Folktronica: Folk Singer Embraces the New for the Sake of Progress

Bob Dylan was smart enough to pull out an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and "rocktify" his folk music. Now, Jason Garriotte appears to be following in the steps of Dylan by reaching a different type of folk and changing the aspects of the experience.
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Jason Garriotte refers to himself as Chords of Truth. For this South Carolina folk singer/song-writer, truth is created by navigating thoughts to an intended outcome. His lyrics affirm dreams can appear as reality. At the same time, Jason believes that the divine scheme of the universe had happened before we appeared as if we were both insiders as well as outsiders. He delivers a soulful and contemplative message owing to his Celtic voice and acoustic guitar.

Sometime in 2011, after the release of his debut LP Reflections of Reality, Mr. Garriotte took his seven acoustic songs and gave them a new direction by collaborating with producers that morphed his work into Folktronica. His intention was to do what folk music has done throughout decades, that is, adapt to the trends of the time and culture to give folk music an opportunity to progress. From the original seven songs, the remix of Reflections of Reality resulted in a spawning of interpretation, some more successful than others. Albeit, experimenting with new formats isn't unique, it's been done countless times in the past.

The folk genre has been deeply rooted in American History. In the 1900s, folk music was the voice of the Industrial Workers of the World movement when Joe Hill wrote songs making a plea for honest pay for honest work. Later in the '30s, folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger kept the message of social and governmental injustices at the forefront until they were blacklisted. And in the '50s, the McCarthy era ushered in the dangers of folk musicians addressing politics altogether, leading to the popularity of benign songs like "Goodnight, Irene".

Un-political folk music was so muffled that, by the late '50s, the Kingston Trio made trendy folk songs that were interrupted by jokes and long stories. It wasn't until Bob Dylan in the '50s showed up on the New York scene that his long narratives reintroduced social issues to folk music once again. But, just like songwriters of the past had to tone-down their politics to keep their music alive, changes were also necessary to keep up with the rock-n-roll era of the Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Bob Dylan was smart enough to pull out an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and "rocktify" his folk music. Now, Jason Garriotte appears to be following in the steps of Dylan by reaching a different type of folk and changing the aspects of the experience. The folktronic remixes of Jason's seven original songs resulted in a magical representation of sounds that he judged to have gone beyond the initial vision.

An example of this transition can be heard in the Folkstep remix of "Listen" by Tha Green Raver. While the clear vocals of the original can be said to be contemplative, the remix takes the tune to the dance floor with drums and castanets in the background and a lot of frequency changes. On the same disc, the Electrofolk remix of "Moments" by Polarix maintains the Celtic integrity of the original song but adds complexity to the sounds by changing the frequency of the vocals and introducing reverbs. This remix changed "Moments" into the most interesting in the batch and most suited for the club scene.

Other examples of the transformation can be heard in Venumb's Dubstep remix of "Pop or Soda" that took Jason's melodic lyrics and completely revamped them by introducing a psychedelic sound. The big surprise here: the virtual representation mimicked the sound of soda being popped open then poured. While very different from the original, the piece is good club music as well as background music for the modern dance stage. The Acidfolk remix of "What Life Is About" by The Chameleon combined the sharp vocals juxtaposed to baby's cries and laughs. The background instrumentals make this piece a nice mix to listen to, but the same can be said about the original acoustic version.

One could say that Jason Garriotte's original seven creations have the same level of magic that some of the computerized electronic counterparts have. But it must be pointed out that the computerized music has added a different twist to lyrics like "Hear my words if you hunger to be free" or "They seem to be sharing stories with me/ That display the courage they thirst naturally". Admittedly, words that are computerized take on a different nature. So what can be concluded: is that the transition from acoustic to electronic speaks about how, in the world of music, there are infinite ways to creative expression. Especially since the type of political and social censorship that existed in the past are not threats to musicians today. Chords of Truth should be applauded for embracing the most exciting field of music happening with surprising results. And now this innovative soundest is available for everyone to hear on his LP Reflections of Reality Remixed.

Marcel Hidalgo is a music blogger/reviewer for the website Independent Music Promotions. You can follow I.M.P. on Facebook and Twitter.

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