I know I've said in recent years that American folk music has been on an upswing lately, slowly but surely, firmly wedging its way into the mainstream of American music yet again. It started with the banjoification of indie rock a few years back and has climaxed in the last year or two as folky groups like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons have earned their way into more mainstream Grammy categories and Top 40 radio. Now, in 2012, newercomers like John Fullbright and Shovels + Rope are earning praise from mainstream critics, even as they strongly carry traditional music with them, compromising nothing for the attention.
Yes, it's been a darn good year for American folk music in 2012, and this list of what were - in my opinion - the finest folk albums of the year, is a testament. From old timers like 94-year-old Pete Seeger (whose body of work produced three albums and one book in 2012) to contemporary folkies like Anais Mitchell and Fullbright, to hardline traditionalists like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and weathered singer-songwriters telling emotional personal stories (Rose Cousins, Caroline Herring)...there is a lot of great music to love. And, what's more, my Top 10 list doesn't even begin to brush the surface of all the exceptional folk, roots, and Americana music of 2012. Dive in here, and then keep swimming.
Anais Mitchell coverart courtesy Thirty Tigers