Marling or the tuneful complexities of Tallest Man on Earth, it’s still tough to escape the domineering shadows of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and other acoustic greats.
2013, however, looks promising for diverse and fresh sounds and no more so in the emergence of a new trend: the folk girl-band. Stealing Sheep intermingle traditional folk concepts, strict vocal harmony and steady beat with undertones of electronic mysticism, creating a tone that maintains the genre’s core while allowing for a greater range of material. The Liverpudlian trio released their debut album ‘Into The Diamond Sun’ last year. “Shut Eye” is a pleasant track to get a feel, combining a subtle folk entry with slightly heavier electric riffs. Set to tour Europe with Alt-J in February, we could be hearing a lot more from these three in coming months.
Smoke Fairies, a Sussex based duo, incorporate the same vocal harmony and electric-acoustic layering as Stealing Sheep but with a heavier, bluesy feel. The American influence of a year spent in New Orleans to develop their style resonates through tracks such as “Living with Ghosts” and “Strange Moon Rising”. The depth of Katherine and Jessica’s vocals has earned recognition from numerous critics and even attracted the attention of Gary Numan, who listens to their album ‘Through Low Lights and Trees’ in the car. “Reason to Believe”, the duo’s newest single, is to be released in January.
Returning to the genre’s more traditional, simple roots are The Staves. Honest endearing lyrics fuse with enchanting vocals that blend together effortlessly. One listen to “Winter Trees” will hook any fan of classic, lucid, and earthy acoustic melodies. Having released their debut album in November, the group will surely have guaranteed themselves the small-stage festival slot come summer.
On the local scene, the folk quartet Bird play the Duchess on the 22nd of February, who are well worth a listen for their ethereal, almost eerie vibe, which has been complimented by the Cocteau Twins and Steve Lamaq. Finally, for the simple pleasure of seeing a man finger-pick a guitar at light speed, look no further than the wonderful Sam Carter who plays The Basement on Friday the 8th of March.By Alex Morden Osborne