Make America What, Again?

“No fun, my babe, no fun. No fun to hang around. Feelin’ that same old way. No fun to hang around. Freaked out for another day.” 

By Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, and Iggy (Stooge) Pop, from the song, “No Fun” on The Stooges first (eponymous) album, released in 1969.

Happy 2017. Really. My excitement for a “new beginning” overwhelms me. Whoopee. Happy days are here again. (yawns pessimistically) But of course, we must make America great again, right? We will do this while we make America straight again, make America fake again, make America gray…and make Americans afraid again.

But this time the fear is not from without; it is from within. Well, far be it from me to swallow up or destroy… the party. After all, it’s my party (no, it’s not), but I fear all tomorrow’s parties. Now if you close the door I never have to go to parties again. I am peaceable and faithful to the “new King”, for I am scared shitless of him. Now let me be clear that when I use the term “party” I am not thinking of a political party (lies, lies, lies). I am thinking about the kind of party where cake is served. You know, let ‘em eat cake? Ummmmm, boy!

So, readers may ask, “Popeswami, where are you going with this?”  I am going nowhere. I am nowhere, man. Can’t you see? Perhaps you should tell me what you see. I will hold out hope that you see something different. But I can see for miles and miles and miles, yet all I can see is a river of shit. And I’m getting tired of it. But enough of the cheap efforts to be clever, using snippets of songs or song titles to make a point. There is no point. Pretty dull, eh? Well, happy 2017, anyway.

Seriously, America enters 2017 with more uncertainty than ever. It is difficult to remain optimistic, but I will attempt to continue to be a Ray of light and spread any joy I can muster. So, let’s talk about music! Hell, I quoted enough lyrics and esoteric Biblical references above!

Isabel Baker – I Like God’s Style

Speaking of the Bible, let me start out with what may be the earliest American Christian rock album ever recorded, Isabel Baker’s “I Like God’s Style”. This LP (in the form of a limited issue pressing on Harkit Records in 2015) was one of my prize acquisitions of 2016. While parts of this album sound like music from a Jimmy Swaggart revival, there are excellent examples of garage-rockabilly stylings coupled with down-home, real people singing and songwriting. All songs on the album were written by the mysterious teenager, Isabel Baker, who also sings and plays rhythm guitar. Not much is known about her. The liner notes, written by a certain Naomi E. Fieldstad, reveal that she was 16 years old when she recorded the album. Her father was an evangelist named George Baker. Besides Ms. Baker, the album includes Joe Utterback on piano (adding revival tent flourishes on the ivories that would make Jimmy Swaggart proud), Bob Garvey on lead guitar, Don Nunn on bass, and Jim Kincaid on drums. Per album notes, the original album was recorded in two days, on June 18th and 19th, 1965, in Wichita, Kansas. It was issued on the Kansas-based Romco Records label, with only 100 to 500 being pressed. They were primarily sold at her father’s church and prayer gatherings as they traveled the West and Midwest. It was produced by her father’s organization “The Challenge of Calvary Ministry, Inc.,” headquartered in Garden Grove, California. The front cover shows Isabel with her Fender Jaguar guitar. Upon hearing, it is obvious that Isabel has no formal music or vocal training. An insert in the reissue package says that Joe Utterback, who provided some recollections of the recording event, later became an annual performer for the Tony Awards gala reception and has recorded several solo jazz piano albums. On the other hand, efforts to track down Isabel Baker over the years have proven futile. People have posted several songs from this album on YouTube. Here is the title track:

