Folk Roots Radio Episode 486: Our Favourite Albums of 2019

Folk Roots Radio Episode 486: Our Favourite Albums of 2019

It’s that time of year… we’re holding back the interviews on Episode 486 of Folk Roots Radio as we check out our ten favourite albums of 2019. One of the best things about doing a radio show is getting loads of great music to listen to each week. One of the hardest things to do is to take all that fabulous music and narrow it down to your ten favourite recordings of the year. You can check out The Top 10 on this episode. We’ll be playing more of our favourite albums on upcoming episodes of Folk Roots Radio. If you don’t see an album you really loved, maybe it didn’t make it up on to our radar, or perhaps we never received a copy. Please consider sharing your favourite albums in the comments – we might even spin them on a future episode of the show. Listen to The Top 10 and check out the full playlist below. Enjoy!

Making a year end ‘best of’ list is a great way to reflect on a year gone by, and hopefully encourage people to check out some great music they may not have realized they actually like. For 2019, we have only included those albums that were received from November 1 2018 to October 31 2019, so anything received after that date will be included in our 2020 album review. This year, to make the selection process go as smoothly as possible, we actually started off with about 75 albums, and narrowed that down to a 50 album long list, and then to our ten favourite albums. As always, this is a very subjective and personal selection of music.

The Top 10

1. Suzanne Jarvie, In The Clear (Wolfe Island Records)
Suzanne Jarvie In The Clear - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Suzanne Jarvie started writing songs for her critically acclaimed debut, 2014’s “Spiral Road”, while sitting with her son in hospital, as he recovered from a devastating fall down a spiral staircase. Her latest album, “In The Clear”, explores the wider impact of that accident on her family. The new recording, once again produced by Chris Brown at the Old Post Office on Wolfe Island ON, is a gorgeous slice of Americana songwriting – great songs with a lovely western feel, beautifully played by a fine supporting cast, and a crystal clear voice that comes over like Emmylou Harris in her prime. To learn more about the music of Suzanne Jarvie, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

2. Del Barber, Easy Keeper (Acronym Records)
Del Barber Easy Keeper - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Manitoba singer-songwriter Del Barber released a wonderful new album this year – the Americana flavoured “Easy Keeper”. Four years in the making, Easy Keeper really packs a punch. 11 great songs, full of interesting characters, that are at times deeply personal, and yet at others, quite celebratory. A renowned storyteller in song, Del Barber has produced five critically acclaimed albums and been nominated for JUNO Awards, Western Canadian Music Awards, and Canadian Folk Music Awards. Easy Keeper was predominantly recorded in Manitoba, and produced by Del Barber with Grant Siemens (Corb Lund, Tom Russell), with Bill Western on pedal steel, Bernie Thiessen on bass and Ivan Burke on drums with Geoff Hilhorst​ (​Leeroy Stagger​, ​The Deep Dark Woods​) on keys, and ​Jeremy Rusu (Rosie & The Riveters​, ​Red Moon Road​) on accordion. To learn more about the music of Del Barber, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

3. Jon Brooks, Moth Nor Rust II (Fallen Tree Records)
Jon Brooks Moth Nor Rust II - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Toronto singer-songwriter Jon Brooks says that he writes songs to calm those who’ve looked into and seen what is in their hearts; he also writes songs to terrify those who’ve not. We think that sums up things pretty well – his lyrics deserve to be poured over, as no word is EVER wasted. In the case of Jon Brooks’ seventh album, “Moth Nor Rust II” that means asking what it means to be human. Moth Nor Rust II is actually a re-imagining of his 2009 solo album “Moth Nor Rust”, and this time around, he brings his band ‘The Outskirts Of Approval’ featuring Neil Cruickshank (guitars, bass, organ), John Showman (fiddle) and Vivienne Wilder (bass, vocals) along for the ride. Moth Nor Rust II was produced by the original engineer, Jason LaPrade with Neil Cruickshank. To learn more about the music of Jon Brooks, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

4. Gathering Sparks, All That’s Real (Borealis Records)
Gathering Sparks All That's Real - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Gathering Sparks describe themselves as the graceful collision between Jane Lewis and Eve Goldberg – musical friends who bonded over finely tuned harmonies and the craft of songwriting. They actually started out as a trio – original member Sam Turton leaving the band after the release of their self-titled debut album. With an approach that embraces a wide variety of styles: folk, pop, blues and gospel, “All That’s Real” feels like the album they were bound to make, for a duo that have really found their identity. To learn more about the music of Gathering Sparks, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

