I know, I know, everyone loves Pandora http://pandora.com . This is a fact I’m still trying to wrap my head around, if only because the name connotation suggests it be approached with caution (if you don’t know the Greek myth, find a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and impress your friends with your random Classical knowledge, or check out
http://greek-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_myth_of_pandoras_box for the online version…) but I digress…
Being a lover of folk rock and music in general, I found Pandora’s streaming playlists to be rather limited–they played a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Ani DiFranco, a smattering of Joan Baez if you listened long enough, and strangely, a host of jam bands (the Grateful Dead, Phish etc) that I couldn’t quite figure what their relation was. Mind you, they do have multiple “Folk” stations (British Folk, Contemporary Folk, Traditional Folk, Bluegrassy Instrumental and so on), I just didn’t find any of them to be particularly satisfying.
This disappointment led to my find and subsequent devotion to Last.fm, accessible at http://last.fm/ , an online radio streaming website similar to Pandora, but better, (in my estimation) in regards to its “folk rock” spectrum. One of the best features of Last.fm over Pandora is your ability to broaden or narrow your search, depending on what you’re craving. If you have a favorite artist (let’s say Bob Dylan just because everyone’s familiar with the name) you can search for him, as an artist, and find related artists or related tracks from there, or you can learn more about the genre, or about other musicians worldwide who count Dylan as an influence, and who other users have tagged as having a similar sound (be it musically, lyrically, stylistically etc).
Occasionally these searches also lead to free downloads, either by way of related tracks, or by way of looking up, for example “free folk” as a tag in the search bar. While they changed their format last fall (which I’m still trying to accustom myself to; it’s harder to find the free mp3s now), their content remains the same, so it’s just a matter of investing the time and knowing how to look.
If you find yourself growing attached to it (like I did) then you can also become a registered user and find others with similar streams, very much like the shared stations available through Pandora. The only thing I can really suggest is that you give them both a go, and compare and contrast on your own time, but if it’s a wide range of folk rock you are looking for, or you are hoping to expand your knowledge of the genre, I suggest Last.fm. Happy Listening!