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Folk awakens! Indepenant folk rock finds its way again into mainstream music


Music. Art. Fashion.

Lewis and Clarke, c/o Freewilliamsburg.

The staples that define an era and period in popular culture usually have a sneaky way of wandering back into mainstream media time and time again; often without us even noticing. Go to any mall, and shockingly enough, you can see bell bottoms once again attacking the ankles of America's youth. Movies from the likes of Quentin Tarantino are designed to replicate styles and imagery from everything such as old gangster films to the unintentional hilarity of poorly dubbed martial arts movies from years ago. Music, possibly even more so than any other type of artistic media, has a habit of coming full circle every couple years as well. If you only listen you can see how many of the most talented artists found on today's radios and televisions shows have found their fame by picking up the dusty sounds of their forefathers and putting a new coat of paint on them. And the latest trend to creep back into music may be the most unexpected, as well as possibly the most unlikely: good, old American folk.

M. Ward, a hugely popular indie musician from Portland, OR, known best for his rootsy solo albums and collaboration with Zooey Deschanel, received his acclaim by digging into the music he heard growing up when listening to early Johnny Cash records. Conor Oberst, indie rocker of Bright Eyes fame from Omaha, NE, found his folk with the Mystic River Band and his great love of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Even in movies, folk music seems to be sneaking into the guitar cases and band vans of the music behind our favorite on screen moments. Juno, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and now even the latest Twilight movie, New Moon, boast a variety of new indie folk rock acts. Indie folk stars Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear are only two of the newest additions expected to trump up Edward's glittering appearance in the vampire saga.

Yet even as this once-was-old-and-now-is-new phenomenon makes its rounds again in our national culture, it's roots can be found even as far spread as the Lehigh Valley. Local musical hero Steve Brosky, filling clubs and bars in PA for the past decade with his wistful songs, calls Allentown his home and audio stomping ground. Brosky's musical leanings pull from the stylings of folk icons like Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits' own dark take on the genre. Lewis and Clarke, local Pennsylvanian folk rockers as well, have gained national attention with their independent take on the tried and true sound in their albums Blasts of Holy Birth and Light Time.

So, when the latest fad comes and goes, and you're sure you've seen the last of it (nu-metal, I'm talking to you), don't be surprised when the latest actors, actresses and musicians start wearing it on their t-shirts. On the floor of pop culture, you have to be careful where you walk, because you never know when you'll step on someone's slap bracelet.

.For more info:  This week will be a full folk week folks, with a review of the indie darling Timber Timbre's new album, so stay tuned. Also, if you're interested in seeing some folk right here in PA, you can catch Steve Brosky live at the Riegelsville Inn on 09/26 on Delaware Rd. Riegelsville, Pa at 8 pm and Lewis and Clarke on 10/21 at  8:00 PM at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia with Laura Marling.


  • Mary Ann Health & Happiness examiner 5 years ago

    Great article, Frank, well written and enjoyable to read.