Interesting article about Britain, English folk music and tradition, and in a way, about us. Stick in the Wheel is a relatively new English Folk Group, and started to wonder about the roots of English traditional music. Nicola Keary and Ian Keary are two members of the band and recorded a series of field recordings of traditional British music with a wide variety of the musicians currently practicing the art. They wrote the piece for the Guardian and it's well worth it. The resulting album, From Here, is being released today and is available as MP3 and CD from Amazon and others.
The UK is at least as diverse a nation as we are, with many similar problems, and we share a surprising number of anal-retentive characteristics. The Brits voted for BREXIT with less than half the electorate showing up and a lot of votes in favor of it just because they were pissed off at the seeming inability of government to cope and rather than blame it on themselves for electing the Tory wankers, they decided to blame the EU as the representative of all their woes.
The message of protest is often intrinsic or hidden. It has to be quietly subversive because our enemies are among us: our rulers and bosses
We, of course, had less than half the electorate show up and of that, less than half voted for Donald Trump. Our food, beer and dental work is superior; they have better schools for the most part and a functioning national health service, except they've shown in it and the other aspects of community life that if you want to have nice things as a nation, you need to spend the necessary money. Trump shares little with Margaret Thatcher except greed and basic deep-seated meanness.
However, Trump is also a whiny little bitch, as Bill Mahar refers to him and the audience chants back, a la "Lock Her Up!". I would avoid a knife fight with Margaret Thatcher, because she was truly tough and would fight dirty. With Trump, you could filet him while he kept talking about how he was going to beat the shit out of you. Different times, different people.
In a lot of ways, the English experience represents the impact of empire on the people who did the grunt work to build the bloody thing as they have to deal with the unforeseen consequences and wages of imperialism's sin. Our experience mirrors that, but in a more immature state. It's all gone south for the Brits -- their empire reduced to the Commonwealth, the Falklands and a few other islands. They're dealing with a level of Colonel Blimpness now in the Commons and the Leadership that mirrors astonishingly well the ability of elected government to be petty, stupid, greedy and seek out their own best interest as opposed to the that of the nation.
Our greater immaturity is probably based on the fact that as a nation and a people we are in fact younger and perhaps less mature. We are somewhat sophomoric in our treatment of other nations; the whole "regime change in Iraq will lead to the outbreak of Jeffersonian Democracy world wide" really exemplifies that for us. The British have kind of given up on the whole idea of progress; we haven't yet. We still believe that there's a manifest destiny for us all, that this is going to be the American Century forever. We are dicks, aren't we?
Jingoistic internationalism or Jingoistic xenophobia don't really differ that much. John McCain had the "Straight Talk Express" in 2000 and it created a symbol he has had problems living up to. Boris Johnson had his Brexit Bus in 2015, and he has had no problem living down to what that has symbolized. If you strip the grace notes -- or ill-notes in Trump's case -- from the 2016 campaign, delete the fantasty and the follies from both parties' rhetoric, there's not that much to choose between them.
If like me you follow Theresa May's efforts to lay down the law to the commonwealth and the EU and everyone else, you might be stunned to note the similarity to Trump's experience trying to do the same thing to the Senate, the House, the Courts, the Press and other nations. She is a highly experienced political mover and shaker and Tory Cloakroom assassin, so she should know better. However, her approach to negotiations appears to be much like Trump's. Trump, of course, knows damn all about politics, policy, governance, law...his answer to everything it more gold and more marble. No wonder they got along so well.
In a way, this project of going out and recording artists on their home turf harkens back a bit to Alan Lomax and other musicologists visiting the mountains and the Mississppi Delta and the Dust bowl. It also reminds me a lot of what Jack White and Dan Auerbach are about, spending a lot of time not only with their own label but using it to produce new interesting and established but almost forgotten other artists. In this case, the artists are all currently working musicians with some following, but in this case, they asked the contributors to record someplace that felt like home and to sing something that for the artist seemed to be the perfect summation of British folk music.
Kleary and Carter have an interesting insight into the British electorate from their traditional music, and it fits quite well with my understanding of how we got to where we are today. Like it or not, the people doing the heavy lifting of empire and its aftermath, aren't really benefiting or enjoying the process.
Even with the empire and all its evils, remember that we practised them on our own first, and we carry the weight of that in our collective memories every day. When you come here you become a part of that, and you suffer like the rest of us.
On a more focused scale it describes a lot of the issues we have with music in the US and with matching culture to politics to reality. If you're singing music about the bosses screwing people over, you're either singing Americana, traditional Blues or possibly doing some HipHop or Rap. The South does have a tradition of rebel songs sort of like the Irish and the Scots but for the most part, traditional American music is, as David Allan Coe described it, about " trains, being drunk, Mama, or prison." English traditional music is nourished by the Irish and Scots traditions, but then the early diversity of England was the waves of Irish and Scots and Welsh immigrants coming to England to work in factories or in construction or shipbuilding or whatever.
These men and women came here to earn a living and endured terrible hardships: many were driven to find solace in drink, and their lives spiralled further into ruin. ...The current climate of this country seems to us an opportunity for us all to look hard at ourselves and to try to understand why people think and act as they do. Condemnation only leads to further division and unrest. Unity only comes from understanding our shared history and finding empathy with all cultures. Pride in your heritage should not come at the expense of others. But this is what we are sold. We think that, if you take time to look into our traditional music, you will see that we have always been under the same pressures, as much then as now, and understand that most of us are facing this struggle on a daily basis.
You never know – it might stop us all being such dicks to each other.