When you compare the work of classic female folk singers – Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell – with today’s newer artists of that genre, many pale in comparison.
Yes, the artists named above are arguably some of the greatest singer/songwriters in recent history, but it’s tough to deny a lack of focus, inspiration, or musical skill when comparing even the lesser known folk artists of the 1960s with some of today’s break out singers.
The Calling, a 15-track CD by Illinois folk artist Wil Maring is a welcome respite from the mass-produced music that often masquerades as the new generation of folk music. Maring has the rare talent of peeling back the layers of experiences – both hers and those of her family, friends and acquaintances – and crafting them into introspective yet passionate and hopeful songs.
Consider the song “Save Me” which Maring wrote as her marriage to longtime musical partner Mark Stoffel imploded. Not only is the musical craftsmanship on this song impeccable, but its upbeat tempo almost makes one miss the heartfelt meaning of the words Maring sings which include: “When I’m winding down in the evening of life / I’ll look back with a smile on this difficult time / and I hope I’ll still find a drear friend at my side / And that’s you, I hope that it’s true.”
Maring has the lilting yet disciplined voice to pull off such sentimental works without ever making them sound corny. She also has the range to bring new depth to classics, such as Steve Winwood’s “Back in the Highlife Again,” which is included on this CD.
Another plus for The Calling is that the backing vocals and outstanding finger picking, fiddle, and other string accompaniments are compelling but don’t ever overwhelm Maring’s vocals. A perfect example of that is on “The Rows,” which Maring said is one of her personal favorites. The accompaniment and vocals share almost equal billing throughout the song, which is an ideal for a song likening a garden’s rows to those in life.
But in my opinion, Maring’s best work is on “Keeper of the Farm.” The song, for which she received kudos and a finalist placement at the annual Kerriville (Texas) Folk Festival, is ostensibly about the Illinois farmhouse Maring and her ex-bought in 2001. But if a listener probes deeper, the song could also detail Maring’s tending of classic folk music.
“I never stop to wonder why it’s up to me / to care for this museum from another family /
But tireless and faithful since the day fate spoke to me / I am the keeper of the farm.”
Hear Maring’s music at her website.