Best of folk music

June 9, 2017
Origins[edit]

Mbongwana Star … glorious on record.Mbongwana Star … glorious on record. Photograph: Florent De Le

Sam Lee – Lovely Molly

The Fade in Time, released back in March, was the finest folk album of the year, with Sam Lee reworking traditional songs he learned from Gypsy travellers, and matching his distinctive crooned vocals with unexpected settings that contained everything from brass to ukulele. On this bravely straightforward and emotional treatment of Lovely Molly, he is backed only by the massed voices of the Roundhouse Choir.

Sam Lee: Lovely Molly live video recording

Mbongwana Star – Malukayi ft Konono No 1

Their first live shows were a bit patchy, but their debut album was glorious. Mbongwana Star are a Congolese-European collaboration, featuring Coco and Theo, once members of the massively successful Staff Benda Bilili, along with the Paris-based electronica exponent Liam Farrell, AKA Doctor L. From Kinshasa is an edgy, thunderous and often unworldly-sounding set of songs, which includes the pounding and hypnotic Malukayi, on which they are joined by the distorted and amplified likembe thumb pianos of their compatriots Konono No 1.

Mbongwana Star: Malukayi ft Konono No 1 music video

Xáos – Pontos Blues

Epic and bravely original, Xáos set out to provide a new music for Greece at a time when the country did indeed face potential chaos. Greek electronic composer Ahetas Jimi collaborated with Nick “Dubullah” Page of Dub Colossus, who was born to a Greek mother, to mix the ancient and the experimental, with help from a distinguished group of Greek traditional musicians. This track is a folk song from the Black sea, now reworked with microtonally tuned keyboards, a bluesy guitar riff and classical fiddles and bagpipes.

Xaos: Pontos Blues music video

Stick in the Wheel – Champion

Stick in the Wheel shook up the English folk scene with their no-nonsense folk-punk approach and the London East End accent of lead singer Nicola Kearey. But this was matched by classy harmony vocals from Fran Foote, sturdy guitar work from Ian Carter, and a careful choice of songs. They mixed traditional favourites with new material about the London riots, and paid tribute to Ewan MacColl with this revival of Champion at Keeping Them Rolling – included, said Kearey “because my dad was a lorry driver”.

Stick In The Wheel: Champion live video recording

Vieux Farka Touré and Julia Easterlin – Masters of War

This new collaboration was one of the unexpected successes of the year. It has taken some time for Vieux to fully emerge from the shadow of his legendary dad, Ali Farka Touré, but he has become an increasingly fine guitarist, happy to experiment and take chances, as he proved with this bravely original set. It’s a mixture of Malian themes and American standards, and includes this African-edged treatment of the Dylan classic, which now sounds like a lament for the troubles in his homeland.

Source: www.theguardian.com
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