Folk Alley’s Best of 2012 – Barb Heller’s Top Picks of the Year

Barb Heller’s List of Favorite Releases of 2012…(and one from 2011.)

by Barb Heller, folkalley.com

Disclaimer: I love music – almost every kind, but bluegrass music holds a special place for me. I enjoy great instrumental playing, and I love to laugh, so I think my favorites span the gamut between virtuosic and ridiculous. I’ll let you sort them out! Here are my faves of the year, in no particular order:

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Tony Rice: The Bill Monroe Collection

This is a compilation of recordings made over a 15-year period, featuring Bill Monroe favorites, played and sung by one of America’s favorite bluegrass musicians.

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Bill Evans: Good Company

Evans teamed up with Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, The Infamous Stringdusters, and many more to present this varied collection of original, traditional and contemporary collaborations. Mostly instrumental, with some great singing too, and a healthy dose of classic Beatles songs.

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Liam Fitzgerald and The Rainieros: Last Call!

Full disclosure: I am a western swing/honky tonk head. I LOVE this album. It’s fun, ALL original, and so rhythmic you just can’t keep your feet still – and the name – a chip off ol’ Mt. Rainier! If I could hire one party band, this would be it.

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New Multitudes: Music by Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames. Lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

At the invitation of Woody Guthrie’s sister Nora, these four musicians set Woody Guthrie’s unpublished lyrics to music and recorded them on this EP. To hear Guthrie’s lyrics plugged into 21st century arrangements makes one realize how timeless they are, and what a lyrical genius he was. 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Woody’s birth, and this is a good way to remember him.

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The Foghorn String Band: Outshine the Sun

It’s funky and fun, and it keeps my feet tappin’ – and the picking is great too. A simple album that makes you want to dance. Enough said.

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Ricky Skaggs: Music To My Ears

Ricky Skaggs is a bluegrass icon, but this album is a little different that previous releases: a little less frenetic, and more lyrical. Nice songs, nicely played by some of the best in the business. I think it’s one of his best.

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Peter Ostroushko: The Mando Chronicles

As a late-year release, this one is easy to overlook. It’s only been out a few weeks. This collection of arrangements includes everything from fiddle tune medleys to Duke Ellington hits to a classical march. Starring Peter Ostroushko, with Norman Blake and a few other guest artists.

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Hot Steel & Cool Ukelele: Hapa Haole Hit Parade

Yes, this is just what the title implies, and it DOES contain the hit single, “Makin’ Wicky Wacky Down In Waikiki”. If you like that one, you’ll love the rest of the album, superbly sung by Erich Sylvester (who also plays uke on the album). One listen, and I was hooked! A must-have for your next luau! Warning: If Hawaiian songs (like, ‘When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop’) are not your thing, then run away as fast as you can! You will hate this album.

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