This month’s issue •
Come Write Me Down
Critics Poll 2012
The massive panel have cast their votes in the 27th annual fRoots Critics Poll for albums of the year – new albums, re-issues & compilations and best packaged. Here’s what they elected as the very best of 2012.
As Colin Irwin points out in his overview of the nominations for the latest BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in the January/ February 2013 fRoots, this seems like a bit of a watershed year. In the case of the Folk Awards, they cement the coming of a new generation. With the fRoots Critics Poll results, we get confirmation of the unravelling of the World Music record business.
It’s not that people have lost interest in world music, far from it. It’s not that there aren’t so many good world music records being released either – we still get lots in the fRoots office. But the bigger labels like World Circuit who could always be counted on for some high profile titles have been quiet this year, and artist touring has been decimated by the economic situation. Readers will have noticed how advertising of world music records has almost entirely vanished from our pages. So, as labels disengage from the community, now there’s very little consensus: lots of good records got a handful of votes, but nothing got mass attention like this year’s exceptional crop of UK folk albums.
How quickly things have changed! For nine consecutive years from 1999, our poll was topped by a world music album, invariably West African. The first to break that run was Jim Moray’s Low Culture in 2008, and all through those years only the odd UK folk record slipped into the top placings. And even that caused indignation. “Please, please let’s stop pushing British folk into the spotlight ,” wrote Songlines magazine in 2004 when Spiers & Boden had made the top 4. “It’s simply not relevant and not good enough, and diverting attention from far more interesting artists… With the wealth of new music flooding over our borders, there’s simply no need to include home-grown folkies who for some reason have been elevated to a status in world music scenes that bears no logic.”
This year, the highest placed world music album is previous winner Staff Benda Bilili’s Bouger Le Monde at equal 5th, there are only two more in the Top 10 and there isn’t a West African record to be seen in the Top 20. Seven of the Top 10 are from the UK. Even the highest placed Americans – including past winner Ry Cooder – are outside the top 10. And yet we’ve not changed the balance and make-up of our invited panel of around 320 worldwide very much at all.
So the only conclusion we can reach is that UK folk-rooted music is really on a roll, powering ahead in what may seem like a golden age in years to come. All the records in the top placings are confident, musically adventurous, well produced, packaged and promoted – all the things which you could hardly ever accuse British folk records of being, back in the last century. But then again, who would have imagined back in the last century that major labels would completely lose the plot – only one in the top 20 – and that the professionalised cottage industry model, long standard on the folk scene, would become cutting edge, the state of the art for many artists in the mainstream?
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 wider range of releases than the person in the street. We ask them to nominate six new single artist albums, four re-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’ 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. 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.
Oh, and this year a little extra amusement. Most other magazines’ lists of albums of the year are produced by minuscule panels compared to the fRoots one (itself twice the size of the BBC’s Folk Awards panel), and some are simply the choice of a single person – the editor or a specialist writer, who inevitably are part of the fRoots panel anyway. Those of an anoraknoid tendency can find a PDF here detailing how most of our panel voted individually.But this year we allow our ancient editor to also pontificate self-importantly and declare his Editor’s Choice Album Of The Year…
• Winners 1986-2012
New Albums Of 2012 winners
1. Sam Lee Ground Of Its Own (Nest Collective)
2. Jim Moray Skulk (NIAG)
3. Lau Race The Loser (Reveal)
4. Karine Polwart Traces (Hegri)
5.= Emily Portman Hatchling (Furrow)
Staff Benda Bilili Bouger Le Monde (Crammed)
7. Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party Orfeo (Topic)
8. Bellowhead Broadside (Navigator)
9.= Mokoomba Rising Tide (Igloo)
Ondatrópica Ondatrópica (Soundway)
11. Lo’Jo Cinéma el Mundo (World Village)
12.= Kathryn Tickell Northumbrian Voices (Park)
Sam Carter The No Testament (Captain)
14.= Anaïs Mitchell Young Man In America (Wilderland)
Tom Paley Roll On, Roll On (Hornbeam)
16.= Ry Cooder Election Special (Nonesuch)
Bob Dylan Tempest (Columbia)
Caroline Herring Camilla (Signature Sounds)
Hladowski & Joynes The Wild Wild Berry (Bo’ Weavil)
Krar Collective Ethiopia Super Krar (Riverboat)
Lucas Santtana O Deus Que Devasta Mas Tabém Cura (Mais Um Discos)
Spiro Kaleidophonica (Real World)
Wu Man & Master Musicians From The Silk Route Music Of Central Asia Vol 10 (Smithsonian Folkways)
Runners Up (alphabetically): Arnaldo Antunes, Edgard Scandurra, Toumani Diabate A Curva Da Cintura (Mais Um Discos); Breabach Bann (Breabach); Café Aman Istanbul Fasl-ı Rembetiko (Kalan); Carolina Chocolate Drops Leaving Eden (Nonesuch); Chicha Libre Canibalismo (Barbes/Crammed); Duncan Chisholm Affric (Copperfish); Zani Diabate & Les Héritiers Tientalaw (Sterns); Blair Dunlop Blight & Blossom (Rooksmere); Ragnhild Furebotten Never On A Sunday (Ta:Lik); Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts The Innocent Left (Navigator); Bella Hardy The Dark Peak & The White (NOE); Mariem Hassan El Aaiún Egdat (Nubenegra); The Imagined Village Bending the Dark (ECC); Jagwa Music Bongo Hotheads (Crammed); Hannah James & Sam Sweeney State & Ancientry (Root Beat); Annbjørg Lien Khoom Loy (Heilo); Kathleen MacInnes Cille Bhride (own label); Malawi Mouse Boys He Is #1 (IRL); Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko Aduna (Musiek Publique); Mama Rosin Bye Bye Bayou (Moi J’Connais); Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman Hidden People (Navigator); R.U.T.A. Na Uschod (Karrot Kommando); Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars Radio Salone (Cumbancha ); Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis Greekadelia (Riverboat); The Touré-Raichel Collective The Tel Aviv Session (Cumbancha); Warsaw Village Band Nord (Jaro).
