I am often called folk-punk as a genre, and it is something I understand as being more about mentality, rather than necessarily a sound. Folk music has a history of being something that belongs to the people; performers who travel around as much as possible and work with what you already have. Which, to my knowledge, is much the same as Punk. So for this list, I focused more on punk music, although I think the DIY mentality and integrity in apparent in all of these bands and musicians.
Green Day were my gateway band into punk, as a genre. My sister came home with some music she’d got from a friend, and one of the CDs was American Idiot. At the time I had just got an electric guitar, so after borrowing the “play-a-long” book from a friend of mine, I immediately joined a band. Admittedly, we pretty much only played Green Day songs, and we probably weren’t very good, but that energy and power in the music ignited something within me, and I still get a kick every time I hear the start of Jesus of Suburbia.
My dad was very much into Irish folk music, so we always had The Fureys and the Dubliners playing in the house. I remember first hearing “The Green Fields Of France” by Dropkick Murphys, and then “The Fields Of Athenry” and it blowing my tiny, tiny mind. The Murphys' version of Green Fields of France is relatively akin to the original (or at least the versions I had grown up listening to) but their version of “Fields…” is full of the anguish and emotion that the song is about, but tipped towards ire and aggression, rather than mourning. And it was LOUD. So I think hearing songs that I already sort of knew but in a punk setting definitely broadened my horizons. And then I heard “Shipping Off to Boston” and I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered.
I first came across Frank Turner in a list of “30 tracks to check out this month” in Total Guitar, for “The Real Damage”. I remember listening to “The Ballad of Me and My Friends” and “Fathers Day” and loving the songwriting more than anything else. I saved up and bought ‘Sleep is for the Week’ track by track as my pocket money would allow. Then, when “Love, Ire and Song” came out I went to an in-store at Banquet Records (still in my school uniform I think) and was absolutely blown away. I’ve loved Frank’s music since then, and he remains very influential.
Someone gave me (shortly after American Idiot) two Green Day covers - “Brown Eyed Girl” and “I Fought The Law”. I knew Van Morrison (parents are fans), but had never really heard The Clash (aside from London Calling on adverts and the like). So when a friend made me a mixtape which included “White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)” and “Guns of Brixton”, it all made sense. Punk wasn’t just safety pins and loud out of tune guitars, there could be reggae ideas in the music, and lyrics that talk of politics, injustice and social issues, as well as being able to dance to it.
Levi Stubbs’ Tears is one of the greatest songs ever. To have the aggression of an overdriven electric guitar and the simplicity of just that and a voice (and a trumpet and bongos at the end). After hearing some of Billy Bragg’s songs on youtube ("Waiting for The Great Leap Forwards”is in my head of one I found) I went to my local library and got “Must I Paint You a Picture”, the best of (up to a certain date, I can’t remember which date) and loved the angry political songs, as well as the heartfelt tender music that Bragg has also produced. Scroobius Pip always says that he bases his opinions on matters according to what Bragg says about them, and I’d be lying if I said that he doesn’t have a solid influence on me politically and musically.
One of the best modern punk bands. Laura Jane Grace is an amazing songwriter, and their arrangements of her songs are exactly how punk has naturally progressed. ’Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a fantastic album, one that combines the social commentary in the lyrics and the aggression in the music. I think it definitely helps that if you ever watch videos of Laura solo, the songs do not lose any of their impact thanks to her delivery and passion.
Jonah for me is the essence of DIY. I’ve loved Jonah’s music for several years but it is his mentality and tenacity that I find so influential. The fact that he books tours anywhere that will take him and his “pay-what-you-can” approach have been two things that I have tried to keep integral to my mentality when it comes to music. I saw him at 2000 Trees last year and was so shaken up (in a good way) that afterwards I went back to my tent and wrote several songs in a row. And if that isn’t influential then I don’t know what is.
The Front Bottoms
Possibly my favourite band of the last few years. Someone shared “Twin Sized Mattress” on Facebook, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with them. A perfect example of building slowly, self releasing home-recorded EPs, and then making two amazing albums in the self-titled and 'Talon of The Hawk'. I do love ‘Back on Top’, but in a slightly different way. The fact that they recorded the first two all together in a live room and then did some small overdubs shows such a level of musicianship and rehearsal, and something that I definitely wanted to do when it came to recording ‘True Story’.
The Mountain Goats
This is fully a mentality rather than a music thing. 4 chords on an acoustic guitar and pure poetry spat out at the audience, done with such passion and integrity. The fact that John Darnielle recorded on an old boombox, tape hiss and all, gives an extra layer to the songs. There’s definitely parallels to be drawn between the early Mountain Goats and early Front Bottoms (and the fact that TFB are fans of the Mountain Goats) and (dare I say it) some of my first releases, in that the urgency is present: The songs need to be heard, so they must be recorded quickly with whatever equipment you have to hand so you can play these songs to people.
If you want to see acoustic punk at its best, watch The Mountain Goats’ show at the Swedish American Hall. And enjoy every minute of that hour and a half.
The Smith Street Band/Wil Wagner
Just recently I’ve started listening to more of The Smith Street Band, and I am loving every second of new discovery. A friend gave me Wil’s solo record - “Laika”, which is possibly the best acoustic record ever made. Just do yourself a favour - go and listen to them. And then go see them on their July tour.
I’ve talked a lot now. I hope you’ve enjoyed that. If you want to argue or agree with me I’m @pcraiguk on twitter, or you can contact me at email@example.com
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Check out a review of Patrick's new album True Story here: http://colinspunkrockworld.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/album-review-true-story-by-patrick-craig.html