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Best Folk Music CDs of 2008

Including folk, alt.country, bluegrass and folk-rock

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11. The Wilders - 'Someone's Got to Pay'

The Wilders - 'Someone's Got to Pay'
© Rock Paper Scissors
The Wilders' latest album, Someone's Got to Pay, is one of the best songbook/concept albums since Susan Werner's The Gospel Truth last year. Starting with the notion of a murder ballad, the high-octane Kansas City bluegrass quartet multiplied the concept by 19, dedicating an entire collection of songs to all aspects of said murder.

12. Simon and Garfunkel - 'Live 1969'

Simon and Garfunkel - 'Live 1969'
© Sony
In 1969, Simon and Garfunkel set out on what would be the final tour of their career. On Live 1969, we get a window into six performances along the string of that tour. The result is an impeccable peek into some of the greatest tunes the duo ever concocted, during the height of their career together.

13. Tim O'Brien - 'Chameleon'

Tim O'Brien - 'Chameleon'
© Proper American Records
Tim O'Brien's last release was in the form of two separate albums: Fiddler's Green and Cornbread Nation were two remarkable albums paying tribute to traditional music via various collaborations and full-band arrangements of traditional Celtic music and southern songs, respectively. Now, on Chameleon, he's back with a killer solo songwriter record full of country- and blues-inspired original folk songs.

14. Ferron - 'Boulder'

Ferron
Courtesy the Karpel Group
On her latest album, singer-songwriter Ferron is joined by some of modern music's greatest female contributors: Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Bitch, Samantha Parton, and JD Samson. Produced by Bitch, the album alternates between straight-up singer-songwriter tunes and more experimental story-songs.

15. Martha Wainwright - 'I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too'

Martha Wainwright - 'I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too' CD Cover
© Rounder
Martha Wainwright—daughter of folksingers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, and sister of torch song master Rufus Wainwright—will probably always be associated with the work of her family, by default. However, her habit of releasing stellar album after stellar album ensures that she's hardly living in the shadow of her parents and older brother. I Know You're Married... is yet another exquisite collection.

16. Sheryl Crow - 'Detours'

Sheryl Crow - 'Detours'
© A&M/Interscope
On her seventh studio album, Detours, Sheryl Crow pulls out all the stops, boldly going in a direction so many pop artists seem timid about pursuing: songs that blatantly address the times in which we live, indistinguishing the gulf between the personal and the political.

17. The Avett Brothers - 'The Second Gleam'

The Avett Brothers - 'The Second Gleam'
© Ramseur Records
It's fitting that the Avett Brothers release The Second Gleam in the dead middle of summer. The whole record sounds like summer nights. You can almost hear the buzz of a mosquito lamp and the crickets in the dank, heavy heat; you can almost watch the sunset.

18. Two Man Gentleman Band - 'Heavy Petting'

Two Man Gentleman Band - 'Heavy Petting'
© Serious Business Records
I'm just going to cut to the chase: The Two Man Gentlemen Band's sophomore album, Heavy Petting, is romping, outstanding fun. It's old timey, Vaudeville style plays like a party, and even the sappy love songs are sonic celebrations with lyrics like, "My love for you is like the square root of two / That's a nerdy way of flirting, but it's true."

19. Infamous Stringdusters - 'Infamous Stringdusters'

Infamous Stringdusters - Self-Titled CD Cover
© Sugar Hill Records
On their second album, Infamous Stringdusters take the reigns from their debut Fork in the Road and steer in a whole new direction. Maybe it's the addition of guitarist Andy Falco (Greencards, Vanessa Carlton), maybe it's the influence of producer Tim O'Brien, or maybe it's just the band's self-actualization. Either way, this self-titled disc is more defining than their debut.

20. Sierra Hull & Highway 111 - 'Secrets'

Sierra Hull & Highway 111 - 'Secrets'
© Rounder Records
It must be intimidating to live up to the "prodigy" label once it's been lumped on you. But, 16-year-old Sierra Hull doesn't seem to have any problem living up to that expectation on her highly anticipated Rounder Records debut, Secrets.
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