Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best Music, 2010

wreath doorway cambridge copyright kerry dexter
Music at its best is conversation, ideas, creation, connection...not to mention melody, rhythm, harmony, poetry, and life. The best music is both timeless and immediately relevant, as well. That last is but one of the reasons that choosing best of year recordings is a good challenge.

Ten of the best, below. Follow the links for longer reviews and links to places where you’ll be able to hear bits of the music.


Shannon Heaton: The Blue Dress Heaton is an award winning singer, songwriter, and composer who most often appears in a duo with her husband Matt and in the four person band Long Time Courting. For this project, however, she focuses on the music she makes with her flute. Lively, entertaining, thoughtful, original, traditional -- all those words apply.

Carrie Newcomer: Before & After Turning points and moments of change are the ideas which songwriter Carrie Newcomer considers through her music here. A turn of light, a stone in a river, a word spoken or unspoken -- and a gaggle of geese, too. A gorgeous voice and a gift for melody as well as a storyteller’s heart, all present here.

The Clancy Legacy Donal Clancy, Aoife Clancy, and Robbie O’Connell are al musicians with their own fine solo careers. They are also cousins, the next generation on from The Clancy Brothers, whose work brought Irish music back to the world stage. Songs and tunes presented with individuality and connection both, a bit like a fine session around the fireside with three really talented friends.

Altan: 25th Anniversary Collection Altan have been bringing the distinctive music of Donegal, in the far northwest of Ireland, across the world for more than two decades with fire, grace and intelligence. To celebrate, they made new recordings of old favorites with a pretty good backing band: the RTE Orchestra. A challenge, and one has to think, a lot of fun for both classical and trad players on those sessions. The result serves both well and makes for a very fine way to celebrate

Karan Casey & John Doyle: Exiles Return A really creative selection of songs, most to do with emigration and immigration of varied sorts. two fine voices. guitar work and arrangements well framing the songs while making trad seem as fresh as today -- which, of course, it is.

Heidi Talbot: The Last Star Heidi Talbot proves herself a master of finding ways to sing songs from the tradition that set them right into the lives of twenty first centuy listeners. No bells and whistles (well okay, maybe whistles of the trad sort), just straight up thoughtful and beautiful singing, lively melodies and arrangements, and a fine original from Talbot on the title song, as well.

Patty Larkin: 25 To mark her twenty five years in music, singer and songwriter Patty Larkin asked twenty five musicians she’d worked with over the years to collaborate, each on a different song from across her musical history. Songwriters, writers, thinkers -- you’re bound to learn something from this recording. As you will from all the recordings on this list, I think.

Michael McGoldrick: Aurora A journey through Celtic based territory of mind, heart, and soul led by McGoldrick’s flute.

Julie Fowlis: Uam Sea, lands, family, hardship, heartbreak, love, joy, laughter -- you’ll be able to hear them all in the songs Julie Fowlis sings, whether or not you understand Scottish Gaelic, which is the language in which she sings them. Uam was released in the UK last year, but in honor of its release in the US, it fits in this list as well.

Old Blind Dogs: Scotland Yet Music of Scotland that is both vintage and new, along with a take on the American folk song Copper Kettle which makes it sound as though it could have come straight from the highlands, some inspired piping and composing from newest Dog Ali Hutton, and a sparkling tune from Mattheu Watson, a musician you also met along the music road.

Lissa Schneckenburger: Dance You may get up and dance to Schneckenburger’s New England fiddle tunes, or you may choose to listen. Do both. You’ll be well rewarded.

Robin Spielberg: Sea to Shining Sea New perspectives on familiar music from the American song book from pianist Robin Spielberg. Chances are you’ll enjoy her instrumental versions of Aura Lee, Danny Boy, Sweet Betsy from Pike, and a a basketful more. There are several well chosen originals as well.



you may also wish to see
Music Road: Best Music, 2009
Music Road: holiday gift list: Irish music
Music Road: holiday gift list: American harvest

Irish music recommendations

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

9 Comments:

Anonymous NoPotCooking said...

Thank you for this great list!

10:59 AM  
Blogger Susan Johnston said...

Happy Holidays! And thanks for this great list. Must have been tough to choose.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Alexandra said...

I remember your reviews for Shannon and Carrie. I was interested to find Patty Larkin on the list. She actually lives in my town and does concerts for local charities from time to time.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi said...

Fabulous list- especially excited about the second generation Clancy cousins. I had no idea about them.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous The Writer's [Inner] Journey said...

I always keep round-ups like this in mind when choosing gifts. Really helpful.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Stephanie - Wasabimon.com said...

Thank you for this wonderful list! Off to Amazon to see what I can preview...

3:02 AM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

Stephanie,
follow the links in this story -- or any Amazon link here -- and any shopping you do will help support Music Road, as we are an Amazon affiliate (link to disclosure policy about this above right).

thanks! there's a great deal of good listening in this list.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous sarah henry said...

I like the idea of music as conversation. Had never thought of it that way, Kerry. Thanks for planting that notion in my head and sharing this list.

1:00 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

Sarah,
glad to get you thinking that way about music. I think you'll find it a good way to go.

6:33 PM  

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