By Ross Altman

Note to the Reader: I strongly believe in the power of live music to best express what an artist has to offer. 


We live in an age of digital magic; so many studio effects are now routinely used to enhance a recording I don’t believe a song until I hear it live! 


Year in Review 2016:

When the Light Fades and the Darkness Descends, Music Provides the Balm

By Tom Cheyney

Omara Bombino Moctar In a year when the stark seriousness of political upheaval, climate carnage, and death’s relentless inexorability oft had the upper hand in our vertiginous world, let us take sustenance from the music that kept us nourished. From the algorithmically shuffled iTunes playlist finding just the right songs to those transcendental live moments in the nightclub, concert space and living room when space-time wobbled and our spirits leapt, the music kept doing what it always has—provide the balmic soundtrack that helps make life worth living.




















-->Click for DETAILS



1. Live and Recording: Söndörgő

2. Live and Recording: Pascal Gemme

3. Film: This Ain’t No Mouse Music

4. Live: Angelique Kidjo

5. Live: DakhaBrakha

6. Live and DVD: Rafe and Clelia Stefanini

7. Live: Honey Whiskey Trio

8. Recording: Duhks

9. Live and Recording: Donna Lynn Caskey

10. Live: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Read more: FOLKWORKS TOP TEN 2014


By Ross Altman

1. Stefan Grossman at the Fret House January 2—The Picking Fool From Kicking Mule;

2. David Bromberg at McCabe’s March 16—Who Put the Jangle in Mr. Bojangles?

3. Keb Mo at the Grammy May 14—Straight Out of Compton.

4. Only in America: Rodriguez at the Greek May 30

5. Eric Andersen, Van Dyke Parks and Thou Beside Me at McCabe’s June 7

6. Theodore Bikel at the Saban Theatre June 16 - Homage to Theo

7. Joan Baez and Ginger at the Greek Theatre July 3—When Bad Things Happen to Good Dogs

8. Richard Thompson Played Read Good for Free at the Levitt Pavilion in McArthur Park July 10

9. Don McLean and Judy Collins at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside July 25—A Thing of Beauty

10. Gordon Lightfoot at the Saban Theatre September 27—Down and Out in Beverly Hills

11. John Prine at the Greek Theatre October 5—Happy Birthday, John Prine

12. Bob Dylan at the Dolby Theatre October 24 —Dillon in Dodge

13. Michael Chapdelaine at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music November 18—Michael Chapdelaine’s Guitar Rides With Him

14. Dirk Hamilton at the Alva Showroom in San Pedro November 22—Dirk Hamilton: Reconsider Me—How Warren Zevon’s Roadkill Became L.A.’s White Rodriquez

15. Merle Haggard at the Canyon Club December 9—For Merle Haggard On My Birthday;

16. Cat Stevens-Yusuf at Nokia Theatre LA Live December 14—No Sex, No Drugs, No Rock and Roll: Got Folk?



1. Album: Sailing over the 7th String – Tim Edey.

2. Album: Sound of Taransay – Phil MacLennan Smillie.

3. Album: Hebrides: Islands on the Edge – Donald Shaw, composer.

4. Album: Squall – Adam Sutherland.

5. Album: Bass and Mandolin – Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer.

6. Album: Tell ‘Em I’m Gone – Yusuf.

7. Film: Twenty Feet from Stardom.

8. Magazine: The Living Tradition.

9. Book: Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo.

20. Live Gig and Album: The Dardanelles.

Read more: LINDA DEWAR’S TOP TEN 2014




Bass & Mandolin -  Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer


Mano A Mano - Tangos A La Manera De Vicente Fernández - Vicente Fernández


Más + Corazón Profundo - Carlos Vives


A Feather's Not A Bird - Rosanne Cash


A Feather's Not A Bird - Rosanne Cash


The River & The Thread - Rosanne Cash


The Earls Of Leicester - The Earls Of Leicester


Step Back - Johnny Winter


Remedy - Old Crow Medicine Show


The Legacy - Jo-El Sonnier


Eve - Angelique Kidjo


The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 - Colin Escott & Cheryl Pawelski, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer (Hank Williams)

Read more: 2014 Grammy Winners

FolkScene’s Ten Best 2013

Read more: FolkScene’s Ten Best 2013

Mother Hen’s Best of 2013

Read more: MOTHER HEN’S BEST of 2013

2013 Grammy Nominees and Winners (noted in RED)

Of Interest To FolkWorks Readers










Read more: 2013 Grammy Nominees and Winners

TOP TEN CDs of 2012

By Dave Soyars

1.         Carolina Chocolate DropsLeaving Eden

Carolina_Chocolate_DropsIt’s not often any artist will make my top spot more than once, let alone twice within three years; there are plenty that impressed me enormously at first and then didn’t develop beyond their one good idea (see: Sons, Mumford &). The CCDs are not only starting from a very rich tradition, but have already established their ability to look outside it as well. They still apply it to contemporary songs, only this time the title track is from the workers song tradition rather than an R&B or Tom Waits cover, but there’s just as much from the African-American string band tradition, as well as vocals both brassy and sweet and sharp instrumentalism. Three-peat? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Read more: Dave Soyars - Top 10 2012


  1. Rose Room – Rose Room  (Artist, CD & Live Gig)
    Swing jazz with a dash of western swing. A new band made up of seasoned professionals. Their first CD is a winner, and their live gigs are supercharged with energy that has the audience dancing in their seats.
  2. Nick Keir – The Edge of Night (CD)
    If you told me I could keep only one of the CDs I’ve acquired during 2012, this would be the one.
  3. Blackwaterside - Blythe and Merry (CD)
    recorded live in a concert presented by San Diego Folk Heritage. Their arrangements breathe new life into familiar songs and tunes.

