This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down
Critics Poll 2013
The massive panel have cast their votes in the 28th annual fRoots Critics Poll for albums of the year. Here’s what they elected as the very best of 2013.
We just may have got the perfect poll result this year, if you subscribe to the theory that contributors and readers divide into two convenient camps – ‘folk’ and ‘world’. Actually that’s all a nonsense of course, because lots of them – and you – have broad tastes and invariably the Critics Poll Album Of The Year draws votes from across the board. This year was another of those, and fittingly our front runner drew together two mighty and noble traditions, one from ‘here’ and another from ‘out there’. Better still, this time last year the duo only existed on paper and their record was just an aspiration, but when the good people from Theatr Mwldan told us of their project at Womex 2012, we said straight away that it deserved a cover feature. We did that in July, the superb album came out in October, they triumphed at Womex and the rest, as they say, is history.
Last year’s poll really wasn’t very good for ‘out there’. After a decade in which the winner was virtually always from one region of Africa, only three non-UK albums made the top ten and there wasn’t a West African album in the top twenty. And yet the make-up of the panel had hardly changed so clearly the music simply wasn’t there to enthuse them. This year we have two excellent records – one from Mali, one from England – jostling for second place, we have five ‘world’ albums in the top ten and eleven in the top 23. Close to parity: if you believe in those separate tribal taste camps, then everything is in perfect balance. The only thing in common with last year is that there still aren’t many Americans in favour.
Don’t go thinking this is some reflection of a corporate fRoots taste though. We have the biggest and widest-sourced – locally and internationally – independent panel of any annual poll in our fields of music. It’s double the size of the one the BBC invites for the Folk Awards (we’re once again pleased to note the exact correlation between the highest placed ‘Britfolk’ albums – we’re including Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer in those because of their song sources – in the fRoots Critics Poll and the albums of the year in the Folk Awards: it comforts us that we’re both getting it ‘right’.) Most other magazines just ask a few contributors. Mojo’s folk and world music albums of the year are decided by one writer each (both with excellent taste or they wouldn’t be on the fRoots panel too!). Songlines’ is just done by their two Editors and they’re also invited on our panel. And don’t start us on the numerous web sites trumpeting ‘Awards’ as devices to enlist the would-be famous in generating them traffic. So all in all, we like to think the fRoots Critics Poll is as definitive as it gets. (It bloody ought to be considering the work involved! You have no idea…)
So, for newcomers, here’s how it works. We have the aforementioned panel of 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. The latter is harder than you might think, as while packaging standards are going up, labels are increasingly sending out cut-down slipcased previews and radio DJs in particular are complaining that they never get to see the ‘real thing’: how not to make friends and influence people, eh?
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. Then we have to do an awfully big job of number crunching.
This process of democracy produces a shortlist of ‘nominees’ which we now announce in early November to help them all get a bit of extra mileage. Here 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, continuing some harmless amusement we started in 2012: your Editor’s Choice. Noting that tendency of other magazines and web sites 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 and declared that last year’s Editor’s Choice was Stephanie Hladowski & C Joynes’ The Wild Wild Berry. But afterwards, 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 panel won’t come across. So I shall continue to do that each year with my tongue less firmly in cheek.
• Winners 1986-2013
New Albums Of 2013 winners
1. Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita Clychau Dibon (Astar Mwldan)
2. Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba Jama Ko (OutHere)
3. Lisa Knapp Hidden Seam (Navigator)
4. Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer Child Ballads (Wilderland)
5. Martin Simpson Vagrant Stanzas (Topic)
6.= Tamikrest Chatma (Glitterbeat)
The Full English The Full English (Topic)
Linda Thompson Won’t Be Long Now (Topic)
9. Çiğdem Aslan Mortissa (Asphalt Tango)
10. Kayhan Kalhor & Erdal Erzincan Kula Kulluk Yakisir Mi (ECM)
11. The Garifuna Collective Ayo (Cumbancha)
12. Mulatu Astatke Sketches Of Ethiopia Jazz Village
13.= Bombino Nomad (Nonesuch)
Fanfara Tirana Meets Transglobal Underground Kabatronics (World Village)
