The best folk albums of 2022 – The Guardian

From Japanese Ainu harmonies to Norwegian fiddle and Black British folk song, here’s our rundown of the best releases of the year

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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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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