Folk is not dead, folks.
Society seems to be making space yet again for traditional acoustic music with a free lovin’, anti-war spin, just as it did in the 1960s. The revival has been creeping up on us since the explosion of bearded, flannel-wearing, indie, folk boys the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, and Iron & Wine.
However, while indie folk may draw on the musical traditions of the mid-20th century revival, it often sacrifices an authentic journey into the core of what made people like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell revolutionary in favor of an aesthetic watered down enough for the shelves of Urban Outfitters.
Juliana LaChance makes no effort to water herself down. Her newest release, Thunder Dragon, proves again that she is willing to make that journey back to the heart of what folk traditions stand for.
This is evident in every song, from “Game Warden;” a quintessential anti-establishment song, in which LaChance chants “do what you want, those are the rules;” to “Syria;” a musical call to peace about the refugee crisis inspired by a Syrian friend LaChance is trying to bring to Canada.
Her instrument of choice, passed down to her by her mother, is a folkloric instrument from Ukraine called a bandura. It’s a 60-string folk harp that is very important throughout the history and culture of Ukraine but has largely been forgotten. The bandura gives her songs, which might otherwise sound more like ‘60s Americana, a dreamy, ethereal quality. She even got her musical start busking with her bandura in the streets for five years until she returned and finally released a debut album, Starflower Moonchild, in 2012.
But LaChance is more than just a folk musician. The DIY goddess incorporates the folk spirit into every aspect of her lifestyle, creating folk art, artisan crafts, handmade jewelry, and all-natural perfumes through her other project, “Juliana LaChance Arts.”
The depth of her ghostly voice chanting over harp strings about suns, moons, planets, and stars tint all of her work with a paranormal glow.
But if you assume that Juliana LaChance is 100% traditional, you’d be overlooking an important aspect of her persona. Thunder Dragon is actually made up of songs that were originally composed electronically, only to be converted to folk, and it shows. The depth of her ghostly voice chanting over harp strings about suns, moons, planets, and stars tint all of her work with a paranormal glow. A large part of LaChance reaches out into the future, looking hopefully for solutions to the problems of today but also in search of something more extraterrestrial.
As she writes in a blog post about her new album’s release, “the metaphor of the dragon symbolizes where I get my creative fire, that strikes me as loud as thunder seemingly out of nowhere, providing me with other-worldly inspiration.”
Considering the earthly problems she seeks to resolve today are arguably more global and complex than ever before, and to younger generations often seem more overwhelming than ever before, it makes sense that LaChance would look beyond the tools we’ve been given and out to another world for answers. In another way, though, the problems she sings about are as age old as the instrument she plays.
We give it 7,120 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing stars.