fRoots home
 
This month's issue

Subscribe!

fRoots Shop

Features & Indexes
  Sample a fRoots feature
  History of World Music
  fRoots Compilation
    Albums

  fRoots Compilation
    Albums Track Index

  Critics Poll
  Features Index
  Cover Features Index
  Reviews Index

fRoots Information

Festivals list

fRoots home

fRoots on Facebook

Come Write Me Down

 

 
This month’s issue  Subscribe!  Shop  Home  Come Write Me Down Basket/Checkout  
Album Of The Year

Albums Of The Year

The 24th Annual fRoots Critics Poll is the definitive look at the best albums of the year in world folk & roots musics. And this year’s winners are… Staff Benda Bilili’s debut Très Très Fort and Topic Records’ 70th anniversary celebration Three Score & Ten.

It’s hard to believe that this is the 24th annual fRoots Critics poll – it has been going so long that we actually lost count last year and billed it as the 22nd! We started it in 1986 when we thought that because some people out there hear a wider cross section of music than the average reader, through reasons of work or heavy involvement in the music’s infrastructure, the readers might in turn like to know what their consensus was on the previous year’s good stuff. Over the years it has grown in stature and winning the fRoots Critics Poll has become a treasured accolade for artists and their record labels. In 2001 it was incorporated into the BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music and provided the Album Of The Year nominations for the next seven years.

Following Radio 3’s decision to axe their awards last year, our Critics Poll became independent again, still defining the Albums Of The Year in folk, roots and world music, with wide cross-industry voting and support. We all worked together to keep the momentum of the BBC years, and another ex-partner in the BBC Awards, Songlines magazine, launched a set of artist awards in 2009, voted online by the public, which happen in the summer. The two are complementary and now help to give a year-round focus on excellence with a bit of excitement injected too. Being independent again last year also meant that we were able to team up with Amazon.co.uk as retail partner, who put up a mini-site for the top-placed albums. That happy arrangement continues this year to the general benefit of artists, labels and CD buyers alike.

Last year we made a major change, for the first time going the route of other schemes like the Folk Awards and the Mercury Music Prize by announcing our front runners as nominees. It worked extremely well so we’ve continued to do that this year. The top 10 new albums and top 6 reissue, compilation or historic CDs were announced across the web on 16th November, which once again got some fevered speculation going.

Happily, BBC Radio 3 continue to support the fRoots Critics Poll Albums Of The Year, and this year’s winners were exclusively revealed by Lopa Kothari and fRoots Editor Ian Anderson on World On 3 on 4th December.

Here, you can find out all the year’s releases which gained significant votes from our international panel – we ask over 300 people with the knowledge including journalists, radio presenters, activists, event organisers and musicians, and always get a very decent turnout. Download a PDF of how they voted.

The usual process applied. They nominated up to six New Albums Of 2009 (newly recorded single artist or band CDs) which produced the fRoots Critics Award For Album Of The Year. Then they picked up to four CDs in our Reissues/ Compilations/ Historic section – collections of old or new material (anything that would be listed as ‘Various Artists’), reissues of older recordings and that newer animal, the remix album. And they could also nominate two beautiful artefacts in our Best Packaged Album category. Everything nominated got one point – we don’t ask our panel to order their preferences – and on the odd occasion where they misinterpreted guidance and voted in the wrong category, we simply accumulated all the votes in the correct one.

The main provisos were that the albums should have been first released since November 2008, though we do allow a bit of slack provided they weren’t listed last year too. And of course we require that albums fall into the areas of music we cover in fRoots – music from anywhere with roots in a tradition – and that people don’t vote for their own products. At some point in the New Year we’ll make the list of how everybody voted available here on the fRoots website as usual. Patience!

Last year, for the first time in a decade, the well deserved winner was a new English folk album – Jim Moray’s Low Culture – breaking what had seemed to be the sitting tenancy of West Africans in the top place. It was a cause for great celebration, lots of interest and the inevitable stirred-up controversy. With English folk on such a roll right now, four more such albums made the top 10 again this year, but on top by the narrowest of squeaks, just one vote over 2007 winner Bassekou Kouyate, was the debut by Congo’s extraordinary Staff Benda Bilili. Congratulations!

