The Best of 2015

Every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve been asked by the UK’s fRoots Magazine to take part in their annual Critics’ Poll to find the best albums of the year in roots music worldwide (or ‘local music from out there’ as they define it). This involves each critic selecting six favourite releases from the previous twelve months plus four compilations or re-releases. Three more titles are also chosen for a ‘best-packaged album’ category. The results are then added up to make the final lists of the year’s top music.

It’s hardly surprising that with about 300 critics from around the globe making choices Okinawan music doesn’t feature prominently. Although music from Okinawa is now well-known overseas it’s often just London based critic Paul Fisher and me who regularly vote for it. I always try to include at least one or two Okinawan albums along with the best of the rest that I’ve listened to but like any arbitrarily contrived awards system my choices are shaped by personal taste and limited by the amount of music I’ve actually listened to.

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This year has been an unusually fertile one for good albums from these islands. Four of my six choices for best new releases went to recordings from Okinawa. The most outstanding for me was Myahk-U by Satoru Shimoji a singer who continues to revitalise music from Miyako in his own way. The album is every bit as good as its superb predecessor Myahk. My other selections were the new albums Furusato No Kaze by Yasuko Yoshida, the four women of Unaigumi with their album Unaijima, and Yasukatsu Oshima’s collection of Yaeyama songs Kuitsui. All of these are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

2015 was such a good year that I didn’t even get to mention Kanako Horiuchi’s recordings in Senegal, the new Nenez, or the back-to-basics album by Kazutoshi Matsuda. In the compilations category it was good to be able to include Campus Records 45 Years Anniversary Album. So this year it was Okinawan music which dominated my choices. My favourite ‘non-Okinawan’ album (which eventually finished in 2nd place in the main awards) was Anna & Elizabeth an absolute gem of old-time music and stories from young Americans Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle.

 

 

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