Best Folkie - 2005
You can keep your Joanna Newsoms and your Devendra Banharts. When it comes to folk music, Sean Hayes is the man. While Newsom gets invited to appear on Jimmy Kimmel's TV show and Banhart gets written up in hip magazines like Arthur, their fame is based on their bizarreness more than their talent (which is not to say that they don't have any). Hayes, on the other hand, isn't as showy a singer/songwriter. He doesn't play a harp or sing about unicorns or jump up on tables to yowl without a mike. He's more of a traditionalist. On his last album he even covered an early Bob Dylan tune, and many of his songs feature significant choruses and hooks. That said, he can also be wonderfully surreal, singing about suits made of forks and chickens that tell fortunes. Mainly, though, what sets him apart is his voice -- a wounded, wavering tone that sounds like a fragile creature, very crushable. What he does with that voice is communicate pain, fear, and joy, and that's what makes him more impressive than his freaky contemporaries.