Happens every year, I haul out all my data and assemble a best-of list and submit to Village Voice pazznjop poll. Always find something new somebody else has discovered, always forget a couple titles that should have made my own list. This one’s weird: could have easily topped my list, and you don’t see it on too many others’ either. Once I seized on it and started listening to it again, I couldn’t stop. At first you’ll hear Alison Kraus bells go off, then Hull takes you in different directions (as Kraus herself testifies). She writes almost as well as she sings, and that’s really the shit. At least the Grammys noticed. But “Best Folk Album” sends the wrong signal: this counts as progressive Bluegrass, in the same league as Chris Thile and Punch Bros.
Nat Hentoff 1925-2017
He spoke at Oberlin in the early 1980s about Skokie, the ACLU, the tabloids and how people don’t get the First Amendment, and he exemplified the journalist on a mission, enlarging the idea of “Music Critic” much as Calvin Trillin expanded the notion of Food Critic. He was as kind as could be to me in person: at one point when I asked him for a reference, he warned me that a lot of people had written him off with his pro-choice stands. I disagreed with that stance but admired his originality and commitment to larger principles. Don’t miss his Playboy 1965 Playboy interview with Bob Dylan (print or audio).