 Michael Angelo – Michael Angelo

Another acquisition this past year was the self-titled LP by Michael Angelo. His album was issued in 1977, on the Guinn label from Kansas City, Missouri, in a limited pressing of 500. Michael Angelo Nigro was a studio musician at the Liberty Recording studio in Kansas City at the time. Late at night and at other times when the studio was not being used, he would record the songs that would become this album. Liberty was not interested in issuing it, so he did the final mastering at Big-K Studios, a smaller studio in Kansas City, that issued it on the Guinn Records label. All vocals and instruments except drums were performed by Michael Angelo; all songs were written by him. Drums were provided by Frank Gautieri. The master acetate was destroyed shortly after the album was released and the record company went out of business. Original pressings sometimes go for over a grand. There were a couple reissues in the late 90s and early 00s using the needle-drop method with lots of Cedar noise reduction, which literally ruined the sound and ambiance of the album. A South Korean label, Big Pink/Beatball, issued a CD taken from one of these reissues and should be avoided. When I communicated with Michael in 2010 he was not aware of the Beatball release. Fortunately, a pristine original Guinn LP was located and provided for an excellent reissue by Anthology/Mexican Summer in 2015, with full permission of Michael Angelo Nigro. This release was also limited to 300 copies and includes an accompanying 7” record with three songs, one of which did not appear on the LP. Later in 2015, Lion Productions issued a double CD, again with full authorization of the artist, which includes both this album and a never-officially released second LP, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” plus a third LP, “Nuts”, which was released under the name Michael Nitro. This double-CD release of the three LPs was made possible with the assistance of the late Patrick (The Lama) Lundborg (Acid Archives editor and author of the book, Psychedelia), Aaron Milenski (contributor to The Acid Archives book), Mike Stax (Ugly Things magazine), and Vincent Tornatore (Lion Productions).

So, how does it sound? It sounds both retro and ahead of its time all at once. Keep in mind this was recorded and issued in 1977. It did not fit that period, musically, hence it went nowhere. Besides, it was very limited in its exposure with such a small pressing.  There is a Paul McCartney influence both in voice and melodicism. Perhaps this is an indirect influence, since he sounds even closer to Emitt Rhodes, who himself, was influenced by The Beatles, and McCartney in particular. However, that is where the similarity ends. Michael Angelo’s songs are more “dreamy” with references to Greek mythology and a darker, romantic, and even suicidal longing. There are flashes of the late 60s Los Angeles sound but then there are new innovations overlapping Middle Eastern scales with 60s Donovan-like psychedelia coupled with an aggressive guitar, pointing to a newer sound from which perhaps Big Star and REM in the 80s and My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and other shoegaze bands in the early 90s took their cues. Yet, the album is significantly an understatement through-and-through; beautiful, but not flamboyant, leaving a sense of longing for some form of resolution. His second album, “A Sorcerer’s Dream,” sounds like an extension of the first. His Michael Nitro album is a bit more aggressive but it certainly has his trademark sound and songwriting style. Here is “Future,” the closing track from his first album:

Mistress Mary – Housewife

A few years ago, I watched a cache of original copies of this LP in sealed, mint condition go for nearly a half a grand each at various online auction houses. In the meantime, Companion Records had been promising for years to obtain permission to re-release it, making it more accessible to those of us who were curious to hear what all the fuss was about. My waiting paid off. In 2016, Companion Records released the LP, along with a digital download of the album with three bonus unreleased tracks. The original album was issued on the Afton Co. Records label, from Hacienda Heights, California, in 1969. Note that Mistress Mary’s real name is Mary Afton. It is rumored that Roger McGuinn and other members of The Byrds are the backup band on the tracks “And I Didn’t Want You” and “My Country Boy”. We now know that the 5-day session was conducted at Darrel Cotton’s Ion Studio, and the session was led by Cotton and steel guitarist Carl Walden. Also, one Byrds alumni is identified as Clarence White. Early rockabilly artist, Johnny Redd, also participated in the sessions. It is said that Mary was dissatisfied with The Byrds’ treatment of her songs, making them sound more rock than country. While her singing isn’t on the level of the leading country singers of her day, it isn’t bad at all. And, her songwriting, while a bit quirky and definitely unique, is solid. Being from Southern California, her singing has a softer touch than most country artists of the era. Mistress Mary – Housewife rides the picket fence line between a real people vanity recording and a commercially viable country sound. The back cover shows her being a true “Los Angeles housewife,” sporting a black negligée while mopping the floor and preparing a meal.  The liner notes are hand-written, and Mary describes herself as “Wife – Mother – Civic Leader – etc. – Artiste,” and she refers to “the more intelligent and perceptive of her in-laws.” This should give an idea of what her lyrics are like. The original pressing was only 500 copies, with about 50 of these going to key people in the music industry, including Elvis Presley. Mary Afton’s efforts to break into the country charts were met with little interest. So, after a couple years with no “bites” she moved on to other interests, including auto mechanics instructor for women, female self-defense instructor, belly dance instructor, and disco dance instructor. She continues to live in Southern California, and she loves throwing huge pool parties for hundreds of people at a time in her back yard. Here is “And I Didn’t Want You” from her LP:

