This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down
Critics Poll 2014
It’s the 29th annual fRoots Critics Poll for albums of the year and our unfeasibly large international panel of experts have once again been scratching their brains for you. Ian Anderson surveys the results…
Every year is different, of course. Sometimes our winner is out in front by a wide margin, others they just squeak ahead by a gnat’s. For the best part of a decade from the turn of the century the winner was West African, but that all changed after 2008 when the world music scene fell off a cliff with the recession. Sometimes, including the past two years, our album of the year has been a debut. So no year is typical and this year was harder to anticipate than most.
In the main section for new albums of the year, the top placings were really close together in their numbers of nominations and although the deserving winner was by a first-time combination on record, it was a pairing for which the only real surprise was that they hadn’t ever done it before! Eliza is of course a past winner, back in 1998 with Red Rice – and came close in 2002 with Anglicana – while the larger Waterson: Carthy combo took the crown in 1994. And close second placer Toumani Diabaté has been in the top four on no fewer than seven previous occasions: ninth time lucky, Toumani!
There were very few debuts saluted this year, surprisingly since we’ve not been short of good ones: maybe they’ve simply not had wide distribution. Highest relative newcomers were Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, who already have a recent track record, but their latest has been a massive step forward and deserved its placing.
What will be intriguing, of course, will be the correlation between the fRoots poll and the 2015 Folk Awards nominations. Virtually every year since the latter were established, our highest-placed British folk albums have almost exactly corresponded with the Folk Awards albums of the year nominees. This time, though, the BBC’s schedule has changed: they’re not polling until January, announcing the nominees in February and the winners in April, which will be galling for all those who carefully planned their album release dates to maximise impact!
Will the fRoots poll now become the Golden Globes or BAFTAs to the BBC Oscars, giving a good prediction as to how they’ll pan out? Can we expect to see Martin & Eliza, Josienne & Ben, The Gloaming, Richard Thompson and The Furrow Collective as the BBC nominees list? Will their voters follow our lead, or will they be perverse and think “I won’t vote for so-and-so because they’re going to do well anyway.” Or will that new Leveret album which Andy Cutting announced back at EFExpo in October was being released in January so it wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a Folk Award now be right in the front line? We live in interesting times!
For newcomers, here’s how all this works. We have the biggest and most widely sourced – locally and internationally – independent panel of any annual poll in our fields of music. These are people who, in the course of things – usually their work – are likely to have heard and be interested in a much wider range of releases than the person in the street.
We ask them to nominate six new single artist albums; four re-issues, historical issues or compilations; and three albums that they consider to be the best packaged of the year. Every nomination gets one vote. We give guidance as to what’s eligible – basically, any music that falls into fRoots’ loose remit of “anything from anywhere with roots in a tradition” that has been released since November the previous year. This process produces a shortlist of ‘nominees’ which we now announce in early November to help them all get a bit of extra mileage. Below, in detail, are the placed results – the nearest thing to a definitive guide to the best folk, roots and world music releases that there is.
And finally, the little extra thing we started in 2012: your Editor’s Choice. Noting that a tendency of many other magazines and websites was to have only one or two people pontificate self-importantly on the records of the year and bestow ‘awards’ on that basis, I didn’t see why I should be left out! But then I realised that it’s not a bad thing to give a leg-up to the smallest of independent imprints, the cottage industry labels that many of our big panel won’t come across. And this year, nobody told me that a five-track EP doesn’t count as an album so I’ve awarded it to one of those, 2014’s breath of fresh air.