Read more: LINDA DEWAR TOP TEN 2012


  1. Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection – (CD)(Smithsonian Folkways)
    [2X Grammy Nominee]
  2. Bob Dylan Tempest – (CD)(Columbia Records)
  3. Stephen Wade Banjo Diary - (CD)(Smithsonian Folkways) [Grammy Nominee]

Read more: ROSS ALTMAN TOP TEN 2012


  1. Crooked Jades - Soundtrack for Bright Land with Kate Weare Company (CD); Live September 7 at The Echoplex.
    We’ve heard the Crooked Jades over the years with different band configurations and the current one really works. The little we’ve seen of their collaboration with the Kate Weare dance company is amazing. We hope that they can bring the show out west in 2013.
  2. Jen Hajj - I of the Storm (CD)
    We met Jen at the FAR-West conference in Irvine this past October. Her 2011 CD was a standout and we look forward to her upcoming release.
  3. Lunasa - Live November 17 at Caltech Public Events (Beckman).
    Although we’ve heard them before and have enjoyed their CDs for years, the balance of the sets of the group and as individual players was superb. Perhaps because we were sitting in the balcony but this was the first time that we thought the sound at Beckman was great.


Amy Reitnouer

(Bluegrass Situation)

  1. Punch BrothersWho’s Feeling Young Now
    I wonder how long it will take for people to realize just how genius this group is. PB's latest effort is both progressive and innovative yet derivative of several historic genres. I go deeper down the rabbit hole with every listen (listen to "Moonshiner" from their latest EP Ahoy! if there's still a doubt in your mind....).
  2. John FullbrightFrom the Ground Up
    This Oklahoma native is the real deal. Honestly had to pull the car over the first time I heard his music on NPR's Fresh Air.
  3. Black PrairieA Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart
    Excellent bluegrass/old time side project from the members of the Decemberists. The record is incredibly atmospheric, haunting and beautiful.


Tom Cheyney’s Top Ten

(in no particular order)

1.      Aurelio, Laru Beya (Next Ambiance)

Lovely soft intensity and groove from Garifuna music’s torchbearer honors the passing of Andy Palacio, with guest turns from new mentor and presidential candidate (in Senegal), Youssou N’Dour.

2.      Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)

Bygone icon seeks reinvention. Paulie’s best since Graceland ponders life, death, love with tastily organic sonic palette. 

3.      June Tabor and the Oysterband, Ragged Kingdom (Topic)

The gloriously gloomy Ms. Tabor joins up with the Oysters for more neo-Anglo folk-frak: Highlights include Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” transformed into English country standard.

4.      Various, Red Hot and Rio 2 (Entertainment One)

Double-album raises money for a noble cause and gives refreshing pause with slew of interpretive Brazilianisms from homies and foreigners alike.

5.      Yemen Blues at the Troubadour, March 6

Read more: Tom Cheyney's Top Ten - 2012

Jackie Morris

  1. Evie Ladin - Evie Ladin Band
  2. Ernest TroostLive at McCabes & Concert at McCabes Guitar Shop, Jan. 6, 2012
  3. The Crooked JadesBright Land



  1. Andrew BirdBreak It Yourself (CD) (Mom & Pop Music)
    The hard-to-pigeonhole Bird has been flitting around the edge of my personal playlist for years, but with this wonderful album, he finally got my complete attention. Drop-dead neo-old-timey gorgeous Danse Caribe and plucky trans-Atlantic fiddle confab Orpheo Looks Back are among the tasty morsels on this sonic buffet.
  2. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden (CD ) (Nonesuch); Live April 6 UCLA Royce Hall
    Rhiannon Giddens’ beguiling force o’ nature vocals would have been enough to satisfy this happy camper, but the ensemble playing and individual virtuosity begat fuller enjoyment, in a concert both entertaining and educational. Their 21st-century rendering of the African-American string-band tradition lives strong on stage and on their latest—and now Grammy-nominated—album.
  3. I See Hawks in L.A. - New Kind of Lonely (CD)(Western Seeds)
    L.A. hometown heroes knock one out of the park on group’s first full-length foray into (im)pure American acousticism. Their eccentric-smart songwriting chops (sense of place, yo!), comradely harmonies, and mind-meld chops flow in full effect throughout, with Bohemian Highway,Your Love Is Going to Kill Me, and Highland Park Serenade among the storytelling gems. (Full disclosure: I’m sort of an assistant executive producer on this, as I contributed to the group’s Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign.)