Palmer Rockey – Scarlet Love/Rockey’s Style

In the “anals” of recorded music, the Palmer Rockey story is one of the most amazing and incredulous. I was amazed, and quite pleased to find that Trunk Records located a mint copy of the first version of this album, Scarlet Love, and re-issued it on both LP and CD in 2013 (but using the third release, Rockey’s Style, title). I purchased the CD version soon after it was issued. This past year I was very fortunate that the Mr. Weird and Wacky blogsite had the other music version for download, and it is a crisp, clear copy. The original pressings of this album were in 1979, 1980, and 1981, all on the AB-Rock Music label. It is unclear how many were pressed, but with the scarcity of originals, it could not have been many. There were three pressings but as far as I can tell, only two variants of the music. The first version is what was re-released on the Trunk label in 2013. This version has two songs that do not appear on the other two versions, “Sunday Love” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. The second and third versions are musically the same but the second retains the “Scarlet Love” album title while the third release is retitled “Rockey’s Style” and both have slightly different sleeves. The latter two versions have a slightly different mix of some of the songs that appear on all three versions, and have two songs that do not appear on the first release, “Love, Love Rock” and “Love Is Deep Inside,” and one song title was changed from “Rock It Nice N’ Easy” to “Rock It”. There are three variants of the sleeves but none of them match the songs and sequencing on the first release. And to further the confusion, the album sleeves provided no guarantee which version of the LP would be found inside.

The music is what would be considered Twilight Zone crooner lounge, with some lounge rock thrown in for good measure. Little is known about the sessions. According to liner notes on the CD, it is rumored that the recording “sessions were fraught with tension and madness.” The session musicians are professional. Palmer Rockey’s singing is not. It is obvious his voice is untrained, but he tries to sound hip, sometimes attempting to imitate Elvis, and at other times attempting to sound like classic crooners such as Dean Martin. His singing is unique and some lyrics sound like they are improvised. All songs were written by Palmer Rockey. The songwriting is fair to good musically, but corny and weak lyrically. Sometimes the lyrics are just weird, meaning it is right down my alley! One song, “Rock It,” sounds like it was designed to be used in aerobics classes. We don’t know if Palmer Rockey played any of the instruments during the session, but my bet is that he didn’t, otherwise he would have stated it on the album cover.

The album is supposed to be a soundtrack to his second movie, “Scarlet Love.” It is suggested that this movie evolved from his first, “It Happened on Sunday,” also titled in some sources “It Happened One Weekend,” from 1974. He was working on edits to the second movie for years, even after the last release of the LP. On his Lysergia Website, the late Patrick Lundborg provided many hilarious and interesting details about the making of the movie. It seems Mr. Rockey swindled many wealthy, elderly Dallas, Texas women to obtain the money for his endeavors. He maintained a post office box where he was known to read “mail from Hollywood” out loud for those passing by. When approached in the 90s about the album and movie, he informed the inquirer to never contact him about this again. He passed away in 1996. He was married to Mary Ann “Cookie” Carson in 1968 when she was just 21 and he was 47. They were divorced in 1977, prior to the release of the movie and soundtrack. Cookie Ann Rockey recently wrote a book about her life with him, “The Rock: The Life and Crimes of Palmer Rockey.” Here is the song “Scarlet Warning” from the LP:

