With the obvious exception of much classical music, it’s difficult to think of another musical genre that features quite as many instrumentals as folk music does. Yes there are dance tracks, but usually at some point during the 180bpm a diva’s voice will kick in or some sort of sample will break the repetition. Folk, on the other hand, is happy to give over whole albums to tunes. No singing, just tunes. In some extreme cases this can be just one instrument. Three of the most extraordinary albums of this year – Bryony Griffith’s Hover, Sarah-Jane Summers’ Solo, and Gwenifer Raymond’s You Never Were Much of a Dancer – are all instrumentals played on just one instrument.
The crossover between electronica and folk is another fertile area for the instrumental. LAU have been contorting their instruments for many years to make some of the most compelling music in any genre, much of it instrumental (not forgetting Kris Drever’s wonderful songs, of course). Advance warning: their upcoming album, Midnight and Closedown, is set to be one of the albums of next year. You heard it here first. Haiku Salut are another that over the course of three albums have created the most incredible soundscapes, culminating in this year’s standout There Is No Elsewhere. Like LAU they are also spellbinding live
Most dyed-in-the-wool folkies, however, are more familiar with the ‘tune’. Be it a slow air, a jig, a tune set or a reel, we can’t get enough of them. Live, they are an incitement to get on your feet and throw some ceilidh shapes, but on record a whole album of tunes can be a testing listening experience for some of us. What a relief then to have Moore Moss Rutter. Having won the 2011 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award there was little doubt that Tom Moore (fiddle, viola), Archie Churchill-Moss (melodeon), and Jack Rutter (guitar) would go on to do something special. And so they have: this year picking up the Shire Folk Album of the Year award for their third album III (natch). If you want to see the full Top 10 you’ll need to go to the ‘Album of the Year 2018’ tab on this website, where you’ll see several other albums that are graced by their presence, in some combination or other, such as False Lights’ Harmonograph and Jackie Oates’ The Joy of Living.
So rest easy: it may sometimes feel like we’re living at the end of days, but with talent like Moore Moss Rutter we know that folk music, at least, is in safe hands.
Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
Shire Folk Album of 2018
Moore, Moss Rutter