Read more: TOM CHEYNEY TOP TEN 2012


1. Laurie Lewis Skipping And Flying" Spruce And Maple Music

2. Stan Rogers Fogarty's Cove Borealis Records

3. Battlefield Band Line Up Temple Records

4. John McCutcheon This Land - Woody Guthrie's America

5. Tommy Sands Arising From The Troubles Spring Records

6. Cherish The Ladies Country Crossroads The Nashville Sessions Big Mammy Records

7. John Doyle Shadow And Light Compass Records

8. La Bottine Souriante Appelation D'Origine Controlée Borealis Records

9. Dave Alvin Eleven Eleven" Yep Roc Records

10. Martin Simpson Purpose + Grace Topic Records

That is it folks.  Happy New Year

Linda Dewar’s Top Ten

* CD: Daniel ThorpeThe Curiosity Shop

* Artist: Innes Watson – guitarist, fiddler, singer, composer/arranger.He’s innovative and interesting, and was just named Instrumentalist of the Year at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards.

* Event: Perthshire Amber Festival – organized by Dougie Maclean. This festival gets better every year. If you plan a visit to Scotland, try to come in the fall and take in the concerts, workshops, hill walks, and sessions.

* Concert: Greentrax 25th Anniversary Concert – 25 years of the definitive Celtic music record label, celebrated by some of the best folk and traditional recording artists in Scotland.

* CD: SyncopathsFive Gears

* Live gig: Nick Keir – live at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A tiny wee venue with a tiny wee stage and Nick at his best. I miss the McCalmans, but the solo stuff that he’s writing is brilliant, and I can hardly wait to hear his new solo CD.

* CD: Ciaran DorrisHome

* CD: ManranManran Album of the year at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards

Read more: Linda Dewar’s Top Ten 2011

Acoustic NAMM, Winter 2011

Third in a series of annual reports exclusive to Folkworks

By Larry Rosenberg


Two Old Hippies again exhibited at The Winter NAMM Show, 2011
(photo by Susan Rosenberg)

As I toured the vast acres of musical product exhibits and entertainment at the 2011 Winter NAMM Show along with 90,114 other registered attendees at the Anaheim Convention Center, in Southern California, on January 13th through the 16th, 2011, it was easy to "Believe in Music," and to think that music just might be the answer to the problems of the world after all, or at least be an essential tool in solving them.

NAMM stands for “National Association of Music Merchants,” but despite NAMM's continued use of the acronym, the organization is now named "International Music Products Association," to more accurately reflect its worldwide scope, and to complement its motto, "Believe in Music."


Read more: Acoustic NAMM Winter 2011

Linda Dewar’s Top Ten

1.         Live gig: Crooked Still at Perthshire Amber festival
2.         Live gig: Julie Fowlis at Perthshire Amber festival
3.         CD: Duncan Chisholm, Canaich
4.         Artists/CD/Live gigs: The McCalmans. /p>
5.         Venue: Glenfarg Folk Club.
6.         CD: The Poozies, Yellow Like Sunshine
7.         CD: Yo-yo Ma & Friends, Songs of Joy & Peace.
8.         Tune Book: Blair Douglas, Manran (A Music Collection).
9.         CD: Carolina Chocolate Drops: Genuine Negro Jig
10.       Artist: Anna Massie.

Read more: Linda Dewar’s Top Ten 2010

Acoustic NAMM, Winter, 2010

By Larry Rosenberg

Second in a series of annual reports exclusive to Folkworks

NAMM_2010.jpgThe end of year, beginning of winter, holidays are over and January has again arrived with the new year. For the last four years, this time has brought my opportunity to attend the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, as a free-lance reporter, and thereby kick-off my own musical events calendar in a very grand style.

NAMM stands for "National Association of Music Merchants," although NAMM organizers are quick to stress that since its origin in 1901, NAMM has become "the trade association of the international music products industry," and the long form of the name is no longer used, in favor of simply "NAMM."

Read more: Acoustic NAMM, Winter, 2010

Joel Okida's Ten + Bests of 2010

1.         Laura Marling- I Speak Because I Can:  Fearless!
2.         Leslie Stevens and the Badgers- Roomful of Smoke:  Fertile!
3.         Anaïs Mitchell- Hadestown:  Fiery!
4.         David Greely- Sud du Sud (2008-09):  French!
5.         Bassekou Kouyatè- I Speak Fula:  Ferocious!
6.         Mike and Ruthy- Million to One:  Felicitous!
7.         The Secret Sisters- The Secret Sisters:   Fresh-squeezed!
8.         Crooked Still- Some Strange Country:  Far out!
9.         Carolina Chocolate Drops- Genuine Negro Jig:  Fiddle-icious!
10.      Sausage Grinder- Delicious Moments:  Fermented!

Read more: Joel Okida's Top Tens 2010

Dave Soyars' Ten for ‘10

1.         Carolina Chocolate DropsGenuine Negro Jig [Nonesuch]
2.         Judy CollinsIn My Life [Collector’s Choice]
3.         Isobel Campbell and Mark LaneganHawk [Rounder]
4.         Peter Rowan Bluegrass BandLegacy [Compass]
5.         Mavis StaplesYou Are Not Alone [Anti]
6.         SolasThe Turning Tide [Compass]
7.         BellowheadHedonism [Navigator Records – UK]
8.         Original Soundtrack - Crazy Heart [New West]
9. and 10.    Johnny FlynnBeen Listening [Thirty Tigers] / Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can [Virgin]

Read more: Dave Soyars' Ten for ‘10

Ross Altman’s Top Ten in 2010 

1.         CD: Pete Seeger: Tomorrow’s Children, with the Rivertown Kids Chorus on Appleseed Recordings
2.         CD: Uncle Ruthie: The Jacaranda Tree double CD
3.         MOVIE: Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
4.         Live concert: Bob Dylan's Small Town Tour concert
5.         Live concert: Patti Smith's State of the Union
6.         Live concert: Guy Carawan's Tribute and Benefit for Highlander Center For Education and Research
7.         Live concert: Roy Bookbinder's spellbinding concert at McCabe’s
8.         Live concert: Buffy Sainte-Marie's concert at the Bootleg Theatre
9.         Live concert: Arlo Guthrie and Family Ride Again at UCLA’s Royce Hall
10.       Live concert: Joan Baez and Roger McGuinn’s concert at The Queen Mary in Long Beach

Read more: Ross Altman’s Top Ten 2010

2010 Year in Review

2010 was a year of great festivals and concerts and many great CD releases.

