• James Harvey

Top Fifteen Albums of the Year - Part One

Updated: Jan 1

As you may have guessed I dropped the horror part of my blog a while ago, living on a farm makes it hard to find the time to watch a film, yet I’ve always got my headphones plugged into my ears.

In order to qualify for this list, the album needs to have been released in the year 2020. I’m excluding any live albums, re-releases, or E.Ps, sorry.

Which is why you won’t find any Green Heron (come on Betsy & Scott release your new album!) or Don Flemons (his stunning album Prospect Hill originally came out in 2014 before being re-released in 2020).

And Yes, no matter how much I'd like to insist it came out in 2020, Harbottle and Jonas masterpiece came out in 2019 so I’m not allowed to include it, either.

Fortunately, 2020 has been an amazing year for folk music, so counting down from fifteen, here are my favourite albums of the year.

(Part two is now up, here is the link)

Number Fifteen - Fretland - Fretland

© Fretland

Country music has really become popular over here on our wee islands. No longer that music of the strange few who wear Stetsons while shopping in their local Tesco’s at two in the morning, but a real passion for a lot of people here.

This ultimately means folk like me can access more of the lesser mainstream stuff on our shores without having to rely on my American friends sending over random CDs. One of those albums is the self-titled Fretland.

A modern sound with the soul of old-fashioned Country, great harmonies mixed with guitar driven music pushing those strong stories into our minds, allowing us to access that wild untamed land from across the pond.

For their Website

Number Fourteen - Cures What Ails Ya - The Longest Johns

© The Longest Johns

Coming out of Bristol, England, The Longest Johns have an amazing ability to write Sea Shanties that you would swear have been around for hundreds of years. With a number of great albums already out we are blessed to receive ‘Cures What Ails Ya’ in 2020.

A fun, foot stomping album for the 21st century, The Longest Johns somehow manged to create a modern sounding Sea Shanty album that is as pleasing as the salty morning air coming in from the sea; while still keeping it within the traditional framework for a body of songs that appeal to both new and old Folkies alike.

For their Website

Number Thirteen - Wealth of Sorrow - Cahalen Morrison

© Cahalen Morrison

A haunting yet inspiring album from Cahalen Morrison, one that touches the soul with its raw, brutal honesty. Recorded over a day and a half in an old adobe chapel on the borders of New Mexico and Colorado, it’s one of the best albums of its kind that I’ve heard in years.

An American Folk album that hits hard and really demands to be heard.

For our Review

For their Website

Number Twelve - Hand me Down - Kate Rusby

© Kate Rusby

A legend in English Folk and indeed, the greater Folk world, Kate Rusby, has once again released some beautiful music; this time taking songs from all over the genre and making them her own.

Folk is all about talking stories from the past and keeping them alive, breathing new life into them so new ears listen. Then in turn they continue this tradition for the new generation.

For their Website

Number Eleven - The Word Around - Kayla Von der Heide

© Kayla Von der Heide

The is something really powerful about Kayla’s voice. It’s strong, commanding, emotionally charged, yet at the same time it’s tender, soft like a summer’s breeze, wrapping around you and keeping you safe.

The Word Around is Dreamscape Folk at its best, transporting you into a world far away, one that exists somewhere between ours and the ether. It’s a world you will want to revisit time and again.

For their Website

Number Ten - Ballads & Yarns - Roly Witherow

© Roly Witherow

As I said in my review, this album is as much a visual experience as it is an audio one, a unique dissection of Folk music and what Folk music means.

Sometimes experimental, other times traditional, Roly Witherow explodes onto the Folk scene with one heck of an extraordinary progressive album, your time invested in this album is truly worth it.

For our Review

For their Website

Number Nine - Song for Our Daughter - Laura Marling

© Laura Marling

The Queen of English Folk, Laura Marling brings us her seventh studio album, an emotionally moving and personal piece of music, presented as a Mothers' letter to her Daughter.

Simply put, this is another beautiful album from an inspiring and talented Human Being, quite where these stories come from, one will never know, but I’m grateful Laura Marling, shares them with us all.

For their Website

Number Eight - Coffee at the Corner Bar - Annie Dressner

© Annie Dressner

I’ve been a fan of Annie Dressner since I first heard ’Fly’ (from the album Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Name) playing at an old girlfriend’s house way back in 2011. There is something simply welcomingly joyous about her voice, indeed her music as a whole.

Coffee at the Corner Bar is no different, the songs are wee snippets of Annie’s world from her uniquely upbeat and quirky point of view. Even when sharing those rainy days with us, Annie Dressner, still manages to give us hope.

For their Website

Number Seven - False Gods - Felix Hatfield

© Felix Hatfield

Not only a musician but also a sculptor, film-maker, composer…an Artist of many mediums is perhaps easier to say, when speaking about the Bard, Felix Hatfield.

Combining all those different art forms and focusing them into his music, False God is an exploration of the world through his eyes and it’s extraordinary in more ways than one.

For our Review

For their Website

Number Six - Light My Byre - Peat & Diesel

© Peat & Diesel

Here comes a controversial statement…Light My Byre is better than Uptown Fank! Seriously though, I love them both. There is a little more spice, a wee bit of a more grown up bite to Peat & Diesel’s Folk Punk follow up album.

Maybe they are a little more relaxed in their deservingly new found fame, able to share those more intimate feelings with us or maybe it’s just the better of two great albums and I’m reading too much into it! So, I’ll shut up, pour myself a Harris G&T and get the music going!

For their Website

Part two will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned to find out who is our number one album of 2020.

Stay safe out there and have a rocking Hogmanay

Peace & Love from the Folk Horror Crew

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