Our international panel pick the best of 2017 in the 32nd annual fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year. Ian Anderson takes a look at the results.

A trio of virtuoso traditional musicians and a singer from West Africa collaborating with an adventurous American string quartet; a raw-to-the-bone Dublin band; an all-star English folk big band led by an inspirational singer/fiddler; and a specially assembled supergroup from a thrilling but under-exposed Albanian tradition. Few would dare suggest that the top placings in the 2017 fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year fail to give an exciting representation of the breadth and quality of releases being made out there in the world of folk and roots music.

It has been such a strong year that everything in the top 20 and beyond is exemplary and equally varied. This music may not be getting much mainstream recognition at the moment but that can’t be blamed on what’s been on show in 2017.

Similarly with Compilations, Re-issues & Historical Albums. Topped by an early 1970s English folk classic that has previously been cruelly treated but finally re-packaged in exemplary fashion; a lovingly assembled set of lost tapes from the Horn of Africa; an eye (and ear) opening revelation of the local music that got America-washed out of the record of the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’; and a staggeringly well remastered set of 1920s & ’30s American roots recordings like you’ve never heard before. And lots more.

It’s a shame that we’ve had to drop our Best Packaged Album category this year – only because many of our very large panel of writers, broadcasters, promoters, musicians, activists and people in the business from the UK and around the world complain that hard-stretched / tight-fisted (according to your viewpoint!) labels now only send out download or streaming links from which it’s impossible to judge the actual artefact. It’s fair to say that the top placings – especially in the Compilations & Re-issues but not exclusively so – would have stood a very good chance of scooping that Award too.

And finally, the Editor’s Choice. For the last six years this has been an extra award reserved for the smallest of independent and micro-imprints, usually artist-run labels that many of our big panel simply won’t come across. In the end it was a toss-up between the latest by weirdfolk flagwavers Sproatly Smith, the satisfyingly back-to-basics English folk of Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp (both heard on fRoots 67) and this year’s winner Tim Jones & The Dark Lanterns (who probably fall somewhere between them, musically, and actually include the aforementioned Ted). You can hear them on fRoots 66.

New Albums Of 2017

1. Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet Ladilikan (World Circuit)
2. Lankum Between The Earth And Sky (Rough Trade)
3. Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band Big Machine (Topic)
4. Saz’iso At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me – The Joys And Sorrows Of Southern Albanian Songs (Glitterbeat)
5. Oumou Sangaré Mogoya (No Format)
6. Offa Rex Queen Of Hearts (Nonesuch)
7. Rhiannon Giddens Freedom Highway (Nonesuch)
8. Orchestra Baobab Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit)
9. Leveret Inventions (RootBeat)
10. Lisa Knapp Till April Is Dead (Ear To The Ground)
11. Canzionere Grecanico Salentino Canzionere (Ponderosa)
12= Martin Simpson Trails And Tribulations (Topic)
The Young ’Uns Strangers (Hereteu)
14. Gwyneth Glyn Tro (Bendigedig)
15. Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys Pretty Peggy (Navigator)
16= Jack Rutter Hills (Jack Rutter)
Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics II (Beeswing)
18. Julie Fowlis Alterum (Machair)
19= Girma Bèyènè & Akalé Wubé Éthiopiques 30: Mistakes On Purpose (Buda Musique)
Kries Selo Na Akuke (Village Tracks) (Riverboat)
Dimitris Mystakidis Amerika (Fishbowl)
Toko Telo Toy Raha Toy (Anio)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Aurelio Darandi (Real World); Blue Rose Code The Water Of Leith (Navigator); Jon Boden Afterglow(Hudson Records); Edgelarks Edgelarks (Dragonfly); Chris Foster Hadelin (Funi); Rayna Gellert Workin’s Too Hard (Storysound); Inna De Yard The Soul Of Jamaica (Inna da Yard); Jupiter & Okwess Kin Sonic (Glitterbeat); Maija Kauhanen Raivopryörä (Nordic Notes); La Mambanegra El Callegüeso Y Su Mala Maña (Movimientos); Dona Onete Banzeiro (Mais Um Discos); Robert Plant Carry Fire(Nonesuch); Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp The Poacher’s Fate (Laura Smyth & Ted Kemp); Tootard Laissez Passer (Glitterbeat); SabîlZabad/Twilight Tides (Harmonia Mundi/Latitudes); Msafiri Zawose Uhamiaji (Soundway).

Reissues & Compilations Of 2017

1. Mike & Lal Waterson Bright Phoebus (Domino)
2. Various Artists Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From The Horn Of Africa (Ostinato)
3. Various Artists Zaire 74 – The African Artists (Wrasse)
4. Various Artists American Epic (Sony Legacy)
5. Anne Briggs The Time Has Come (Earth)
6= Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band No Roses (Talking Elephant)
Various Artists Oté Maloya: The Birth Of Electric Maloya On Réunion Island 1975- 1986 (Strut)
Various Artists Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat Of Cameroon 1976–1984 (Analog Africa)
9= Lau Decade: The Best Of Lau 2007–2017 (Lau)
Various Artists An Anthology Of Mongolian Khöömi (Buda Musique)
11. Fairport Convention Come All Ye: First Ten Years 1968–1978 (Island/Universal)
12. Derroll Adams Feelin’ Fine (Ghosts From The Basement)
13= Bert Jansch Living In The Shadow (Earth)
Various Artists Andina: The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968–1978 (Strut)
Various Artists The Real Sound Of Folk Music (Topic)
16= Carolanne Pegg Carolanne Pegg (Esoteric)
Shirley Collins An Introduction To Shirley Collins (Topic)
18= Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda: World Spirituality Classics Vol 1 – The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane(Luaka Bop)
Rubén González Introducing Rubén González (World Circuit)
Various Artists Synthesise The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973–1988(Ostinato)

Runners Up (alphabetically): Bob Dylan Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol 13 1979–1981 (Columbia); Jon Hassell Dream Theory In Malaga (taktil); Mariem Hassan La Voz Indómita (Del Sáhara Occidental) (Nubenegra); Pentangle The Albums (Cherry Red); Shake The Chains Shake The Chains (Quercus); Various Artists Abatwa (The Pygmy): Why Did We Stop Growing Tall? (Glitterbeat); Various ArtistsCaribbean In America 1915–1962 (Frémeaux & Associés); Various Artists Even A Tree Can Shed Tears (Light In The Attic); Various Artists Krishna In Spring (ARC Music); Various Artists Milk Of The Tree: Anthology Of Female Vocal Folk & Singer-Songwriters 1966-73(Grapefruit); Various Artists Original Sound Of Mali (Mr Bongo); Various Artists The Photographs Of Charles Duvelle (Sublime Frequencies); Gillian Welch Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg (Acony)

Editor’s Choice Of 2017

Tim Jones & The Dark Lanterns Blossom & Fruit (Tim Jones Music)

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