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Albums Of The Year

Physical Attractions

You can't beat a proper CD with great production values, and in the field of folk, roots and world music the physical album still rules supreme. Our panel pick the best of 2015 in the 30th annual fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year.

Last year’s fRoots Critics Poll For Albums Of The Year didn’t include many new names in the top choices. 2015’s was quite different: a bit of a sea change with the first album by Stick In The Wheel – last year’s Editor’s Choice for an earlier EP – making the coveted top spot.

Two previous winners make the top ten – Bassekou Kouyate (2007) and Sam Lee (2012). Leveret and Simpson, Cutting & Kerr are new teamings of well known names (including Andy Cutting in both cases – a good year for him) while Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino are a generation change of line-up in a band who have been going for many decades. But elsewhere in the Top 10 (and indeed 20) there’s an abundance of new or relatively recently established names. It’s also worth mentioning that only one of the top 10 (Leveret again) is an all-male line-up, a massive and positive difference to the world of mainstream popular music.

Over in our ‘compilations, re-issues and historical’ category it was neck-a-neck between the re-issue of an iconic English traditional classic, a massive retrospective of an American folk blues legend and a great, previously unreleased archive recording of Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour and his band in full flight back in 1987. The latter gets that prize, but the giant, lavishly assembled Folkways set of Lead Belly recordings managed to win our award for ‘Best Packaged’ album.

We have the biggest and most widely sourced – locally and internationally – independent panel of experts of any annual poll in our fields of music – nearly 300 of them. 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. 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 announce in early November to help them all get a bit of extra mileage. Over the next two pages, in detail, are the placed final results – the nearest thing to a definitive guide to the best folk, roots and world music releases that there is.

And finally, your Editor’s Choice. Noting that a tendency of many other magazines and websites was to have only one or two people making their picks, he didn’t see why he should be left out! This award is designed to give a deserved leg-up to the smallest of independent imprints, often artist-run labels that many of our big panel won’t come across. And this year it goes to a mesmerising band from Oxford who we were proud to put on our October cover and feature – as did our main Album Of The Year winners – in one of our fRoots curated events as part of Sidmouth Folk Week 2015.

Winners 1986-2015

And before we give you the full results… this, dear readers, is our 30th annual fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year, so we’d like you to help pick the best folk, roots and world music album of those three decades! There have been some truly amazing albums selected over those years, so we’re conducting a public on-line poll to pick the one you think is the best of all. All you have to do is click here where you can pick just one album from the long list of the winners and runners up for every year of our poll since 1986. Do it before 31st January and we’ll reveal the winner in our April 2016 issue!


New Albums Of 2015

Album Winner 2015 Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover

1. Stick In The Wheel From Here (From Here)
2. Anna & Elizabeth Anna & Elizabeth (Free Dirt)
3. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba Ba Power (Glitterbeat)
4. Sam Lee & Friends The Fade In Time (Nest Collective)
5. Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino Quaranta 40 (Ponderosa)
6. The Rheingans Sisters Already Home (RootBeat)
7.=Emily Portman Coracle (Furrow)
      Leveret New Anything (RootBeat)
9.=Simpson, Cutting & Kerr Murmurs (Topic)
      Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin Touristes (Six Degrees)
11. Mbongwana Star From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
12. False Lights Salvor (Wreckord)
13.=Olivia Chaney The Longest River (Nonesuch)
        Jackie Oates The Spyglass & The Herringbone (ECC)
        Songhoy Blues Music In Exile (Transgressive)
        Spiro Welcome Joy And Welcome Sorrow (Real World)
        The Unthanks Mount The Air (Rabble Rouser Music)
18.=Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal Musique De Nuit (No Format!)
        Blick Bassy Akö (No Format)
        Kandia Kouyaté Renascence (Stern’s)
        Tom & Ben Paley Paley & Son (Hornbeam)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Amadou Balaké In Conclusion (Stern’s); Bamba Wassoulou Groove Farima (Label Bleu); Bixiga 70 III (Glitterbeat); Eliza Carthy & Tim Eriksen Bottle (Navigator); Lila Downs Balas Y Chocolate (Sony/RCA); Dreamers’ Circus Second Movement (GO’Danish); Ludovico Einaudi Taranta Project (Ponderosa); Ghazalaw Ghazalaw (Marvels of the Universe); Bella Hardy With The Dawn (Noe); Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin Watershead (Dragon Fly Roots); Kaia Kater Sorrow Bound (Kingswood); Seckou Keita 22 Strings (Arc Music); Tom Kitching Interloper (Fellside); Lau The Bell That Never Rang (Reveal); Cheikh Lô Balbalou (Wagram); Efrén López El Fill Del Llop (Buda Musique); Monsieur Doumani Sikoses (Monsieur Doumani); Moore Moss Rutter II (RootBeat); Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Strut); Ayub Ogada Kodhi (Long Tale); Pharis & Jason Romero A Wanderer I’ll Stay (Lula Records); Tom Russell The Rose Of Roscrae (Frontera Music); Terakaft Alone (OutHere); Richard Thompson Still (Proper); Tiken Jah Fakoly Racines (Wrasse); Samba Touré Gandadiko (Glitterbeat); Trio Da Kali EP (World Circuit); The Young ’Uns Another Man’s Ground (Own label).

