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Albums Of The Year

Critics Poll 2016

Our international panel pick the best of 2016 in the 31st annual fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year. Ian Anderson takes a look at the results.

I don’t know about you, but I reckon that’s a very well balanced selection which our expert panel has made, across genres, nationalities, ages and gender (there are six solo albums by women in the top twelve, three of them over 75!) There has been such a lot of good music released this year and whittling their choices down to the six new albums, four compilations/re-issues/historical sets and three ‘best packaged’ that we ask them to nominate must have been a particularly difficult task.

After 30 years of doing it the same way, we introduced a small tweak this year. As well as those straight nominations which got each one a point, we asked our panellists to mark just one per category as their overall favourite which gained it an extra point in the adding up. This was really just an experiment to try and separate out the close-calls we’ve had some years, but it was really successful and something we’ll keep doing. The winners and top few placings were all distinctly clear this time round: they would have been the same under the old system, just not by such wide margins, and lower down everything was clearer too.

We did some coppicing of the panellists this year as well, quietly dropping those who hadn’t bothered to vote for some years, and researching and adding a sizeable bunch of new ones – the result of which was that the ‘turnout’ was substantially higher. Basically, the people who we ask to vote are writers, broadcasters, promoters, musicians, activists and people in the business. They have widely varying tastes and specialist expertise, but the important thing is that taken together they are certain to have heard far more of the year’s album releases than any member of the public. So whereas public votes tend to simply mirror what has sold the most (plus who has the best organised social media and mailing list!), this really is based on well-informed views and a lot of them. As well as being bigger than any other we know of, it’s also an international panel – 30 percent are from outside the UK, largely in mainland Europe and North America.

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. I don’t know about you, but even I always spot something I missed when the results come in – money has already been spent. And that, dear readers, is the main point of the exercise – not just to hand out a few gongs but to get you enthused with more new discoveries.

I have to admit that until the votes start piling up, most years I simply don’t have a clue what’s going to win. But this year was different. When Colin Irwin began his review of Shirley Collins’ first album for 35 years with the words “So that’s the album of the year sorted then,” he was simply stating what we already knew the moment the advance copies of this remarkable (and deserving) winner hit our players. Congratulations to Shirley and producer Ian Kearey. And I had a pretty good inkling when Stern’s fabulous East African compilation and Dust-To-Digital’s Morocco box turned up too. Both hard to beat!

And finally, my Editor’s Choice. Noting that a tendency of many other magazines and web sites was to have only one or two people making their picks, I didn’t see why I should be left out! But I also felt that there should be an award reserved for the smallest of independent imprints, often artist-run labels that many of our big panel simply won’t come across. And this year it goes to Alden, Patterson & Dashwood, a great new trio from Norwich who Sarah Coxson already gave a rave review to and Tim Chipping is excited about in our Root Salad pages this issue (it’s not just me, see!). You can also hear them on this issue’s fRoots 62 compilation, and they’re one of the early names announced for next summer’s Sidmouth Folk Week.

Get those wallets out then!

Winners 1986-2016


New Albums Of 2016

Album Winner 2016 Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover

1. Shirley Collins Lodestar (From Here)
2. Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis Nyn (Riverboat)
3. Jim Moray Upcetera (NIAG)
4. Aziza Brahim Abbar El Hamada (Glitterbeat)
5. The Gloaming The Gloaming 2 (Real World)
6. Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker Overnight (Rough Trade)
7.= Maarja Nuut Une Meeles (Maarja Nuut)
      Refugees For Refugees Amerli (Muziekpublique)
9. The Furrow Collective Wild Hog (Hudson)
10. Leyla McCalla A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey (Jazz Village)
11. Elza Soares A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo (Mais Um Discos)
12. Calypso Rose Far From Home (Because)
13.= Leveret In The Round (RootBeat)
        Noura Mint Seymali Arbina (Glitterbeat)
15. Afro Celt Sound System The Source (ECC)
16. Bombino Azel (Knitting Factory)
17.= Lady Maisery Cycle (RootBeat);
        Lakou Mizik Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha)
19.= Kris Drever If Wishes Were Horses (Reveal)
        Orkesta Mendoza ¡Vamos A Guarachar! (Glitterbeat)

