View Full Version : The Best Folk/Rock of '09?

David G
01-01-2010, 05:02 AM
My DJ buddy has published his annotated list. For all you folkies out there... here it is for your consideration, edification, comparison, and argumentation:


1. THE DECEMBERISTS- “Hazards of Love”
A daring Folk/Rock Opera, 57 minutes long, that plays as a continuous song. The story is reminiscent of British folk tales like Tam Lin (recorded by Fairport Convention and dozens of other Brits in the 1970s), with an evil queen, a shape-shifting fawn, and star-crossed lovers. The instrumentation matches the epic scope of the story, with harpsichords, mandolins and dulcimers vying with fuzzed guitars and 1970s Prog-rock keyboards. Bravo!

2. LEONARD COHEN- “Live in London ”
Leonard Cohen returned with a World Tour of sold-out arena concerts featuring his magnificent band and timeless songs. This 2 CD set features some of his witty commentary as well as a career-spanning set list. Tight, soulful gospel singers boost his well-worn 73 year old pipes, and the band is tight and flawless. I sure wish I could have seen one of these shows (closest he came to Portland was Vancouver , BC ).

3. BELA FLECK- “Throw Down Your Heart”
Bela Fleck is an inventive banjo player who is always stretching musical boundaries. He takes his banjo its ancestral home, Africa , and plays with a variety of African artists. The result is upbeat, diverse, and dazzling- and great fun.

4. BLITZEN TRAPPER- “Furr” (2008)
This Portland band really hit a creative peak with “Furr”. Their previous effort was wildly eclectic to the point of distraction. Here songs are still brimming with creative energy, but the styles are more cohesive. The opening “Sleepy Time in the Western World” has all sorts of 1970s Classic Rock references; “Furr” is a howling, off-beat folksy allegory; “Not Your Lover” is a straight forward piano ballad; and “Black river Killer” is a twisted folk tale that could have come from the Harry Smith Collection. The packaging and cover art are also terrific.

5. A WEATHER- “Cove” (2008)
Portland bands a re a diverse lot, and A Weather is about the mellowest. The breathy, restrained vocals entwined between Sarah Winchester and Aaron Gerber perfectly compliment the spare instrumentation. The songs are dense, coy, clever, and intelligent. Great music to drift off into dreams to. The cover and artwork are superb, with lyrics included.

6. POINT JUNCTURE WA- “Heart to Elk”
I played this Portland band’s CD incessantly last winter. Like A Weather, the vocals feature duet vocals between Amanda Spring and Victor Nash. The lyrics are dense and abstract. But what’s exciting here are the arrangements: daring and unusual, combining vibes, trumpet, and distorted guitars, and occasionally more horns. Sioux Arrow has an amazing secondary harmony behind screeching guitars. The cover and artwork are superb here as well, although including lyrics would have been nice.

7. LEVON HELM- “Electric Dirt”
Levon Helm was the drummer for The Band, which was Bob Dylan’s back-up band in the late 1960s and recorded several seminal albums. Levon developed throat cancer a few years back and it was questionable whether he’d speak, let alone sing, again. “Dirt Farmer” in 2007 followed Levon’s near-miraculous recovery. “Electric Dirt” improves on its superlative predecessor, with better singing, songs, and arrangements. Things start off with a terrific version of the Grateful Dead gem “Tennessee Jed”, which fits Levon to a “T”. There’s great horns on this song and throughout the album- all the musicians and arrangements are top-notch. There’s less of a country feel and more blues and soul here than on “Dirt Farmer”, and I like that just fine.

8. VIVA VOCE- “ Rose City ”
This Portland duo of Kevin and Anita Robinson rocks on “Devotion”, the title track named for their (and my) hometown, and the meteorologically oriented “Tornado Alley”. Anita is an interesting guitarist, with some 1960s surf licks here and there. The album takes some dramatic stylistic curves, and ends with the haunting “The Slow Fade”. This CD grew on me.

