Various Artists

Shifting Sands: 20 Treasures from the Heyday of Underground Folk

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This is not your average everyday folk collection; the fact that the most well-known artist represented here is the Incredible String Band offshoot C.O.B. -- who never went beyond minor cult status in Europe and are almost completely unknown elsewhere -- should clue you in to the fact that we're talking serious crate-digger territory here. If you tried to acquire the original LPs from which these late-‘60s/early-‘70s tracks were taken, you'd probably need to take out a bank loan. The title claims the tag "underground folk," but the artists on Shifting Sands are also commonly classified as "psychedelic folk," "acid folk," or the more colorful "wyrd folk." If such singer/songwriters as Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Sandy Denny, et al. can be said to occupy this subgenre's upper end in terms of renown, the likes of G.F. Fitz-Gerald, Gordon Jackson, and Rick Hayward are several rungs down, but just as worthy of attention. For the most part, these are the artists who were headed down the coffeehouse path when the psychedelic era exploded and left their Martin guitars festooned with paisley shrapnel. While a few of the singing strummers featured here follow a more traditional folk approach, like British guitar giant Wizz Jones' Lazy Farmer and Scottish songbird Mary-Anne, the bulk of Shifting Sands is occupied by the likes of England's Mark Fry and Canadian troubadour Roger Rodier, who sound like they soaked up Bob Dylan and Sunshine Superman-era Donovan in equal amounts. Despite the international roster of artists, there's a striking coherence to this collection, as most of the bands and singers shared a vision of moving the folk template past campfire tunes and strident protest songs into a more expressionistic musical universe that resonated with the tenor of the times.

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