Runners Up (alphabetically): 9Bach Anian (Real World); Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour (Navigator); The Breath Carry Your Kin (Real World); Bush Gothic The Natural Selection Australian Songbook (Fydle); Jim Causley Forgotten Kingdom (Hands On Music); Daoiri Farrell True Born Irishman (Daoiri); Martin Green Flit (Reveal); Derek Gripper Libraries On Fire (Derek Gripper); Harp & A Monkey War Stories (Harp & A Monkey/Moonraker); Fay Hield Old Adam (Soundpost); Kayhan Kalhor, Aynur, Cemil Qocgiri & Salman Gambarov Hawniyaz (Harmonia Mundi); Nancy Kerr Instar (Little Dish); Konono No 1 Konono Meets Batida (Crammed); Las Hermanas Caronni Navega Mundos (Les Grands Fleuves); Mekons Existentialism (Bloodshot); Moussu T E Lei Jovents Navega! (Manivette); Julie Murphy Every Bird That Flies (Shells In The Ocean); Rant Reverie (Make Believe); Kaela Rowan The Fruited Thorn (Shoogle); Kate Rusby Life In A Paper Boat (Pure); Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage Before The Sun (Sungrazing); Anoushka Shankar Land Of Gold (Deutsche Grammophon); Songs Of Separation Songs Of Separation (Navigator); Ruth Theodore Cactacus (Aveline); Yorkston – Thorne – Khan Everything Sacred (Domino).

Reissues & Compilations Of 2016

Reissue/Compilation Winner 2016 Album cover
  Album cover Album cover Album cover
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1. Various Artists Urgent Jumping – East African Classics (Sterns)
2. Sandy Denny I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn (Island)
3. Various Artists Space Echo: The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed! (Analog Africa)
4. Bitori Legend Of Funaná : The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands (Analog Africa)
5. Various Artists Khmer Rouge Survivors: They Will Kill You, If You Cry (Glitterbeat)
6. Various Artists Music Of Morocco From The Library Of Congress (Dust To Digital)
7. Jon Boden Painted Lady (Navigator)
8. Various Artists It Was Mighty! (Topic)
9. Pentangle Finale (Topic)
10. Various Artists Every Song Has Its End: Sonic Dispatches From Traditional Mali (Glitterbeat)
11.= Oysterband This House Will Stand: The Best Of Oysterband 1998-2015 (Navigator)
       Various Artists The Ultimate Guide To English Folk (ARC)
13. Various Artists Why The Mountains Are Black: Primeval Greek Village Music 1907-1960 (Third Man)
14. Pat Thomas Coming Home (Strut)
15. Crows Time To Rise! (WildGoose)
16. Various Artists The Journey Continues – Fellside At 40 (Fellside)
17.= Various Artists The Rough Guide To Peru Rare Groove (World Music Network)
       Vieux Kanté The Young Man’s Harp (Sterns Africa)
19.= Various Artists It Was Great Altogether (Topic)
       Various Artists The Rough Guide To Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Anna & Elizabeth Sun To Sun (Free Dirt); The Druids Pastime With Good Company (Talking Elephant); Bert Jansch Avocet (Earth); Bert Jansch Rosemary Lane (Sanctuary); Fanfare Ciocarlia 20 (Asphalt Tango); Robb Johnson A Reasonable History Of Impossible Demands (Free Dirt); Steeleye Span Please To See The King (Talking Elephant); Sunburst Ave Africa (Strut); Various Artists God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator); Various Artists This Is Kologo Power (Makkum).

Best Packaged Albums Of 2016

Best Packaged Album 2016 Album cover

1. Various Artists Music Of Morocco From The Library Of Congress (Dust To Digital)
2. Kepa Junkera & Sorginak Maletak (Fol Musica)
3.= Edward II Manchester’s Improving Daily (Cadiz)
       Lady Maisery Cycle (RootBeat)
5. Pascuala Ilabaca Y Fauna Rey Loj (Petit Indie)
6. 9Bach Anian (Real World)
7. Various Artists: Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époch In Upper Volta (Numero Group)
8. Bellowhead Live: The Farewell Tour (Navigator)
9. Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater Findings (Story Records)
10. Various Artists It Was Mighty! (Topic)

Runners up (alphabetically): Bitori Legend Of Funaná : The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands (Analog Africa); Ian Campbell Folk Group The Complete Transatlantic Recordings (Cherry Red); Shirley Collins Lodestar (Domino); DagaDana Meridian 68 (Karrot Kommando); Bob Dylan The 1966 Live Recordings (Sony); Reem Kelani Live At The Tabernacle (Fuse); Nancy Kerr Instar (Little Dish); Moussu T E Lei Jovents Navega! (Manivette); Rachel Newton Here’s My Heart Come Take It (Shadowside); Stick In The Wheel Tales From St Jude’s, Bethnal Green (From Here); Tegie Chłopy Dansing (Muzyka Odnaleziona); Various Artists Urgent Jumping – East African Classics (Sterns); Washington Phillips Washington Phillips And His Manzarene Dream (Dust To Digital).

Editor’s Choice Of 2016

Editor’s Choice Album Of 2016 Album cover

Alden Patterson & Dashwood Call Me Home (AP&D)


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