Check out the TOP TEN (plus) for 2010 by FolkWorks writers and friends:



Also check out this years folk related Grammy nominees


 of interest to FolkWorks readers


Read more: 2010 Grammy Nominees

2009 Year in Review

We can't believe this year has passed by so quickly. For many of us, it has not been a good year and the recession has affected the local folk scene. Concert attendance is down. Performers who were scheduled to come to Southern California cancelled their shows.On the other hand, there were still a lot of great music that uplifted our spirits.

Check out the TOP TEN (plus) for 2009 by FolkWorks writers and friends:


Also check out this years folk related Grammy nominees

This year we've also lost some of the classic greats:

Read more: 2009 Year in Review

Top Ten 2009

By Dave Soyars

1. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More (Universal International)

I tried so hard to find something better than this, but eventually I had to resign myself to seeing this ragtag group of young folkie West Londoners at the top. I saw them earlier this year at the Hotel Café, opening for the holder of my #1 spot for 2008, Johnny Flynn. They were better than Flynn, in fact- more seasoned performers and more comfortable on a stage. People on other continents have told me they're sick to death of the single, Little Lion Man, which they've heard to distraction. There's a good reason for that, mind you- romantic regret, aggressive banjo and a few F-bombs are a perfect, if sideways, recipe for pop success- but I really didn't want what could end up being a novelty one-hit wonder at the top of my list. So I listened to the entire record, figured I'd find a good reason to sink them to a lower spot, or leave them off entirely. I found instead a diverse collection of songs, heavy on the youthful angst but wise enough to know where a bit of traditional riff or rhythm or Pogues-ish intensity might help to serve it. In the end it may not be a great record (we'll see what happens next), but I can't think of a better one. So number one it is.

2. Mick Moloney- If It Wasn't for the Irish and the Jews (Compass)

The sequel to 2006's wonderful McNally's Row of Flats, this likewise celebrates the growing influence of musical theater in a part of Manhattan that would later become Tin Pan Alley. This time Moloney examines the collaboration between two immigrant groups that helped define New York music in the late 18th and early 19th century. Moloney is an academic, but the musical performances are anything but-joyful and spirited, featuring spirited backing from New York old-timers Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks and the best of a crop of Irish musicians currently residing in the US, including master guitarist John Doyle.

3. Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara - Tell No Lies (Real World)

I'm as wary of these worldbeat/crossover deals as the next guy, but this one's refreshingly free of preciousness about it. Adams has played with Robert Plant and Jah Wobble, among others, and Camara, a virtuoso of the Gambian riti (one-stringed violin) is also an excellent singer and songwriter and not adverse to a bit of cross-cultural jamming. It's the kind of thing Adams does very well, and sits somewhere between Bo Diddley, surf music and the West African tradition without announcing itself in gigantic capital letters like much of this stuff does. And, while it's intense and moving, it's also a great deal of fun.

4. Martin Simpson - True Stories (Topic, dist. by Compass)

Simpson's always been a hell of a guitar player, and has been recording for decades, so it's a bit of a surprise that he's waited so long to make his best record, but he's put it all together nicely for this one. Perhaps it's because Simpson, a sensitive collaborator on other people's records, has concentrated on letting others support the stories he wants to tell. Said stories range from familiar traditional ones, like Sir Patrick Spens to some sensitive originals, some vocal and some instrumental, with accompaniment ranging from none to mini folk orchestra. It all feels like what he was born to do, particularly Will Atkinson, a touching autobiographical song about his childhood introduction to music via the harmonica player of the title.

5. Leonard Cohen - Live in London (Sony)

This is one case where you can call it a comeback. It matters little to me that this live set from halfway around the world is more or less identical to the one I saw months later. Same corny jokes, same band, even, with one or two exceptions, the same songs in the same order. And his voice, never typically "pretty" to begin with, has lost a few notes of range. And yet what other 70+ year old performers are putting on energetic, passionate three hour shows of great song after great song from a catalog unequalled in modern music (and yes, that includes the guy in the number ten slot)? If this is his last tour ever (and it's still going, last I heard), he's going out like a warrior. Words like "triumphant" and "heroic," cliché though they be, are fully appropriate.

6. Buddy and Julie Miller - Written in Chalk (New West Records)

Buddy's another guy that's been around for a while- mainly as a Nashville session guitar whiz- but his appearance on last year's Grammy-winning record by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss gave him the biggest audience he's ever had. He and wife Julie have certainly done the most with the opportunity. I wish Buddy were a great songwriter instead of merely a good one, but that said the sexual tension between Julie's alluring voice and Buddy's world-weary one is undeniable.

