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Scott Alarik's top folk albums of 2009

Globe critics name their top 10 list (and a surprise)

By Scott Alarik
Globe Correspondent / December 20, 2009

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ANTJE DUVEKOT “The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer’’ The sweet mystery is how Duvekot can explore such intimate emotions in ways that reveal the same deep feelings in ourselves. Lyrically fearless, melodically irresistible.

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project’’ Alternating Poole standards with smart biographical ballads, Wainwright wonderfully evokes the old-time legend’s stark realism and sly wit.

CARA DILLON “Hill of Thieves’’ The whispery Irish folk-popster sings a wistful, intimate, and achingly lovely set of trad classics.

JOHN GORKA “So Dark You See’’ Grayer and wiser, Gorka remains folk’s wide-eyed boy, looking in perplexed wonder at a world that should make more sense than it does. Somehow both his prettiest and most political album.

CAROLINE HERRING “Golden Apples of the Sun’’ Herring’s haunting, honey-husk voice seems to be singing only to you. Full of fresh turns, yet as knowable as your best-friend’s smile.

MICK MOLONEY “If It Wasn’t For the Irish and the Jews’’ A nostalgic saunter through vintage Irish-Jewish songwriting teams that helped invent American popular music. A crucial historical document, and more fun than a sandbox full of 6-year-olds.

LE VENT DU NORD “La Part Du Feu’’ The muscular young quartet mines the neglected Quebecois ballad tradition to create a bittersweet epic of French Canada.

CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM “In Person at Carnegie Hall’’ This complete, unedited 1963 concert captures the lads who reinvented Irish music at the peak of their powers, crackling with melodic brawn, sweet lilt, and cocky wit.

CATIE CURTIS “Hello Stranger’’ Curtis explores life’s better moments with the same passion most songwriters reserve only for its dark side. Backed by an amiable, urbane string band, she’s never felt quite so at home.

VARIOUS ARTISTS “Singing Through the Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips’’ Stars like Pete Seeger, Emmylou Harris, and Ani DiFranco swap tracks with community musicians like Maine’s tart treasure Kendall Morse and gruff Wisconsin trucker Larry Penn, capturing the mix of musical brilliance and raw truth that defined Phillips’s radical genius.

BIGGEST SURPRISE
SARAH JAROSZ “Song Up in Her Head’’ Searing alt-pop and yearning mountain balladry, jamgrass, and trad dance wildly together. The debut of a stunning new folk voice - who’s only a freshman at New England Conservatory.

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