I know very little about folk music. Please bear this in mind.
Very little indeed.
I know enough, I think, to recognise The Word Cricket Made Her Happy by Ben McElroy is a folk album. Its instruments – acoustic, bowed, strummed and squeezed – the vocal style – the lilt, the harmonies, the lyric content: definitely folk.
But there are hints of something else, of an Englishness in there, the Englishness of Vaughan Williams, the Englishness of Edward Elgar. The sound of bucolic England. ‘Uncool’ but undeniably populist; music of the folk.
There’s something more ‘modern’ too. The drone, the non-linear compositions; very modern classical. But the drone has always been a thing in folk: to some extent it’s a feature of the instrumentation. The folk-drone has been the basis of some serious music theory – Pauline Oliveros and the Deep Listening/Sonic Awareness thing, her Accordion & Voice album.
Add in the subtle use of electronics, of processing, of field recordings, and the album feels very contemporary.
But, really, I don’t know why I worry. The whole thing is excellent, captivating, original but referential, traditional but modern. Call it folk, call it ambient, call it folk-ambient-drone. Call it what you like. I’m going to call it fantastic.