5. Our Native Daughters, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways)
Songs of Our Native Daughters - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell came together as Our Native Daughters to create new songs from old ones, and shine a light on African American stories of struggle, resistance, and hope. Pulling from and inspired by 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century sources Songs of Our Native Daughters brings a powerful black female perspective to the narrative. To learn more about Songs of Our Native Daughters, visit

6. Ariana Gillis, The Maze (Self)
Ariana Gillis The Maze - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Ariana Gillis’ brilliant 2019 album “The Maze” was recorded live off the floor with the legendary Buddy Miller in Nashville who picked up on Ariana after live appearances on Sirius XM with both music critic and author Dave Marsh and Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s long-term lyricist. The Maze really captures Ariana’s captivating live sound, distinctive voice and vocal delivery on some fine songs. Hopefully this album will provide the breakthrough her music deserves. To learn more about the music of Ariana Gillis, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

7. Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboys, Pickup Cowboy (Waterbug)
Jonathan Byrd Pickup Cowboy - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019North Carolina singer-songwriter Jonathan Byrd’s latest “Pickup Cowboy” was actually delayed for a couple of years, after the sad death of cellist Paul Ford – long time member of Jonathan’s backing band ‘The Pickup Cowboys’. Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumour on the last day of recording the new album, and passed away a year later. The album was finally completed in Winnipeg with the help of Joanna Miller on drums, and Alexa Dirks (Begonia) and Andrina Turenne on backing vocals alongside Byrd and long time multi-instrumentalist and guitarist Johnny Waken. Pickup Cowboy features ten songs, eight Byrd originals (one a co-write with Charles Humphrey III, formerly with the Steep Canyon Rangers) and two songs by fellow singer-songwriter Matt Fockler, the inspiration for the title track. To learn more about the music of Jonathan Byrd, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

8. Dave McEathron, Abandoned Companions (Self)
Dave McEathron Abandoned Companions - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Hamilton based multi-instrumentalist Dave McEathron, the former frontman and principal songwriter of Toronto roots rockers, the much loved and sadly departed The Warped 45s, released a wonderful full-length solo album “Abandoned Companions” in 2018. The album actually comes with a band E.P., appropriately entitled “The Abandoned Companions Companion Piece”. A lovingly recorded project, both of the albums are presented in a hand crafted leather sleeve, made by Dave himself, that comes hand-stamped with the album’s logo. A songbook with lyrics and chord shapes is also included. The new albums were mostly produced with Brian Pickett who has worked with both The Strumbellas and Ashley Condon (two tracks “The Other Side and “Luck” were produced by Hill Kourkoutis. “Luck” is a co-write with David Francey). To learn more about the music of Dave McEathron, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

9. Reid Jamieson, Me Daza (Self)
Reid Jamieson Me Daza - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Vancouver based singer-songwriter Reid Jamieson’s latest album “Me Daza” may be the album of his career. Recorded in Ireland with Kieran Kennedy (Maria Doyle Kennedy), ‘me daza’ is actually Cork Ireland slang for ‘most excellent’ or ‘awesome’, though strictly speaking it means ‘I’m dying’. Dying because of brilliance, perhaps – because this recording really does feel like a special piece of work, and may be the best thing Reid Jamieson has done in his career, so far. The new album features seven fabulous new songs and a gorgeous instrumental, all written with music and life partner Carolyn Victoria Mill alongside a great cover “Don’t Go Down”, written by the late lamented Fergus O’Farrell (formerly of cult Irish band Interference) and Glen Hansard (Swell Season, The Frames). To learn more about the music of Reid Jamieson, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

10. Coco Love Alcorn, Rebirth (Self)
Coco Love Alcorn Rebirth - Folk Roots Radio Favourite Albums of 2019Coco Love Alcorn‘s latest “Rebirth” is the follow-up to her very well-received 2016 album “Wonderland”. A collection of songs that exhibit bravery and vulnerability with, in some cases, almost a spine-tingling fragility, they document Coco’s own journey to spiritual growth. It’s a great recording, and one that really speaks to the importance of discovering and nurturing your own true self; and an album that is sure to appeal to a growing fanbase. To learn more about the music of Coco Love Alcorn, visit

Listen to our interview HERE.

