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Top 20 Folk/Roots Albums, Summer 2014

Top 20 Folk/Roots Albums, Summer 2014


Welcome to the inaugural installment of Napster's folk/roots roundup. If you're familiar with the roundups from our other genres, then you know what to expect here: a well-rounded spotlight of new releases, overlooked gems and notable archival titles from the world of American vernacular music. Of course, "American vernacular" is a fairly vague term. For our purposes it encompasses bluegrass, vintage Southern soul/R&B, old-time country, blues music's older iterations (acoustic blues, folk blues, Delta blues, etc.), Cajun/zydeco, Southern gospel, neo-John Fahey folk experimentation and even rockabilly.

Nearly every one of the movements just mentioned is represented in our debut roundup. From young guitar virtuoso Daniel Bachman and ex-Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist Willie Watson to classic-rock icon Levon Helm and legendary New Orleans ukulele player Papa Lemon Nash, you're treated to a wide range of sounds and styles. But if there's one single release that you simply have to check out, it's The South Carolina Broadcasters' recent gospel set Diamonds in the Rough. Interestingly enough, the trio actually hails from Mount Airy, N.C., and is a favorite among the countless string bands based in the state's western foothills and Piedmont region. I saw them a few weeks back (in Saxapahaw, N.C.), and they put on a fantastic show: polished and professional, but also intimate and warm. Their Carter Family-inspired sound is deceptively complex. At first blush, it's a fairly tidy blend of old time and bluegrass. However, the tight, confident harmonies of fiddler Ivy Sheppard and banjoist Sarah Osborne eventually reveal surprising touches of country boogie and folk revivalism. Now get listening ...

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