crispy hates folk music, even or especially the early sixties in greenwich village. but why? well, partly for the same reason that a lot of people despised the thing back then; i was too young but soon i would be an even a bigger authenticity brat than they were. i think anyone choosing to hear some nyu student play the blues was making a terrible mistake when actual masters of the blues were everywhere, for example. the nyu student might have been semi-competent, but his blues were at best a simulation without the oomph, without the context, without the knowledge that gave the music urgency, without the thirty years of intense playing. the folkies simulated passion and they hardly even bothered at times to simulate competence: in fact, they were advocates and avatars of ineptitude. they eventually learned to simulate incompetence, which is why dylan still sounds the way he does. they understood the blues or country music as rough-hewn spontaneous outpourings of the uneducated: blues or country artists were allegedly naive, unspoiled by the corrrupt civilization that produced the folkies; the folkies yearned to recover a sort of innocence or ignorance that they associated with american traditonal musics. that is the precise way that they were 'counter-cultural'. the theme wasn't black music or rural music; it was a critique of growing up in suburban jersey or whatever, and that is the only level on which it still works.
but actually the blues was a decades-long tradition of extremely excellent and sophisticated professional musicians. so, you could listen to the great virtuoso blind blake, say, or you could listen to van ronk or whomever struggle like a very white dork through material that blake nailed perfectly. if you viewed jimmie rodgers or robert johnson or the louvin brothers or flatt and scruggs as naive hicks - american primitives, noble savage natural phenomena - and loved them because of precisely that, you were making multiple fundamental errors, including horrendous political/racial/class errors. not to grind this axe again, but allen ginsberg thought that charlie parker was a sheer spontaneous genius who never had to practice or whatever; it just came out of his tribal negro head. it is a mistake literally impossible to make if you can hear the music at all. thank god ginsberg never released an album of bop saxophone: it'd have been to jazz what dylan was to country: nothing at all, really, but nevertheless entirely unlistenable and greeted among kids who grew up just off the sixth hole at the golf club as the work of a god. either way, our god is a jealous god, a loutish god, a fuckwad god, a god who never quite rose to mediocrity.
(i am personally offended by the approach to the harmonica; it's as though he's ridiculing my instrument. little walter and sonny boy were still around at the time, and i hope they just rolled their eyes. maybe dylan can't play the harmonica. maybe he's pretending he can't. either way he has no business playing out.)
now i described myself as an 'authenticity brat' earlier. but say you look at dylan's outfit, his woody guthrie demeanor, the black and white, and listen to the simulated rural grittiness, and think that that's very much more authentic than big lapels, electric guitars, etc. (and cf. george and tammy or buck owens, making the actual music of the actual volk of that period). you have got the whole thing obviously reversed, and you are responding to little signs that are intentionally constructed to convey the impression of authenticity - like dylan ran a focus group on what sorts of gestures make people think a person is honest - as opposed to watching a living musical form being actually inhabited from the inside at a certain moment of its development. it's embarassing even to ask who is the better musician between zimmerman and king, but in case you watched those and are still confused, it's freddie, exponentially. (oh and just to throw the jab: freddie's got better lyrics). when dylan electrified, everyone was all upset because he'd compromised his enactment of pseudo-authenticity. but muddy waters' incomparable band had electrified the living blues fifteen years before. the authentic blues sounded like bobby bland by the time dylan betrayed the folkies etc. it all had to do with privileged northern white people's simultaneous romanticizartion of and complete incomprehension about rural or african-american communities.
so: here's my actual objection: due to all these circumstances and others, the music sucked, specifically compared to the music that the figures themselves venerated. the urgency and passion were essentially simulated by people who needed to borrow and reflect other people's actual passion. they misconstrued the power of their sources. some were better than others; joan baez could sing or whatever: always it was a deracinated, dare i say back at them, extremely bourgeois music. they took the approach of lou reed or john waters or allen ginsberg or willem de kooning: the worse this sucks, the more authentic and important it is: look how technically incompetent we are; that is a sign of our moral and emotional urgency. to say that is an insult to mississippi john hurt is an understatement. i assume hurt was thrilled to get some recognition and some money, to make records and have large audiences. i would like to have overheard his actual assessment of the quality of the musicians he was playing with on the folk circuit.
the idea that you'd pick up a dave van ronk or bob dylan album of real and simulated incompetence in preference to a fun and amazingly proficient and also urgent and eloquent hurt is a colossal failure of taste.
on the other hand, they did venerate a lot of good artists and revived careers at folk festivals, and got old blues guys making records again before it was too late. they did bring many people to the heart of american music eventually. but insofar as they themselves played gigs and recorded albums: you always had better choices, and rarely had worse ones.
if you want to pay tribute to these sources, you should do what, say, eric clapton or paul butterfield or duane allman or bonnie raitt tried to do: master the thing technically and then find a voice within it.