5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Great Folk Discography, Vol. 1: Pioneers and Early Legends (Paperback)
I had been privately wishing for several years that Martin C Strong would turn his gaze in the direction of folk music, but I knew it seemed a completely unrealistic hope of mine, that would never actually materialize into print. And then it happened, like a figment out of my imagination, there it was, for real!
And it is a beauty, this and Volume 2, created with the meticulous attention to detail that we have come to admire in Martin's weighty tomes. For people unfamiliar with Martin's mighty works, he presents hundreds of artists, in this case falling within the "folk" idiom, presenting in each case a concise essay detailing the history of the artist, and album ratings, before launching into virtually complete discographies (exclusive tracks released on various artist albums aren't usually listed, or download-only tracks) in chronological order, with tracklistings and various minutiae including release date, record label, UK and US highest chart positions, bonus tracks on later re-releases, catalogue numbers...
The Great Folk Discography Volume 1 is separated into three sections: North American Pioneers And Early Legends; Britain And Beyond; and Cult, Collectable And Continental. It covers artists first active before the mid-70's, and giving all their releases up to the present day. The second volume focuses upon artists active since then, and volume 3 will cover Celtic and World artists. Personally I'd have prefered the three volumes to simply be alphabetical, I think that in the long-run this would be the most user-friendly, perhaps with an appendix that breaks down artists by region or time-period, which the reader could look to if they wished to consider artists within the context of their contempories, but this is not a big concern.
The array of acts exceeds my expectations, taking in many cult and minor name artists, as well as exhaustively compiling spin-off acts. "Folk" of course is a contentious label, much like most labels I suppose in the world of music, where artists rarely stick to a given genre faithfully, but wear coats of shifting colours like cuttlefish. Whilst readers might not quite agree with certain inclusions or omissions from these discographies, I think we should accept that our own definitions of folk, if we have them, are just as doomed to be imperfect, to varying degrees, and really, Martin has done an absolutely fantastic job that is not likely to be out-flanked anytime soon (and if it is, I'd think it would be by Martin himself, honing things further still).
I expect to be dipping into this book for many years to come, until it's a disheveled dog-eared thing with odd pages selotaped back in. I do appreciate reading discographies on the internet, but I get more mileage out of Martin's books. As with owning physical copies of albums rather than downloads, so having a book like this, that I know I'll treasure, is a mightier thing.