The Folklords – Release The Sunshine (1968)

Elusive and intriguing, facts about Canadian legends, The Folklords, remained scarce until their sole album Release The Sunshine was reissued on CD. The label sent out a challenge to dig up information on the group and bandleader Tom Martin replied to provide insight on their history.


From 1966-67, Tom Martin and Paul Seip played in a Mod cover band, The Chimes of Britain. In 1968, with the California scene really happening, they changed directions, began writing Dylan-inspired original material and created the independent label COB. Their songs “dealt with alternative lifestyles and complexities of a changing world.” Forming a trio with Tom on guitar and Paul on bass, they added Tom’s wife Martha Johnson on auto-harp, which became definitive to their sound. The auto-harp is a chorded zither played by depressing dampers that mute all of the strings other than those that form the desired chord.


COB released a limited pressing of “Forty Second River” and “Unspoken Love”, moody and sombre singles that received very little airplay. The vinyl fell into the hands of Jack Boswell of independent Canadian label Allied Records and he invited the trio to Toronto where they signed a contract to record Release The Sunshine in 1968.

Mixing dreamy psych-pop with acid-soaked folk, chiming guitars and earnest harmonies, the album is a rare instance where the auto-harp is used in a psychedelic setting. At the request of Boswell, his 18-year-old son sat in last-minute and played drums, keeping time as best he could to give the album a pleasant amateur quality. The record nestles nicely in line with the sunny music of We Five and is ahead of its time like a tender version of The Jesus And Mary Chain. After touring and TV spots, they found little success and disbanded in 1970.


Check out this cherished piece of Canadian music history at The Inner Sleeve and learn more about the auto-harp (including the one formerly belonging to Sylvia Tyson pictured below) during a Public Tour of the NMC Collection.

– Leasa Podloski