It appeared that the bloom was off the rose of the Great Pacific Northwest Indie Folk Boom for much of 2011. While plenty of musicians continued to strum acoustic guitars and sing rootsy songs of labor, love and faith, the industry's attention, the audience's favor and even many artists' interest had shifted toward other genres, most notably soul music and psychedelic rock.
Last year, when we asked dozens of industry know-it-alls to vote on their favorite new musical acts for our annual Best New Bands Poll, the results were dominated by artists from the folk movement, the top three spots going to Ravenna Woods, Campfire OK and the Head and the Heart. This year's poll, rechristened the Best New Music Poll, tells a very different story. While the results are under wraps until the issue drops next week, I will share that folk has fallen.
Seems reasonable. After a few years of contemplative ballads an outbreak of sweat and feedback was a welcome relief. But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to make an impact with whiskey-flavored ballads; it just takes a powerful voice and some compelling stories to break through. Bryan John Appleby is in possession of such a voice and, rightly so, is the highest-ranked bearded acoustic-guitar strummer on this year's list.
I was able to dig a little deeper into the stories found on Appleby's debut full-length Fire on the Vine when the artist recently visited the Song Show stage at the Rendezvous. There the former drummer talked at length about his unlikely path to becoming Seattle's greatest new balladeer (my words, not his) and shared the inspiration for his music. In this clip, Appleby plays "Sprout" before telling of the events that lead both to the creation of the song and the unraveling of his faith. It's a stunner and a reminder that there is always room for a good, folky story-song, no matter the trend.
Photo by Kaylyn Messer