I know some of you had a massive intense cottagecore phase in lockdown. Don’t lie to me. The good weather only fuelled your dreams of living in the middle of nowhere with a miscellaneous animal in some long pale garment, baking sourdough and being jobless and happy. You would get up in the morning, do something fun like milk a cow and have eggs and your homemade loaf of bread for breakfast. Then, you’d go to a cute market which you cycled to – obviously – buying some local produce with money you’re not sure how you came by, and then go home and do something gay like embroidery or watercolours. Maybe you’d then cook dinner for your partner or press some apples. The days are long, your choices would be limitless.
Alas, if you’re reading this article, you seem to not have achieved this dream. Your plan of conveniently inheriting a cottage from a long-lost relative didn’t work, did it? However, if you ever wish to revisit that time in your life without listening to girl in red, may I suggest my new favourite genre – women with banjos! Simple and effective, women with banjo transports you back into that flowy dress and homemade pesto mindset – except this time you have the added bonus of an optional cowboy hat or a leather hip bag. It may not be quite as nostalgia inducing as simply listening to Taylor Swift’s 2020 releases; however, I can offer you the equally as exciting alternative of a banjo. What a deal, am I right?
I feel the banjo adds something more Fantastic Mr Fox-esque to the whole scenario, which, in my opinion, really works with October, and helps transfer my summer cottage fantasies into something more weather appropriate. There is only so much prancing around in short sleeves one can do before one gets cold, after all (especially post Storm Babet, which really reminded me that seasons do in fact change). Also, there is something just a little bit gay about folk. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the prevalence of strings, or how sad the songs all are. Maybe I think too much about my past life as a sapphic milkmaid in the Swiss Alps.
‘Down in the Willow Garden’, covered by Nora Brown and Sarah Kate Morgan is one of my current favourites. Does this technically not have any banjos in it? Yes. Be quiet, there are enough strings in here to make up for it. Be glad I’m holding myself this accountable. It’s a mildly depressing song about the murder of a girl named Rose, but with enough of a waltz and cute harmonies to make up for the killing. You could bake a cake to this, or anything else that goes in an oven. Roast a chicken, I don’t care. In my eyes, Nora Brown is one of the leaders of the traditional American genre, and her latest album ‘Long Time to Be Gone’ is ‘a disarming collection of traditional laments and exquisite banjo instrumentals’ according to the New Yorker. Would I put it quite like that? No, I’m not professional enough. But I agree with the sentiment, nonetheless. It’s a very good album for imagining an alternative existence as a shepherd in the Appalachians. Just you, the views, some miscellaneous sheep and banjo songs which were recorded in a place with excellent acoustics.
Other notable artists include Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet (truly the perfect name for a band), Carling & Will and Anna & Elizabeth. You may perhaps be thinking ‘but Erin, what if I cannot be bothered to find all of these people myself? I’m a busy student! I have deadlines!’
To that I say – fear not! I avoid my work like the plague and have already curated a playlist for you, reader. Don’t say I do nothing for you. Live out your dreams as I have! Discover the grown up cottagecore wonder of women and banjos, as I did – right here! Go forth and visualise!