7. Tony McManus - The Maker's Mark (Compass)

A record that does something that's never been done before to my knowledge, a collaboration between a guitarist and guitar makers- stunning Scottish guitarist McManus, in a collaboration with Dream Guitars of Ashville, NC plays a series of traditional tunes on guitars made by different guitar makers. A novel idea without being a novelty recording, not just because McManus is a stunning guitar player, but because he's a genius at matching tune to guitar, bringing out the unique qualities in both guitar and song in every case. It's every guitar player's fantasy too, so cheers to him for being the first to make it happen. Hopefully it'll inspire others.

8. Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey - Here and Now (Bar None)

1991's Mavericks was the last time these long-time collaborators (originally in influential power-poppers the DBs) worked together. No, it's not as good as that classic record (few things in life are), but it's similar, albeit a bit more electric and rocking, despite the presence of the lovely acoustic instruments on the cover (which do appear, albeit in a cameo role). Just like the 1960s and 70s recordings of the Everly Brothers, probably their biggest influence, it's rich in great songwriting, harmony, and spirit.

9. Liz Carroll and John Doyle - Double Play (Compass)

No accident that the Compass label appears here several times, either as label or distributor, having basically saved Irish music in the US, between taking over the venerable catalog of Green Linnet, and distributing the best Irish labels to Celtophilic Americans. As usual you can hardly go wrong with any of their traditional Celtic releases, but Liz (born in Chicago) and John (born in Dublin but currently residing in North Carolina) have the year's best, featuring another generous helping of Carroll's original tunes, which have already started to make their way, as they usually do, into Irish pub sessions worldwide, and Doyle's usual stunning guitar playing, which often sounds like it must be two (or even three) guitarists playing at once.

10. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (Columbia)

No, it's not as sharp as most of his last several, and yes, that Christmas record is as every bit as bad as I thought it would be. But it's nice to hear Dylan, as the only slightly younger Neil Young is now doing, just chalking up his career as having pleased enough people that he can now dedicate the rest of it to doing as he pleases. Can't say he doesn't deserve it. It's a much more fun record than the last few as well, perhaps short on recognitions of mortality or celebrations of the American song catalog, but long on relaxed groove and smoky nightclub feel. And as a bonus David Hidalgo's all over it, so it's the closest we'll get to a Los Lobos record this year.


Top Ten  2009 (in no particular order)

By Linda Dewar

1. CD: Harp I Do - Corrina Hewat (Big Bash Records (Big Bash Records BBRCD016)

Celtic harp with a jazz influence

2. CD: The Baltic tae Byzantium - Brian McNeill (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX341)

Sequel to his brilliant Back o' the North Wind live show and CD

3. CD: Fishing Up The Moon - Nick Keir (Laverock Records LRK3)

Another solo album from the "middle guy" of the McCalmans, his best yet.

4. CD: This Earthly Spell - Karine Polwart (Hegri Music HEGRICD04)

Every track is great; Sorry is probably the best anti-war protest song since Eric Bogle's Waltzing Matilda

5. Live Gig: Eric Bogle's "Waltzing Matilda No More" farewell tour

The last tour he'll do outside Australia, and he was brilliant

6. Live Gig: Katy Moffatt at Glenfarg Folk Club

You know the gig will be good when every great musician in the county turns up to hear it.

7. Live Gig: Corinna Hewat, Annie Grace, and Karine Polwart

When these three perform as a trio, it's magic. They keep promising an album is in the works, so keep looking for it.

8. Online Radio: Celtic Music Radio

Great music, terrific volunteer DJ's, and they are great about giving airplay to new artists

9. Venue: Glenfarg Folk Club

Regular meeting space, in the downstairs pub at The Glenfarg Hotel.

10. Songwriter: Ian Walker

Some of the most brilliant lyrics I've ever heard.


Top Ten 2009

By Tom Cheyney

1.Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, Tell No Lies (Real World)

More evidence that some of the best new "blues-rock" results when definitions are jettisoned, South and North joyfully embrace, and the Sahara stretches endlessly on a moonlit night.

2. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti-)

My wife gets a bit jealous of my fave female singers, and Neko gives her reason to be, with that gorgeous vocal honesty, deliciously tweaked Americana sound, and ear-turning lyrics.

3. Forro in the Dark at the Mint, Nov. 19

Just when I needed a jolt of live groove, these NYC-based Brazilian expats electrified with their fiery fusion of northeastern Braz, funk, rock, and fill in the blank.

 4. Syran Mbenza and Ensemble Rumba Kongo, Immortal Franco

Africa's Unrivalled Guitar Legend (Riverboat): Living Congolese guitar legend Mbenza and an all-star cast honor their late mentor, Franco, one of the giants of African pop, with a lovely tribute album that steers clear of maudlin nostalgia. 

5. Novalima at Grand Performances, July 25

Soulful, passionate Afro-Peruvianisms blended seamlessly with tasteful globotronics to knock the socks off one of the dance-craziest crowds ever at GP.

6. Quantic and his Combo Barbaro, Tradition in Transition (Tru Thoughts)

Columbiano tropical roots meet the modern age in this aptly titled album, with the arrangements ranging from stripped-down simplicity to string-section lush, and the African diasporic connection writ large.

