This years Mercury Prize ‘Albums of the Year’ nominations was revealed earlier this week. We’ve featured several of those in the list incluing Alt-J (An Awesome Wave), Ben Howard (Every Kingdom), Django Django (Django Django) and Michael Kiwanuka (Home Again). What was a more than a pleasant surprise however was to see Sam Lee’s ‘Ground of its Own’ in the list who featured in our recent review and interview (read it here).
The twelve albums, share a common sense of adventure, pushing music in fresh and dynamic directions. Mecury Prize
The list has attracted the usual moans and groans including a comment from the Metro stating they are hardly ‘household names’ and that Sam Lee was a token nomination for folk, all very shortsighted and lazy journalism in my opinion and the blog didn’t read as though the author had listened to Sam’s album, much easier to label it ‘folk’ and cast it off in one sentence to back their very singular narrow minded argument.
Household names does not conjure up music being pushed in dynamic directions…more something to wash the dishes to. I’d much rather watch past Mercury nominees performing, nominees such as Rachel Unthank and the Winterset (now The Unthanks), Talvin Singh, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Anna Calvi, PJ Harvey, Villagers, Laura Marling, Lisa Hannigan, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lannegan and Antony & The Johnsons are all entertaining.
I’ve yet to see a music award that doesn’t invite controversy but there would be a lot more complaints if there wasn’t an award celebrating non-mainstream music and folk. That said, I don’t believe that should hush up any critics. Excluding the back of a fag packet considerations of the metro article mentioned above I’d love to see some changes. That would include applying the same rule that the Mercury Prize does: music on the album is the only thing taken into account…not who the artist is, or their past artistic merit. There is nothing wrong with an artists coming back the following year to receive an award providing they are continuing to push that creativity and offer something new that deserves reward. Such a change in approach would maybe allow us to to see a lot more new talent and that in turn will send out a more positive signal, one which in turn may push more festivals to be less risk averse and more daring in their line-ups, allowing a greater exposure of the mass of young talent out there.
And finally, that ‘radio friendly’ rule…(this is all connected to awards and mainstream radio exposure, I promise).
I have no idea how much freedom BBC DJs exercise these days but that radio friendly rule where a track should be no longer than around 4 minutes must be a crippling constraint on folk artists. Bert Lloyd encouraged the progressive folk artists of the late sixties and early seventies to create music outside such time constraining boundaries but that seems to be largely discouraged today. I don’t have a radio friendly rule and will happily play tracks 9 minutes long (15 minutes is the most I’ve played). There seems to be some theory that listeners have a short attention span and that you need regular variety to hold it. If the music is good that shouldn’t be a problem, we regulalry feature longer tracks and see no loss of listeners.
There are many folk songs that don’t come close to the 3-4 minute ideal…it’s the nature of the beast…folk songs don’t sit in the same window as short-lived pop songs. That ‘radio friendly’ rule excludes far too many artists from airplay something I became more aware of only recently after speaking to a Young Folk Award duo who have yet to receive any mainstream airplay and have been told it is not radio friendly.
So, for the good of the music and artists, please lighten up…