Roots and Americana don’t make up much of my musical diet – too fibrous – but I’m delighted we’ve got enough for an entire bracket of them here: it gives us something a bit different in the tournament mix. And it’s also reflective of a real 2001 trend which you couldn’t miss even if you didn’t like it – the steady swell of interest in Americana, country and other acoustic musics which had crested at the turn of the millennium, partly thanks to O Brother, Where Art Thou?…

…which, of course, heavily involved Gillian Welch, whose Time (The Revelator) LP dominates this bracket – the most tracks (the maximum 3 permitted), the longest track (“I Dream A Highway” might be the longest track we’ve EVER polled – it’s 10 seconds longer than “Rapper’s Delight”), and, though only POLL SCIENCE will determine the truth of this, quite possibly the best tracks. Though she’s rubbing shoulders in these groups with some extremely big names, it’s the austere vision of her songs and the deep, pooling held notes in her voice which set the markers and the pace here. Next to her, other arrangements seem overdone, other songs seem oversung, and occasionally both.

Otherwise it’s the veterans who hold my attention. Dolly Parton has two fine tracks from her back-to-basics Little Sparrow, reminding people that the rhinestones are a choice, not an essence. And two tracks from my own favourite album of 2001 at the time, Bob Dylan’s warm, loquacious Love And Theft, the record that makes the absolute best use of his cracked late-period honk of a voice (well, best aside from one we’ll get to in the December poll). For Welch, the past and its music are the bones under the skin of life. For Dolly, they’re a costume she knows how to wear better than anyone. For Dylan, they’re a medicine show, full of delights, bad jokes, and disreputable carnies who all turn out to be him.

The poll being what it is, there’s other stuff thrown in here too – I decided Manu Chao (the most streamed song in the bracket!) was too big and too rootsy for the Overseas selection, so in goes “Me Gustas Tu” to play a wild card role. Contemporary folk and modern country are represented by Alasdair Roberts and The Chicks. Mordant raconteur Jim White occupies a dark corner of the bracket, while Lucinda Williams brings the rock. As I said, these aren’t styles I spend much time with on the whole – but Uncut County is a fine place to visit for an hour.

POTENTIAL WINNER: It’s one of those brackets where nothing suggests “blockbuster” to me. Someone’s sure as hell listening to Manu Chao out there, though, and it would be neat to get a non-English song into the final groups for the first time.

BEST TRACK: “My heart’s not weary, it’s light and it’s free”: “Mississippi” is one of Love And Theft’s highlights, and also the one that’s the best summing-up of the LP as a whole – Dylan as a half-happy, half-rueful, somewhat-dirty old man walking through another set of self-created wreckage and tossing off one-liners as he goes.

DARK HORSE: Tempted to say “Highway” just because I’m fascinated by how far a track like that can go. But I’ll say Dolly Parton’s “Shine” – of her two songs in the group, it’s the catchier one and far less streamed, which puts it down in the softer half of the draw.

DISCOVERY: I admit, Gillian Welch’s stuff was entirely new to me – despite reading a few raves at the time which I should have paid more attention to. “Revelator” in particular was an instantly brilliant song even if I can’t work out yet what’s going on in it… but that’s often part of the appeal, isn’t it?