Bella Hardy Battleplan (Noe)
June Tabor, Ian Ballamy & Huw Warren Quercus (ECM)
17.= Gavin Davenport The Bone Orchard (Haystack)
Jupiter & Okwess International Hotel Univers (OutHere)
Melrose Quartet Fifty Verses (Melrose Quartet)
Rant Rant (Own label)
Tal National Kaani (Fatcat)
Rokia Traoré Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)
Chris Wood None The Wiser (RUF)
Runners Up (alphabetically): Sam Amidon Bright Sunny South (Nonesuch); Debashish Bhattacharya & Friends Beyond The Raggasphere (Riverboat); Capercaillie At The Heart Of It All (Vertical); Las Hermanas Caronni Vuela (Les Grands Fleuves); Jim Causley Cyprus Well (Folk Police); Guy Clark My Favorite Picture Of You (Dualtone); Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker Fire & Fortune (Navigator); Da Wang Gang Wild Tune Stray Rhythm (Jaro); Amadou Diagne Yakar (Waulk); Family Atlantica Family Atlantica (Soundway); Faustus Broken Down Gentlemen (Navigator); Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin Mynd (Dragonfly Roots); John Kirkpatrick Every Mortal Place (Fledg’ling); Kobo Town Jumbie In The Jukebox (Stonetree); Spider John Koerner What’s Left Of Spider John (Hornbeam); Lady Maisery Mayday (Rootbeat); Felix Lajko Mezo - Field (Fono); Leyla McCalla Vari-Colored Songs (Dixie Frog); Danny Michel & The Garifuna Collective Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me (Cumbancha/Stonetree); Jackie Oates Lullabies (ECC); Brian Peters & Jeff Davis Sharp’s Appalachian Harvest (Pugwash); Alasdair Roberts A Wonder Working Stone (Drag City); Pharis & Jason Romero Long Gone Out West Blues (Lula); Georgia Ruth Week Of Pines (Gwymon); Jyotsna Srikanth Call Of Bangalore (Riverboat); Moussu T E Lei Jovents Artemis (Le Chant Du Monde); Rachid Taha Zoom (Naive); Richard Thompson Electric (Proper); Three Cane Whale Holts And Hovers (Own label).
Reissues & Compilations Of 2013
1. The Young Tradition Oberlin 1968 (Fledg’ling)
2. Eliza Carthy Wayward Daughter (Topic)
3. Various Stand Up, People Gypsy Pop Songs From Tito’s Yugoslavia 1964-1980 (Vlax/Asphalt Tango)
4. Lal Waterson Teach Me To Be A Summer’s Morning (Topic/Fledg’ling)
5. Le Grand Kallé His Life, His Music – Joseph Kabasele And The Creation Of Modern Congolese Music (Sterns)
6. Orchestra Super Mazembe Mazembe @ 45 rpm Vol 1 (Sterns)
7.= Various Afrobeat Airways 2 (Analog Africa)
Various The Liberty To Choose (Fellside)
9.= Various Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings From The 1970s & 80s (Soundway)
John Kirkpatrick Band The Complete... (Fledg’ling)
Jim Moray Sweet England – 10th Anniversary Edition (NIAG)
12.= Various ( Greek Rhapsody (Dust To Digital)
Africando Viva Africando (Sterns)
William Onyeabor Who Is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop)
Runners Up (alphabetically): Billy Bragg Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy (Cooking Vinyl); Brass Monkey The Best Of Live (Park); Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait (Columbia); Cesaria Evora Mae Carinhosa (Lusafrica); Fairport Convention Rising For The Moon (Island); Incredible String Band Live At The Fillmore 1968 (Hux); Fela Kuti The Best Of The Black President (Knitting Factory); Mlimani Park Orchestra & International Orchestra Safari Sound Zanzibara 7 – Sikende v Ndekule (Buda); Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou The Skeletal Essences Of Voodoo Funk Vol 3 (Africa); Spiers & Boden Through And Through (Fellside); Various Classic Celtic From Smithsonian Folkways (Smithsonian Folkways); Various Diablos Del Ritmo – Colombian Melting Pot (Africa); Various Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin Tropical And Cumbia (Tigers Milk); Various Teranga! Senegal! (Sterns); Various The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Brazil (World Music Network); Young Tradition The Young Tradition (BGO).
Best Packaged Albums Of 2013
1. Lal Waterson Teach Me To Be A Summer’s Morning (Topic/Fledg’ling)
2. Various: Longing For The Past: The 78rpm Era In South East Asia (Dust To Digital)
3. Various: Greek Rhapsody (Dust To Digital)
4. Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music: Joseph Kabasele And The Creation Of Modern Congolese Music (Sterns)
5. Various: Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings From The 1970s & 80s (Soundway)
Runners up (alphabetically): Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita Clychau Dibon (Astar/Mwldan); The Full English The Full English (Topic); The Garifuna Collective Ayo (Cumbancha); Abd Al-Hayy Hilmi Abd Al-Hayy Hilmi, 1857-1912 (Arab Music & Researching Foundation); John Martyn The Island Years (Island); Various Afrobeat Airways 2 (Analog Africa); Various Arctic Paradise 2014 (Music Finland).
Dust To Digital’s Longing For The Past
Editor’s Choice Album Of 2013
Three Cane Whale Holts And Hovers (Three Cane Whale)
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This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down