7. Soul Power (Jeffrey Levy Hinte, director)

You may ask, "where's the folk?" here, but this documentary about the Zaire '74 fest in Kinshasa (part of the Ali-Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" run-up) captures in engrossing verité style both the behind-the-scenes wheeling-dealing and onstage performance magic of an oft-overlooked yet groundbreaking mulitculti musical event.

8. Spiro, Lightbox (Real World)

The quartet's blazingly original instrumental take on English folk music swirls and builds into a hypnotic-melodic crossroads of trad tuneage, Philip Glass, and late-night raves.

9. Vieux Farka Toure at Troubadour, July 7

After invited guest Vusi Mahlasela seduced the audience midset, the son of Ali Farka and his band re-ratcheted up the rock-Malian trance-dance energy to the ecstasy point.

10. Vasen w/ Darol Anger and Mike Marshall at Skirball, July 23

A sublimely string-driven evening, with the three Swedes--a pair of Viking warriors and a "Where's Waldo" look-alike on nickelharpa-chopping up cords of Nordic lumber.

Top Ten 2009 (in no particular order)
and a wee bit more...

By Joel Okida

1. Works Progress Administration - WPA (Red Distribution)

With four lead singers and instrumental talent to spare, there is no Achilles heel that you can find here. Glen Phillips, Sean Watkins, and Luke Bulla teamed up with Sara Watkins, Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz, Pete Thomas, and Davey Faragher. They got together and played their assets off. No brag, just fact.

2. The Wailin' Jennys - Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (Red House)

All I can say is that these ladies can sing and play up a storm. Alone or in harmony, they get it done with finesse or gutsy vocal force. And as an add on, one Jenny, Heather Masse, also released an excellent solo CD, Bird Song (Red House), that adds even more variety than the already eclectic repertoire of the group effort.

3. Ramblin' Jack Elliot - A Stranger Here (Anti)

Perhaps his magnum opus with great song selection and his voice primed and self-assured. Producer Joe Henry got it right.

4. Rick Shea - Shelter Valley Blues (Tres Pescadores)

Long time southern California singer/songwriter/musician who has a resume of arresting songs and a habit of abetting almost every other singer or band of country or honky-tonk notoriety that rolls into town. This is a captivating piece of work and fits in nicely with the excellent recordings that he has generated over the years. Don't know if he is underrated or overlooked, but if he is, it's your fault, not his.

5. Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan (Yep Roc)

The barefoot poet returns offering more wit and insight in his inimitable way. Clever often cute, but clean and true.

6. Steve Earle - Townes (New West)

One would find the original singer-songwriter's versions hard to beat. This is also true in this tribute effort by the well known student of Townes Van Zandt. However, there's enough added Earle grit to the mix to make several tunes move in a mostly positive way and honor his mentor. Another related release, at least family-wise, and with the not-so-coincidental name of Justin Townes Earle attached to it, is Midnight at the Movies (Bloodshot Records). It demonstrates the strong bloodline of talent, but in a different light and adds a little sheen to the gifted middle name and the paternal link.

7. The Unwanted - Music from the Atlantic Fringe (Compass Records)

Sligo-based group bridges old time songs of Appalachia with similar tunes of the Irish. It works well due to some smart arrangements and even smarter musicianship in the form of Cathy Jordan and Seamie O'Dowd from the legendary Celtic band, Dervish, and Rick Epping, a multi-instrumentalist from far off California. Leadbelly's , Out on the Western Plain starts it off and it is a listener's joyride from then on.

8. The Unthanks - Here's the Tender Coming (EMI Import)

The follow-up to The Bairns with the name change from Rachel Unthanks and the Winterset, now simplified yet inclusive. Rachel and sister, Becky, lead their mates across British traditional folk and into some stunning renderings of popular songs, yet leave their trademark stamp of heartfelt harmonies and distinctive solos intact.

9. Marissa Nadler - Little Hells (Kemado Records)

The delicately spectral Ms. Nadler sings dirges that take you down the longest, darkest paths to the sea and like the siren calling out from the mist, you must follow. Somehow you're happy to be this sad, worried and apologetic shoegazer in her musical presence.

10. King Wilkie presents - the Wilkie Family Singers (Casa Nueva Industries)

The purist bluegrass that King Wilkie originally stamped their name on becomes a mere take off point for this ambitious concept album about a fictional musical family and their foibles. It then travels into sunny balladry, gritty Americana and near Beatlesque orchestration. Featured cast includes Peter Rowan, David Bromberg, Abigail Washburn, John McEuen , Sam Parton (The Be Good Tanyas), and Robyn Hitchcock.


Lagniappe. A few extra recordings that fit in there somewhere.

Chris Smither - Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds)

Chris Smither has never made a bad record just as his guitar/foot-tapping style does not ever fail him in live performance. His wordplay is well-crafted and no one gives the sad-eyed blues tale its vocal due like Chris. So there's not a lot to diss about this recording either. Here he breathes life into each lyric, real life poetry intact, and uses the voice that burnishes the blues, heats it up, but goes down smooth.

Eva Cassidy - Songbird (Blix Street Records), 1998

Rediscovery of a rediscovered performer who died at 33. She left a significant body of recorded work (seven CDs as of 2003) much of it released posthumously (including this compilation CD), but left a potent mark on the interpretation of some folk, jazz, and pop standards. Autumn Leaves might have been her loveletter to the future.

