BY STEPH SMITH
Folk-rock revival today looks a lot like it did in the 1950s and ’60s: bluegrass, old-timey instruments and formal attire.
In 1960s’ America, folk-rock music was heavily influenced by folk-protest singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.
In the late ’50s and early ’60s, folk music developed from country blues, jazz and ragtime, using conventional instruments, such as acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos and harmonicas, or improvised instruments including the washboard and the washtub bass, to name a few.
By the mid-60s, the popularity of folk bands being backed by electric rock instruments grew with artists, such as Dylan, who left the traditional acoustic sound of folk, showing that poetic lyrics could be blended with rock ’n’ roll.
Today, many folk-rock bands have been heavily influenced by the guitar-picking styles of folk and blues artists such as Guthrie and Dylan, and still use a blend of conventional and improvised instruments. Bands such as Mumford & Sons have taken the music industry by storm with their toe-tapping sound and creative lyrics, which have influences from classic literature such as Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, to name a few.
“They take a very simple concept and mould it into their own sound. The subject matter is straightforward, yet they find unique and interesting ways to express it, which takes a great deal of skill and talent,” said Nick Siebert, an independent musician from Listowel, Ont. “The lyrics are very powerful and often make you stop and think about what you are listening to.”
The booming popularity of bands such as Mumford & Sons have shed new light on older bands such as Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and Dylan, for example, with some of these bands influencing Mumford & Sons’ musical style.
The Gentlemen of the Road tour, a two-day music festival “celebrating local people, food and culture, where everyone pitches in and everyone gets something back,” according to the description on the official Facebook page, was created by Mumford & Sons in an attempt to bring people together, with each stopover being likened to 1969’s Woodstock.
Their only Canadian stopover, and one of five across the U.K. and North America, was held in Norfolk County’s largest community, Simcoe, Ont.
“The band likes to do events and shows in places that haven’t been used for music concerts,” said Jim Merlis, Mumford & Sons publicist, in an email.
The two-day festival took place on Aug. 23 and 24, at the historic Norfolk County fairgrounds. The lineup included 11 other bands, well-known acts such as Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Magnan, with Mumford & Sons headlining.
Saturday alone saw 35,000 people, making it the biggest stopover to date, according to Merlis.
But what makes Mumford & Sons so popular?
“They have come out of nowhere, but it’s the fact that they keep getting better,” said Jeff Bomben, a graduate of the journalism print program at Conestoga College.
In their DVD The Road To Red Rocks – a film comprised of live footage from interviews and shows that the band did while on their 2012 GOTR tour and journey to Red Rocks amphitheatre in Colorado – the band noted that the most important part of Mumford & Sons is the collaborative exchange between them and other bands.
At the end of the night, Mumford & Sons had all 11 of their supporting acts come onto the stage for one special, final song. Everyone picked up their instruments and readied their voices for The Weight by The Band. What was the significance behind this song? Rick Danko, one of the founding members of The Band, was born in Green Corners, Ont., located in Norfolk County.
“I think the reason Mumford & Sons are so popular is because they are doing what Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan did in the ’60s: bridging the gap between folk and pop music, only for today’s generation,” Siebert said.
BY STEPH SMITH