Best of 2000
As much as I resisted coming up with a top 10 list, I couldn't resist. An incredible amount of great music was released this year. Here are my picks for the top new releases of the year. Links go to my CD reviews in the archive.
Best Releases of New Work
1. Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer,
Tanglewood Tree (Signature Sounds)
This duo from Portland, OR took the country by storm this year on the basis of their debut release on Signature Sounds. My favorite release of the year.
2. Jack Hardy, Omens (Prime-CD)
One satirical political anthem and another 60 minutes of beautifully crafted songs that draw deeply on Celtic traditions and the natural world.
3. The Nields, If You Lived
Here You Would Be Home Now (Zoe/Rounder)
4. Greg Brown, Covenant
More deep, dark songs of love and friendship and shadows falling on the American Midwest.
5. Dar Williams, The Green World (Razor and Tie)
Dar is back.
6. Peter Case, Flying Saucer Blues (Vanguard)
Americana has never been one of my favorites, but this album is.
7. Whirligig, Spin (Prime-CD)
Classic Celtic & NY Celtic - traditional and high-powered original instrumentals interspersed with achingly beautiful renditions of songs by the group's singer Lisa Mosciatello.
8. Patty Larkin, Regrooving
the Dream (Vanguard)
An ambitious, thematic album that haunts you listen after listen, though not as catchy as earlier material.
9. J.P. Jones. Back To Jerusalem (Indie)
These ambitious, poetic songs are given ambitious production reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's The Future, but using a home digital studio. The result is epic and intimate at the same time. 21st Century folk.
10. Rex McGee, 24 Creations for Solo Banjo (Indie)
You may never laugh at a banjo joke again. 24 exquisite pieces in every key.
Louise Taylor, Written In Red (Signature Sounds)
Most of the good singer-songwriters I know write better alone; a lot of the co-writing that goes on happens in Nashville where publishers pair up writers in their stables in the hope of producing a hit. They sometimes succeed, too, but nearly always at the price of artistic integrity. Louise Taylor has avoided this trap and found a group of co-writers who are not only very good but extremely compatible with her vision and style. The result is her best collection of songs so far.
Frank Morey, Father John's Medicine Show (IHM)
A great surprise. If Dan Bern is carrying on the Bob Dylan tradition, Frank Morey has apprenticed himself to Tom Waits. Great lyrics.Unusual vision.
Richard Shindell, Somewhere Near
Paterson (Signature Sounds)
Though I don't think it's his best work (compare both the songs or the production with his first CD, Sparrow's Point), his newest CD is one fine collection of songs. No one crafts them better.
Top 5 Re-releases or Releases of old material
Best of Broadside (Smithsonian)
Monroe Brothers What Would
You Give In Exchange for Your Soul? Vol. 1 (Rounder)
Classic early Bill Monroe - the combination of gospel and what became known as bluegrass.
Ochs The Early Years
The rawness of these live performances makes you feel you are there.
Tom Paxton Best of the
Vanguard Years (Vanguard)
It's easy to forget how many classics Paxton gave us, songs that sound traditional. Like the Ochs collection, these raw early performances capture the man in person.
John McCutcheon, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
Autoharp. Instrumentals.About Coffeehouse regular Don Shorock insisted on this one. By all accounts, it's a classic in the genre.
If you're interested, you can find Amazon.com's list of best releases and re-releases. For the record, I hadn't heard of most of their top new releases, but the descriptions for some look marginally like folk....
Amazon.com's Top 10 New Releases
Amazon.com's Top 10 Re-releases
Hugh Blumenfeld, Editor