FRESH MAGGOTS (Sunbeam)
The Nuneaton, England, folk duo of Mick Burgoyne and Leigh Dolphin were both heavily into Led Zeppelin and Taste, which is probably why some glorious guitar distortion appears on Dole Song, the opening track of their obscure self-titled masterwork, splendidly reissued on Sunbeam Records. The shape of freak folk to come.
SOLOMON BURKE Nashville (Shout! Factory)
Rock 'n' soul king Solomon Burke joins forces with Nashville outsider Buddy Miller to make an album for rock reissue label Shout! Factory, and it turns out to be the best country album of the year, thanks to a little help from backing vocalists Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin, who happen to drop by.
CATHERINE MACLELLAN Church Bell Blues (Sandbar)
Though widely slept on outside of the Maritimes, singer/songwriter Catherine MacLellan's soul-stirring Church Bell Blues is among the very best Canadian folk albums issued this year and will undoubtedly thrill the Joni Mitchell and Snowbird fans on your list.
OLA BELLE REED My Epitaph (Smithsonian Folkways)
Thank the good people at Smithsonian Folkways for not only having the foresight to document the incredible songs and moving performances of Ola Belle Reed in the mid-70s but for making digitally remastered versions available with complete liner notes. This is the high-lonesome sound of America's ancient past in its purest form.
BONNIE DOBSON (Rev-Ola)
Highly influential Toronto-born Greenwich Village coffee house star Bonnie Dobson is probably best known for penning Morning Dew, but lately there's been growing interest in her forward-looking solo recordings from the late 60s and early 70s. Pick up this reissue of her self-titled classic, made right here back in 1969, to find out why Bob Dylan is among her ardent fans.