For the first time since I began nominating my folk CD/s of the year, an entirely subjective exercise though I have been lucky enough to have platforms for my views for 20 years or more, I found myself stumped.
There was not one clear winner; there were two: Eliza Carthy's outstanding Dreams of Breathing Underwater being caught at the last minute by Cara Dillon's spellbinding Hill of Thieves. An Englishwoman who has given a mountain of service to folk, whatever she chooses - we choose - to call her music now, shares the Salut! Live honours, as performer of the best CD of 2008, with one of the best singers to emerge from Northern Ireland/north of Ireland in decades.
This is simply one man's opinion, of course. It is not even the opinion I gave in my response to the fRoots and BBC critics' polls, for the simple reason that Dillon's album had not even reached me in the UAE when the deadlines for those nominations were looming.
This is my full list - I will add more detail regarding my choices when I can get round to it!:
1 Eliza Carthy Dreams of Breathing Underwater
1 Cara Dillon Hill of Thieves
3 Bellowhead Matachin
4 Fotheringay 2
5 Leon Rosselson A Proper State
6 Chris Foster Outsiders
7 Maddy Prior Seven for Old England
8 Karine Polwart This Earthly Spell
9 Ruth Notman Threads
10 Seth Lakeman Poor Man's Heaven
10 Kris Drever, John McCusker, Roddy Woomble Before The Ruin
* one obvious ps concerns the criteria applied in composing the list. No, I do not see every folk CD. Now that I live in the Gulf, and am no longer the folk critic of The Daily Telegraph, agents and record companies feel much less need to bombard me with everything that is released. So I rely on those that are sent to me, by the people who have dealt with me long enough to know whether I am likely to try to make use of them, and those I buy myself.
In other circumstances, I am sure some of the following - and others, had I heard them - would have entered my considerations since each is by an artist I have in the past championed or regularly reviewed:
Bob Fox & Stu Luckley 30 Years On
Karan Casey Ships In The Forest
Tom Paxton Comedians & Angels
Jim Moray Low Culture
Rosie Doonan Moving On
Catriona Macdonald Over The Moon
Mary McPartlan Petticoat Loose
Loudon Wainwright III Recovery
Tiny Tin Lady Ridiculous Bohemia
Capercaillie Roses and Tears
Chris While and Julie Matthews Together Alone
Tom McConville Tommy On Song
Dervish Travelling Show