Frunk – If at First…

Another rarity that sells for a grand today is an album that could possibly be the first karaoke album ever produced. It contains the music of five young women in their 20s singing along to some popular songs of their era. It was recorded in the private studio (Vampire Studio, Haddonfield, NJ) of Peter Graulich, who was the brother-in-law to one of the singers.  It was pressed in a limited quantity of 25 on the RPC label. This would have been beyond all possibility of being heard let alone being owned by this Popeswami if it had not been for Peter Graulich discovering that he had 8 original Frunk LPs stashed away. He came to my attention when I saw him selling them on eBay for around $600 each. He used the funds to reissue the LP, again in limited quantity. It is one of these re-pressings that I was able to obtain. In his own words, here is how the recording came about:

“The album was released in the Summer of 1972. There are 8 copies available and we believe the initial pressing was 25 records, not 100. We have also located the original Master as received from Frankford-Wayne Recording Labs at 212 N. 12th St. in Philadelphia PA. I have also located the original master tape on which I recorded all of the sessions, then mixed them down via a TEAC 4 channel mixer, to the final set. The record was recorded on a Teac 3340 10 1/2″ reel 4 track recorder. The tape is exactly as it was when it was delivered to the pressing company. If you would like details of how the record was created and the group formed: Back in 1971 I was just getting into serious electronics and high end audio was my current compulsion. I was living in Haddonfield and I build a recording studio in my basement. One day my sister in law and her friends were visiting and I was playing “500 miles”, Peter, Paul & Mary in the studio and they came in and started singing. It sounded interesting, so I suggested we record. Over the next few weeks we recorded many takes on my Teac 3340 4 channel recorder. As there was no karaoke in those days, I dubbed the girls voices over the original music from the turntable. Eventually we got “acceptable” material. I mixed it all down and created a 10” reel with the master on it (which I still have) and took it to Frankfort Recording Labs and had 25 copies made. We created covers, pasted them up and poof! We had a record. I gave the girls each a 3 copies and asked if they could sell them (for $5 each to help off set the cost of the project. I think my Mom bought the only copy sold, but I felt sorry for her and gave her a refund)…”

The five singers were Dee Graulich, Mary Anderson, Kathleen Anderson, Mary Anna Baptiste, and Terry Wadlinger. Peter Graulich was audio engineer and producer. Larry Viarengo was responsible for the cover design. The music sounds a bit eerie to me, hearing the original music with different singers. But there are a few giveaways such as hearing Paul Simon singing in the background on “El Condor Pasa”. Their singing is not always synchronized with the recording, but it really was never intended to be a commercial release. It was definitely for themselves, their friends and family. Here is Frunk singing along with Karen Carpenter on “Close to You”:

In Closing


I did not discuss any local outings in this post. But believe me, I have been seeing some great stuff in San Diego. I will write about it later. This will be my final post before the presidential inebriation. In the meantime, stay safe and warm.

The Wonder of Wyrd

“Nothing may happen without wyrd, for it is present in everything, but wyrd does not make things happen. Wyrd is created at every instant, and so wyrd is the happening.”
Brian Bates – The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer 1983

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Finally or Firstly

Spilling over from my last post, and my list of beloved classical pieces, I totally missed Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”!!! Gracious sakes, how did I miss that one? That puts my count to a nice round twenty-one selectable and delectable Pisces, which is where I shall astrologically leave it. Speaking of astrology, I have promised for several months to write about the concept of wyrd in music. So now that the Popeswami’s Moon Unit is in the 7Stones’ house of The Rising Sons, and Jupiter’s Child is aligned with Martians, then the 21st piece is “The Planets”, and the band, Love, will steal the stars. Could it be the awning of the sage of equestrians?

Going back to the subject of Martians, “You’re a Martian” was a musical observation of Schwump when he first recorded this odd-ditty in 1976 with The Residents. And, in 2013 The Residents toured under the theme, The Wonder of Weird; so this brings us full circle to the Wonder of Wyrd. See what I did there?

Henceforth I shall attempt to give the square roots of the concept of “wyrd” and how this influenced a fascinating genre of music that began to flourish in the 1990s, blossomed in the early 2000s, and continues today.

NOTE: My primary reviewer feels that this is far too analytical and cerebral for a blog post. So be forewarned. It does get rather detailed.

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Hand/Eye Wyrd Folk Compilation

Isn’t Esoterica Lovely?