9. ROSEANNE CASH- “The List”
It would be hard to go wrong with a set of songs recommended after careful consideration as important American songs by her Dad, Johnny Cash. Especially with a voice as expressive and soulful as Rosenne’s, and with creative arrangements by her multi-instrumentalist producer and husband John Leventhal. Eerie organ sets the mood for a spell binding version of “500 Miles”. Guest vocals by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Tweedy are perfunctory but don’t break the rootsy mood. Good thing she held on to that list for forty years.

10. IAN “MAC” MCLAGAN & THE BUMP BAND- “Never Say Never”
Mac is the organist from Faces, one of my all time favorite bands. He has become an accomplished songwriter and has developed an appealing vocal style. The songs here are bittersweet, colored by the tragic loss of his beloved wife a few years ago. Particularly poignant is “Where Angels Hide”, basically Mac singing over grand piano. “Little Black Number” is a clever song about a war widow, and “An Innocent Man” features a terrific arrangement highlighted by Mac’s usual stellar B3. The band is a tight blend of Booker T & the MGs and Faces. Guitarist Scrappy Jud Newcome channels Ronnie Wood and Steve Cropper. I was thrilled to interview Mac for my KBOO show, and the band’s show at the intimate White Eagle Saloon was fantastic.

GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS- Lost Channels. Catchy folk-rock
THE DIMES- “The King Can Drink the Harbour. Dry” Bright acoustic folk/pop
FRUIT BATS- “Ruminant Band” Bright, Beatle-esque acoustic pop.
BAT FOR LASHES- “Two Suns”. Impressive vocals, some great percussion
DEADWOOD REVIVAL-”SAT 730”. Grateful Dead-esque jam folk/old time
WILCO- “Wilco- The Album”. Another great Wilco Cd, ho hum
DAVID BYRNE/BRIAN ENO- “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”.
MARIANNE FAITHFULL- “Easy Come, Easy Go”. Great arrangements
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM- “The ’59 Sound”. Catchy, lyrics, repetitive music
NEKO CASE- “Middle Cyclone”. Interesting lyrics, great band
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS- “The Live Anthology”. Great overview

STEVE WINWOOD/ERIC CLAPTON- “Live at Madison Square Garden ”.
I had high expectations for this, but it didn’t live up to them. Steve Winwood is great, but Clapton never catches fire. Songs featuring Clapton only emphasize what a mediocre songwriter and singer he is. Highlight is Steve Winwood’s soulful version of “ Georgia on My Mind” accompanying himself on Hammond organ.

01-01-2010, 06:18 AM
I, in my humble way, would like to propose a number 11 to that wonderful list:


Hope no one is offended:)



David G
01-01-2010, 01:20 PM

If Jack had been privy to this private release... and the story behind it... perhaps he'd have at least included it in the "honorable mention" category :p Well... maybe not. He quite serious about his music, and not much interested in boats :cool:

01-01-2010, 01:25 PM

If Jack had been privy to this private release... and the story behind it... perhaps he'd have at least included it in the "honorable mention" category :p Well... maybe not. He quite serious about his music, and not much interested in boats :cool:

Have you perused the "Naval architects are a waste" thread our troubadour and bar tender tender composed it for that thread.

As to your list, although I love Leonard Cohen, I don't think he should appear on any list, he shoul be the sole occupant.

Peerie Maa
01-01-2010, 01:28 PM
For sheer joie d' vivre I'd include Bellowhead, they are currently playing a set at the Pub:D

01-01-2010, 02:22 PM
Heres a very up coming group from here.

Adam is my sons friend through school and all the baseball teams.

When he started in another group they played next door all the time and still have my how to play the Beatles book.

Notice the Astoria shots here in this clip.


Curt G
01-01-2010, 02:39 PM
Your friend has a good ear. I wouldn't have added the Marianne Faithful but I've never been a fan anyway.
Amazing how Portland, Ore. is so well represented. My Daughter managed to get my "Hazards of Love" copy autographed by the band thru a beer brewing club connection.

01-01-2010, 02:55 PM
Thanks a heap David G. for posting that! I'm sure glad Levon Helm made the cut. There's no better All-American voice that captures the feeling of hope. And Larry Campbell gets my nod for the MVP sideman and producer on Electric Dirt.


Flying Orca
01-01-2010, 02:59 PM
I'll second the Bellowhead, and go one further by mentioning front man John Boden's solo album Songs from the Floodplain. Oh, and Amelia Curran's Hunter, Hunter.