Reissues & Compilations Of 2015

Reissue/Compilation Winner 2015 Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
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1. Youssou N’Dour & Le Super Etoile De Dakar Fatteliku – Live In Athens 1987 (Real World)
2. Bob & Ron Copper Traditional Songs From Rottingdean (Fledg’ling)
3. Lead Belly The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Smithsonian Folkways)
4. Amara Touré 1973 – 1980 (Analog Africa)
5.=Buena Vista Social Club Lost And Found (World Circuit)
      E.T. Mensah & The Tempos King Of Highlife (RetroAfric)
7. Various Artists The Joy Of Living: A Tribute To Ewan MacColl (Cooking Vinyl)
8.= Hanoi Masters War Is A Wound, Peace Is A Scar (Glitterbeat)
       Wizz Jones A Life On The Road (Sunbeam)
       Toto La Momposina Tambolero (Real World)
       John Renbourn The Attic Tapes (Riverboat)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Maki Asakawa Maki Asakawa (Honest Jon’s); Peter Bellamy Won’t You Go My Way? (Talking Elephant); Bellowhead Pandemonium (Navigator); Bonnie Dobson She’s Like A Swallow & Other Folk Songs (Big Beat); Dieuf-Diewul De Thiès Aw Sa Yone Vol 2 (Teranga Beat); Bob Dylan The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol 12 (Columbia); Fotheringay Nothing More – The Collected Fotheringay (Universal Music); Laaraji Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance (Gitterbeat); Sam Larner Cruising Round Yarmouth (Musical Traditions); Micho Russel Rareties & Old Favourites (Pennywhistle); Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton An Audience With The Shepherds (Veteran); Various Don’t Think I’ve Forgetten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock And Roll (Dust To Digital); Various Dust On The Nettles (Grapefruit); Various Lost In Mali (Riverboat); Various The Rough Guide To The Blues Songsters (World Music Network); Various The Rough Guide To Psychedelic India (World Music Network); Various Senegal 70 (Analog Africa); Various Shirley Inspired (Earth).

Best Packaged Albums Of 2015

Best Packaged Album 2015 Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
  Album cover

1. Lead Belly The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Smithsonian Folkways)
2. E.T. Mensah & The Tempos King Of Highlife (RetroAfric)
3. Kepa Junkera & Sorginak Trikitixaren Historia Txiki Bat (Fol Musica)
4=Emily Portman Coracle (Furrow)
     Ola Belle Reed Southern Mountain Music (Dust to Digital)

Runners up (alphabetically): Ghazalaw Ghazalaw (Mwldan/ Marvels Of The Universe); Monsieur Doumani Sikoses (Monsieur Doumani; Sam Lee & Friends The Fade In Time (Nest Collective); Seckou Keita 22 Strings (Arc Music); Toto La Momposina Tambolero (Real World); Various Artists Native North America Vol 1: Aboriginal Folk Rock & Country 1966-1985 (Light In The Attic).

Editor’s Choice Of 2015

Editor’s Choice Album Of 2015 Album cover

Telling The Bees Steer By The Stars (Black Thrustle)


Click on the individual albums to go direct to their page at Amazon UK, except where only available from a different linked source.

If you follow the click through to Amazon from the links here and buy anything at their usual excellent prices, fRoots will receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you, and helps to support the resources on this web site.


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