It’s time for an annual ritual, one of those occasions for doing something silly or irrational just because it’s the way it was always done. And so we have the 2017 edition of the Graham Awards, something that I have been doing now on these airwaves for over 40 years. And rather than making jokes about how bad I think that some music is, music that might otherwise loved by a lot of people with different tastes, I’ll just give out awards to my Ten Favorite albums from among the recordings we have featured on Mixed Bag, and there were over 500 of them during the course of 2017. The list is limited to recording that have actually been released as physical recordings. Also, in keeping with my own pet peeves, none of these recordings features auto-tuned or otherwise distorted vocals, they have decent sonic clarity, and are free from that most ubiquitous and irritating cliche of fake hand-claps.
Starting with #10:
10. Ned Farr and the Good Red Road: The Ghost of It All. An interesting reunion of a group from the 1990s that feature tasteful, creatively arranged original songs in somewhat atmospheric setting.
9. Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues: Different Voices. Veteran Chicago blues harmonica player Corky Siegel, whose career goes back to the 1960s group The Siegel-Schwall Band, returns with his latest project mixing blues harmonica with a classical-style string quartet with an Indian tabla.
8. Shubh Saran: Hmyra An Indian-born guitarist in his official debut album does done some very creative progressive rock and fusion.
7. Blind Boys of Alabama: Almost Home. There are not too many bands with two original members who have been with the group since the 1930s. But the Blind Boys of Alabama return with a great collection of new blues-oriented tunes with various special guests.
6. Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn: Echo in the Valley. The hust-band wife duo of banjo virtuosos return to show how just two banjos and a vocal can made for fascinating music.
5. Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’: TajMo. An excellent combination of two veteran blues performers of different generations.
4. Ben Sidran: Picture Him Happy. Ben Sidran, a veteran of the Steve Miller Band in the 1960s, and jazz performer, shows that he is as musically and lyrically creative and snarky as ever.
3. Offa Rex: The Queen of Hearts. This is one of two albums in our Top ten which features the same vocalist, English folk newcomer Olivia Chaney. In this case, she gets together with the Seattle area art pop group the Decemberists for a recording inspired by the classic English folk groups.
2. Becca Stevens: Regina. Creative, sophisticated music with some jazz and art rock influence. It features a guest appearance by last years’ top Graham Award winner Jacob Collier.
1. Kronos Quartet: Folk Songs. The string quartet known for their remarkable eclecticism has done everything from traditional classical to commissioned contemporary classical works to Jimi Hendrix covers. This time, they were joined by four diverse vocalists, Natalie Merchant, Sam Amidon, MacArthur award winner Rhiannon Giddens and the aforementioned Olivia Chaney, doing often stunning arrangements of traditional folk songs.
(c) Copyright 2017 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
This article may not be copied to another Web site without written permission.
To Index of Album Reviews | To George Graham's Home Page. | What's New on This Site.