The best folk albums of 2022 | Folk music

10. Ficino Ensemble and Michelle O’Rourke – Folk Songs

Italian electronic music pioneer Luciano Berio’s arrangements of traditional music from Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Italy and the US were given bewitching new interpretations by the Irish chamber music ensemble. Michelle O’Rourke’s bright, baroque delivery alternately cossets and jolts.

Endangered culture … Oki plays a five-stringed ancient harp
Endangered culture … Oki plays a five-stringed ancient harp. Photograph: Maciej Komorowski

9. Oki – Tonkori in the Moonlight

A galvanising set of traditional music from a critically endangered culture in Japan performed by the excellent Oki Kano, who plays the tonkori, an arresting and stark-sounding five-stringed ancient harp. Accompanied by female singers and synthesisers, Ainu lets tunes and sounds that have been suppressed for centuries sing out. Read the review

8. Jake Blount – The New Faith

A concept album about Black refugees living in a near-future dystopia, The New Faith is a fascinating, buzzing whirlwind of what Blount rightly calls “traditional Black folk music”, a heady mix of spirituals, gospel songs, fiddle and banjo tunes, gospel, Alan Lomax field recordings and rap. Read the review

Digging deep … Cerys Hafana.
Digging deep … Cerys Hafana. Photograph: Heledd Wynn

7. Cerys Hafana – Edyf

Brilliant triple-harpist Hafana continues to dig deep to explore the possibilities of her instrument, as well as neglected corners of Welsh song that speak to our anxious present (it’s no accident that edyf is an old Welsh word for “thread”). Celtic summer carols, psalm tunes and hymns shudder gorgeously. Read the review

6. Benedicte Maurseth – Hárr

The deserving winner of the 2022 Nordic music prize, Hárr is Hardanger fiddle player Benedicte Maurseth’s recreation of her mountainous home territory in Norway through old tunes, droned strings and what she calls the musique concrète of her field recordings of people and animals.

Fascinating soundscapes … Burd Ellen.
Fascinating soundscapes … Burd Ellen. Photograph: Audrey Bizouerne

5. Burd Ellen – A Tarot of the Green Wood

Exquisite drone-folk from the relentlessly curious duo of Debbie Armour and Gayle Brogan, taking in English, Scottish and Danish ballads and a shape note hymn of the Shenandoah Valley. As they explore ideas of memory and hidden meaning, Burd Ellen’s voices and fascinating soundscapes impress.

4. Mali Obomsawin – Sweet Tooth

An album combining the indigenous tunes and lyrics of the Abenaki First Nation in North America with free jazz and improvisation, this exhilarating album by a master bandleader and performer ripped apart and reassembled the ideas of how tradition is usually received – and how it should be. Read the review

3. One Leg One Eye – And Take the Black Worm With Me

Folk songs are warped and stretched into convulsing black metal shapes by Ian Lynch, a quarter of Irish band Lankum, on his thrilling solo debut. Shruti boxes, uilleann pipes and hurdy-gurdies create sounds you’d imagine being squeezed tight by My Bloody Valentine. Read the review

Striking debut … Fern Maddie
Striking debut … Fern Maddie

2. Fern Maddie – Ghost Story

A sparse, striking debut from this Vermont-based singer and banjo player, whose beautiful, often unnerving delivery and crisp arrangements make ballads like Hares on the Mountain and Ca’ the Yowes sound piercingly new. Fans of lo-fi artists such as Diane Cluck and Nina Nastasia will find a new favourite here. Read the review

1. Angeline Morrison – The Sorrow Songs: Folk Songs of Black British Experience

The dazzling culmination of an ambitious lockdown project by the Birmingham-born, Cornwall-dwelling Morrison – a gorgeous singer and multi-instrumentalist – to create a living catalogue of Black British folk song. Produced masterfully by Eliza Carthy (whose dad, Martin, also takes part), well-known ballads mix with moving originals about real Black Britons, creating a startling record of resistance, rebellion and celebration. Read interview with Angeline Morrison

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