My student wanted me to explain what folk music is, so I said something like this: “It’s a kind of regional music, one that represents the culture of the people in a certain area … mostly rural people rather than urban.” I had some idea that this loose definition was somewhat correct, and I gave it from my heart, since I came from some of those, “mostly rural people.”
But I’m sure there are voices who would object to the limitations of my definition, so I think I’ll try to extend it here. Folk music is music about stepping out onto love’s swinging bridge and taking risky kisses. It’s about friendship that stays, or comes and goes, or leaves for good but says goodbye in a way that lets everybody know it wasn’t a friendship that didn’t mean anything.
Folk music makes a commitment to extravagant feelings and experiences in a baseball cap on Saturday at the barbecue pit. It dines on old blankets and hastily packed picnic baskets by a creek. It catches a train, a little scared and breathless with anticipation. It cries with relief because the song recognizes it and knows its name even when it has grown thin or old or vacant … and brings it back to its old self.