I listened to a lot of folk music again last year, thanks once more to my annual August Bank Holiday jolly at Shrewsbury and also to a series of excellent gigs at my newly discovered favourite venue, Cecil Sharp House, HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and in every sense Folk Central.
In contrast, my attempts to seek out new jazz faltered a bit. The Bull's Head, my local venue, was closed for renovation work for most of the year (although it's open again now, thankfully) and there didn't seem to be much else around outside the November uber-binge which is the London Jazz Festival.
As always, wonderful Radio 6Music was an indispensable source of great new music with Mary Anne Hobbs' weekend breakfast show a particularly impressive new addition to the schedules.
As for my runners and riders, to be honest the much heralded Bowie album only just made the cut with what to my ears was something of a curate's egg with an over-reliance on a heavy metal guitar sound on many of the tracks. Laura Mvula and Disclosure were fellow Mercury Music Prize nominees. It was good to see another welcome reappearance with the Prefab Sprout record justifiably appearing in many best-of-year lists. Such a shame about Paddy McAloon's health issues in recent years: this probably means that more new music from these quarters is pretty unlikely.
All the folk artists in the list (Lady Maisery, Melrose Quartet, Carthy Hardy Farrell Young, Steeleye Span and The Full English) were ones I saw live, Stacey Kent is the lone standard bearer for jazz and Mulatu Astatke album was by some margin the funkiest music I heard all year.
In no particular order then:
- Laura Mvula: Sing to the Moon
- Disclosure: Settle
- Lady Maisery: Mayday
- Prefab Sprout: Crimson/Red
- Stacey Kent: The Changing Lights
- The Melrose Quartet: Fifty Verses
- Carthy Hardy Farrell Young: Laylam
- David Bowie: The Next Day
- Steeleye Span: Wintersmith
- Arcade Fire: Reflektor
- Low: The Invisible Way
- Owiny Sigoma Band: Power Punch
- Mulatu Astatke: Sketches of Ethiopia
- The Full English: The Full English