When folk purists complain about the antifolk movement or the more recent folk-punk scene, I humbly remind them that such styles would never have been possible had it not been for their so-called “pure” folk artists, like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joe Strummer, Leonard Cohen, and so on. In fact, the songs by those singer/songwriters are just as punk as those by the current folk set, perhaps not in sound but certainly philosophy. And in evidence, folk-punk is proving to be an equally enduring style of music.
My introduction to the antifolk and folk-punk genres began with artists such as Lach, Kimya Dawson, and Jeffrey Lewis, and then David Dondero, Erik Petersen, Robert Sarazin Blake, Ghost Mice, Mountain Goats, Defiance Ohio, early Against Me!, and Bread and Roses. And since then I have come across a great many antifolk and folk-punk artists that I now call my favorites. Andrew Jackson Jihad, The Bee Team, Mischief Brew, Get Dead, Harley Poe, The Future Kings of Nowhere, A Fistful of Dynamite, Hail Seizures, The Pasties, A Collective of Dirt, Fake Problems, and Paul Baribeau, are just a handful I can mention off top of my head, as it were, without going through my extensive music collection and using the artists I find there as references.
While much of the antifolk and folk-punk translates to the trained ear as sloppy acoustic strumming and clumsy pickin’, with percussive techniques, and other acoustic auxiliary instrumentation, like banjos, violins, mandolins, upright basses, and the like. But above all vocals that are neither honeyed nor even particularly capable in terms of mainstream music standards, and lyrics marked by wit, sarcasm, satire, socio-political subject matter, personal tidbits, and attempts to point out the wonder in seemingly mundane everyday things in life. These descriptions don’t apply to every folk-punk artist, of course, since the form is somewhat varied and is home to many different levels of skill and songwriting ability. I, for one, find this kind of music very refreshing and enjoyable. And I can see it being appreciated and enduring as long as any folk incarnation to hit the globe thus far.
To drive this point home even more, I present the new “Folk-O-Rama, Vol. 3” compilation. This twenty-two-song giant of a comp features both names we’ve known for a while and a handful of the next generation of folk-punkers, like RMS Olympic, Human Petting Zoo, Not Half Bad, Window Kits, Cottontail, Dubb Nubb, Dustin and the Furniture, Mr. Bacon’s Big Adventure, Jerry Fels and the Jerry Fels, D.K. Slider, Real Live Tigers, The Blendours, Luke Nothing, Mr. Denim, Lesbian Poetry, Emily DeHority, Among Giants, Sleeping Cranes, Matt Pless, Porch Cat, Freddy Fudd Pucker, and Spot Collins. And I give credit to whomever selected and arranged the tracks for this release, which are all pretty great, in varying degrees of course, and include such song titles as Song for the Strays, Anxiety Song, Punk Rock is a Full Time Job, Ignoring Me, I Miss My Cat, Bad Bad Bad Bad Money, Denatured, A Little Bit Like LSD, Ashtray, Flat Earth Friends, and Leopold in Love.
Remaining true to punk values and independent/DIY ethics, the “Folk-O-Rama, Vol. 3” compilation is available online as a digital download. Support the project by paying what you can. At present "Folk-O-Rama, Vol. 3" is rated the #2 folk-punk album on Bandcamp. Not bad.
Incidentally, if one knows a fair amount of music history, one knows that while the term “folk-punk” isn’t exactly a misnomer, it is definitely a bit excessive in wordage. That is, since “folk” music was “punk” music before punk had even been established as a genre, “folk-punk” is like saying “folk-folk” or “punk-punk.” Either way, one can clearly see how that is excessive. But…be that as it may, I suppose the term is still required in order to properly mark this stage of the folk continuum. Actually, if one thinks about it, folk-punk is a good deal more punk than much of today’s punk rock, since folk-punk artists don’t sign to the record labels that are getting rich from so-called "underground movements," nor do they use promoters or booking agents or any of the other “industry” things that take the punk out of punk rock. In pretty much all areas folk-punk has remained consistent, keeping punk values and DIY ethics alive and well in their scene. And for that, I applaud them!