On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Karen Impola and Barney Sherman to look back at some of the best things to come out of the year in folk and classical music. Barney Sherman is an Iowa Public Radio classical music host, and Karen Impola hosts Iowa Public Radio's The Folk Tree and University Concert.
All tracks are listed in the following order: artist - album - track title.
Best of Folk Tree 2015
Rhiannon Giddens - Tomorrow is My Turn - “Up Above My Head”
"Giddens is a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She’s classically trained, but very attuned to traditional styles, especially those of her African-American heritage. This song comes from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel singer whose 1940’s recordings influenced many fledgling rock & roll performers."
Iris Dement - The Trackless Woods - “Not with Deserters”
"It sounds like a very strange concept, but it works. Iris Dement, whose voice has the rustic purity of early country music, sets the poems of early 20th-century Russian writer Anna Akhmatova to music. The results sound like existential hymns from some imaginary backwoods. Husband Greg Brown provides backing vocals on this one."
Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project - "The Devil’s Nine Questions"
"Jayme Stone is a Canadian banjo player and musical instigator. On this album, he teams up with various roots musicians to re-imagine some of the music collected by the great American folklorist Alan Lomax, who was born 100 years ago. I had a hard time choosing a track from this album because it’s so varied. It’s got everything from blues to calypso to a Scottish ballad. I finally went with this song, collected in Virginia but with roots going back to Britain. It’s been souped up with a syncopated rhythm and body percussion."
Various artists - Joy of Living: A Tribute to Ewan MacColl - "Shoals of Herring (sung by Seth Lakeman)"
"Ewan MacColl was a folk song collector, playwright, political agitator, radio producer, and above all, a very fine songwriter. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he worked on a groundbreaking project for the BBC called the “Radio Ballads”. MacColl and his partner Peggy Seeger interviewed working people in Britain and combined their words with newly-composed songs that reflected their experiences. This song is from the radio ballad “Singing the Fishing”, and was based on the experiences of fisherman Sam Larner, who was also a fine traditional singer."
The Earls of Leicester - The Earls of Leicester - "Till the End of the World Rolls Around"
"The name of the band is an homage to bluegrass pioneers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. An all-star cast including Jerry Douglas on dobro, Tim O’Brien on mandolin, and fiddle player Johnny Warren (son of Flatt and Scruggs original fiddler, Paul Warren) came together to introduce these songs to a new generation."
Katie Dahl - Ordinary Band - "Bicentennial"
"This Door County, Wisconsin, native is a new discovery for me. I met her and heard her perform at the North American Folk Alliance conference in Iowa City in October, and was impressed by her voice and by the sincerity and humor of her songwriting."