As 2015 kicks off, various WTJU Folk staff look back on some of their favorite 2014 releases (or in a few cases albums which arrived at WTJU in 2014). To see the other lists, including the final WTJU Best of 2014 compilation, click here.
Host: Steve Kindig, Co-Host of Atlantic Weekly I (Saturday, 8-10 am)
In no particular order:
Slocan Ramblers/Shaking Down the Acorns/Self
This young Canadian bluegrass outfit offered a fresh take on tunes new and old. Top pick: a high-voltage cover of Jonathan Byrd’s “The Law and Lonesome.”
James Leva/All Over the Map/Patuxent
James’ soulful singing shares the spotlight with the lovely voice of his daughter Vivian, with occasional help from folks like Nora Jane Struthers.
Mayfly/Sweet Is The Morning/Self
Sweet harmonies and sweet playing from this Vermont-based female duo.
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn/Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn/Rounder
Ernest Troost/O Love/Self
Maybe the strongest collection yet from this talented LA-based songwriter. Top pick: “When It’s Gone.”
The Stray Birds/Best Medicine/Yep Roc
This folk power trio really hit its stride on this CD and the one before it. I got to see them perform three times in 2014 and hope to catch them again soon.
The Mae Trio/Housewarming/Self
Creative arrangements, spare instrumental support and killer harmonies are the calling cards of these young Aussies. Top tracks: “Caroline” and “Ice Upon Your Skin.”
Quiles & Cloud/Seminole Star/Self
I could listen to Maria Quiles’ warm, clear voice all day. This San Francisco-based duo makes music with a bit of a retro vibe — 70s maybe? Top tracks: “Cali” and “The Field.” Wonderful recording, too.
The New Line/Can’t Hold The Wheel [listed as Nov. 2013 but the station didn’t get it until 2014]
Appalachian ballads filtered through American and African sensibilities, backed up by plenty of instrumental expertise from the likes of clawhammer banjo master Adam Hurt. The secret ingredient is Brendan Taaffe’s mbira (thumb piano).
Billy Strings & Don Julin/I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages/Self
Wow! A terrific collection of flatpicking guitar and mandolin music, and Billy Strings’ singing is just as high energy. Check out their YouTube clips. Billy looks like he might be 20.