2016’s Best Folk Music Albums

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for the best folk music albums of 2016? Look no further! We’ve rounded up our favorite releases from the past year, including standout records from artists like Laura Marling, Ryley Walker, and Anais Mitchell.

The Lumineers – Cleopatra

The Lumineers’ sophomore album, Cleopatra, is a triumph. Blending elements of folk, rock, and pop, the album is an emotional rollercoaster that will leave you feeling nostalgic and heartbroken, while also filled with hope.

Lead singer Wesley Schultz’s Folk Album on the Year list with hisraw and emotive lyrics, which are perfectly complimented by the band’s unique sound. The Lumineers have managed to create an album that is both timeless and relevant, and it is sure to be one of 2016’s best.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Bon Iver’s third album is a opus of delicate beauty, with Justin Vernon at the peak of his songwriting powers. Blending modern pop sensibilities with folksy storytelling, it’s an emotionally charged ride that had us hooked from first listen.

The Head and the Heart – Signs of Light

The Head and the Heart’s “Signs of Light” is one of 2016’s best folk music albums. The album was released on September 9, 2016, by Warner Bros. Records. The album peaked at number five on the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Folk Albums chart. The album’s lead single, “All We Ever Knew”, peaked at number one on the US Alternative Songs chart.

Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Margo Price’s debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is one of the best folk music albums of 2016. The album is a collection of twelve original songs written by Margo Price and her husband, Jeremy Ivey. The songs are a mix of country, folk, and blues, and they are all performed by Margo Price with her stunning voice and impressive guitar skills.

The album opener, “Hands of Time,” is a country-folk song with a catchy melody and lyrics that tell the story of a woman who is struggling to make ends meet. “Four Years of Chances” is a more upbeat song about a woman who is trying to move on from a failed relationship. ” since she left him , he’s been drinking still hoping that she’ll come back home.” “About to Find Out” is a bluesy track about a woman who is about to discover her husband’s infidelity.

The standout track on the album is “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle),” which was co-written by Margo Price and Nashville songwriter Tim Carroll. The song is about the addiction of alcohol and how it can destroy relationships. “It don’t matter if you’re rich or poor / Alcohol will kill you just the same,” sings Price in this heartbreaking song.

If you’re looking for an album of beautiful, original folk songs performed by an incredibly talented artist, then you need to check out Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.

The Oh Hellos – Dear Wormwood

If you’re not familiar with The Oh Hellos, imagine a bearded, long-haired, harmonizing couple that makes rustic indie-folk music. The album artwork for Dear Wormwood features a striking blue and white image of two wolves howling at the moon. The wolves are encircled by a snake eating its tail, which is an ancient symbol for eternal life or the cyclical nature of time.

The Avett Brothers – True Sadness

The Avett Brothers’ ninth studio release and first for Republic Records, True Sadness is an ambitious album showcasing the band’s evolution from folk to country to rock. While many of the tracks feature banjo, acoustic guitar, and scruffy harmony singing, others are propelled by edgier electric guitars and a full drum kit. The lyrics address both personal pain (“No Hard Feelings”) and social issues (“Divorce Separation Blues”), with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure (“Ain’t No Man”). This is an album that will appeal to both longtime fans and newcomers alike.

Gregory Alan Isakov – Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony

Folk singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov received high praise for his 2014 album, The Weatherman. His follow-up, Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony, was released in 2016 to equal acclaim. Recorded over the course of a year, the album features Isakov’s trademark laconic voice and introspective lyrics backed by the full symphony orchestra. The result is a stunning collection of songs that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line

A Dotted Line is the sixth and final studio album by American alternative country band Nickel Creek, released on April 1, 2014 via Nonesuch Records. Following an eight-year hiatus, the album marks the reunion of Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins. The album’s first single, “Destination”, was released to radio on February 4, 2014, and its music video debuted on March 3.

The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Folk Albums chart and No. 11 on the Billboard 200.

Critical reception for A Dotted Line was generally positive. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 80 based on 15 reviews, which indicates “generally favorable reviews”. AllMusic’s James Christopher Monger gave the album 4 out of 5 stars and wrote that “A Dotted Line is as close to a flawless Nickel Creek album as one could realistically hope for.”

Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent

Folk music often gets a bad rap in the mainstream music world. It’s seen asstring instruments, dusty old records, and artists that your grandparents used to listen to. But there’s so much more to folk music than that!

Sarah Jarosz’s album Undercurrent is a perfect example of how relevant and fresh folk music can be. Released in 2016, the album features Jarosz’s signature brand of Americana/Folk music, with elements of bluegrass, jazz, and pop thrown in for good measure.

Undercurrent is an excellent album from start to finish, and is sure to please fans of all kinds of music. If you’re looking for a new folk album to check out, Sarah Jarosz’s Undercurrent should definitely be at the top of your list.

Lake Street Dive – Side Pony

If you like your jazz with a side of twang, you need to check out Side Pony, the latest album from Lake Street Dive. Combining elements of country, folk, and pop with their signature jazz sound, the band has created an album that is both easy to listen to and complex in its arrangements. Highlights include the title track “Side Pony,” the country-influenced “Godawful Things,” and the haunting ballad “Save Yourself.”

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