A Folk Song A Day… Why?

2010
05.21

The main idea behind afolksongaday.com is to try and do my bit for raising the profile of unaccompanied social singing. Most of the songs on the site are songs that I have sung for years but rarely on stage and never on albums – songs that I have learnt because I wanted to be able to sing them in the pub.

I have been very lucky that I have lived in a number of places where social singing is still very strong, and because of this I have been exposed to a great repertoire of ‘singers’ songs’ and to the unbeatable experience of sitting in a pub with between five and a-hundred singers, all trying to ‘raise the roof’ – just for the sheer joy of doing it.

My hope is that afolksongaday.com will be a useful resource for anyone interested in getting in to social singing. As I have learnt these songs because they are fun to sing in the pub, not because I think they will work on a big stage or on CD – the site will hopefully be rich pickings for singers just looking for a few songs to have to hand, for that point in an evening when conversation has run its course and singing is the best and most natural way for the night to progress.

The best social singing is, in my experience, unaccompanied and because of that the bulk of the songs on this site are songs that I sing unaccompanied.

In the 60’s and 70’s the status of unaccompanied singing was much higher within the folk scene, and most of my favourite albums from the revival are albums where the majority of the material is unaccompanied. This approach has fallen out of fashion and the commercial pressure is for modern day ‘folk artists’ to have, at most, one or two unaccompanied tracks on their albums, if at all. I have always thought of myself as first and foremost an unaccompanied singer so it was quite a shock to me to realise that, although I have now made 10 albums, I have never included a solo unaccompanied track on any of them.

It seemed high time I rectified that situation and afolksongaday.com is an opportunity for me to record my whole repertoire of songs without worrying about making any of them commercial, stylistically original, or fitting them in to a particular album concept.

Lastly I have noticed that, since becoming a parent, the rate of my song ‘acquisition’ has slowed significantly – basically because I find it much harder to get out to pub-sings these days. My current repertoire is something like 240 songs, so to complete the whole year I will have to learn half as many again. This is a tall order but there are so many songs that I’ve been meaning to learn for so long – I’m hoping this project will spur me out of song learning stasis and back into being in the habit of learning.

‘Knowledge is it’s own reward’ someone once said, and learning folk songs is one of the most rewarding forms of knowledge out there.

Jon Boden.

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26 Responses to “A Folk Song A Day… Why?”

  1. Keith Pettit says:

    What a brilliant project. Good luck with it. I can’t wait to hear the offerings.

  2. Frazer says:

    What a wonderful initiative, Jon. I very much hope and expect to hear some gems from the Bellamy canon amongst the repertoire…

  3. Kevin Sheils says:

    Good luck with the project Jon.

    For a couple of years I decided not to repeat a song in a year at Walthamstow Folk Club which usually meant 2 a week at least sometimes 3. A great way to dig back into the dusty parts of the memory.

  4. MarlboroughMelodeon says:

    What a great idea, good luck with learning another 120 songs before the year’s up.
    Will you be posting words and music too?

  5. Jerry says:

    Very nice idea Jon. It really cheered me to see that you think of yourself as primarily an unaccompanied singer, and equally pleased that you don’t want to always have to strive for originality, individuality etc. Singing for the love of singing, not singing to impress: how we should all be, as much as we can (self-consciousness can sometimes sabotage that!).

  6. Great idea Jon, it’s a cause that’s actually quite close to my heart, and I think it’s great that your getting some good press for the whole thing. Can’t wait for the whole thing to kick off!!

    It really is quite a challenge what you’re doing, I’m currently doing a very similar thing at the moment, releasing one new song each week via my website.

    All the best
    Aidy

  7. Jenni Voorhees says:

    Jon,

    I stayed with Graham and Lucinde just after you were there last summer – sorry I missed you! I really love this project. My entire Morris team will be following your project.

    Jenni (Rock Creek Morris Women)

  8. Nice idea Jon, I’ll add a link to you on our website. I shall also be a regular visitor. Do you intend to add Roud, Laws refs. too so that people can search for variants for themselves?
    best wishes
    Paul

  9. OxfordClareB says:

    Jon, this project is an absolute thrill and inspiration. I am so glad that the flag of unaccompanied singing is being flown, and even more glad that it is you who is flying it! It is so vital that unaccompanied, social singing be kept as a vibrant tradition, and this can often be hard to achieve nowadays with the growing popularity of TVs and background music in pubs, an expectation of accompanying instrumentation in folk clubs and sessions, and changing perceptions and attitudes towards accapella singing. My singing heroes are people like Jeannie Robertson, Mike Waterson, Peter Bellamy and many others who are/were real masters of the art of vocal and performance power and phrasing when it cames to unaccompanied singing. I feel strongly that we should be keeping this art alive!

    I can’t wait for the launch of this project, and count myself lucky to be around to experience it!

    Thank you.

    Clare

  10. Tom Wilkinson says:

    YAY!!!!

  11. mollymagic says:

    wooo 🙂

  12. well written blog. Im glad that I could find more info on this. thanks

  13. Jersey Sue says:

    This is a great idea. It has spurred me on in adding to my own repertoire. Thanks, I’m really looking forward to listening to you

  14. […] A Folk Song A Day… Why? « A Folk Song A Day […]

  15. Lyn OHara says:

    Fantastic idea
    As ever YOUR voice is amazing, truthful and strong ….. a joy

  16. Pete Kay says:

    Great idea. Looking forward to listening to it. Best of luck.

  17. Jon Boden says:

    Hi all. Thanks for your messages of support! Hoping we may have some lively debate on the material too so keep posting! Cheers, Jon

  18. Martin Jones says:

    Great idea Jon and I look forward to hearing your singing and seeing your song list – I’m sure it will be an inspiration for many and bring unacompanied singing to the attention of new audiences.

  19. Jane Ball says:

    Luckily I just got a big MP3 player for my birthday – and this feels like the other half of the present. It will be marvellous – and all for free. Is there any way we can donate to support you in the project?

  20. Robin Burton says:

    Any chance that you might publish the words to the songs… to have a song sheet that you could actually take down the pub would be a great idea.

    If anyone has an idea about how to get a pub started singing songs, rather than just blankly staring at a video screen, please let me know. Down our way pub goers seem to react with embarassment when anything remotely “folky” is suggested. Perhaps we need a way to ease them in gently. Start with accessible songs with a good simple chorus… and find some suitable extroverts to get proceedings started.

    This is a great idea. It’s our culture and we want it back! Sounds like a battle cry doesn’t it.

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  25. Mitch Reynolds says:

    Hi Jon
    Brilliant!
    Lets get rid of some of those guitars and promote natural voices.
    I am going to be starting on a cd in the Autumn/winter which will be totally unaccompanied singing at Barrie Temples recording studio in Newcastle so will be doing my bit lol.

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