Reissues & Compilations Of 2012
1. Various Artists The Voice Of The People: I’m A Romany Rai (Topic)
2. Various Artists The Voice Of The People: You Never Heard So Sweet (Topic)
3. Peter Bellamy The Barrack Room Ballads Of Rudyard Kipling (Fellside)
4. Sory Kandia Kouyate La Voix De La Revolution (Sterns)
5. Woody Guthrie Woody At 100 (Smithsonian Folkways)
6.= Various Cumbia Cumbia 1 & 2 (World Circuit)
Various Songs For Desert Refugees (Glitterhouse Records)
Hedy West Accompanying Herself On The 5-String Banjo/Volume 2 (Ace/Vanguard)
9.= Various Diablos Del Ritmo (Analog Africa)
Various The Original Sound Of Cumbia (Soundway)
11.= Sarah Makem The Voice Of The People: The Heart Is True (Topic)
Various Weirdlore (Folk Police)
13. Martyn Bennett Aye (Long Tale)
Various The Voice Of The People: Good People Take Warning – Ballads Sung By British & Irish Traditional Singers (Topic)
15.= John Jacob Niles The Boone-Tolliver Recordings (L.M. Dupli-cation)
Various Make It Your Sound, Make It Your Scene – Vanguard Records & The 1960s Musical Revolution (Ace/Vanguard)
Runners Up (alphabetically): The Funkees Dancing Time – The Best Of Nigeria’s Afro Rock Exponents 1973-77 (Soundway); Fela Kuti Live In Detroit 1986 (Strut); Tim Maia Nobody Can Live Forever (Luaka Bop); Royal Band De Thiès Kadior Demb (Teranga Beat); Le Super Borgou De Parakou The Bariba Sound (Analog Africa); Various Nordic Woman (Grappa); Various Sofrito: International Soundclash (Strut); Various World Routes On The Road (Nascente); Various Electric Eden (Universal); Various Ethiosonic (Buda Musique); Various The Rough Guide To Music Of Hungary (Rough Guide).
Best Packaged Albums Of 2012
1. Bellowhead Broadside (Navigator)
2. Woody Guthrie Woody At 100 – The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection (Smithsonian Folkways)
3. Lau Race The Loser (Reveal)
4. Various The Voice Of The People: I’m A Romany Rai – Songs By Southern English Gypsy Traditional Singers (Topic)
5=. R.U.T.A. Na Uschod (Karrot Kommando)
The Shee Murmurations (Shee)
Runners up (alphabetically): Bella Hardy The Dark Peak & The White (NOE); Caroline Herring Camilla (Signature Sounds); Aysenur Kolivar Bahçeye Hanzmeli (Kalan); Sory Kandia Kouyate La Voix De La Revolution (Sterns); Tom Paley Roll On, Roll On (Hornbeam); Emily Portman Hatchling (Furrow); Show Of Hands Wake The Union (Hands On Music); Le Super Borgou De Parakou The Bariba Sound (Analog Africa); Various Cumbia Cumbia 1 & 2 (World Circuit); Various The Nile: The Song Of The Rivers (Accords Croisés); Various The Original Sound Of Cumbia (Soundway); Various The Voice Of The People: Good People Take Warning – Ballads Sung By British & Irish Traditional Singers (Topic); Various The Voice Of The People: You Never Heard So Sweet – Songs by Southern English Traditional Singers (Topic); Wu Man & Master Musicians From The Silk Route Music Of Central Asia Vol 10 (Smithsonian Folkways).
Editor’s Choice Album Of 2012
1. Hladowski & Joynes The Wild Wild Berry (Bo’ Weavil)
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 •
Come Write Me Down