The Great Folk Discography Volume 2 The Next Generation is the companion volume to The Great Folk Discography Volume 1 Pioneers And Early Legends and like its predecessor it's split into two sections, Britain and Beyond and North America and in many ways it's here that the problems start.
I've really enjoyed browsing both volumes, particularly "The Next Generation" as that is far more geared towards the era that I first became interested in music from along the acoustic spectrum. As with any book of this nature or indeed website, there are going to be two issues, what's your definition of folk and how obscure do you have to be not to qualify. Fortunately the answers appear to be, a pretty broad spectrum and pretty obscure actually.
As coffee table books both volumes work very well. I've found myself flicking through them pausing to look at bands that fall into the 'I remember them, wonder what if anything they've been up to?' category and the 'who are/were they' category. I've found them particularly useful in looking up artists I've heard other artists describe as influences. In many ways they have become my reference book of choice when I can't be bothered to fire up the computer and look for the information on the internet.
Martin C. Strong is an established author of this type of book, "The Next Generation" is well researched and provides solid discographies of the artists included. In general that means official releases, by that named artist, either through a conventional label or via the artists own label, a physical release. What isn't covered are download only releases, flexiediscs, fanclub singles and tracks contributed to various compilations, which is a bit of a shame as these are the releases that can be the hardest to find out the details on.
More of a problem is what I alluded to in the first chapter. I think that there has been a mistake in the way these books have catalogued folk music. They've added one split too many. I would be a lot more happy if the two volumes were ordered by region or date, but not both. Pioneers And Early Legends had a cut off date of 1975.
Imagine you're listening to a radio show, you're listening to a track that you're really enjoying, after the track the host says, 'That was In Gowan Ring with "Swan Song"' if you don't know that In Gowan Ring are a 90s American band, you are potentially going to look in three wrong places before finding the right one. Personally I think that the date route would be the better choice it's easier to define and update to, geography is a lot less important, particularly with multi-national bands more and more common.
So far it all sounds a bit negative and I guess it is but actually, I admire both Martin C. Strong and Polygon for having the courage to publish these as physical books in the internet age. These are excellent books that provide useful backgrounds and details on hundreds of artists. They are good reference sources and a highly enjoyable way to enjoy a cup of coffee. The question is, is that enough? I'd say yes, more than enough and well worth getting your card out for.
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