FolkWorld's best CDs 2001
Dai Woosnam's Top 5 Folk CDs - A commentary
A year which produced lots of CDs you'd be happy to receive in your Christmas stocking, but few that you would worry about saving should the house catch on fire.
But I think I can just about find five that really DO stand out from the crowd, and are worth going to the barricades for.
Of course, I suffer from the lamentable "English Disease" of speaking just two languages: Good and Bad ENGLISH. Thus a whole gamut of FOLK song - though not of course instrumental music - is "lost" to me. Whereas I am a true European in my taste for celluloid - Pedro Almodóvar, François Truffaut, Werner Herzog, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Ingmar Bergman, Miklós Jancsó, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Jiri Menzel, all helped in giving me a taste for Spanish, French, German, Polish, Swedish, Hungarian, Italian, Russian and Czech cinema, respectively - the opposite is the case in SONG. And until the day comes when I become a polyglot, or they invent the subtitle that appears inside your eyelids as you close your eyes to listen to a singer singing in a foreign language, then I regret that such material will remain a "closed door" to me.
Which is a pity. Because that means that I am only susceptible to the charms of a small sector of the Folk market.
So that said, let me get down to business with my 5 CDs of the year. It was a year when big names like Kate Rusby, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Eric Bogle, and Alistair Hulett all brought out new releases, but none of them quite make my top 5, which I now (in the best Miss World beauty pageant tradition) will list in reverse order.
In fifth place is a Greentrax CD that gently appealed to me when I reviewed it back in the Summer. However, I have played it more-and-more since then, and it has really won a place in my heart. I refer to "CAVE OF GOLD" , Celtic lullabies by Lynn Morrison (CDTRAX212). The fact that some of the stuff is in Scots Gaelic does not contradict my previous comments! You see, these are LULLABIES, and thus the secret of appreciating them is to REGRESS to the state of being TWO YEARS OLD again! Ha! (And remember, at that age, you did not know what most words meant!)
In fourth place is a new CD by one of Britain's great "undiscovered" songwriters. I refer to Dave Evardson. (Actually, he is not TOTALLY undiscovered: recent CDs by Vin Garbutt, Johnny Collins and Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher have all featured a different song of his; but ask the average London folk aficionado who he is, and they will inevitably respond with "Dave WHO?" His album "Crosby Road" on the little-known Grimsby Audio Arts label, has some deadwood (what album does NOT?), but has a handful of very strong self-penned songs, beautifully performed by Dave and wife Julie.
In third place is "Midnight Feast" by Denny Bartley (Aloft Records, CD004). Readers may know him for his work with Last Night's Fun. He is an extraordinary singer. How to describe him? Well, I guess, and IRISH FLAMENCO SINGER, is as close as I can get!
No he does NOT sing Flamenco, but he has the VOICE and INTENSITY (not to mention LOOKS!) of a guy born in a little place to the south of Limerick called…..SEVILLE. Ha! A truly compelling singer who stamps his identity on everything he sings.
In second place is "The Bramble Briar" by the great Martin Simpson (Topic Records TSCD513). Such a supremely individualistic guitar player: you can tell it is him within ten seconds. How many other guitar stylists can you say that about? This has him revisiting several fine well-known songs, and giving them the Simpson makeover. He is a very authoritative SINGER to boot. In most years this might take the laurels. But not in 2001.
For in first place, by some margin, is not just the "Album of the YEAR", but of ANY OTHER YEAR too! I refer to "COME WRITE ME DOWN: Early Recordings of The Copper Family of Rottingdean" (Topic Records TSCD534). Classic traditional songs, magnificently sung from the heart, and going straight to the heart.
It is head, shoulders AND TORSO above the competition.
Dai Woosnam 12-12-01.
To the FolkWorld Best CDs 2001 - Staff's choice
The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 01/2002
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