Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music in and around the South Midlands. It has been produced for around 25 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.
From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
At the beginning of this year a new album chart was revealed for Americana. It’s a term that’s frequently bandied around (including in this very mag), but hands up anyone who knows what it means? No, I thought not. The Official Charts Company, who know about such things, define it as ‘contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues’. Does that help? No? Again, I thought not. There are rappers who sample old blues and R&B, but I don’t think you’ll see N.W.A. in the Americana charts any time soon.
OK, so who IS included in this new chart? On the plus side, the likes of Lucinda Williams and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy are there – easily recognisable as ‘Americana’ I suppose. But at the time of writing, who’s that at the top of the charts? Elle King – that’s who. Well if she’s Americana then I’m Merle Haggard. So much for credibility. Take a listen to current single ‘Ex’s and Oh’s’. Actually don’t – it’s a terrible synthetic version of something much more rootsy. Its relationship to roots music is roughly the one Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ had with reggae.
Despite its name ‘Americana’ is not solely American music. Top of the 2015 album sales chart are Swedish sisters First Aid Kit and English Shire Folk favourites, country soulsters Danny & the Champions of the World. Plus the psychedelically tinged Americana stylings of the Dreaming Spires are to be found on the awards podium at this year’s inaugural Americana Music Association UK awards alongside another of our favourites, Australian Emily Barker. Talking of whom, her new album with Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace, aka Applewood Road is Americana out of the toppermost drawer. As we often say here: folk, roots and acoustic music is a very broad church, but according to the Americana chart compilers not one that includes Mumford and Sons – not since they put down their banjos anyway. And for that at least, we should be very grateful indeed.