British Folk Week: Jake Thackray, On Again! On Again!

I was so inspired by my little retro week in April, that I thought I’d share a few favs from the British folk scene. There was a time, not so long ago, between the rarified air of 70s progressive rock and the blossoming of electronica in the new century, when I was forced to fill the brain-sucking vacuum created by disco, punk, hip-hop, and new wave with more substantial fare. Since I could never tolerate the circle jerk of jazz, the alternatives were pretty plain: classical and folk. I chose a big swath of both. (Yeah, yeah, don’t get your panties in a knot. I’ll have a classical week sometime soon.)

I was never a full-blown folkie. For that, you pretty much need to go in through the eye socket with a knitting needle. I could never stand the “douche with a guitar”-type folk unless there was both a lyric genius and a virtuoso behind the fretboard, and those were hard to come by. For that reason, I had to stop going to folk festivals where the panoply of gitbox douches and tilley hats had me hurling beer tent draft and corndog bile onto the ponchos in front of me.

Perhaps you have guessed I have a low tolerance for mediocrity (quelle surprise). Which brings me to a few of the titans of the genre, who happen to be British. First up, a man I saw live only once and got to speak to during the break in his performance. (Can we say fangasm?)

In the late great Jake Thackray we have a perfect blend of skilful writing, cutting wit, and an unparalleled genius in the art of comic straight-man delivery. What comes across through his most biting humour, even in his early albums, is a caring charm, and a brain as big as his heart is warm. He’s the kind of guy you’d want as an uncle. A stand-offish smarty pants who, you suddenly find out in your teen years, has been performing bawdy tunes in pubs for the past thirty years. Of course, that endears you to him even more. All I have to say is, the world has been made much richer by this man’s silliness.