Once again this year, the fRoots Critics Poll is presented in association with Amazon UK.

Amazon
Click on the individual albums to go direct to their page at Amazon UK
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.


Album cover

Album Winner 2009

Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover

New Albums Of 2009 winners

1. Staff Benda Bilili Très Très Fort (Crammed)
2. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba I Speak Fula (OutHere)
3. Oumou Sangare Seya (World Circuit)
4. Martin Simpson True Stories (Topic)
5. The Unthanks Here’s The Tender Coming (EMI/Rabble Rouser)
6. Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara Tell No Lies (Real World)
7. Tinariwen Imidiwan (Independiente)
8. Jackie Oates Hyperboreans (Unearthed/One Little Indian)
9. Khaled Liberté (Wrasse)
10. Spiro Lightbox (Real World)

The Next 10:
11=Jon Boden Songs From The Floodplain (Navigator)
      Mohamed Ilyas Taarab (Chiku-Taku)
13. Baaba Maal Television (Palm Pictures)
14. Les Triaboliques Rivermudtwilight (World Village)
15. Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics Inspiration Information (Strut)
16=Tony Allen Secret Agent (World Circuit)
      Ceu Vagarosa (Six Degrees)
18=Mamer Eagle (Real World)
      Mawkin:Causley The Awkward Recruit (Navigator)
      Loudon Wainwright III High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (Proper/2nd Story Sound)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Mayra Andrade Storia Storia (Stern’s); Blue Asia Sketches Of Myahk (Vivid Sound); Anouar Brahem The Astounding Eyes Of Rita (ECM); Brass Monkey Head Of Steam (Topic); Guy Clark Somedays The Song Writes You (Dualtone); Bob Dylan Together Through Life (Columbia); Tim Eriksen Northern Roots Live In Namest (Indies Scope); Julie Fowlis Uam (Shoeshine); Bella Hardy In The Shadow Of The Mountains (Noe); Lau Arc Light (Navigator); Radio Kijada Nuevos Sonidos Afro Peruanos, Part 1 (Wrasse); Alasdair Roberts Spoils (Drag City); Show Of Hands Arrogance, Ignorance And Greed (Hands On Music); Speed Caravan Kalashnik Love (Real World); Devon Sproule I Don’t Hurry For Heaven! (Tin Angel); Vieux Farka Touré Fondo (Six Degrees); Nancy Wallace Old Stories (Midwich); Jah Wobble Chinese Dub (30 Hertz).



Reissue/Compilation Of The Year
Way back in 1990, we were all rather taken by surprise when the fRoots Album Of The Year poll was won by a set of recordings from the 1930s, the beautiful CD box set of the complete works of blues giant Robert Johnson. So to keep the main attention on new recordings but at the same time recognise the increasing excellence of reissues, compilations and historic projects, we introduced a second section for those the following year. Technological advances and the break away from the now very boring standard jewel box – the hallmark of a lack of attention to packaging art detail these days – mean that some extraordinary, exhilarating and influential sets have been released in recent years, containing all the documentation and background information that reissues need in particular. This past year was no exception.

Our winner this year did it by a decent margin – and a total landslide in our Best Packaged section. Topic Records celebrated their 70th anniversary as the oldest independent record label in the world, let alone the flagship of British folk, with their ultra-desirable Three Score & Ten set of 7 CDs encased in a large, handsome hard-backed book. It wasn’t just a pretty face either, being packed with fabulous music. Strong runner-up, some distance ahead of the rest of the field, was the second exemplary volume of last year’s winner, the Franco retrospective Francophonic, this time marking the 20th anniversary of his death. Both Topic and Soundway, the latter with their excellent compilations of old African and Caribbean material, had three entries in the top dozen, and there were also strong votes for multi-CD retrospectives of Chris Wood and Richard Thompson.

