Offa Rex is a new collaborative project, featuring members of The Decemberists teaming up with the British folk singer Olivia Chaney to make traditional folk music from the British Isles. Ahead of the group’s debut album, The Queen of Hearts, out July 14, Chaney and The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy shared their favorite tracks from other contemporary artists reinventing folk music.
First of August, Joan Shelley
Folk music is often just music played on acoustic instruments, performing an arrangement that is not over-complicated or requires virtuosity — egalitarian music, in the truest sense. This fits that mold, I think.
Night Before Mutiny, Serafina Steer
Turns out Serafina is an old flatmate of Olivia’s. She may not cop to it, but I consider her a leading light of contemporary British folk music. Her new band BAS JAN, is the tops!
Third of May / Odaigahara, Fleet Foxes
Folk music, to my mind, should also be expansive, sweeping music. Music that evokes a kind of spaciousness and wildness. This is that.
Wood View, Kacy & Clayton
These young Canadians are making music that is most akin to the early Bert JanschJohn Renbourn records. Uncanny!
Waterboy, Rhiannon Giddens
I was a fan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are sadly no more — but I walked into Town Hall in New York just as Rhiannon was soundchecking this tune and was absolutely floored. She channels an early American musical soul that is so rare these days.
The Breach, Alasdair Roberts
A hero of folk song and originals, a friend, and a true and prolific artist. Yet another beautiful record full of melody, modulation and lyrics that confound me in their brilliance, humor and succinctness — profound, historically aware and forward-looking.
Bonduca, Z. 574 “The British Heroine”: No. 17, O Lead Me to Some Peaceful Gloom, Ruby Hughes, Jonas Nordberg, Mime Yamahiro-Brinkmann
The artistic output of Elizabethan and Restoration England is important stuff and a zeitgeist of melancholic exploration has arguably pervaded, certainly for me, since! This renders some of that beauty and pathos alongside early Italian songs — all of which, to me, are inseparable from folk song.
The Things I Say, Joanna Newsom
A short, sweet offering from one of my favorite songwriters around: I love the breadth of her influences and how they transcend into something entirely…