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Ian Anderson
Photo: Judith Burrows

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

I don’t know how many times I have to say it in the face of folklore, but the CD is not dead. We received so many new ones for review during September that our postman was beginning to acquire a stoop. Even after we’d weeded out the wilfully irrelevant there was still a mountain of the little blighters, and I swear that small animals had begun to nest in the foothills. We’re definitely getting more than we did a year or two ago.

The good news, though, is that we’ve been getting a fair bit of quality as well as quantity – and by that I don’t mean glossy, over-sophisticated productions, just lots of good and original music. Hardly had I made the difficult decisions on what to leave out of our monthly Playlist chart, than enough candidates for next month’s had already arrived. Eek! What I need now is for somebody to invent a large friendly ‘pause’ button on life, to suspend the passage of days while I give them all some quality listening time, repeating the pleasure until I know every nuance, like I did as a teenager buying one LP a month. But mustn’t grumble – keep ’em coming!

’Tis the season of conferences and showcases – English Folk Expo and AFO coming up here, Womex in Galicia, and lots more from Canada to Australia. Artists will be frantic­ally practising their crowd-rousing sets with their eyes on next season’s festival bookers; managers and record label moguls will be ironing their satin jackets (oh, no, sorry, that’s Midem…), filling their baggage with samples and carefully rehearsing speeches about how their protegé is the next sliced cheese. There’ll be handshakes aplenty and eyes will be doing that expert thing of glancing at the other delegates’ name badges while maintaining the impression that the person they’re talking to is their oldest friend – while simultaneously glancing over their shoulders in case there’s somebody more important passing by.

What me, jaundiced? It was a bit of an eye-opener at a past Womex when we took a colleague who’d never been to one of these things before to help out on the fRoots stand. As each person pitched their wares at us like a fairground barker, she took to innocently enquiring whether any of them subscribed to the magazine. My, how shifty they all looked. Why would they do that?

Well it’s like this: if you’re in folk, roots, world music, then generally speaking you’re not in the mainstream music business – and certainly not in it just for profit, unless you’re nuts. You’re in a wonderful, mutually supportive, separate, enthusiast-run eco-system where we all depend on each other or it falls over. For real Womexicans, a friend from a record label is just as likely to enthuse about somebody else’s ‘product’ as their own, for example.

So why would you want to subscribe to fRoots, other than that it’s a jolly good read? Because you’re interested in all the other music around, not just your own? And you’re an enthusiast who likes the fact that it’s been there supporting it all, forever – possibly including you. Right?

Ian Anderson

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