So in this section it’s any form of compilation by genre or artist, any reissues or first-time issues of older recordings (even when including some new material), local licences of albums which have appeared elsewhere in previous years, any remix albums, and all ‘Various Artist’ compilations (whether new or reissue).

Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover
Album cover

1. Various Three Score & Ten: A Voice To The People (Topic)
2. Franco & Le TPOK Jazz Francophonic Vol. 2 (Stern’s)
3. Various Panama! 2 (Soundway)
4. Various Legends Of Benin (Analog Africa)
5. Chris Wood Albion (RUF)
6. Woody Guthrie My Dusty Road (Rounder)

The Next 10:
7. Peter Bellamy Both Sides Then (Topic)
8=Richard Thompson Walking On A Wire (Shout Factory)
      Various Ghana Special (Soundway)
10. Various Tumbélé! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds From The French Caribbean 1963-74 (Soundway)
11. Scan Tester I Never Played To Many Posh Dances (Topic)
12=Mulatu Astatke New York – Addis –London: The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 (Strut)
      Dr Strangely Strange Kip Of The Serenes (Hux)
      Edward II Definitive Collection (E2)
      Davy Graham A Scholar And A Gentleman (Decca)
      Cheb Khaled Rebel Of Rai (The Early Years) (Nascente)
      Various Zanzibara 5: Hot In Dar 1978- 1983 (Buda)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Alistair Anderson Steel Skies (Topic); Goran Bregovic Welcome To Goran Bregovic (Wrasse); Tim Buckley Live At The Folklore Centre, NYC – March 6th 1967 (Tompkins Square); Jesse Fuller Move On Down The Line (Fledg’ling); Incredible String Band Tricks Of The Senses (Hux); Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis The Syliphone Years (Stern’s); Louis Killen Ballads (Topic); Kandia Kouyate Ngara (Syllart); Ewan MacColl Ballads (Topic); Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou Echoes Hypnotiques Vol 2 (Analog Africa); Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou The Vodoun Effect (Analog Africa); The Rail Band Belle Epoque 3 – Dioba (Stern’s); Le Ry-co Jazz Bon Voyage!! (RetroAfric); Andre Maria Tala Bend Skin Beats (Retro Afric); Various Comfusoes 1: From Angola To Brasil (OutHere); Various Otro Mundo (Warner); Various Panama! 3 (Soundway); Various Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan, Season 2 (Ace); Värttinä 25 (Westpark Music).



Packaging Winner 2009
In these days of downloads, it’s quality packaging that can make a big difference to whether you buy the CDs or the files. Artistic skill can produce a thing of beauty, along with enhancing the listening pleasure by providing ambience and information. Topic’s Three Score Years & Ten was the runaway winner in the majority’s eyes, whilst next in the race was the set of recently rediscovered Woody Guthrie recordings, My Dusty Road, packaged by Rounder Records in a very desirable little suitcase along with a big book and lots of memorabilia. The Francophonic concept did well again this year too, as did the luxury hardback packaging and David Angel photography on Jon Boden’s solo project.
Album cover
Album cover

1. Various Three Score & Ten: A Voice To The People (Topic)
2. Woody Guthrie My Dusty Road (Rounder)
3. Franco & Le TPOK Jazz Francophonic Vol. 2 (Stern’s)
4=Jon Boden Songs From The Floodplain (Navigator)
     Various Ghana Special (Soundway)
     Various Legends Of Benin (Analog Africa)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis The Syliphone Years (Stern’s); Ojos De Brujo Aocana (Deluxe Edition) (Warner Music Spain); Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou The Vodoun Effect (Analog Africa); Staff Benda Bilili Très Très Fort (Crammed); Various Onder De Groene Linde (Music & Words); Various Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism In Vintage Music & Photography 1890-1950 (Dust-To-Digital); Various Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan, Season 2 (Ace); Various Tumbélé! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds From The French Caribbean 1963-74 (Soundway); Loudon Wainwright III High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (Proper/2nd Story Sound).

Amazon
Click on the individual albums to go direct to their page at Amazon UK
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.

 

This month’s issue  Subscribe!  Shop  Home  Come Write Me Down Basket/Checkout