fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year 2010

"The best researched guide to the key world roots albums of the year" - BBC Radio 3

fRoots Awards welcome

Welcome to's page for the the 25th Annual fRoots Critics Poll for Albums Of The Year 2010: the flagship award for world folk and roots music since 1986. Every year the magazine polls over 300 writers, broadcasters and activists in the UK and abroad to decide the Album Of The Year in those fields of music which they champion, and it has become established internationally as the most extensively researched and prestigious annual poll of its kind.

Previous winners of the esteemed Best Album prize include the likes of Jim Moray, Ali Farka Toure, Amadou and Mariam, Youssou N'Dour and Buena Vista Social Club. There are also awards for the Best Re-issue or Compilation and the Best Packaged Album.

fRoots Best New Album of 2010

fRoots nominations

2010’s winner is Bellowhead – Hedonism from the English folk big band whose recent appearances on Later With Jools and at all the big festivals, coupled with album production at London's iconic Abbey Road studios, have finally given them a third-time-lucky No.1. Other English folk albums sharing the top placings are by daughter/mother duo Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson (both previous Mercury prize nominees) and songwriter Chris Wood, whilst a trio of albums from top World Music label World Circuit - the AfroCubism project, the final recordings of Mali's Ali Farka Toure with Toumani Diabate, and the latest by Senegal's Cheikh Lô complete the top placings.

Congratulations to all the nominees, the full top ten is listed below.

Best Album Winner & Nominations
BellowheadAli Farke Toure & Toumani DiabateAfrocubismEliza Carthy & Norma WatersonChris Wood
Bellowhead - Hedonism (Navigator)
2. Ali Farke Toure & Toumani Diabate - Ali & Toumani (World Circuit)3. Afrocubism - Afrocubism (World Circuit)4. Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson - Gift (Topic)5. Chris Wood - Handmade Life (R.U.F.)

Cheikh LoEmily PortmanAlasdair RobertsCarolina Chocolate DropsKonono No.1
6. Cheikh Lô - Jamm (World Circuit)7. Emily Portman - The Glamoury (Furrow)8. Alasdair Roberts - Too Long In This Condition (Navigator)9. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch)10. Konono No.1 - Assume Crash Position (Crammed)

Previous Winners of the fRoots Critics Poll For Albums Of The Year

The previous 23 years of fRoots Albums of the Year have seen some of the all time great world roots albums take the coveted prize. Perhaps the most famous "world music" album, Paul Simon's Graceland took the inaugural award back in 1986, with Buena Vista Social Club's self-titled opus--the biggest selling world music album ever--honoured in 1997. Recently revealed as one of Barack Obama's favourite records, Kulanjan by Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate was a winner in 1999, and the family affair Waterson: Carthy did the same in 1994. Before the Re-issues and Compilations category was introduced Blues legend Robert Johnson's The Complete Recordings was also a popular winner (1990).

The first part of the 21st Century was dominated by African roots albums, with the likes of Ali Farka Toure, Youssou N'Dour and Amadou & Mariam among the recent winners, but the mould was finally broken in 2008 with a triumph for English folk by Jim Moray. Last year's winner was a group of extraordinary disabled musicians from Kinshasa, Staff Benda Bilili with Très Trés Fort.

Selected previous fRoots Critics Poll Albums of the Year
Staff Benda BililiJim MorayBassekou Kouyate & Ngoni BadAli Farka ToureAmadou & Mariam
Winner 2009:
Staff Benda Bilili - Très Trés Fort
Winner 2008:
Jim Moray - Low Culture
Winner 2007:
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Bad - Segu Blue
Winner 2006:
Ali Farka Toure - Savane
Winner 2005:
Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche a Bamoko

Taj Mahal & Toumani DiabateBuena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social ClubRobert JohnsonPaul Simon
Winner 1999:
Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate - Kulanjan
Winner 1997:
Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club
Winner 1994:
Waterson: Carthy - Waterson: Carthy
Winner 1990:
Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings
Winner 1986:
Paul Simon - Graceland

fRoots Best Compilation or Reissue and Best Packaged Album

fRoots nominations

Along with the coveted Album of the Year award, the fRoots Critics Poll also recognises the Best Compilation or Reissue and the Best Packaged Album. The former was introduced as a category in 1991 after Robert Johnson's Collected Recordings had won the main prize the previous year, and has seen success by the likes of Bob Dylan, Ali Farka Toure and Orchestra Boabab among a host of world and roots compilations.

In 2006 a Best Packaged Album category was added, to acknowledge the great improvements and creativity in CD packaging design that still make CDs hold their own as objects of desire in the era of downloads. In 2009, the package celebrating 70 years of Topic Records--Three Score & Ten: A Voice to the People--picked up both prizes, beating the second Francophonic volume and Woody Guthrie's My Dusty Road box set, amongst others.

This year, the compilations prize was carried off by the 18 CD box set Africa - 50 Years of Music 1960-2010, marking 50 years of independence for many countries on the continent, with the classic compilation of vintage tracks by Senegal's Etoile De Dakar featuring a young Youssou N'Dour just behind.

The Best Packaged Album award, however, went to America's Natalie Merchant for her extraordinary double CD set Leave Your Sleep, packaged in a superb hardback digipak book with her stories of all the poets whose lyrics she adapted. The music on it is pretty amazing too, just missing the new albums Top 10 by one place.

Best Compilation or Re-issue of 2010 Winner & Nominations
Africa 50Etoile De DakarPalenque, Palenque
1. Various Artists - Africa: 50 Years of Music 1960-2010 (Discograph/Sterns)
2. Étoile de Dakar feat. Youssou N’Dour - Once Upon a Time in Senegal (Sterns)
3. Various Artists - Palenque Palenque (Soundway)

The Roots of Chicha Vol. 2Shirley CollinsGhost from the Basement
4. Various Artists - The Roots of Chicha Vol. 2 (Crammed)
5. Shirley Collins - Sweet England (Fledg'ling)6. Various Artists - Ghosts from the Basement (Weekend Beatnik)

Best Packaged Album of 2010 Winner & Nominations
Natalie MerchantAfrica 50Bellowhead
1. Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)
2. Various Artists - Africa: 50 Years of Music 1960-2010 (Rounder)
3. Bellowhead - Hedonism (Navigator)

The ChieftainsAfrocubismBob Dylan
4. The Chieftains with Ry Cooder - San Patricio (Concorde)
5. Afrocubism - Afrocubism (World Circuit)
6. Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol.9: The Wittmark Demos 1962-1964 (Sony)