AMERICANA-tinged folk group Southern Tenant Folk Union are set to make their return to Inverness – and they’re fired up by recent events.
Coming to Eden Court on Thursday, they arrive on the back of their seventh album, Join Forces – an album written during the 2015 election, and recorded during the 2016 European Union referendum.
And now, with news of a second referendum on independence for Scotland, the album has never been more timely.
Banjo player and vocalist Pat McGarvey explained: “I wanted to do an album about UK politics, and felt that the classic ‘folk protest song’ format popularised by Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie was due a comeback.
“At least I could do something via the medium of these folk and bluegrass tunes, those old time classic melodies being perfect vehicles for any theme you like – and then the themes we picked, like leadership, austerity, fighting against ourselves, insincere politicians and other things fitted well into that.
“Regarding this announcement of a potential timetable for a second independence referendum – do those themes remain pertinent? Yes, I believe they do. The songs can ask for that fairer world and more honest leadership that we all say we want – all of which will be up for debate again.”
Folk music has a long and storied tradition as a weapon of political protest – a fact Pat knows all too well. “It’s certainly important for folk music to engage with the politics of the day. Politics, like it or not, is intertwined with every aspect of our lives and our communities.
“I think it’s less important for pop music – though I think they should try – as those songs are aimed at the foot and the groin more than the head. Although I guess some of the fiddle tunes we’re playing are pretty danceable too.
“It also depends how prepared an artist is to risk their livelihood by putting their views, whatever they are, out there for people to comment on.
“You only need to read some of the comments on social media or in the online newspapers to see that you might need to be very brave indeed. I’m not, by the way!”
The group’s interest in politics stretches back to their previous albums – the sublimely-titled Chuck Norris Project (“a project that thankfully he remains blissfully unaware of”) and Hello Cold Goodbye Sun. “We were invited on to the Andrew Marr Show to play live and very briefly talk about the political nature of the band after that Hello Cold Goodbye Sun came out.
“But it’s also fair to say that the earlier albums didn’t have much in the way of direct political lyrics on them so there was a deliberate choice to go that way.
“It has been a long time interest of mine, however, and as an idea it’s time had come – just like when we pursued some of my sci-fi post-apocalyptic folk ideas on albums three and four.”
Southern Tenant Folk Union come to Eden Court’s One Touch Theatre on Thursday, March 23. Click here for more information/tickets.