Friday, February 22, 2008

Folk Vibe For Miles

Lately I’ve started to cherish an alternate vision of the café folk troubadour scene from the 60s. Instead of the precision-tooled harmonies, fresh-scrubbed faces, matching shirts, proper enunciation and generally annoying pearly wholesomeness of groups like the Kingston Trio, it’s one of misanthropic boozers, wannabe jazzbos, and croak-voiced trouble-makers who weren’t toeing any party line handed down from Broadside, Pete Seeger, Moe Asch or anybody else. The Mighty Wind crowd is too easy of a target, so there’s no reason to take cheap shots. But listening to these tracks conjures some alternate cast of crusty characters, straight out of a T.C. Boyle book. Both of these songs remind me a little of Karen Dalton, who was associated with the two singers. Fred Neil wrote “Everybody’s Talkin” as a throw-away tune and then proceeded to live off the royalties, preferring mostly to hang in Florida with his beloved dolphins than to commune with the folk. I’ll admit it, I first heard “The Dolphins” on The Sopranos, and it practically made me cry. And Tim Hardin – who wrote “Reason to Believe,” “If I Was a Carpenter,” “Misty Roses” and “Black Sheep Boy” – seemed to have an impressive reserve of menace that he could pipe into the most unlikely places. How many folk records have vibes (Gary Burton, btw)?

“The Dolphins” - Fred Neil

“Never Too Far” - Tim Hardin

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