View Full Version : Country vs. Folk
11-30-2004, 03:15 PM
What's the difference between country and folk? Is there a significant difference?
Help fight my ignorance, because I'm not sure. I think a band like the Byrds is country, while someone like Woody Guthrie is folk. Is folk more raw sounding?
I used to think of folk as "country that doesn't suck", but that's not accurate.
Is Johnny Cash more country or folk? His music is very raw sounding, so I would assume folk.
11-30-2004, 04:09 PM
The two are independent. As in, some artists are country, some are folk, some are both, and some are neither. Johnny Cash is both country and folk. Garth Brooks is country but not folk. Peter, Paul, and Mary are folk but not country. Michael Jackson is neither folk nor country (OK, so that last one is pretty obvious).
I'll agree with you that I find folk country much preferable to pop country, but there are millions of other listeners who would disagree, so I don't think it's as simple as suck/not suck.
11-30-2004, 04:15 PM
Generalizations ahead (with plenty of exceptions to every rule):
Folk doesn't tend to be as much of a band as country is. (with bass, drums, etc)
Folk tends to be more singer/songwriter oriented whereas country tends to be written by others.
Country tends to use instruments like a pedal steel or electric guitar whereas folk tends not to.
Country tends to favor the Southern accents.
There are obvious hybrids, cross-pollinations, and mongrels out there. Folk-rock, alt-country, y'allternative, et al. Some artists flop back and forth. Mary-Chapin Carpenter can do "I am a Town" as a folk song and then "I Feel Lucky" as a rockin' country tune.
11-30-2004, 04:21 PM
All right, how about Country/Western? What's that? Is it the same as country? If not, then how is it different? Where were you on the night of June 12?
11-30-2004, 04:32 PM
Yup, I'm not sure of an exact date, but sometime between the late 70s and mid 80s C&W was just changed to country music. C&W does give that evisceral reaction to some of the more "hoedown" type of country music tho. The screechin' fiddle and the fast paced two note bass line going from the root to the third in quick time.
11-30-2004, 04:35 PM
Here's a bit of history on folk, country, and C&W. (http://www.usatourist.com/english/inside/countrymusic.html) It does seem to say that C&W grew out of country tho, which is odd.
11-30-2004, 04:52 PM
Here's a bit of history on folk, country, and C&W. (http://www.usatourist.com/english/inside/countrymusic.html) It does seem to say that C&W grew out of country tho, which is odd.Not really. Country, which long ago was more a collection of hillbilly & folk, added Western cowboy stuff (just another variation of folk) to become Country & Western. Then the name was shortened to just Country or C&W sometime in the late 20th Century. Now it encompasses a very broad range of "popular" music with a heavy following in rural America, for sure.
And it's no longer an insult or a putdown to call someone a Country star, at least not if you count the money some make.
1930's Country was quite low-class. 2000's Country, while not ashamed of its roots, is much more upscale.
11-30-2004, 04:59 PM
Oh that is marvelous! Did you make that up??
I'd comment that country music probably has its roots in folk music - a lot of the settlers in the American southeast came from Scotland and Ireland, both countries rich in oral tradition and music. Adding the African gospel influences probably helped shape the style quite a bit, although I have to tell you I'm pulling THAT supposition out of my ass, because I don't know a load about the progression, but it would make sense.
11-30-2004, 06:14 PM
... Adding the African gospel influences probably helped shape the style quite a bit, although I have to tell you I'm pulling THAT supposition out of my ass, because I don't know a load about the progression, but it would make sense.
Pretty smart ass! The interaction of the Scotch/Irish folk thing with the African American thing goes back into the mists of ethnomusicological debate. Just since the beginning of the Recording Age, which artists were specifically influenced by African-American musicians? The Carter Family, Jimmy Rodgers, Bill Monroe, Bob Wills & Hank Williams immediately spring to mind. Some influence came from the church, but more came from the streets--from blues & earlier popular traditions. (Details gladly supplied--I've been known to get lost in the mists of ethnomusicology myself.)
The labeling of various genres of popular music has more to do with marketing than with music. The Nashville Establishment is especially worthy of contempt.
Listen & learn!
11-30-2004, 10:25 PM
All right, I think I'm starting to get it.
So the distinction is mostly arbitrary, except for some differences at the opposite ends of the spectrum?
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