The term “wyrd” is closely associated with an ancient Anglo-Saxon view of the universe that goes back well over a millennium, and probably back to oral traditions. The word “wyrd” has an etymology that stems from Common Germanic “wurdiz”, and to the Proto-Indo-European root “wert-“, meaning “to turn” or “rotate”. It is associated with today’s usage of the words “fate” and “destiny”, but has a deeper meaning than the simple application of those words. The spelling “weird” first appears in Scottish and Northern English dialects in the 16th century. But by the 18th century the word “weird” began to mean “odd” or “strange” in connection with the supernatural, and eventually began to be applied as it is today to everyday situations that appear to be unusual. Modern paganism and mysticism has attempted to restore the use of the term “wyrd”, as well as the original meaning of the word “weird”.

In “What is Wyrd?” which was published in Cup of Wonder No. 5 (October, 2001), Arlea Hunt-Anschutz writes: “The most fundamental concept of heathenry is wyrd. It is also one of the most difficult to explain and hence one of the most often misunderstood…Wyrd literally means “that which has turned” or “that which has become”. It carries the idea of “turned into” in both the sense of becoming something new and the sense of turning back to an original starting point. In metaphysical terms, wyrd embodies the concept that everything is turning into something else while both being drawn in toward and moving out from its own origins. Thus, we can think of wyrd as a process that continually works the patterns of the past into the patterns of the present.”

The British psychologist, Brian Bates, has written extensively about the concept of wyrd. In his introduction to The Way of Wyrd” (1983) he wrote: “Wyrd is the unfolding of our personal destiny…But…It does not see our lives as “pre-determined”. Rather, it is an all-encompassing view which connects us to all things, thoughts, emotions, events in the cosmos as if through the threads of an enormous, invisible but dynamic web. Today, scientists know intellectually that all things are interconnected. But the power of Wyrd is to realise this in our inner being, and to know how to use it to manifest our personal destiny.”

Continuing, Bates says “…our Anglo-Saxon ancestors believed in a universe where lines of power ran through the earth, spirits inhabited the trees, streams and stones, and where magicians were able to look into the future through the mysterious power of runes. People understood their universe as held together by an interlaced web of golden threads visible only to the wizards. And still today, The Way of Wyrd transforms our experience of personal destiny – who we are, and how we can manifest our personal potential. It is a way of personal healing… Today, through a deep connection with wyrd, we are inspired to see our lives in a new and empowering way. It restores our experience of the healing power of love, nature and creativity. It is about letting into our lives the guidance of an extended universe of spirit. It brings ancient wisdom together with modern science in the service of enhancing our lives, and the integrity of our human presence on the planet.”

I bet many of you didn’t know any of this. I bet many of you didn’t care much, either. But there is no one reading this that hasn’t for at least a moment in their lives, considered “the big picture” – considered their destiny and asked why things were the way they were. I’m not referring to attending religious ceremonies, and performing rituals, but digging deep into ourselves and wondering what it is all about.

So what does this have to do with music? Well, we are all familiar with the close association music has with every aspect of our lives, from the sacred to the profane. From the time the first human uttered words tonally (or atonally), created instruments or contraptions to blow through, vibrate, pluck, or pound, we have associated these sounds with everything we do, we dream, we ponder, or imagine. Today we have music representing various cultural and religious traditions and customs, and dealing with all sorts of social concerns as well as our relationships with nature, with the cosmos, and with each other. When the concept of wyrd was revived in recent times, music began to be associated with that concept.

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The Birdtree – Orchards & Caravans

