Folk music is popular for the same reason as the surge of support for Brexit (British exit from the European Union): the mass of people have realized how much they are manipulated by the rich and powerful and they look for ways to express their disgust. Today’s pop music is manufactured, shorn of meaning and infantilized. It seeks nothing but to point listeners at merchandise and activate a mental “Buy” button.

Spanish guitarr on wallFolk music speaks to some deep atavistic memory of a time when men were free and stood or fell on their own merits. The fact that such a time would be difficult to substantiate with historical evidence, and that most folk music was composed at a time when life (for rich and poor alike) was far more uncertain than today, as well as being harder and shorter, is neither here nor there; when people feel revulsion for what a mechanized, centralized state offers, they seek something better.

Folk music has revivals from time to time; they don’t last because there isn’t enough money in them and the musical establishment takes over, sidetracks and perverts what is there. It’s now eight years since one of the BBC’s Henry Wood Promenade Concerts (better known as “The Proms”) gave seven hours over to “Folk Day”. Folkies will have relished that outburst of Northumbrian pipes, acoustic guitars, fiddles and bagpipes that came together in a surge of shanties and folk songs that plumbed the folk memories of people as far spread as Brittany, northeast England, Cornwall and the Appalachians, but the fact that the day existed at all was probably a sign that Folk was already retreating from its momentary peak of popularity.

Those peaks will come again. When people become disillusioned with the bread and circuses provided to keep them quiet, then they turn to older, more authentic sources. We must be grateful to people like Pegleg Ferret for what they do to keep the flame alive.