So here it is, my (for now) definitive Folk Funk Top Forty…
But what is this folk-funk thing anyway? I’m not sure if I can put a finger on it, not in precise words anyway. To me, the groove sounds like it has one leg shorter than the other, like a funky limp. Oh, and a flute is always a nice addition. Feel The Spirit by Heaven & Earth is a great place to start. Does that help? I was told the name was adopted in the late 80s as a way to describe a certain sound that record hunters had started to dig for, Christian McBride seems to be the culprit for the adoption of the name. Bobby Rush will come up in a web search as the Grammy award-winning American blues musician who called his 2004 album ‘Folk Funk’ although it has little in common with the music we are talking about here. Are you still with me?
Gilles Peterson defines it like this in his Folk Funk Worldwide 20 as: ‘the music that came to the clubs in the late 80s as a continuation of rare groove. A new door was opened that would lead some of you to drop more cosmic stuff radio and turn tunes like ‘golden ring’ by American Gypsy’ into the new ‘cross the tracks!’ And when the trip-hop generation came along and found new breaks and samples and discovered people like Sunforest or Doris ‘you never come closer!’ As always there was also a strong jazz feel in a lot of them.’
But is it Folk Funk ..?
It’s a little bit like the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, once you hear it and get what you are looking for you’ll just know if it’s folk-funk or folk funk or it isn’t. Or should I have called this best of pHolk pHunk because I’m talking absolute bollocks ..?
Bootlegs and licensed albums started to appear with folk funk prominent in the title or the liner notes – Pete Reilly & Tim Hayward’s ‘The Folk Funk Experience Volume 1‘ (1995), ‘The Mighty Mellow (A Folk-Funk Psychedelic Experience)‘ (1997), Sony France put out the compilation ‘Folky & Funky‘ (1997), John Stapleton’s series of 2 compilations ( I think a third was compiled but not released) on Harmless ‘Make Music (Folk Funk Flavours & Ambient Soul)‘ (2002) and ‘As We Travel (Folk Funk Flavours & Ambient Soul)‘ (2002), the bootleg ‘Folk Funk Flavours‘ (2003), Gilles Peterson’s ’Broken Folk Funk Latin Soul‘ (2003), the Italian released ‘Folk, Jazz & Poetry’ compiled by Matteo Sola (2003), out of Norway and compiled by Lars Mørch Finborud ‘Lukk Opp Kirkens Dører – A Selection Of Norwegian Christian Jazz, Psych, Funk & Folk 1970-1980‘ (2011), and John Reed compiled the compilation ‘One Way Glass (Dancefloor Prog, Brit Jazz & Funky Folk 1968-1975)‘ (2017).
Obviously, it would be wrong of me not to mention the plethora of compilations from Numero Group and ‘Praise Poems‘ collections from Tramp, how they find and license so many of those rarities is beyond me. Also I must mention the compilation on Perfect Toy Records called ‘Natural Resources‘ which has some great finds on too, and a mention to the new kid on the block Forager (out of L.A.). Although these other compilations are not heavily featured with folk funk tracks, there are always a few cross-over tunes for any aspiring person who plays records to pack their box with a Folkedelic set.
The Jazzman Gerald mixtapes also found their way into my orbit, from Camden market or friends making copies, shhh. And on top of all that I had been inspired by the VG+ forum (thanks to James ‘Bodger’ Clarke), the mixes of Peter Beaver and a series of CDrs produced by Ian Pakes for the verygoodplus forum Xmas swaps, and so around 2010 I produced the first of my Folk Funk & Trippy Troubadours mixes. I had a modest collection of vinyl that fitted around this genre and I had just joined Mixcloud which gave me a platform on which I could upload my mixes. I couldn’t always play these records out but it’s what I listened to at home. I had also started a YouTube channel using the same name; Folk Funk & Trippy Troubadours, in which to give this lost vinyl of a place to shine and be appreciated, again or sometimes for the very first time.
It started to open up things for me musically, I had played records supporting bands and as pub/club DJ but never really enjoyed the trip of making people dance, my ego just wasn’t in it and I felt it was too stressful, I’d preferred people to sit or nod their heads and appreciate the type of records that I wanted to play. I have been lucky enough to play folk-funk sets as support for bands and at festivals and played my records at venues including Spiritland and Refuge.
So here is my Top Forty. It isn’t a list of the rarest records I own but it is how I see as my favourite forty folk funk records in my collection when compiled in July 2021.
The selection is not in order of preference and the list would be different tomorrow and the day after that. But for today here are forty records lovingly handpicked from my collection and commingled by me, Paul Hilery.
Feel The Spirit by Heaven & Earth
Taking So Long by Kathy Smith
But Never by Maryanne Mahoney
Fisherman King by Barbara Keith
Scarborough Fair by Deena Webster
The Loner by B.J. Ward
All I Dream by Estelle Levitt
Lady Luck by Marta
Rush Hour by Bugsy
Find It For Yourself by Click Horning
Some Kind Of Fever (Pray For Rain) by Maxine Sellers
Play With Fire by Barbara & Ernie
Say You’ll Be With Me by Denny Guy
All In Your Mind by Dennis Yost And The Classics IV
Lady Of St. Clare by Daylight
I’m Going To Be Seeing A Lot Of You by Varela
Free And Easy by Cunningham Corner
Dweller by Marcellino & Larson
Mr. Man by Air
Glastonbury by People
Spring Song by Ottilie Patterson
Mountain Song by Penny Nichols
Magician In The Mountain by Sunforest
You’ve Come This Way Before by Nancy Priddy
Woodenships by Christine Harwood
Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love by Odyssey
Friendship by Franciscus Henri
She Brings The Morning With Her by Justine
Sunset Song by Gabriel Gladstar
Sun by Gregory Paul
I Don’t Wanna Know About Evil by Judy Polan
Thanking You by Wendy Grose
Phalina by Cassidy
Daybreak by Joe & Bing
Sunlit Horizon by April Fulladosa
Away From Here by Kathy Robertson
You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman by Terry Callier
Magic Stone by Mormos
She Touched Me by Kris N’ Dale
Jimmy Jean by Ellen McIlwaine
Other peoples lists
Other people have made their own list of folk-funk tracks;
Ben Murphy on the Vinyl Factory site says ‘folk funk is a blend of acoustic guitars, looping repetitive grooves, jazz touches and full fat drum breaks.’
Ben’s list can be found here; Crate-digging for folk funk: 10 sublime records
The masterful Gilles Peterson did his Worldwide Top 20 Folk Funk picks, and defines folk funk as ‘the music that came to the clubs in the late 80’s as a continuation of rare groove. A new door was opened that would lead some of you to drop more cosmic stuff radio and turn tunes like ‘golden ring’ by American Gypsy’ into the new ‘cross the tracks!’ And when the trip hop generation came along and found new breaks and samples and discovered people like Sunforest or Doris ‘you never come closer!’
Gilles’ list can be found here; Gilles Peterson: The 20 – Folk Funk
Music Is Love
A heathen, conceivably, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one