Say it simple

Last Friday we discussed songs for our upcoming appearance on the Wayland Radio Folk Show. Choosing our own material is fairly straightforward, but in the second hour of the show we'll be choosing tracks from artists who have influenced us. This is where it gets difficult. An hour seeems a long time but actually only give time for around 10-12 songs once we've said a little about them.

Anyone who has ever made a mixtape will know the way that the mind introduces competing objectives. Let's face it, this is not the place for us to show off knowledge of obscure Donovan bootlegs, or pick a load of field recordings from Alan Lomax simply to prove our folk credentials. And, most of importantly of all, we are doomed if we try and be cool so folk-hop mashups are right off the table. No, we are resolutely sticking to things that we genuinely love. But that then throws up another challenge, namely that we both love Dylan, but he looms so large over the world of singer-songwriters that everyone chooses a Dylan track. And, despite all we've said, we don't want to be boring so here's the thing - we'll probably have our cake and eat it by playing a Dylan song in our set, namely 'I'll be your baby tonight' from John Wesley Harding:.

I love it partly becuase it is so un-Dylanesque. It comes at the end of John Wesley Harding, which, although a straightforward album production-wise with relatively short songs, still contains typical Dylan traits of elliptical lyrics, heavy with reference and allusion. I think that 'I'll be your baby...' therefore prefigures the simple, heartfelt, orthodox country songs of Nashville Skyline. For me, that album is Dylan's take on the great tradition of country song-writing running from the Carter Family through Hank Williams to Willie Nelson and beyond. Now I love difficult Dylan as much as the next English major but Nashville Skyline is one of my favourites, and not only because it features the great Norman Blake on guitar. I'm not of the mind that that art should be deliberately simple, but neither do I value wilful compexity. Sometimes, even for great artists, less is more.