Freak Folk Fusion: The Jaunting Martyrs

The Jaunting Martyrs

The Jaunting Martyrs

There’s a generation of young men crouched over their guitars, understanding their tigers, and entering a state of meditative transcendence as vibrations wash over their manes. This generation was rooted in a deep appreciation for a mastery of the old sound.

More often than not, fusion is just a fancy way of explicitly stealing without getting in trouble. Grabbing the exotic sounds that people like to hear and sprinkling them over a heavy bass line and cheap rhythm tricks. It’s nauseating to the folks who are truly invested in deeply understanding and researching the history behind the sounds, and getting into the mind space of those who started it.

It’s exoticism. Edward Said’s Orientalism. No matter what, you can never ever truly BE the musician making the folk music. By the sheer virtue of calling some music folk, the musician is separating themselves from the origins of the music, even while trying to replicate it.

But there are responsible and irresponsible ways of doing that. The folk music revival scene owes a lot to bands like Gogol Bordello and Flogging Molly, or singer/songwriters like Devendra Banhart and Fleet Foxes for allowing massive amounts of people to become fascinated with the sounds of yesterday. It’s a blessing.

Yet there is also an unspoken danger to bands like these. Just how dedicated are these kinds of bands to the fusion of folk and rock? In other words, how interested are then in combining old sounds with the new? Or are they more interested, perhaps, in some other pursuit? It’s like when Bob Dylan went electric. There comes a time when every successful artist must make a choice: do I continue on my own path despite possible rejection, or do I allow my audience to dictate my path?

Where does an artist’s responsibility lie?

The Jaunting Martyrs is living proof that the spirit of the generation of responsible folk music is still alive. They’re more than just a phenomenal sound. They’re a family, a movement. They represent a vision for the future that borrows the forgotten good from the past and injects it into an excitement for the future. They demonstrate how to keep the folk flame alive, rather than be snuffed out by the Bush years and the massive tsunami of shit that our society is currently in.

Perhaps that’s why the surf thing works for me. Surf rock has become somewhat of a fad recently, especially in places like Santa Cruz. But the Jaunting Martyrs go beyond this fad. They dig deeper.

It’s wholesome and raunchy all at the same time.

It’s the perfect mixture of hard rock, hippie deadhead, surf, gypsy jazz, and Americana. I could picture them playing at Hardly Strictly, beach balls bouncing around, yoga moms wearing cowboy hats with beer in hand, going nuts. Totally sexy music, but also good clean fun. Nailed the sexy turkey thing. DOWN. Totally classy and adorable.

What’s more, they totally go all-out. They ripped open their hearts and let you in. No secrets, no winks, just… all there. It’s rare that you find a band so open and honest. And such a contrast with the other bands, too, who were all… cool and distant. You feel like you know the martyrs. Like you can crack open a beer with them around the campfire and have a good, long chat and swap jokes and folk songs before turning in for the night.

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