November 27, 2006


Has anyone else noticed this problem? I think the folk music world especially has been suffering from a severe bout with 'hyper-eclecticism' for quite a while now. Okay, let me explain what I'm talking about. It's currently very hip to be eclectic. Multi-cultural. Genre-bending. "Combining elements of bla bla bla with a healthy dose of this and that while not neglecting strong roots in the tradition of so and so to create a diverse mix of gobbledigook." Now don't get me wrong... I'm all for people mixing styles to come up with something unique and different. But that's exactly what's not happening. Everyone is trying to be different in the same way. An Irish fiddle player sticks a djembe and an electric bass on a couple songs and he's an eclectic, multi-cultural, ground-breaking visionary. But when a Canadian fiddle player, a Scottish fiddle player, a folksy English group, a Swedish nyckelharpa player, a singer-songwriter from Massachusetts and an ex-jazz guitarist from San Fransisco turned Bluegrass flatpicker stick the same djembe and electric bass (and probably the same djembe and electric bass players as well) on their albums, it just doesn't have the same effect. It's a hard trap not to fall into I'll admit. Everybody sounds the same until somebody finds something different. The different thing sounds good so everybody does it but then it all starts to sound the same again. I think the better approach is to start with the music and let it go where it wants to. The instrumentation and arrangements are only by-products, not the starting point. So if a djembe actually adds to the sound, then by all means bang away. I'm not saying change the instruments, I'm saying change the approach. Play whatever sounds good, whatever makes a good noise. That's how you find something truly unique. Because personally, I don't care how 'multi-cultural' or 'eclectic' you are... if it doesn't sound good what's the point? Okay, that's all the ranting I have time for. Now I have to go clean the car.