Favourite Folk & Country Albums of 2011
Published Feb 02, 2012To wrap up 2011, we published our picks for the best Folk & Country albums of the year, featuring releases from the Decemberists, Dan Mangan and Laura Marling, before turning the vote over to you, the fans, with our year-end Readers Poll.
After receiving our most entries ever, the results are finally in, including a Nashville, TN trio who converted non-country fans alike, an "amazing" live artist you hope doesn't stay "a Canadian secret for too long" and a surprising pick for number one, who readers crowned "the cutest" pop-tart in popular country.
Check out the full Folk & Country results below and read why they topped your playlists in 2011.
Exclaim! Readers Poll: Top 10 Folk & Country Records of 2011:
1. Taylor Swift
World Tour Life: Speak Now (Big Machine)
"She's the cutest."
Lindsay Rainingbird, Halifax, NS
"Great role model and takes her career seriously."
Angela Salviato, Toronto, ON
"Her music is so lyrical. It's much more popular than traditional country music."
Jeff Quon, Ottawa, ON
"Found a niche by being wholesome but very driven."
Chester Banka, London, ON
Helen Phan, Mississauga, ON
2. Lady Antebellum
Own the Night (Capitol)
"So rich and warm from the vocals to the instruments."
Wasan Jajou, Toronto, ON
"Incredibly current and fresh."
Sherry Hallson, Roberts Creek, BC
"Love their music."
John Boyce, Toronto, ON
"I usually don't like country, but they might just change my mind."
M. Archambeau, Winnipeg, MB
"Very good harmony."
Linda Klages, Hanover, ON
3. Dan Mangan
Oh, Fortune (Arts & Crafts)
"Great Canadian artist, and just wonderful live."
Erica Berger, Pembroke, ON
"It was your ad for this album that made me check him out. Brilliant voice."
Jason Birch, Surrey, BC
"I had heard Dan here and there, but it was not until this year I became a huge fan of his. I saw him live this year and performing tracks from this album. That was an amazing show."
Matt Lozynyc, Winnipeg, MB
"I was incredibly impressed with Dan Mangan as an artist this year, from his moving live performance to the endless times replaying 'Oh Fortune.' One of our best, hope he's note a Canadian secret for long."
Jason Carlin, Richmond Hill, ON
"Great soulful album from Dan Mangan."
Julie Kille, Vancouver, BC
4. Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
"Amazing. Saw him live at Massey Hall, wonderful experience."
Steve Dunne, Ottawa, ON
Christopher Hnain, Ottawa, ON
"Lyrics to die for!"
John Nolan, St. Johns, NL
"Not much better than this in the country/folk department or any department for that matter."
Ahkinoah Izarh, York, ON
"It gives me smile on my face every time."
Guyaume Huot, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC
5. One Hundred Dollars
Songs of Man (Outside)
"One Hundred Dollars avoid cheatin' hearts and cowboy-boots posturing, instead focusing on contemporary issues and situations."
Darren Sustar, Toronto, ON
"Reminding the folks in Tennessee that we have the funds to play another round."
Michael Barnes, Toronto, ON
"One of the top 5 releases in any genre this year."
Dan Johnson, Hamilton, ON
"This album made me weep tears of joy. It tells amazing stories."
Roxanna Monfaredi, Brampton, ON
"Nice twangy sound with a unique vocal style. Good stuff."
Ryan Barry, Maple Ridge, BC
6. Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
"Gives me chills and yet makes me feel warm and gooey inside."
Kyle Racki, Lawrencetown, NS
"This album is great from start to finish, so lush and orchestral!"
Jonathan Sloan, Courtice, ON
"Fading in popularity? Excellent songwriting and careful production of sound."
Ross Leckie, Fredericton, NB
"While I enjoy everything Fleet Foxes has released thus far, Helplessness Blues is by far the best. Not straying too far from their woodsy, folk beginnings, Helplessness Blues is more melodic and instrumental. Lyrically, the album doesn't miss a beat. This is an album I can listen to over and over again."
Kristen Allicock, Brampton, ON
"Amazing that they could do better than their debut album, but they did."
Christopher Popowicz, Stony Plain, AB
7. The Decemberists
The King Is Dead (Capitol)
"Listened to this album all summer in my truck."
David Kalviainen, Sudbury, ON
"An easy-to-like album which is simultaneously melodic and gently atmospheric."
Wayne Yuzik, Saskatoon, SK
"The Decemberists usually make the list but don't top it. This time they really pulled it off!"
Alexandra Epp, Hamilton, ON
"More of a country/folk sound on this album from the Decemberists compared to previous albums, especially Hazards of Love, but still good."
Mende Ben Hamza, Montreal, QC
"In a year that should have made any folk music lover's collection larger and their wallet lighter, it was hard to pick a best of the bunch. While offerings from Siskiyou and Dan Mangan vied with this one for the top spot, inevitably, the Decemberists can't be beat. Meloy's songwriting is as smart, expansive and impressive as ever, with the band in top form. Impressive musicianship, and a great sense of focus makes this a record I can listen to over and over. The Decemberists never disappoint."
Aaron King, Wilberforce, ON
8. Elliott BROOD
Days Into Years (Six Shooter)
"Not on your top 16? Shameful. Really, truly, shame on you."
John Jantunen, Guelph, ON
"This album is the apex in their wonderful recorded music career to date. Brilliant lyrics and wonderful songs. Cannot ask for anything more."
Ryan Montemurro, Calgary, AB
"EB is one of Canada's most consistently under-rated bands. This record should have been huge, but it didn't have the hipster support, hence no buzz. But it is amazing."
Colin Gibson, Toronto, ON
"Listening to the shit that passes for country and folk these days, I worry these guys are wasting their time by being awesome."
Darin Strukoff, Delta, BC
"Elliott Brood are amazing live!!!!"
David Kalviainen, Sudbury, ON
9. Gillian Welch
The Harrow and the Harvest (Acony)
"A solid return, well worth the wait!"
Neil Targett, Corner Brook, NL
"Saw Gillian at Vancouver Folk Fest this year - long time coming. It is stunning how her seemingly simple music grips audiences, she is adored, basic but beautiful. The ability to tell a story, encompass tales of life, strife, and not ordinary love, if much about love at all - Gillian's the shit. Laying back in the tempo, never rushing. It's impressive."
Sandy Powlick, Victoria, BC
"Blew away all expectations."
Michael Fiore, Toronto, ON
"Gillian Welch creates country music which is entirely authentic, heartfelt, and intimate - a very rare combination. Her recordings have the same dimensions of her live performance: simple arrangements, perfectly imperfect and sincere delivery, and an arresting yet humble charisma."
Christopher King, Wilberforce, ON
Andrew Sund, Victoria, BC
10. Daniel Romano
Sleeps Beneath the Willow (You've Changed)
"Best 'pure' country album I've heard in a while."
Paul Routhier, Halifax, NS
"If I didn't know it was from this year, I'd have sworn this album was from a '70s country singer-songwriter."
Daniel Halyburton, Mississauga, ON
"Old school country done with commitment and passion."
Jame McEvoy, Burnaby, BC
Richard Chaput, Winnipeg, MB