Here are my picks for the Top 10 folk-rooted or folk-branched albums of 2022. As in past years, I started with the list of hundreds of new albums (including reissues) that I listened to over the past year and narrowed it down to a short list of about 30. I’ve been over the short list several times over the past couple of weeks and came up with several similar – not identical – Top 10 lists. 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. Lenka Lichtenberg – Thieves of Dreams/Zloději snů (Six Degrees). The songs on Lenka Lichtenberg’s very poignant and very powerful album, Thieves of Dreams/Zloději snů are settings of poems written by Anna Hana Friesová, her maternal grandmother, while she was a prisoner in the Terezin concentration camp in what was then Czechoslovakia during the Second World War and the Holocaust.
2. Eliza Gilkyson – Songs from the River Wind (Howlin’ Dog). On Songs from the River Wind, Eliza Gilkyson sings songs – some newly written, some older, and some adapted from traditional folksongs – about the part of the West where she’s spent much of her life. She visits such themes as the life of woman who is a travelling musician, and the environment.
3. Mountain City Four – Mountain City Four (Omnivore). The Mountain City Four – Anna McGarrigle, the late Kate McGarrigle, the late Jack Nissenson, and Peter Weldon – is a legendary Montreal folk group of the 1960s. The Mountain City Four never recorded an album back in the day but Peter Weldon has assembled this CD from live recordings and home demos that show how compelling the Four were as a group and where Kate and Anna came from, musically, when they emerged as superb singer-songwriters in the ‘70s.
4. John McCutcheon – Leap! (Appalsongs). In Leap! veteran folksinger, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon offers a superb collection of insightful, often-poignant and occasionally-funny songs that have much to say about the state of the world and human relations. Among the highlights is “The Third Way,” the true story of a refugee – John’s father-in-law – and his brilliant and funny response to a conundrum with a wise lesson for us all. Another is “Second Hand,” inspired by the passing of Holocaust survivor and educator Esther Cohen, a stark reminder that as survivors pass on, it becomes our collective responsibility to keep their memories and lessons alive as antisemitism and fascism rise again in the contemporary world.
5. Happy Traum – There’s a Bright Side Somewhere (Lark’s Nest Music). On There’s a Bright Side Somewhere, Happy Traum, a six-decade veteran of the folk scene offers a great set that encompasses several instrumentals, traditional folksongs, and songs of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, Brownie McGhee and Blind Willie McTell. One of my favorites is “Love Song to a Girl in an Old Photograph,” an original song he first recorded with his late brother, Artie Traum, more than a half-century ago.
6. Loudon Wainwright III – Lifetime Achievement (StorySound). 53 years since he released his first LP, Loudon Wainwright III has released one of his best albums of original material: a witty, poignant look at life, relationships, regrets, and, yes, achievement, from a mature perspective of someone who has reached age 75, an age that neither of his parents achieved. While there’s occasionally a full band sound, most of the songs are presented with the kind acoustic arrangements that bring out the best in the lyrics and folk-rooted melodies.
7. Various Artists – Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen (Y&T Music). A finely curated 3-CD, 42-track set, including a few previously released recordings, Tribute to a Songpoet: Songs of Eric Andersen is a great homage to the veteran singer-songwriter Eric Andersen. The repertoire ranges from folk-era classics like “Thirsty Boots,” sung by Bob Dylan, “Waves of Freedom,” sung by The Kennedys, and “Violets of Dawn,” sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter, to contemporary topical songs like “Rain Falls Down in Amsterdam,” sung by Willie Nile, “Eyes of the Immigrant,” sung by Lucy Kaplansky, and “Trouble in Paris,” sung by Robert Aaron. Other highlights include Dom Flemons’ version of “Song to J.C.B.” and versions of many of the songs from Eric’s classic album, Blue River.
8. James Keelaghan – Second-Hand (Borealis). Long one of Canada’s finest, and most dynamic singer-songwriters, Second-Hand is an outstanding collection that finds James offering original songs, including co-writes with Lynn Miles, Catherine MacLennan, JD Edwards and Cara Luft (The Small Glories), Dave Gunning, Coco Love Alcorn and his old Compadres partner Oscar Lopez. There is also James’ excellent translation of the Italian song, “La Cattiva Strada,” and a wonderful version of Jesse Winchester’s nostalgic “Eulalie.”
9. Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne – Blues from Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon (Stony Plain). There were several great blues albums released in 2022, but my favorite is pianist-singer Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne’s tribute to the wonderful and enduring classic duo recordings of pianist Memphis Slim and bassist Willie Dixon from the early-1960s. With the strong collaboration of Russell Jackson on acoustic bass and vocals, and drummer Joey DiMarco, Wayne’s versions of these songs are compelling, infectious, and delightful.
10. Amy Speace- Tuscon (Windbone). This short album – seven songs, 28 minutes – is Amy Speace’s profoundly moving coming-to-terms with the trauma she suffered from sexual assault when she was young. While there are understandable expressions of anger resulting from the harrowing experience, this is ultimately an album of healing and redemption.
I will be featuring songs from each of these albums on Stranger Songs, Tuesday December 27, 3:30-5 pm (ET), on CKCU. The program is already available 24/7 for on-demand streaming at this link.
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Brilliant pick. Will pos on Facebook when this show post appearsion FOLK DJ. Thank you, Mike!ReplyDelete
Mike, I am honored beyond words that you have chosen my CD for this "Top Ten" list, especially as I am in such heady company. Thanks so much!ReplyDelete