The Next 40

Big Little Lions, Inside Voice (AntiFragile)
Burnstick, Kîyânaw (Self)
Annie & Rod Capps, When They Fall (Yellow Room Records)
Celeigh Cardinal, Stories From A Downtown Apartment (Self)
Katie Dahl, Wildwood (Leaky Boat Records)
Noah Derksen, America, Dreaming (Self)
Jane Eamon, Pieces of Me (Self)
The East Pointers, Yours To Break (East Pointers Music)
Leela Gilday, North Star Calling (Self)
Sharon Goldman, Every Trip Around The Sun (Self)
Jackson Grimm, The Bull Moose Party (Vault Records)
Tim Grimm, Heart Land Again (Vault Records)
Leanne Hoffman, What Remains (Venue Records)
Lizanne Knott, Bones & Gravity (Self)
Abigail Lapell, Getaway (Coax Records)
Leaf Rapids, Citizen Alien (Coax Records)
Lee Harvey Osmond, Mohawk (Latent Recordings)
Allison Lupton, Words Of Love (Self)
Catherine MacLellan, Coyote (Self)
The MacQueens, You & Me & Everything (Self)
Linda McRae, Going To The Well (42 RPM)
Dayna Manning, Morning Light (Self)
Tim Moxam, Marlborough Hall (Roaring Girl Records)
Emily Mure, Sad Songs & Waltzes (Nine Athens Music)
Irish Mythen, Little Bones (Myth Music)
Gillian Nicola, Dried Flowers (Self)
The O’Pears, Stay Warm (Self)
Lydia Persaud, Let Me Show You (Next Door Records)
Steve Poltz, Shine On (Red House Records)
Geneviève Racette, No Water, No Flowers (Self)
Amanda Rheaume, The Skin I’m In (Self)
Benjamin Dakota Rogers, Better By Now (Self)
The Rough & Tumble, Howling Back At The Wounded Dog (Rock Candy Records)
Justin Rutledge, Passages (Outside Music)
The Small Glories, Assiniboine & The Red (Red House Records)
Bob Sumner, Wasted Love Songs (Self)
Sofia Talvik, Paws Of A Bear (Makaki Music)
Tomato/Tomato, Canary In A Coal Mine (Denim On Denim Records)
Winter Wilson, Live & Unconventional (Self)
Jojo Worthington, TCYK (Self)

That’s all we have time for, this time around. Thanks to all the artists who share their music with us, and thank you for listening. We have a lot of great music and interviews to bring you on future shows. I hope you’ll join us!


You can listen to this episode again on Soundcloud by following the link below. You can also listen to episodes of Folk Roots Radio, on demand, via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Tune-in Radio. (Click on the highlighted link to reach your chosen platform.)


Nicolas & The Iceni (Theme)
Lucy She Rises
Roll Right (2019, self)

Coco Love Alcorn
Rebirth (2019, Self) CDN

Reid Jamieson
She (#repealthe8th)
Me Daza (2019, Self) CDN

Dave McEathron
Hell To The Heavens
Abandoned Companions (2019, Self) CDN

Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboys
Pickup Cowboy
Do You Dream (2018, Waterbug)

Ariana Gillis
Lost With You
The Maze (2019, Self) CDN

Our Native Daughters (Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell)
You’re Not Alone
Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019, Smithsonian Folkways)

Gathering Sparks
Can You Feel The Love
All That’s Real (2019, Borealis Records) CDN

Jon Brooks
What’s Within Us
Moth Nor Rust II (2019, Fallen Tree Records) CDN

Del Barber
Leads You Home
Easy Keeper (2019, Acronym Records) CDN

Suzanne Jarvie
You Shall Not Pass
In The Clear (2019, Wolfe Island Records) CDN

About the author


Host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan Hall started in Radio in 1993 at WEFT 90.1fm in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Folk Roots Radio (formerly Royal City Rag) debuted on CFRU 93.3fm in August 2005 before developing into a syndicated radio show. As the host of Folk Roots Radio, Jan focuses on bringing new folk, roots and blues music and the voices of upcoming and independent artists to the airwaves. Jan is also a much sought after stage host and festival emcee. In 2019, Jan Hall received Folk Music Ontario's prestigious Estelle Klein Award for her contribution to Ontario's folk music community.

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