The Music of Wyrd

My first exposure to wyrd folk was through a now-defunct Website that mysteriously appeared with the title “Psychedelic Albums”. This was late in the year 2003. In 2004 the owner of this site created a category he referred to as “Wyrd Folk” but later changed this to “Psychedelic Folk, Drone, Improv, Experimental Acoustic”. This is where I learned about some of the current big names in the genre such as B’eirth of In Gowan Ring, Prydwyn of Green Crown, and Tim Renner of Stone Breath. The owner of this site turned out to be a fellow named Simon Allen, from Sheffield, England. We corresponded frequently and he shared many music sources with me. One source was Brad Rose of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who had two imprint labels, Digitalis and Foxglove, and an online newsletter, Foxy Digitalis. He also recorded under the name, The North Sea, and was part of other bands such as Juniper Meadows and Corsican Paintbrush. Another Website, The Unbroken Circle, was run by Mark Coyle from the UK. It was an excellent historical resource that described “wyrd folk” and the artists that performed it. Coyle also had a sister Website, Woven Wheat Whispers that served as an outlet for CDs and downloads for these artists. Simon Allen also began an imprint label, Barl Fire, where artists performing wyrd, experimental, and other related acoustic music forms released some wonderful albums. Unfortunately, Allen pulled the plug on the Psychedelic Albums site in 2006, and by early 2008, Barl Fire was gone as well. Likewise, Mark Coyle closed both The Unbroken Circle and Woven Wheat Whispers sites in 2008 after someone hacked into the site and caused him several problems. Brad Rose continued on with his imprints and Website for a few more years but finally discontinued his recording labels and then in 2013 his Foxy Digitalis site merged with Decoder, an Internet ‘zine with a broader focus, and so it was no more. Tim Renner, from Southeastern Pennsylvania, not only has formed several groups in a variety of folk sub-genres, but has operated a Website and album store, Some Dark Holler, that continues today under the name Dark Holler Arts. Groups formed by or associated with Renner include Stone Breath, Breathe Stone, Moth Masque, Mourning Cloak, The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree, Crow Tongue, and others. There are several other Websites catering to those interested in wyrd folk, experimental folk, and other related unconventional music forms that sprung up in the late 90s and early 00s and many still exist. I believe the biggest heartache for me was the closing of The Unbroken Circle, for it was a treasure trove of information about the beginnings of wyrd folk, with an immense reference section related to the many sub-genres of modern folk.

A characteristic of these artists is to release their music independently, often on homemade CDrs on their own imprint. Another characteristic was to form music collectives such as the San Francisco-based Jeweled Antler Collective, where a small core of artists, or an artist, works with a continuously rotating list of artists and a “music session” is represented by a group name under which they record. Many of these sessions are totally improvised, and the “recording studio” may be outside near a stream or meadow incorporating all the sounds around them into the music; artists like Juniper Meadows from the US, Sedayne from the UK, and Anaksimandros from Finland come to mind. Recordings often include sounds by the artists themselves such as coughing or sneezing, or even talking to one another in the background. Generally the music is acoustic, but not always. For example The Does and Family LSD use traditional electric rock instrumentation.

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The Franciscan Hobbies – Masks & Meanings

Many of these recordings are wordless, with the human voice being used as an instrument or as part of the ambience if heard at all. The music can be anything from a traditional Western structure with beautiful melodies and harmonies, to a Middle-Eastern sound such as from Josephine Foster or Mike Tamburo, or to atonal free-form chaos, and everything else in between. When there are lyrics, they leave no aspect of the human condition untouched, with an emphasis on subjects that are often avoided in more conventional music forms. One can sense the feeling of darkness, existential loneliness and pessimism, and of fateful resignation in some of the lyrics. Sometimes there is an ominous concern but yet a curious wonderment regarding the unknown or the spirit world. Some artists will uncover lyrics from centuries old songs that reflect similar dark, fatalistic views and superstitions. But not all the lyrics are about fearful and depressing subjects. Some are happy, even joyous, but still have that element of fate tied to it. Such lyrics, old or new, I believe are what make these songs part of the wyrd folk genre. The instrumental recordings, while often by artists who also perform lyrical wyrd folk, are another sub-genre and perhaps this is why Simon Allen changed his listing of such artists from “wyrd folk” to “psychedelic folk, drone, improv, and experimental acoustic”, which is a more accurate description of the variety of sounds. A more recent word used to group all these styles together is “neofolk”, with “free folk” being a sub-genre.

