Flying Folk Army Unleashes Massive Folk Fist to the Man-A Musical Reconnaissance of the Group's New Album
by Hoot Owl

From the Earth First Journal - Lughnasadh: Vol. 21 No. 7

The packed pub would need a new floor, it was that simple. I laughed out loud at the thought, but my guffaw was quickly swallowed up by the din. The floorboards hummed underneath the thunderous stomping of our feet in time to the raucous music. My first night in Vancouver, British Columbia, and I had the good fortune to be introduced to the musical mayhem of the Flying Folk Army.

Combine an eight-person band of skilled accordion, upright bass, fiddle, banjos, guitars, tin whistles, clarinet, harmonica, spoons and bodhran with musical styles from Celtic to rockabilly; then stir in a feisty sense of struggle, and you have... well, an army. These flying folksters not only bring down the house at their gigs, they venture into the fray to provide musical backup at protest actions and riotous street demonstrations.

And now the Canadian band has self-produced its long-awaited first album: Massive Folk Fist to the Man. In what most aptly can be described as "roots" music, Massive Folk Fist covers as many political issues of our time as it does musical genres. The album contains 15 songs that manage to hold a common thread: a do-it-yourself, symphonic subversion not afraid to laugh or cry at itself.

Opening with an upbeat and hilarious anti-war tune, Uncle Sam, the group pokes fun at the genocidal foreign policy of the US, singing "Whoopee, we're all going to die!" The ecological and social debacle of genetic engineering is served hoe-down-style with Roundup Ready Round-up. In Gingerbread Man, global warming is seen through the eyes of the sweet treat about to be tossed in the metaphorical oven. Hands Off fights back at the fascist police. The release also includes their arrangement of Kolamyka, a 19th century, traditional Ukrainian freedom song with beautiful and haunting harmonies.

One of my favorite tunes of the lot is The Reservoir, especially timely amid the current crackdown against our burgeoning ecodefense (see EF!J August-September 2001, "The Criminalization of Ecology"). The lyrics are a wake-up slap to the face, necessary and stinging:

They say the truthtellers are the misfits
If they can't make them disappear
Do you know who reaps the benefits
When the public buys the smear
Well they have no names or faces
They have wiretaps and the video
And you who disagree at all
There are laws passed to divide you...
... There is a large untapped Reservoir of anger
Underneath the surface here
Maybe now more than ever...

The band minces no words about the predicaments facing us today. "For us, the eco-struggle is the social justice struggle is the struggle for freedom and against capitalism in all forms. The destruction of the planet's natural resources is inextricably linked with the oppression and exploitation of the planet's population. It's the same handful of bosses that control not only the forests, the waters, the fields-but control the lives of the indigenous peoples throughout the world, the workers, the poor," explains Megan, the group's fiddler.

Bandmate Sean describes their outlook on fame: "Being successful for us is about being able to jam with people from all over the place who are converging to share and to struggle. It's about hearing our songs played by people we've never met around a campfire."

I wholeheartedly recommend that you get your hands on Massive Folk Fist to the Man; as well as their less-polished, untitled demo album of a couple of years ago. My only criticism of Massive Folk Fist is that it doesn't quite capture the raw revelry of the band's live performances, but no recording is ever as good as the real thing. The Flying Folk Army is at its best up close and in person. Music is meant for the making, not passive listening; for action, not audience; for dancing, singing and hanging out. That making of something more than just melody is what gives the Flying Folk Army its oomph.

But it may be awhile before you get to stomp your feet to one of their live shows. The FFA played their first two US shows just this year, one at a border demo and another at this summer's Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. So let's start clamoring for a US tour!

Meanwhile, Massive Folk Fist to the Man will soon be available from the Earth First! Journal, and folks can find the lyrics and guitar chords to several songs from the album in the Hootenanny Songbook, also available from the Journal. Contact the Flying Folk Army directly to order their music at 312-1707 Charles Street, Vancouver, BC, V5L 2T6 Canada; (604) 255-6967; flyingfolk@tao.ca; www.flyingfolk.ca. Each CD is $10 US plus $2.50 shipping (that's $15 Can and $3.75 shipping). Make out money orders or checks to Flying Folk Army.

We need musicians like the Flying Folk Army as inspiration during these conflicting times of bitter despair and immense possibility, because there is a large, untapped reservoir of anger-maybe now more than ever. Return to Flying Folk Home