Paul Hillery has recently become synonymous with his explorations through the hidden realms of the acoustic world. Over a series of compilations he has set out his stall (re)discovering lost classics of rarely heard music from across the decades. Sometimes psychedelic, song-based in construction, but always alluring and different. Emerging from the Warm stable (on a great run at the moment with recent Fila Brazilia retrospective and forthcoming Aficionado comp) is his latest collection ‘Folk Funk and Trippy Troubadours Vol.2’.
The seventeen tracks take the listener from the bucolic hedgerows of Albion to the winding dusty valleys of California and plenty from the spaces in between. They span the lost halcyon days of Laurel Canyon and beyond with all the light and dark of that high time. Then at the same time each piece joins the folk dots to the more rustic vibrations emanating from closer to rural England. The music is resistant, evocative of times of contemporary and historical change, often charged with revolutionary fervour, but also tinged with an organic connection to the land.
Folk is a broad church, and this compilation crosses the spectrum. There's the jazzy whirl of Grand Union’s ‘Morning Brings The Light’, released in 2005 but sounding like classic Pentangle. Who knew Brentford could groove? Then more classic-era tracks like Dan Donahue’s ‘Wild Canada’ from 1978 and Chris Rawling ‘Song of Creation’, both originally released as Private Pressings, are more traditional in structure.
Some artists have stayed the course. With 50 years in the game, Gary Lapow’s ‘Bamboo in the Wind’ is a simple vocal, bass and guitar arrangement, originally released in 1982. While Peter Campbell is another long time performer, his ‘Let Me Ride’ is all heady chorus and harmonies with a guitar-led middle eight to die for.
More modern acts provide balance between the classic and contemporary. Inspiration comes from far and wide. Frank Pyne and Loon Salon’s ‘Waco’ begins with an acoustic shuffle that breaks down into a desert slide, and lyrics referring to that fateful day in Texas. Meanwhile, Mike Glick’s ‘Ballad of Ho Chi Minh’ could sound trite with such a telegraphed subject, yet manages to turn in a heartfelt tripped out tribute.
Things are brought bang up to date via tracks like ‘Teardrops Lost in The Rain (Stallions Remix)’ by Findlay Brown. A chugging lullaby with descending bells and bongos across its expansive playing time, Stallions add a hypnotic sunrise trance to the original track with their beats in space. The humble bongo gets another work out, this time by Cascada whose ‘Weepin’ draws on the influences of its global membership. An extended plaintive opening pulls in the listener with nods to Eugene McD and Arthur Lee, then it's a Latin explosion before landing back where it began.
There is plenty here to get lost in. Previously unheard modern music from singer songwriters like Tasha Lee McCluney, who in a different time would have found a far wider audience. There’s Lucy Kitchen’s 2021 take on folk through the yearning ‘Olivia’ and Keighley’s Henry Parker whose 'Prospect of Wealth' features Theo Parker of Soft Machine and was originally a limited release in 2019 that again joins the generational dots and shows folk continuing its cycle of renewal.
With this latest compilation, Hillery has traced the musical ley lines that connect the past to now and demonstrated the enduring reach of acoustic-based music. These tracks also show that it can be something to dance to. "Folk Funk" truly is a thing.
Folk Funk and Trippy Troubadours Vol.2 is released this week on Warm and is available via their Bandcamp page.