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Tradfolk Folk Albums of the Year, 2023

Tradfolk introduces its list of The Best Folk Albums of the Year, 2023, selected by the website's writers and assisting judges.

We’ve tried our best, we really have. This year, the Tradfolk team has been absolutely inundated with album review requests, occasionally to the point where we’ve felt dispirited by our failing attempts to keep up. Of course, that says a huge amount about the health of the folk scene at the moment, and it’s wonderful to see that everyone wants in on the folkie action. We know that we’ve missed some absolute corkers (The Gentle Good, Lisa O’Neill – we’re looking at you), but with our resident reviewer, Gavin McNamara, firmly in place, we hope we can make up for it in 2024.

Before we begin, a word on the way in which we went about compiling this list. We asked six judges (Angeline Morrison, Rachel Wilkinson, Jon Wilks, Gavin McNamara, James Merryclough and Ian Anderson) to take a look at the folk album reviews that Tradfolk has published this year. Each judge was asked to give points to each entry, five being the highest, one being the lowest. The judges also shared comments on what they heard. Once all entries were submitted, we structured the list according to the points. Where albums scored equally, the judges discussed the situation to come to a final decision.

And without any further ado, here in reverse order are the Tradfolk Folk Albums of the Year, 2023.

The Best Folk Albums of the Year, 2023

10. Archangel Hill, Shirley Collins

Album art from Archangel Hill by Shirley Collins, showing a gate and stile leading to a field containing cattle.

“Shirley Collins of Sussex, aged 87, adding to the best albums of her career, quietly running rings around younger upstart jugglers and undoubtedly making 2023’s best albums lists. Not very likely, is it, but it just happened.” – Ian A. Anderson

9. PH(R)ASE, Archie Churchill-Moss

The sleeve design for PH(R)ASE by Archie Churchill-Moss, showing the melodeon player's shoulders and head as he smiles at the camera, surrounding by the green trees of Norfolk.

“On PH(R)ASE, Archie Churchill-Moss explores his melodeon from top to bottom and comes up with an album of exquisite instrumentals that is sure to linger and tantalise throughout the year.” – Abbey Thomas

8. Blackletter Garland, Hack Poets Guild

“Mary, Lisa, Nathaniel and Gerry have found a way to bring out the most caustic yet endearing version of each other’s talents and voices in a perfect complement of moods across this album. Finding material that speaks to a modern audience, they have gone on to interpret it in a way that makes it both fresh yet in keeping with its antiquity, all the while safeguarding its powerful messages. ” – Alex Hurr

7. Wesselbobs, Bryony Griffith & Alice Jones

“It might have snuck in at the end of the year, but Wesselbobs has been firmly adopted into our Christmas album rotation and has been a very strong contender for album of the year. They’ve made something interesting with material that hasn’t been overdone.” – Rachel Wilkinson

6. Nothing But Green Willow, Martin Simpson, Thomm Jutz & Friends

“Superbly put together by Simpson & Jutz, the voices of the women are the ones that shine. Emily Portman, Fay Hield, Cara Dillon and Sierra Hull take these old, old songs and ensure that, for generations to come, we will be able to hold them dear.” – Gavin McNamara

5. False Lankum, Lankum

Cover art for False Lankum, by Lankum, featuring the four members lined up against the wall, with Cormac out front, out of focus.

“All in all, Radie Peat, brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch, and Cormac Mac Diarmada have become the folk-band-most-likely-to, thanks, largely, to an album that ducks or subverts every genre expectation but retains a savage power.” – Gavin McNamara

4. So Far We Have Come, Tamsin Elliott & Tarek Elhazary

“The blend of lever harp, accordion, flute and the Arabic oud has rarely sounded so enticing, whilst the mixing of Arabic and English folk traditions proves entirely mesmeric. Life-affirming, and delightfully warm So Far We Have Come proves a beguiling collaboration.” – Billy Rough

3. The Colour of Amber, Nick Hart & Tom Moore

The Colour of Amber album cover features a comical sketch of the two musicians in medieval clothes, drawn by folk artist Alex Merry.

“What do you get when you mix one of the greatest modern interpreters of folk song with one of this country’s finest, most innovative instrumentalists? Nick Hart and Tom Moore have made The Colour of Amber, an album that is, simply, staggering in its vibrancy.” – Gavin McNamara

2. Conversations We’ve Had Before, Eliza Carthy Trio

“Few on the English folk scene can match Eliza, Saul and Dave when they’re in the mood for a tune-set. A killer collection.” – Jon Wilks

“An extraordinary album. Emotive storytelling, stellar musicianship, tender production, amazing song choices, and soulful singing… bliss.” – Angeline Morrison

1. Beflean, Jim Moray

“Moray’s albums have always meant something special and Beflean is the perfect distillation of everything that he has done. It is, at turns, wonderful and devastating. It keeps its eyes on the future and keeps the past firmly in mind. Album of the year. Hands down.” – Gavin McNamara

Agree with out choices? Vehemently object? We’d love to hear your opinions. Stick them in the comments section below.