Maggie MacInnes - A Fagail Mhiaghalaigh [Leaving Mingulay] (Marram Music)

From the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, this singer and Clàrsach player (Celtic harp) presents traditional songs of the island of Mingulay (also part of the Outer Hebrides). Sung in Gaelic and adorned with instrumental accompaniment by her dedicated guest musicians. The voice gets your full attention, natural yet compelling.

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk (Shangri-la)

This is neither monstrous nor truly folk, but the players here might make a case for making some folk-like music with some colossal talent that doesn't offend or frighten anyone. The band is made up of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Mystic Valley Band), M. Ward (She & Him), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and the songs run the gamut from edgy-spiritual, country rock, folksie, to churning Americana. Should not scare off the adamantly acoustic.

Dent May - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele (Paw Tracks)

Punchy pop confection with catchy melodies, but with a vocal range that sails along through some well-written tales of collegiate encounters. Revives the uke beyond the camp and corduroy.

Eilen Jewell - Sea of Tears (Signature Sounds)

Great songwriting fits in with a confident voice from this Boston performer who is more a rootsy folk-slinger who can slide over to the blues both sultry or rollin' and tumblin'. These are songs that allow for a soulful musician's very versatile voice.

Johnny Flynn - A Larum (Lost Highway) 2008

Heard this a year late, but anticipate more from this young Brit folk revivalist. Flynn, with his band the Sussex Wit, recorded this stateside in Seattle. Energetic with folk sensibilities, playfully witty yet philosophical in scope.

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up in Her Head (Sugarhill)

17-year old who sounds only a quarter note away from full womanhood (whatever that is) and then plays banjo or guitar like an old time vet.

Catie Curtis - Hello Stranger (Compass Records)

Different from her earlier recordings as the production is stripped down and simplified, which is good in that it replicates the live shows and let's her straightforward delivery shine. Nashville string trippers, Stuart Duncan, Alison Brown, and George Marinelli give her a can't lose edge, as do Darrell Scott and Mary Gauthier on vocals.

Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort: Live in Maidstone, 1970. (Neptune Music) DVD 2008

Historic footage of two seminal and influential English folk ensembles. Unfortunately short in length (46 mins., but 15 are interview w/ the director), but little footage is available from this era so the Brit folk enthusiast must gather these tidbit treasures in when they surface.


Top 22 Live Folk Shows of 2009 (in chronological order)

1.       Theresa Andersson - Hotel Café, 1/30

2.       Chris & Thomas- Coffee Gallery Backstage, 3/19

3.       Claire Lynch - Boulevard, 3/20

4.       Beausoleil - McCabe's, 4/4

5.       Chango Spasiuk - The Getty, 4/ 5 - Check out his 2009 release Pynandi-Los Descalzos (World Village)

6.       Gator-by-the-Bay - Spanish Landing Park, San Diego, 5/9-10

7.       Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, the Blasting Co. - The Echo, 6/23

8.       Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Emmy Lou Harris, Buddy Miller - Greek Theater, 6/24

9.       Väsen - Skirball, 7/23

10.    Baskery - Hotel Café, 8/16

11.    Iris Dement - McCabe's, 9/25

12.    Old Crow Medicine Show - John Anson Ford, 9/29

13.    Works Progress Administration - Club Largo, 10/5

14.    Todd Snider (interview, mini-concert) - Grammy Museum, 10/8

15.    Steve Earle - The Troubadour, 10/9

16.    Devil Makes 3- Amoeba Records, 10/13

17.    Boulder Acoustic Society - Coffee Gallery Backstage 10/20

18.    Tony Furtado - Center for Folk Music, 10/21

19.    Marissa Nadler - The Echo 10/29

20.    Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III - Royce Hall, 11/13

21.    Crooked Still, King Wilkie - McCabe's, 11/22

22.    Po' Girl & Twilight Hotel- Center for Folk Music, 11/29

TOP TEN 2009

By Steve and Leda Shapiro


1. Mamak Khadem
CONCERT: Globalquerque 9/26
         Her perfect CD "Jostojoo" (Forever Seeking)

2. Molly Revenge with Moira Smiley
CONCERT at CTMS Center for Folk Music 10/10

3. Väsen with Daryl Anger and Mike Marshall
CONCERTS: Skirball Cultural Center 7/23, Globalquerque 9/25

4. Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara
CD: Tell No Lies

5. Liz Carroll & John Doyle
CD: Double Play

6. Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble
CONCERT: Skirball Cultural Center 8/13

7. David Lindley
CONCERTS: McCabe's Guitar Shop 1/30, L.A. Acoustic Festival 6-6

8. Noel Hill
CONCERT: Neighborhood Church 8/19

9. Fados
MOVIE: Carlos Saura's 2007 masterpiece finally hits the L.A. Theatres

10. Tinariwen
CD: Companions


Top 10 2009 (Plus a couple of extras)

By Roz Larman

1. Loudon Wainwright III

High Wide & Handsome The Charlie Poole Project

2. Martin Simpson

True Stories

3. Laura Love & Orville Johnson

The Sweeter The Juice

4. Loreena McKennett

A Mediterranean Odyssey

5. Susan Mckeown & Lorin Sklamberg

Saints & Tzaaiks

6. Liz Carroll John Doyle

Double Play

7. Mick Moloney

If It Wasn't For The Irish And The Jews

8. Battlefield Band

Zama Zama Try Your Luck

9. Nathan Rogers

The Gauntlet

10. Geoff Muldaur

Texas Sheiks

11. James Keelaghan

House Of Cards

12. The best concert I saw this year:
Loud & Rich "Loudon Wainwright & Richard Thompson" at UCLA Live! (Royce Hall)


Happy Holidays

     For The Best In Radio - Folkscene
     Hosted & Produced by Roz Larman www.folkscene.com