• Winners 1986-2014
New Albums Of 2014 winners
1. Martin & Eliza Carthy The Moral Of The Elephant (Topic)
2. Toumani & Sidiki Diabate Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit)
3. Aurelio Landini (Real World)
4. Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour (Folk Room)
5. The Gloaming The Gloaming (Real World)
6. Noura Mint Seymali Tzenni (Glitterbeat)
7. Söndörgö Tamburocket Hungarian Fireworks (Riverboat)
8. Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics (Proper)
9.= The Furrow Collective At Our Next Meeting (Furrow)
Kasai All Stars Beware Of The Fetish (Crammed)
11. Nancy Kerr Sweet Visitor (Little Dish)
12.= Sam Amidon Lily-O (Nonesuch)
9Bach Tincian (Real World)
14.= Aziza Brahim Soutak (Glitterbeat)
Kassé Mady Diabaté Kirike (No Format)
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder)
The Old Swan Band Fortyssimo (Wild Goose)
18.= Julie Fowlis Gach Sgeul (Machair)
Djessou Mory Kanté River Strings (Stern’s)
Metá Metá Metal Metal (Desmonta/Mais Um Discos)
The Young ’Uns Never Forget (Hereteu)
Runners Up (alphabetically): Tony Allen Film Of Life (Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi); Naomi Bedford A History Of Insolence (Dusty Willow); Bellowhead Revival (Island); Boulpik Konpa Lakay (Lusafrica); Pete Coe & Alice Jones The Search For Five Finger Frank (Backshift Music); Coig Fifth (Coig); Coope, Boyes & Simpson In Flanders Fields (No Masters); Dub Colossus Addis To Omega (Independent); Fofoulah Fofoulah (Glitterbeat); Martin Green Crows’ Bones (Reveal); Bryony Griffith Nightshade (Selwyn Music); Kate In The Kettle Swimmings Of The Head (Kate In The Kettle); Kepa Junkera & Various Galiza (Folmusica); Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 A Long Way To The Beginning (Knitting Factory); Los De Abajo Mariachi Beat (Wrasse); Lynched Cold Old Fire (Own label); Thomas McCarthy Herself & Myself (Tin Folk Music); Melingo Linyera (World Village); Anaïs Mitchell Xoa (Wilderland); Maz O’Connor This Willowed Light (Wildsound); Oysterband Diamonds On The Water (Navigator); Robert Plant Lullaby And The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch); Polkaworks Borrowed Shoes (G&T Music); The Rails Fair Warning (Island); Susheela Raman Queen Between (World Village); Sans Sans Live (Cloud Valley Music); Peggy Seeger Everything Changes (Signet/Red Grape); Emily Smith Echoes (White Fall); Chris Smither Still On The Levee (Signature Sounds); Sam Sweeney Made In The Great War (Root Beat); Kathryn Tickell & The Side Kathryn Tickell & The Side (Resilient); Martha Tilston The Sea (Squiggly); Tinariwen Emmaar (Pias); Various Artists The Elizabethan Session (Quercus); Willie Watson Folk Singer Vol 1 (Acony); You Are Wolf Hawk To The Hunting Gone (Stone Tape Recordings)
Reissues & Compilations Of 2014
1. Les Ambassadeurs Les Ambassadeurs Du Motel De Bamako (Stern’s)
2. Various Artists Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twobadour Sounds, 1960–1978 (Strut)
3. Various Artists Real World 25 (Real World)
4. Various Artists The Sound Of Siam Vol 2 (Soundway)
5. Bob Dylan The Basement Tapes: The Bootleg Series Vol 11 (Columbia)
6. Martyn Bennett Grit (Real World Gold)
7. Various Spirit Of Malombo: Malombo Jazz Makers, Jabula And Jazz Afrika 1966-1984 (Strut)
8. A L Lloyd Turtle Dove: England & Her Traditional Songs Vol 2 (Fellside)
9.= Mestre Cupijo E Seu Ritmo Siria (Analog Africa)
Various The Voice Of The People: The Flax In Bloom (Topic)
Various Voice & Vision (Topic)
Runners Up (alphabetically): Abelardo Barroso with Orquesta Sensación Cha Cha Cha (World Circuit); Michael Chapman Live At The Folk Cottage 1967 (Treehouse 44); Ry Cooder 1970–1987 (Box Set) (Rhino); Bob Copper Prostrate With Dismal (Ghosts From The Basement); Dervish A Celebration 1989–2014 (Whirling Discs); Djivan Gasparyan I Will Not Be Sad In This World/Moon Shines At Night (All Saints); Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball (Nonesuch); Lo’Jo 310 Lunes (World Village France); Papa Lemon Nash New Orleans Ukulele Maestro & Tent Show Troubador (Arhoolie); Spiro Pole Star (Real World); Various Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis Distortions (Analog Africa); Various Arkansas At 78rpm: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers (Dust To Digital); Various Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie (Compass); Various From Another World: A Tribute To Bob Dylan (Buda); Various Glitterbeat: Dubs And Versions (Glitterbeat); Various Gypsy Rhumba (Soul Jazz); Various Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade (Tiger’s Milk); Various Riverboat Records: Music From The Source (Riverboat/World Music Network); Various The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Cambodia (World Music Network); Various The Voice Of The People: The Barley Mow (Topic); Various The Voice Of The People: Traditional Dance Music From Orkney (Topic).
Best Packaged Albums Of 2014
1. Kepa Junkera Galiza (Folmusica)
2. Bob Dylan The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol 11 (Columbia)
3. Various Artists Real World 25 (Real World)
4. Various Artists The Voice Of The People: The Barley Mow (Topic)
Runners up (alphabetically): Les Ambassadeurs Les Ambassadeurs Du Motel De Bamako (Stern’s); Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour (Folk Room); Lo’Jo 310 Lunes (World Village France); Lynched Cold Old Fire (Lynched); Raul Rodriguez Razon De Son (Fol Musica); Chris Smither Still On The Levee (Signature Sounds); Sam Sweeney Made In The Great War (Root Beat); Various Arhoolie 40th Anniversary Box Set (Arhoolie); Various Arkansas At 78rpm: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers (Dust To Digital); Various The Voice Of The People: The Flax In Bloom (Topic).
Editor’s Choice Of 2014
Stick In The Wheel Bones EP (Stick In The Wheel)
Click on the individual albums to go direct to their page at Amazon UK, except where only available from a different linked source.
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This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down