A winter wonderland
Karen Dalton comes from the Greenwich Village folk scene that also produced Bob Dylan, but her music lay almost entirely forgotten until her album It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best (EMI/Megaphone Music) was reissued this year. Dalton delivers slowed-down, intimate covers of old blues and folk standards, in a cracked and syrupy voice that almost oozes from the speakers.
Some people sing the blues when they're feeling down. A Hawk and a Hacksaw's Jeremy Barnes, however, straps bells to his legs and plays the accordion while dancing like a loon. On The Way the Wind Blows (The Leaf Label), he is accompanied as usual by the violinist Heather Trost. The duo play an infectious mix of stomps and laments, influenced by Balkan folk and Jewish klezmer, and accompanied by musicians Barnes met on his travels. If you're feeling reserved, or are unsure of how to enjoy this stuff, grab a nearby child and watch how they dance.
There's dancing of a different kind on DJ Wonder's debut album, Welcome to Wonderland (Dump Valve), which is a dark and moody mix of dub reggae, hip-hop and electronica. With guest vocals from stars of the UK grime scene, such as the Mobo-winning rapper Sway, Wonder constructs the most stunning rhythms out of the sparest of sounds: the kick of a drum, the rasp of a voice plus a throbbing bass line. Welcome to Wonderland deserves to be your soundtrack to the rest of this year and most of the next.