David G
01-01-2010, 09:59 PM
bobbys - I hadn't heard Blind Pilot. I like it. Passed it on to Jac also. Thanks.

Stan D
01-02-2010, 10:55 AM
A dude I know from another forum packed up his life and moved west to make this movie for Blind Pilot. Here is the blog;


Weirdest thing to see is a stand up bass being towed behind a bicycle.

L.W. Baxter
01-02-2010, 12:28 PM
I've never really gotten much out of Roseanne Cash. But her version of "500 miles" is pleasant, and it appears she wrote some new lyrics for an old tune, a practice of which I approve.;):D

Also, yay The Decemberists!

01-03-2010, 04:25 AM
Down right, done right, and half way home ...Levon the best!!


David G
01-03-2010, 04:41 AM
bobbys - your comment about up and coming made me think of my young friend Nick. He's one of my oldest son's buddies who we're still tight with. It definitely ain't no Folk Music... but he's developing his own new-wave R&B sound:


He's got some work to do on his lyrics, but his arrangements are sweet, and getting tighter all the time.

I'm really glad you turned me on to Blind Pilot.

01-03-2010, 04:50 AM
For sure, we're only half way home, ain't we..when a strong brother falls.


David G
01-03-2010, 01:56 PM
We, all of us, got a wide, wide, river to cross.

01-03-2010, 06:38 PM
Just got the Leonard Cohen double CD and agree entirely. As always, his vocal range is limited, but his lyrics, tight band and patter compensate, plus, the timbre of that voice...I bet he got lots of chicks growing up!

Just so you know, Levon Helm's daughter has an excellent band named Ollabelle that has put out 2 folk/blues albums. Both of them are good, but I think they've got better stuff in them.

Flying Orca
01-03-2010, 10:56 PM
Saw them this summer or last, don't remember... not bad, but it didn't really grab me.

Three Cedars
01-19-2010, 05:02 AM
From Saskatchabush " The Deep Dark Woods "

http://www.myspace.com/deepdarkwoods , " All the Money I had is Gone "

Flying Orca
01-19-2010, 03:54 PM
From Saskatchabush " The Deep Dark Woods "

http://www.myspace.com/deepdarkwoods , " All the Money I had is Gone "

Quite awesome live, too.

Cuyahoga Chuck
01-19-2010, 04:07 PM
In the world of music, as opposed to the world where musicians try to find a group to pander to, Bela Fleck is known as a virtuoso. He can produce any piece of music you can put before him if it can possibly be produced on a banjo. To typecast him as a "folkrocker" is a slander, indeed. He can do everything that can possibly be done on a five string.
He has done numerous pieces of classical music that were so difficult he had to spend about 6 months in practice before each was recorded. The trauma to his hands was so great he had to have massage therapy the whole time.
In between gigs of bluegrass, rock, country, folk, and anything else that helps pay the rent he composes music, some of it classical music, for his instrument.
Musically, Bela Fleck can go where e're he pleases.

Flying Orca
01-19-2010, 04:12 PM
Last time he was here (two years ago, maybe?), I was off at another workshop when he jammed with the equally iconic Toumani Diabate, Prince of the Kora. Apparently they were big fans of each other's music, but had never met... until they were united on a workshop stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It was Toumani's first trip to Canada. :)

I'm kind of sorry I missed it. By all reports they both had these huge grins on their faces as they tossed phrases back and forth - I love that sort of magic!

Flying Orca
01-19-2010, 11:00 PM
It's a Synthaxe Drumitar, of course. Well, the Synthaxe Drumitar, really.

01-20-2010, 12:09 AM
I have to throw a good word in here for Newfoundland's Great Big Sea. Every wood boat should have a GBS album on board, for when the sea stands on end, or for when you hit port and have a few friends onboard to howl at the moon. When it comes to folk/traditional music, these guys put out a pretty nautical product, and you won't regret the chance to see them live. Cheers - Chris.

peter radclyffe
01-20-2010, 12:27 AM
L W Baxter &

01-20-2010, 03:06 AM
Boat in Belize - Kelly McGuire