Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 13 for 2013

Here are my picks for the Top 13 folk-rooted or folk-branched albums of 2013 (including reissues). As in past years, I started with the list of more than 400 albums that landed on my desk over the past year and narrowed it down to a short list of about 30. I’ve been over the short list a bunch of times and came up with several similar – not identical – Top 13 lists. As I’m about to take a break from blogging until January, today’s list is the final one. The order might have been slightly different, and there are several other worthy albums that might have been included, had one of the other lists represented the final choice.

1. Tom Russell & the Norwegian Wind Ensemble – Aztec Jazz (Frontera). Tom Russell raises the art of the live album to a new level by stunningly reimagining 11 of his songs for voice, two guitars and a chamber orchestra mostly consisting of brass and woodwind instruments

2. Dave Van Ronk – Down in Washington Square: The
Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Smithsonian Folkways). A 3-CD collection that includes Dave’s early LPs for Folkways (the period that inspired Inside Llewyn Davis) as well as his contributions to the Fast Folk collections, live tracks from across the decades, and his final, previously unreleased studio recordings. All of it is essential listening.

3. Laura Smith – Everything is Moving (Borealis). A beautiful and inspiring return to form 16 years after Laura’s last album. A subtext of redemption, of recovery, of coming to terms with the hurdles of life flows through many of these songs.

4. Lynn Miles – Downpour (Lynn Miles). An intimate album of
songs that poetically and melodically capture human loneliness, chosen and not, conflict and conflict resolution, communication and lack-of-communication and much more.

5. Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (Columbia/Legacy). These Dylan songs, traditional folksongs and songs written by other songwriters – including my friends Tom Paxton and Eric Andersen – show how creative and interesting Dylan’s work of that period was and re-enforces my oft-stated opinion that most of Dylan’s work is very much part of the great folk continuum that reaches back to what Greil Marcus has called the “old weird America” of folksongs, blues and minstrelsy from the 19th and early-20th centuries, and which continues through and beyond the folk revival of the 1950s and ‘60s.

6. Various Artists – Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center (Legacy). This CD and
DVD combination documents a truly wonderful concert that included performances of some of Woody’s best known classics as well as a few of the great new songs that have been created in recent years when contemporary composers have set Woody’s previously-unknown words to music.

7. Various Artists – Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the works of Kate McGarrigle (Nonesuch). A 2-CD collection of various friends and family members singing Kate McGarrigle songs plus a few more from her repertoire and a tribute song by Emmylou Harris, all recorded at tribute concerts in London, New York and Toronto.

8. Diana Jones – Museum of Appalachia Recordings (Proper).
Recorded in a cabin in Tennessee, these are all Diana’s own songs but all of them ring with the authenticity of traditional folk songs.

9. Tom Russell – Museum of Memories Vol. 2: 1972-2013 (Frontera). A collection of great, but previously unreleased rarities, including studio sessions, demos and live tracks recorded over a four decade span by one of the finest songwriters of our time.

10. Eric Bibb – Jericho Road (Stony Plain). Yet another set of
inspired and inspiring original blues and folk-rooted songs – some with soul and world music influences – from a masterful singer, songwriter and guitarist.

11. David Francey – So Say We All (Laker). Many of these songs reflect a period of depression in what David notes had been “a very difficult year.” But even when he’s singing about darkness, there is much to learn and understand about the human spirit – and that is a mark of great songwriting.

12. Guy Davis – Juba Dance (M.C.). One of Guy’s best albums,
Juba Dance ranges through various styles from jug band to delta blues to gospel and old-time music in a set that is both a homage to Guy’s musical forebears and a crucial contribution to keeping this music a vital component of contemporary music.

13. Pharis & Jason Romero – Long Gone Out West Blues (Lula). One of my favorite discoveries of the year is this husband-and-wife duo from British Columbia who perform remarkable interpretations of traditional old-time songs and write equally great original material that is solidly in-the-tradition.

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--Mike Regenstreif

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for including me in such fine company, Mike!