Today, the Official Charts Company in partnership with English Folk Expo reveal the Top 40 best-selling and most streamed folk albums released in the MARCH reporting period. See the chart here.
Nine new releases have entered the Top 40 chart, all being brand new recordings.
Unsurprisingly, at least five of this month’s new entrants were written against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic tackling issues of enormous personal and social upheaval and challenges. Most point to the importance of human connection and community and the hope of recovery and positive transformation. Some were recorded and produced by remote collaboration across international borders showing remarkable achievements.
Two acts who have earned iconic status enter the Top 5 with brand new recordings. Strawbs, with more than 50 years in the recording business release Settlement (Cherry Red/Esoteric), in at No.2. From electric guitar power chords to reflective acoustic riffs and banjo-picking, the album’s songs reflect today’s political and social upheaval. Blackmore’s Night featuring vocalist Candice Night and legendary guitarist Ritchie Blackmore came together almost 25 years ago to stage their mutual love for traditional medieval and folk-rock music, combining elements of both. Their new recording Nature’s Light (Ear Music) takes the No.3 slot.
Known for his intimate songwriting, his honey-on-gravel voice and exemplary guitar playing, John Smith releases The Fray (Commoner), the third highest new entry at No.8 Facing personal and unrelenting trauma in 2020, Smith turned to songwriting as a lifeline. Offering an uplifting perspective on the path forward while paying homage to the difficulties along the way, his vulnerability and emotional turmoil are felt viscerally through delicate guitar and melancholic flugelhorn. The album features an array of guests including Lisa Hannigan alongside American collaborators that include Sarah Jarosz, The Milk Carton Kids and Bill Frisell. The Americana influence threads throughout the album which beautifully compliments Smith’s unmistakeable British Folk roots
Come Home (Lie Down Lion), the sophomore album from Kentish singer-songwriter Laura Lamn is the second Americana-inspired release. Straight in at No.16, Lamn’s soothing collection of folk-pop songs charts her personal story of recovery following a descent into suicidal depression and onnward journey of recovery and transformation. Her haunting, vocals and ear-worm hooks meet with steel-pedal guitars, Wurlitzers and dreamy synth washes.
In at No.10 is folk singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist, Jon Boden known as founding member of the now dissolved folk juggernaut, Bellowhead. The Last Mile Home (Hudson Records)is the final part of a beautifully profound, post-climate change trilogy of albums describing the journey of a nomadic couple that roam from moor to coast in search of a new home, coursing a landscape empty of human life but overflowing with nature. The album is full of sounds and images of nature reclaiming an abandoned world. On this album, Boden returns to a more spiritual, acoustic sound-world and folk-inspired instrumentation following the more progressive sound of the previous two. Rich in storytelling and melody, the album also features acclaimed folk singer Mary Hampton.
Passion for nature and the natural world also resonates through A Pocket Full Of Acorns (Winding Track) from Ninebarrow,landing at No.18. The duo,Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere have earned a reputation on the folk-roots scene for their outstanding vocal harmonies, sumptuous melodies, delicate instrumentation and engaging, original songs inspired by the landscape and history of their native Dorset. The release includes arrangements of traditional folk songs, lyrics inspired by the poetry of Dorset poet William Barnes as well as stunning originals. At the core of Ninebarrow’s sound is piano, ukulele, mandola, reed organ and vocals with their full band adding cello, bass and percussion resulting in layered, cinematic arrangements on some numbers, and soulful, fragile settings on others.
Ireland is represented by two new entrants. Firstly,Irish flautist and whistle player, Brian Finnegan, founder of Celtic folk group Flook who releases Hunger Of The Skin (Singing Tree Music) in at No. 19. Inspired by last year’s extraordinary events when the world hunkered down and the recalibration of life began, Finnegan’s original compositions honour the power of human touch, shared stories and music, real connection and joy. The recording features a genre-crossing cast of 24 musicians with guests lending their voices to the reading of four poems set to Finnegan’s remarkable, mesmerising music. Irish folk band The High Kings came together to record a set of songs at a time they would usually be playing live to their army of loyal fans. Recorded in Dublin, Home From Home (Celtic Collections, No.36) is a journey through classic folk songs, old and new.
Devon-based folk duo Harbottle & Jonas combine the richness of traditional folk with their own original songwriting to develop a distinct and compelling signature sound. The Beacon (Brook View) blends concertina, harmonium, banjo, stomp box, acoustic guitar and cittern with beautiful and closely intertwined vocal harmonies and enters the chart at No.24. Written and recorded during lockdown it questions how our future might be more steadfast and community-spirited, encouraging us to reflect, adapt and sing together once more.
See the full charts here