Folk Alley’s Best of 2012 – Elena See’s Top Picks of the Year

Elena See – Top Folk Albums of 2012

by Elena See, folkalley.com

Do you ever feel like you’re standing in the batting cage…getting ready to swing…and then something goes haywire with the machine? And the baseballs start coming at you without pause, one right after the other, speeding up faster and faster until you just give up and crouch down and cover your head, attempting to avoid getting smacked at 95mph? That’s kind of how 2012 went for me – so much music coming my way…and so much of it good that eventually I just gave up and let it all hit me. In no particular order – here are a few of the baseballs – or, I mean, recordings – that really stood out:

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Caroline Herring – Camilla — There is A LOT going on in this recording. I love how Caroline Herring is able to write a song about something complex, heart breaking and incredibly thought provoking – like “Camilla” – and then turn around and write a piece of music that’s inspired by something as simple as a little girl chasing fireflies (“Fireflies”.)


Compilation – Mercyland-Hymns for the Rest of Us — Besides the incredible list of musicians who participated on this exquisitely recorded Phil Madeira produced compilation (Emmylou Harris, the Civil Wars, Shawn Mullins, etc., etc.), the concept of an album that connects music and spirituality in a non-organized religion kind of way – well, it’s appealing. And that was, I think, the point.

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Gretchen Peters – Hello Cruel World — Gretchen Peters said this recording is her “most close-to-the-bone work,” a collection of songs she wrote during a time of personal challenges and heartbreaks. For the listener, it is a body of music that is incredibly honest, touching, sorrowful and triumphant all at the same time. Who can resist lyrics like “I’m a ticking clock, a losing bet/a girl without a safety net/I’m a cause for some concern…” ?

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Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac – Seinn — Music from a couple of Cape Breton music legends? Yes please. Seinn is the first collaboration between two long time friends who share a love of the musical traditions of Nova Scotia. It’s an album created by a couple of virtuosos and it’s a real delight from beginning to end – traditional and original music blending wonderfully together.

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Rose Cousins – We Have Made a Spark — This recording didn’t catch my eye right away…so I was a little late on the Rose Cousins train. But I’m glad I caught it. Cousins has a way of writing lyrics that make you think she’s either speaking directly to you or she somehow has tapped into your own brain and pulled out your biggest fears, insecurities, joys, etc., etc., etc. It’s almost scary.


The Lumineers – The Lumineers — This was the big one of the year, I think. And I admit – I turned my nose up at first, prejudiced by all the good press it got. But then I actually listened to it. And listened again. And again. And blushed, ashamed that I’d made such a quick judgment. This duo-turned-trio has something to offer to anyone who cares to listen – songs about love and happiness, about sorrow and loss, conveyed by talented musicians who really seem to care about what they’re doing.

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Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You — What’s there to say? Great bluegrass music. Great musicians. Great production value. Etc. Etc. Etc. It’s just … great.

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