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Folk Alley's Listener Poll - Favorite CDs of 2010

December 15, 2010

Best of 2010 montage.jpgVote for your favorite folk releases of 2010!

2010 was another amazingly rich year in the folk world, with some of the best new music released in any genre. Folk Alley wants you to tell us what your favorite new folk releases were in 2010.

We've listed all the new CDs that were added to our library in 2010 ---- please select up to 10 CDs that you would call your favorites for the year.

We will tally your responses and post the Folk Alley Listeners Poll - Favorite CDs for 2010 on Dec. 26th. Your input will also help us with our Year-End Best of 2010 side stream that will be available right after Christmas.

Vote here for your favorite CDs of 2010!

Posted by Linda Fahey at 5:20 PM

Reviews: Indigo Girls and Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks Holiday Releases

December 11, 2010

Indigos Holiday.jpgby Jim Blum

Indigo Girls
Holly Happy Days
(Vanguard Records)

It's so easy to listen to the same old holiday songs, and the same old versions of them. If the holidays have become ritual for you and not joyous, open yourself up (instead of a package) and discover something original from Amy Ray and Emily Sailers. This album features a combination of songs you know with many originals, a forgotten Woody Guthrie song, and another recently borrowed. Recorded in Nashville with a super band, each arrangement is unique.

The album opens with "The Wonder Song," a bluegrass hard driver. Featured are Alison Brown on banjo and Luke Bulla on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. The two are also featured on what may be the album's best song: "I Feel the Christmas Spirit." This song has a delightful groove and a delightful message about the origin of Christmas morning, expanding to the gift of friends and family at this time of year.

Speaking of friends, many showed up at the request of Emily & Amy. Janis Ian and Mary Gauthier add harmonies to "Happy Joyous Hanukkah," written by Woody Guthrie over 50 years ago. Emily's dad plays piano on "Peace Child." Lloyd Maines plays dobro or pedal steel throughout. A highlight is the more recently written "It Really Is A Wonderful Life," by Chely Wright and covered two years ago my Mindy Smith. Chely joined The Indigo Girls with Shawn Mullins on a recent tour.

The songs are different stylistically from each other, and producer Peter Collins has done a masterful job of creating balance and surprise. This is not shopping mall music, and it's a joy to know that some musicians will not settle for what's already been done.

Dan Hikcs Christmas.jpg

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
Crazy for Christmas
(Surf Dog)

Here's another artist with a debut holiday release, and another very original one at that. After a 20 year absence, Dan Hicks has been back for several years making old swing new. This album only features three songs you've heard before: "Here Comes Santa Claus," I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," and "Carol of the Bells." The others only Dan Hicks could pull off.

The opener "Christmas Mornin" borrows the music of the Hicks classic "Where's the Money." We discover by the album's second song that reindeer need a break, which is why Santa is taking the train this year: "Santa's Gotta Choo Choo." The album's funniest song is "Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit" where a dress-up Santa can't find his costume. The song is a message to the thief, and a revelation about eventual acceptance. Only at this time of year, unfortunately, can it be OK to get over having something stolen. Through the comedy perhaps, Hicks is sharing something he learned.

Coming close in the humor category is "Carol of the Bells." Performed with scat vocals throughout by Hicks and the Lickettes, a surprise visit by the Chipmunks should have you rolling on the floor. You can also watch the little critters sing on Dan's website.

Yes, the Hot Licks provide comic relief, but under it all is solid musicianship. Look out for the gypsy guitar leads by Gonzolo Bergara, who has appeared previously with Dan. (Dave Bell is featured on "Run Run Rudolph") John Rosenberg plays piano, The Lickettes play kazoos, and Hicks himself plays the harmonica. In fact, that has always been what makes Hicks tick. The musicians play the part of the straight man, if you will, making the humor more unexpected. Enjoy Dan's comeback for laughs or for the blues and swing; he's a master at both, and this holiday release underlines that fact.

Posted by Jim Blum at 11:00 AM

New Adds for December

December 9, 2010

New Music for December

Anyone who knows me knows that, for me,  the day after Thanksgiving begins the official holiday music season. When I'm not listening to the Folk Alley Holiday Stream, I turn to my own collection of seasonal CDs. Along with favorites like Last Month of the Year, We Three Kings, Barenaked for the Holidays, Hanukkah Rocks and Carols for a Christmas Eve, I try to add a few new selections each season.

The Indigo Girls make the best use of their trademark vocal harmonies with Happy Holly Days. It's a good mix of traditional and original songs with a down home, relaxed feel (perfect for their Georgia roots). The CD reflects the strengths of the Indigo Girls as songwriters and performers.

The Juno Award-winning Good Lovelies released the charming and delightful Under the Mistletoe as only their second full-length CD. The collection of songs from the Canadian trio is reminiscent of a contemporary Andrews Sisters, combining vocals so well that I was prompted to listen to the album over and over again.

Christine Lavin has brought together original holiday songs from a variety of singer/songwriters under the title Just One Angel. Entries celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and solstice in sweet and sometimes quirky ways - including a song about Doug, the Jewish guy who is happy to work on Christmas, and a song marking the dilemma of being single during the holiday season.

The solemnity of Christmas is no match for the wicked good fun of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks. Crazy for Christmas pretty much sums it up as Dan and his crew add their trademark swingin' sound to stories of elves, Santa and Rudolph. This is just the right CD to listen to when drinking some nog, hanging the stockings and setting up the Christmas tree.

More recent CDs to consider as you do your Christmas shopping:

Elvis Costello - "National Ransom"
Red Rock Rondo - "Zion Canyon Song Cycle"
Jug Pug - "Messenger"
Meg Hutchinson - "The Living Side"
Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps - "Magnetic Skyline"
The David Wax Museum - "Carpenter Bird"
Railroad Earth - "Railroad Earth"
The Secret Sisters - "The Secret Sisters"
David Wilcox - "Reverie"
Al Stewart with Dave Nachmanoff - "Uncorked" (live)
Notorious - "The Road to Damascus"
Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore - "Dear Companion"
Ashleigh Caudill - "Fruit of the Vine"

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at 6:26 PM

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