Many people associate the idea of “wyrd” with pagan traditions, Wicca, or Satanism. This genre does not represent such religions or traditions any more than any other music form. There are indeed Christian artists, such as Caedmon, who have been classified as “wyrd” just as there are others who are committed pagans such as Omnia. And yet there are others that are “unclassifiable” when it comes to spiritual orientation, such as Stone Breath, Sharron Kraus, Marissa Nadler, and Terry Earl Taylor. Some artists, such as Pamela Wyn Shannon, Circulus, The Wyld Olde Souls, and Spires That in the Sunset Rise, tap into the ancient Anglo-Saxon heritage of magic and mysticism, but without overtly making a definitive commitment to these beliefs; they are merely observing and reporting. Spires is more avant-garde in musical structure than the others mentioned here.

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Bert Jansch – Jack Orion

Wyrd folk, as in psychedelic music, has its primary origins in the 60s, when the youth of that era were experimenting with psychedelic drugs, Eastern religions, mysticism, magic, alternative lifestyles, and the like. Just as psychedelic rock of the 60s reflects these interests, so does 60s folk. While the term “wyrd folk” did not come into usage in modern music until the late 1980s, it has been retroactively applied to artists from the 60s onward. Music that has retroactively been given the label “wyrd folk” has a more metaphysical aspect to it, and in the UK the artists tapped into the ancient Anglo-Saxon shamanistic expressions described earlier. Early popular artists that could be tangentially connected to the genre include Donovan and The Incredible String Band. Also notable would be Fairport Convention, Pentangle and specifically John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Jansch’s album “Jack Orion” is noted as an early example of what would later be considered wyrd folk. In the early 70s this really took off in the UK, with groups like Comus, C.O.B., Magna Carta, Forest, Trees, Fresh Maggots, Spriguns, and a host of others. However, in the US, it did not seem to catch on, and psychedelic music gradually melded into either progressive rock or hard rock and metal. Psychedelic aspects of music continued to bubble under the surface around the world for decades, surfacing mostly within the rock genre. But something happened in the late 90s that was a turning point. I have yet to figure this out. Some of the earlier artists of this genre, beginning in the late 80s through mid 90s, were Current 93, Sol Invictus, In Gowan Ring, and Mourning Cloak.

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Stone Breath – Songs of Moonlight and Rain

Around 2004, these related folk styles began to spring up everywhere, especially in the US and the UK but also throughout the planet. From Ireland come United Bible Studies and Agitated Radio Pilot. From Russia (with love) we have Julia Vorontsova who follows the traditions of the Russian bards. Japan’s Makoto Kawabata is noted for his work with Acid Mother’s Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. and related groups, but some of his solo work could be classified in this genre. In Scandinavia you have groups from Sweden, Norway, and Finland but the Finns seem to have been the most prolific, tapping into ancient folk traditions. There are artists such as: Anaksimandros, mentioned above; Paivansade; Uton; Pekko Kappi; Lau Nau; Islaja; Es; Keijo (Virtanen); Vapaa; Kukkiva Poliisi; and one of my favorites, Kemialliset Ystavat. Most of these Finnish groups/artists are classified as “free folk”. Most are instrumental. In New South Wales, Australia there is a collective of musicians centered around brother and sister, Michael and Kristina Donnelly. Groups related or attributed to them include Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, Terracid, Alligator Crystal Moth, 6majik9, ffehro, Soarwhole and are primarily in the free folk sub-genre. The Jeweled Antler Collective is centered around Steven R. Smith, Loren Chasse, and Glenn Donaldson. Groups to come out of this collective include Thuja, The Birdtree, Skygreen Leopards, The Franciscan Hobbies, Hala Strana, The Child Readers, The Ivytree; The Buried Civilizations; The Once and Future Herds; and D. Smolken (who was originally from Poland). What seems to set these artists apart from the others mentioned here is that there are Eastern European elements that seem to run through the music coming out of the Jeweled Antler Collective, perhaps due to the influences from D. Smolken of Dead Raven Choir, Garlic Yarg, and Wolfmangler. Wolfmangler actually veers into dark metal drone more than folk.