Top Ten 2009

By Renee Bodie

1. L.A. Acoustic Music Festival:

Not because I was involved - the Top 10 part for me was seeing our folk community come together and make it happen. Seeing all the familiar faces volunteer and work to bring this music to Los Angeles was wonderful and inspiring. We are lucky folks. The line up was also part of my top ten, seeing Bruce Cockburn, Richard Thompson, Natalie MacMaster, David Lindley (watching Jackson Browne enjoy David Lindley's performance from the audience with his brother Severin was a highlight as well), David Bromberg and the Angel Band, the Kingston Trio, the Woody Guthrie Tribute, Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson, Joel Rafael, Slaid Cleaves, the Refugees, and Stonehoney all in one place was just plain fun!

2. The Lowen & Navarro goodbye at Hotel Café:

Tough, hard, and beautiful tribute to one of the best songwriting teams in our genre - 20 years of wonderful music. Watching Eric sing in a whisper the words to "If I was the Rain" was one of the most moving moments of 2009 for me. A wonderful, grace-filled individual devastated by the monster disease of ALS. Never have I seen someone handle such a devastating illness with such grace. We love you Eric.

3. Woody Guthrie Fest:

The Woody Guthrie Festival takes place in July in Okemah, OK, birthplace of Woody Guthrie, and always features an incredible line up of musicians. I went on the encouragement of Jimmy LaFave, who is instrumental in making the festival happen. Let me tell you, folks, there is magic in that red dirt - the music seeps deep into your soul. Or maybe it's that you're just steps from Woody's boyhood home, or that Mary Jo Guthrie, Woody's sister, and the whole host of the Guthrie family is all around you, but it is an experience you will never forget. Joining Mary Jo at her Pancake Breakfast on Sunday morning is one of the highlights of the fest.

4. Folk Alliance International conference:

Best Tribe Gathering - Always a bright spot of the year where we get to gather with our community, and network too! Highlights this year included honoring Vic Heyman and Odetta posthumously at the Awards Banquet (seeing Vic's empty easy chair was moving - we miss you, Vic!); the Keynote Address by Roger McGuinn; the Electric Guitar Summit featuring Freebo, Albert Lee, Phil Hurley (Stonehoney), Colin Linden (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), James Burton (best known for playin' with Elvis!) and Luke Doucet (Blue Rodeo); the showcase rooms in general; and of course watching the sun come up after playing music all night with Stonehoney, Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, Sarah Lee Guthrie, and many, many more that wondered in...

5. CD: "Monsters of Folk"

Debut album - For that matter, the entire Monsters of Folk tour - this collective's four songwriters -Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis are each a monster artist individually. Good to see the next generation carrying the torch of folk music and making it their own.

6. Best Up and Coming:

Check out the Hotel Cafe in the early hours of the evening, which tends to be dedicated to acoustic music - I am amazed at the young talent they have booked there. Kate Miller-Heidke, Caitlin Crosby, and Astrella Celeste among others.

7. Best Folk Radio: KPFK

To Roz Larman of FolkScene, for carrying on the torch on KPFK every Sunday, and Mary Katherine Aldin, also on KPFK on Saturday early AM. Great interviews, great music, great job!

8. Best Gig Calendar:

Larry Wines, Acoustic Americana Music Guide - every week Larry tirelessly creates a very extensive posting of live acoustic music shows and news in the greater Los Angeles area, and beyond

9. Best Online Mag & Best Interviews:

To FolkWorks - yep, you guys. Carrying on the online version, reinventing and filling such and important role for Folk Music - you definitely deserve this. And the Interviewers you have - Terry Roland and Ross Altman are wonderful! Thank you for keeping such an informative and delightful publication going.

10. Best Legislative move:

The Folk Alliance International PRO agreement for House Concerts getting done - finally, we don't have to worry about the PRO's coming down on House Concerts. The ongoing negotiations will include Coffeehouses and non-profit Promoters in the coming months - all positives for our community.





Category 68
Best Traditional Folk Album

(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • At 89
    Pete Seeger
    [Appleseed Recordings]

Category 69
Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album

(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • Raising Sand
    Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
    [Rounder Records]

Category 70
Best Native American Music Album

(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • Come To Me Great Mystery - Native American Healing Songs
    (Various Artists)
    Tom Wasinger, producer
    [Silver Wave Records]

Category 71
Best Hawaiian Music Album

(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • 'Ikena
    Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho
    [Daniel Ho Creations]

Category 72
Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album

(Vocal or Instrumental.)

  • Live At The 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
    BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet

Read more: Grammy 2009

Top Ten 2008

(In No Particular Order)

By Steve and Leda Shapiro

Read more: Steve and Leda Top Ten 2008

Top Ten 2008

(In No Particular Order)

By Joel Okida

Read more: Joel Okida Top Ten

Top Ten 2008

(Various Categories)

By Larry Wines

Read more: Larry Wines Top Ten 2008