How the Music Came Back

In high school, I wrote about two or three songs each month, mostly melodramatic love songs and nineties-pop songs . In college, I slowed to about two or three songs a year. After college and for most of the last decade, I’m lucky if I write one song every three years. So I’m kind of surprised that I’ve written four and a half songs in the past two months. These new songs reflect a lot of the changes in my thoughts and philosophy over the past few years — Probably the holdup was this: I was waiting for a musical genre that matched the rest of what I believe. I should have known all along what it would be.

When it comes to music, I am proud to consider myself a Folk artist.

There are as many definitions of folk music as there are folks, but here’s a stab at what it means to me. Incidentally, these are also the criteria by which I conceive and then evaluate my songs (but not necessarily those of others — you can’t really put folk music in a box, now, can you?):

  1. Folk music belongs to everyone (the folks). Which means that it cannot, then, belong exclusively to me. Anyone is free to play it, copy it, change it, record it, perform it, sell it, and so on. Folk music has always been that way, long before there were copyright laws.
  2. Folk music is simple, and not overproduced. In my case, it’s mostly me and my guitar. Ocasionally a harmonica or some organic percussion. If my voice cracks or my guitar makes a funny sound, I don’t care. It’s not about the quality of the recording or the artist, it’s about the quality of the song.
  3. Folk music is the conscience of the people. It cries out for justice on behalf of the poor, the powerless, and the outcasts of society. It is at times gritty, witty, painful, pleasant, shocking, mocking…but always real.

That last one might not be true of folk music across all cultures, but it certainly is part of the American folk music tradition and the line that stretches from Woody Guthrie down to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and several others.

On further reflection, you might even say that folk music is…open source, or…emerging. Go figure. Anyhow, I’ll post some of my lyrics and MP3’s shortly. For now, it’s just good to be back in the groove.


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