First Official Folk Albums Chart announced

Folk Albums ChartLast night, in an exciting live-streamed ceremony, 26-year-old Liverpudlian Jamie Webster took the coveted Number 1 spot with his debut studio album We Get By in the very first Official Folk Albums Chart compiled by the Official Charts Company.

Hosted by BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show presenter, Mark Radcliffe, the event was live-streamed from HOME in Manchester in front of a small audience and watched by hundreds music lovers around the world  Interviews, live performances and a special announcement ran alongside a thrilling run-down of the top 40 best-selling and most streamed folk albums.

Jamie Webster’s self-released album of stories of working-class life hit number one in the Folk Album Charts just weeks after reaching Number 6 in the mainstream Official Albums Chart, underscoring his phenomenal rise and DIY attitude.   Speaking to the Manchester Folk Festival earlier in the day he said.

“I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Johnny Cash…Whilst growing up I didn’t actually know that it was folk that I was listening to, I just liked the real-life stories that were being told in the songs. It was later on that I realised that it’s the stories & realities told which makes the songs folk songs.

I’ve always tried to tell stories in my music and talk about real life issues, I think that’s the only way to do it. And to officially get recognition in this way is something I’m really proud of…. thank you to everyone who made this possible by showing their support… It means more than anything”

The first live performance of the evening came from chamber-folk trio VRï, three young Welshmen and rising stars of the folk scene whose joyous interpretation of Welsh traditional melodies set the pace for the evening. Shortly after, and by way of contrast, one of folk’s most lauded artists, Shirley Collins spoke to Radcliffe about the release of Hearts Ease, her compelling album that was released to triumphant reviews landing in the Number 8 slot.  Clearly excited about the new folk albums chart, she said.

“We all want to be recognized and acknowledged and (this chart) brings us closer to the mainstream as well.  I think it’s a great idea!”

As the countdown continued, two more performances came from contemporary folk artist Kris Drever, recorded from his home in Glasgow alongside a heartfelt performance from Manchester-based alt-folk duo, The Breath.

An examination of chart entries released in the current chart period, 24 August – 22 September, demonstrates perfectly the depth and breadth of the music within the folk genre.

Ulster lad Joshua Burnside’s dystopian experimental folk album, Into the Depths of Hell (No. 18) combines Irish traditional sounds with electronica, while Fay Hield’s classic folk voice and traditional stories of the otherworld defines her new album Wrackline. East London’s electronic-folk act, Stick In The Wheel interweave historical sources with their own experiences; their politically charged album Hold Fast, was released to huge critical acclaim placing them firmly in the top echelons of the chart at Number 5. Hailing from a village in County Louth, Ireland, David Keenan’s live album, Alchemy & Prose: Live Recordings entered at Number 30 shining a light on one of the chart’s most impassioned performers (his striking debut ‘A Beginners Guide to Bravery’ was released in January, yet so popular it has earned Keenan a second chart position).

The Official Folk Albums Chart highlights one of folk’s defining characteristics.  90% of albums appearing on the September chart are independent releases, with almost a third being self-released or on artist-owned labels.  Scottish artist Liam McGrandles self-released  his album, The Place You Call Home in at Number 15, while Kate Rusby’s Hand Me Down (No. 3), Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook (No. 21) and many others were released on smaller, independent labels.   Sam Sweeney, one of England’s best-known fiddle players and a veteran of the mighty Bellowhead released Unearth Repeat (No.27)  on the independent label Hudson.

One of the evening’s most welcome surprises came from Matthew Bannister, host of the award-winning Folk on Foot podcast who delighted audiences with the announcement that Folk On Foot is to launch an Official Folk Albums Chart Show. It will be premiered on Folk On Foot’s YouTube Channel and podcast feed coinciding with the publication of the chart on the first Monday of each month. As well as a run-down of the Top 40, it will spotlight new entries and include music, videos, live performances and interviews.

The launch of the inaugural Official Folk Albums Chart closed with a magical live performance from Fay Hield and her band.  As this month’s most recent release, Fay’s Wrackline achieved an outstanding result, entering the chart at Number 6.  Commenting on the launch of the chart before her performance, she said:

“The folk scene is a many-headed beast and it is brilliant that album-releasing artists have this new platform to introduce more people to the music. The chart can help new listeners delve into the nooks and crannies, find new artists, go to the clubs and get more deeply involved in the folk world.”

See the full chart here.

‘Still We Get By’ – live:


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