The host of Hickory Wind highlights five of the best folk songs for the week
“In the Hearts of Men” – First Aid Kit
This is an absolutely gorgeous tune from two Swedish sisters who sing like angels. Will appeal to fans of Neko Case and Jenny Lewis. The sisters are only 19 and 21 years old respectively. Can’t wait to hear what they sound like in a few more years/a few hundred cigarettes.
“1922 Blues” – Charlie Parr
Wonderful track from Minnesota’s Charlie Parr. This one features merely a footstomp and Parr’s vigorously strummed acoustic guitar. Straddles the lines between bluegrass, delta blues, and folk. I love the vocal phrasing and the storytelling. He apparently rolls through the Replay Lounge every so often and totally tears the roof off the place.
“Better off Without” – Patterson Hood
The Drive-By Truckers frontman once again proves he’s one of the truly great songwriters out there with this new solo track from his 2012 release Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. This song is so simple. Just a few electric guitar chords, a plodding snare drum and staccato piano. The song is ostensibly about being better off leaving a girl behind, but there’s an obvious melancholy undertone to the song. The balance between those two elements make this a memorable lyric.
“Clay Pigeons” – Blaze Foley
This relatively unknown songwriter was one of Townes Van Zandt’s best friends. By all accounts, he was also completely nuts. He sounds a bit like Townes, but Blaze’s voice is deeper and more soulful. This is a down-on-your-luck ballad, but the lightly plucked acoustic guitar makes things optimistic. The song ends with the protagonist riding off into the sunset on a Greyhound bus. He vows to “start talking again when I know what to say.” A really lovely song from a real troubadour.
“Don’t Look Back” – Jackson C. Frank
A long-lost folk singer who was once roommates with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Frank never received the same notoriety, mostly due to mental health issues and debilitating shyness. As a result, he’s been relegated to cult status. While most of his songs are unbelievably dour, this one storms out of the gates. Aggressive acoustic guitar and Frank’s dynamic vocals help make this dated antiwar song sound as alive as ever.