My musical year in review

It’s been quite a year for West African music. Much-loved Ali Farka Touré passed away, not without leaving us one last album. He’s survived by his nephew Afel Bocoum, who has started getting lots of attention for his music. Tartit, with their Tuareg electric guitars, brought out a new album as well. Toumani Diabaté and Ba Cissoko each put out some great eclectic yet still tradition-steeped music.

Rosanne Cash dealt with her father’s passing (and the death of other family members) in Black Cadillac. Neil Young expressed his thoughts on Living With War. We went Crazy over Gnarls Barkley, The Dixie Chicks continued as outspoken as ever on Taking the Long Way, and Bob Dylan reflected on Modern Times.

Folk music is alive and well and mutating into new forms every day. In fact, I don’t know if it’s technology and the global village thing, but it seems to me that increasing numbers of musicians perform stuff that blends an amazing variety of influences from many genres, past decades and corners of the globe (what a funny expression). Pete Seeger would say it’s all folk music.

At any rate, it’s the music that helps remind us who we are and what we can be. I don’t think I could have gotten through the year without it.

Finds of 2006

My top albums of 2006: This music evoked from me a stunned “Wowww!” a quiet “mmmm” or a jubilant “YES!” This is stuff I can’t stop listening to:

Idan Raichel – The Idan Raichel Project
Haunting, yearning, hopeful. This young Israeli includes samples of Ethiopian singers in his work. No Hebrew, Amharic or Ethiopian language skills required for appreciation.
The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
Their best yet by far. Leaked early to the Internet, it’s not officially out yet.
Aterciopelados – Oye
This Colombian group rocks! Penetrating feminist/humanist lyrics.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – The Letting Go
Exquisitely, delicately moving. One of my favorites from the Bonnie Prince.
Mari Boine – Idjagiedas
Sami chants to put you into a blissful trance.
Sara Tavares – Balance
Delicious gentle rhythms. I find myself dancing.
The Little Willies – The Little Willies
So gosh darn enjoyable. I challenge anyone to dislike this album. In fact, I challenge anyone not to sing along.
Juana Molina – Son
Her “folktronics” and quiet Spanish lyrics continue to hypnotize me.

Late discoveries

I happened to find out about these folks for the first time in 2006 and they are too wonderful not to acknowledge:

Exene Cervenka – Running Sacred
Where have I been all her life? Some of the most enjoyable lyrics ever – “Everyone has a boss. My boss is my heart. So you see, I cannot quit my job.” and “Wouldn’t it be fun to stop the world and watch all the people fall off?”
Robin Holcomb – any album, though I’m listening to Rockabye the most.
Folk? Jazz? Classical? All the above. Americana for sure. Thought-provoking and moving.
Karen Savoca – In The Dirt
Can I say it? Down to earth. What a voice, and what soul.

Honorable mentions

Here are my other favorite albums released in 2006, in alphabetical order:

Afel Boucoum – Niger
Akli D – Ma Yela
Ali Farka Toure – Savane
Ba Cissoko – Electric Griot Land
The Be Good Tanyas – Hello Love
Belle And Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Cat Power – The Greatest
The Dears – Gang Of Losers
Glen Phillips – Mr Lemons
Grandaddy – Just Like The Fambly Cat
Greg Brown – The Evening Call
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Ballad Of The Broken Seas
Kinky – Reina
Lily Afshar – Hemispheres
The Long Winters – Putting The Days To Bed
M. Ward – Post-War
Marisa Monte – Infinito Particular and Universo Ao Meu Redor
Nellie McKay – Pretty Little Head
New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This
Oppenheimer – Oppenheimer
Pernice Brothers – Live A Little
Ray Davies – Other People’s Lives
Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac
Rose Melberg – Cast Away The Clouds
Sergent Garcia – Máscaras
The Submarines – The Submarines
Sufjan Stevens – The Avalanche
Tartit – Abacabok
Tom Petty – Highway Companion
Toumani Diabaté & Symmetric Orchestra – Boulevard de l’Independance
Wailin’ Jennys – Firecracker
Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Where to listen

A good place to listen to samples of many of these artists is Or of course, if you know me, you can borrow from me!

How about you?

What music did you love this year?