Other notable US artists would be: Fursaxa from Philadelphia; Poppy Sward and Green Mistletoe from Oswego, NY; Hush Arbors and The Golden Oaks from Virginia. From Tyne and Wear, UK comes Sean Breadin who is responsible for several artists: Eleanor’s Visceral Tomb; Shibboleth; Venereum Arvum; and Sedayne. All are grounded in ancient Anglo-Saxon music, with many handmade instruments designed to be true to ancient construction and sound. The album “Winter Heresy” by Shibboleth is a very dark, primitive, instrumental work that sounds like it is performed by ancient spirits in a dank, dark dungeon. Malaysian born David Tibet (now living in the UK) has been instrumental in the promotion of wyrd folk and was one of the earliest artists in related sub-genres, recording as Current 93. He is also closely associated with the dark ambient sounds of Nurse With Wound and the more rhythmic acid house of Psychic TV. Phil Legard from the UK is another prolific artist recording as Xenis Emputae Travelling Band and The Pneumatic Consort. And I must not forget English Heretic, which mixes paranormal experiences with psychedelic folk and electronic sound. Do not listen to English Heretic recordings alone and in the dark as you never know what might visit you!

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In Gowan Ring – Abend the Knurled Stitch O’er the Glinting Spade

Recommended Albums

The following are just a small sample of items that I strongly recommend. Some are nearly impossible to obtain today with some titles having releases of less than 100. Others are much easier to locate.

1. Stone Breath – Songs of Moonlight and Rain
2. Stone Breath – A Silver Thread to Weave the Seasons
3. In Gowan Ring – Abend The Knurled Stitch O’er The Glinting Spade
4. Current 93 – All The Pretty Little Horses – The Inmost Light
5. Kemialliset Ystavat – Alkuharka
6. English Heretic – The Sacred Geography of British Cinema: Scene One: A Hilltop Hanging From Witchfinder General
7. Paul Giovanni and Magnet – The Wicker Man (original soundtrack album)
8. The Juniper Meadows – Pine Needles and Cones
9. The North Sea – Locust Grove
10. Hush Arbors – If There Be Spirits, Let Them Come / Cleaning The Bone
11. Green Crown – Washed In Her Blood
12. Green Mistletoe – God of the Blood of the Woods
13. Poppy Sward – Fawn
14. Xenis Emputae Travelling Band – Under a Soular Moon
15. Shibboleth – Winter Heresy
16. Sedayne – Astray Volume 6: Green As God The Touched Brow Of The Winter
17. Terracid – Transcendent Reign Inheritor
18. Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood – Animal Speak
19. Charlotte Greig and Julian Hayman – Live at Resonance FM
20. The Franciscan Hobbies – Masks and Meanings
21. The Birdtree – Orchards & Caravans
22. Omnia – Chrone of War
23. Sharron Kraus – Beautiful Twisted
24. Spires That in the Sunset Rise – Four Winds The Walker
25. The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree – Scarecrow Stuffing

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The Spectral Light & Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree – Burning Mills

And these compilations are totally necessary:

26. Lammas Night Laments, Volumes 1 – 14: a collection of wyrd-folk music from 1966-1980 (14 CD set compiled by Mark Coyle)
27. John Barleycorn Reborn, Volumes 1 – 3 (6 CD compilation in 3 sets of 2 CDs each)
28. Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box (6 CDs)
29. Gold Leaf Branches (3 CDs)
30. Wailing Bones, Volumes 1 – 14 (14 CD set of extended instrumental compositions)

From the 60s and early 70s we have the following:

31. Donovan – Fairytale
32. The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
33. C.O.B. – Moyshe McStiff And The Tartan Lancers Of The Sacred Heart
34. Comus – First Utterance
35. Caedmon – s/t
36. Stone Angel – s/t
37. Seventh Sons – Raga
38. Peter Walker – Rainy Day Raga
39. Pearls Before Swine – These Things Too
40. Forest – Full Circle
41. Trees – The Garden of Jane Delawney
42. The Trees Community – The Christ Tree
43. Jade – Fly on Strangewings
44. Trader Horn – Morning Way
45. Mandy Morton and Spriguns – Magic Lady
46. Amazing Blondel – Fantasia Lindum
47. The Sallyangie – Children of the Sun
48. Linda Perhacs – Parallelograms
49. These Trails – s/t
50. Agincourt – Fly Away

So that’s it. Don’t ask me to do this again!

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