Signup for a folk alley account


Folk Alley's Best of 2017 - Cindy Howes' Top 10

December 22, 2017

by Cindy Howes, Folk Alley

Cindy Howes BlueHeadshot sq crop 300.jpg2017 was a difficult year personally and it didn't help that the world seemed to be falling in on itself even more than usual. To be honest, it was so dark and hard that I couldn't listen to music for a while (the volume was down a lot during my radio shows). Eventually, I started to open up to new music again. It was an incredibly painful year, but at the same time, that's when you need art and beauty the most. The feeling that music gave me as I started coming out on the other side is indescribable and probably not relatable, so for the most part, this list is extremely personal. This music was with me when I was at my lowest. It saved me and I am so grateful.

LISTEN to this playlist on Spotify

Ethan Gruska: 'Slowmotionary' (Sire)

Ethan is in The Belle Brigade with his sister and they make peppy indie pop, but this is so different from that. 'Slowmotionary' is a beautiful, quiet and sincere record full of cinematic vignettes accompanied by mostly piano and acoustic guitar. It kind of reminds me of 1940's jazz crooners. The album is a comfort and like an understanding friend that carries you through to better times. iTunes


The Barr Brothers: 'Queens of the Breakers' (Secret City)

Based in Montreal and originally from Providence, RI, The Barr Brothers' mixture of folk, rock and whatever it is that harp player is doing, served as my soundtrack when I felt like I was coming back from the bottom. This record is perfect to accompany a crisp autumn morning walk you'd rather not be taking. "I know it's hard to see the light when you're on your knees," Brad Barr sings on the opening track "Defibrillation." See this band live; this was the best show I've ever seen. No joke. iTunes


Rhiannon Giddens: 'Freedom Highway' (Nonesuch)

Last year I read "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, which is a hard and important book that chronicles 7 generations of two sisters from Ghana. One remained in her homeland and the other was captured into slavery and shipped to America. That devastating book along with Rhiannon Giddens' second solo record are the clearest depiction of Black American history you could ask for. From slavery, to civil rights, to the current struggle with police brutality, Giddens lays it out like a history lesson. iTunes


Josh Ritter: 'Gathering' (Cooking Vinyl)

Something is up with Josh Ritter because he is sounding EPIC on this record. One guess is that his collaborative album with Bob Weir inspired him to make his own wide-open sounding cowboy-style record. Ritter's writing is busted open and his faithful Royal City Band lays down their sophisticated touches. iTunes


Rose Cousins: 'Natural Conclusion' (Old Farm Pony Records)

Your favorite Canadian cousin went to Los Angeles and recorded her latest album with master producer Joe Henry and a gang of top notch musicians (including my favorite drummer Jay Bellerose! "Like Trees" has sick drums!!). It's nice to hear Rose's voice against her piano playing. That piano also fully seals the deal on crying your face off to her music. I can't tell you all the lessons I've learned from Rose over the years. Her records are like therapy. 'Natural Conclusion' takes what she's been doing so masterfully for years to the next level. iTunes


Deb Talan: 'Lucky Girl' (Nettwerk)

Deb Talan decided that after being in a band (The Weepies) for over a decade, raising three boys and surviving breast cancer, that she needed to do something in order to find herself again. Thankfully (!) that meant her first solo record in 13 years: 'Lucky Girl.' Is there a better modern day unknown songwriter out there other than Deb Talan? No. There is not. iTunes


Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: 'The Nashville Sound' (Southeastern Records)

The songs called for rock and roll, so Jason Isbell got the band (The 400 Unit) back together for his third release with producer Dave Cobb. On some songs, Isbell writes from the perspective of flawed, yet sympathetic characters. On others, he gets very personal dealing with issues of gender inequality and racism. Through it all, he finds a way to keep his sincerity and humor (where appropriate) on the forefront. iTunes


Son Little: 'New Magic' (ANTI-)

Aaron Livingston, known on stage as Son Little, doesn't really have a genre that he likes to stick to. On his second release, 'New Magic,' he has further developed his dark groove among experimental rock, folk and blues. His voice somehow sounds like it's two voices up against guitar lines that would make Hendrix or Muddy Waters sit up and pay attention. There is something otherworldly about his presentation that is futuristic, but encompasses the past at the same time. iTunes


Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards: 'California Calling' (Compass)

Boston-based fiddler Laura Cortese's first release with her quartet gives the singer-songwriter an edge that existed in her music, but has not seen fruition like this before. Produced by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive), Cortese sounds like she is tapping into a new freedom and lightness while still upholding the traditional sound that she has previously mastered. iTunes


Julien Baker: 'Turn Out The Lights' (Matador)

Everyone I know is freaking out about Julien Baker and okay fine, I will add my voice to the crowd. She is the real deal: vulnerable, struggling and powerful. Mostly the record centers on the struggle for self-care and explaining her mental illness and addiction to those closest to her. Her beautiful arrangements on electric guitar and piano (a new thing for her!) float alongside devastating lyrics. High points of the record come when her calm even voice suddenly soars to a scream, which is both jarring and affirming that she's not giving up the fight to be well. iTunes

Posted by Linda Fahey at December 22, 2017 11:30 AM


Support Folk Alley During Our Spring Fund Drive!

 

Recent Topics

 

 

January 2018
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
   1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31         


January 2018


December 2017


November 2017


October 2017


September 2017


August 2017


July 2017


May 2017


April 2017


March 2017


February 2017


January 2017


December 2016


November 2016


October 2016


September 2016


August 2016


July 2016


May 2016


April 2016


March 2016


February 2016


January 2016


December 2015


November 2015


October 2015


September 2015


August 2015


July 2015


June 2015


May 2015


April 2015


March 2015


February 2015


January 2015


December 2014


October 2014


September 2014


August 2014


July 2014


June 2014


April 2014


March 2014


February 2014


January 2014


December 2013


November 2013


October 2013


September 2013


August 2013


July 2013


June 2013


May 2013


April 2013


March 2013


February 2013


December 2012


November 2012


October 2012


September 2012


August 2012


July 2012


June 2012


May 2012


April 2012


March 2012


February 2012


January 2012


December 2011


November 2011


October 2011


September 2011


August 2011


July 2011


June 2011


May 2011


April 2011


March 2011


February 2011


January 2011


December 2010


November 2010


October 2010


September 2010


August 2010


July 2010


May 2010


April 2010


March 2010


February 2010


January 2010


December 2009


November 2009


October 2009


September 2009


August 2009


July 2009


June 2009


May 2009


April 2009


March 2009


February 2009


January 2009


December 2008


November 2008


October 2008


September 2008


August 2008


July 2008


June 2008


May 2008


April 2008


March 2008


February 2008


January 2008


December 2007


November 2007


October 2007


September 2007


August 2007


July 2007


June 2007


May 2007


April 2007


March 2007


February 2007


January 2007


December 2006


November 2006


October 2006


September 2006


August 2006


July 2006


June 2006


May 2006


April 2006


March 2006


February 2006


January 2006


December 2005


November 2005


October 2005


September 2005


August 2005


July 2005


June 2005


May 2005


April 2005


March 2005


February 2005


January 2005


December 2004


November 2004


October 2004


September 2004


August 2004


July 2004


June 2004


May 2004


April 2004


March 2004


February 2004


January 2004


December 2003


November 2003


October 2003


September 2003


August 2003