1970s: 10 Folk Albums Rolling Stone Loved But You Never Heard – Rolling Stone
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10 Folk Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the 1970s You Never Heard

We praised them 40 years ago — and you should listen to them today!

Tom Jans and Judee Sills

Tom Jans and Judee Sills

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; GAB/Getty

The folk scene of the Sixties evolved into the singer-songwriter movement of the Seventies, but it didn’t go away. Between 1970 and 1979, Rolling Stone reviewed lots of folk albums: music steeped in old-fashioned, acoustic traditions, more than a few of them by Greenwich Village habitués with personal connections to Bob Dylan, but also spanning local scenes from Kentucky to Maine. These 10 albums earned quality time on our turntables, even if they’ve been largely forgotten in the years since.

Mary McCaslin

Mary McCaslin, ‘Way Out West’

McCaslin did homespun versions of her own songs, old western ballads, and modern pop songs: the Who's "Pinball Wizard" on banjo, for example. This album marked her debut as a songwriter, and we deemed this record full of gossamer vignettes as "an exceptional album which virtually no one will hear." (She recorded for the tiny indie label Philo, although she also made a great album for Capitol in 1979, Sunny California — which got only marginally more attention.)

What We Said Then: "McCaslin's unorthodox guitar tunings create unusual, ethereal melodies of striking beauty. Combined with her clear, delicately affecting vocals, the effects are magical on the Everlys' 'Let It Be Me' and her own 'Northfield'… Way Out West is far superior to most of its genre and is well worth the effort of seeking it out." — Ken Barnes, RS 169 (September 12th, 1974)

Various Artists, 'Traveling Through the Jungle'

Various Artists, ‘Traveling Through the Jungle’

Folk in the Alan Lomax tradition: field recordings of rural people making music in their everyday lives. In this case, the subject was African-Americans in the deep South, which makes the collection's title unfortunate, even if it was meant to underscore the African tradition that much of this music drew on. But the music here, made with military drums (store-bought) and cane fifes and flutes (homemade), was raw and rousing.

What We Said Then: "Rhythmically it's like proto-rock & roll, with a very heavy Bo Diddley beat and shouted, bluesy vocals, but the drumming style, with its traces of both Anglo-American parade music and West African polyrhythm, also sounds like a direct ancestor of jazz. Folklorists will probably be discussing the significance of this very important first fife and drum music for some time but that shouldn't keep anyone from enjoying it." — Robert Palmer, RS 198 (October 23rd, 1975)

Gordon Bok

Gordon Bok, ‘Peter and the Wind’

While the folk music epicenter in the Seventies was Greenwich Village, there were still plenty of regional musicians steeped in their local traditions. Gordon Bok, for example, was a deep-voiced fisherman from Maine who principally did songs about life on the New England shore. We hailed his third album as a rough-hewn masterpiece; in the four decades since then, Bok has kept sailing, carving wood, and releasing a nautically themed album every year or two.

What We Said Then: "There are some fine new songs here, two of them brilliant instrumentals (Bok is one of the most versatile acoustic guitarists imaginable), one in imitation of seagulls' flight… 'Peter Kagan and the Wind' is his own adaptation of one of the better known myths about New England's seal folk… It may never land him in the pop charts with a bullet, but I think he'd rather stay in Maine and mind his own business anyway." — Janet Maslin, RS 112 (July 6th, 1972)

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