To paraphrase the great Edwin Starr – Awards! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing. Tis the season to make arbitrary assessments of the best music of the previous 12 months. Yet music awards do mean something and looking at the Top 50s and Top 75s released by various generalist music magazines – yes, Uncut and Mojo, I’m talking to you – you’d think that folk and traditional music barely existed. To pick on both of those august publications for a moment. Apparently the best album of the year in both cases was the reconstituted white boy dance-rock of LCD Soundsystem. That’s how unimaginative they are.

Acoustic music gets a look in with the likes of Joan Shelley and Aldous Harding – both great artists, but not exactly representative. The most ‘folk’ album to be included is Newcastle maverick Richard Dawson’s Peasant – an album that’s got as much to do with Captain Beefheart as it has Martin Carthy. In fact, bearing the folk flag is left to an album that’s 45 years old – Lal and Mike Waterson’s Bright Phoebus. Nobody would disagree that it’s great to have the album back in its new, shiny iteration after such an unforgivable hiatus, but it’s almost half a century old for heaven’s sake.

So back to my original question – what are awards good for? Well, in the case of the Shire Folk album of the year, it’s to shine a light on the very best folk and roots music released in the year that might otherwise slip under the radar. Consequently, it’s particularly heartening to see the top ten as voted for by our reviewers, advertisers and twitter followers. It’s truly representative of the current high quality of folk music around. It runs the gamut from tunes to songs and from traditional to the newly minted. It was an extremely close decision this year, but Martin Simpson’s Trails & Tribulations is a fully deserved winner. An album that everyone in folk would be proud to hold up as the best of the best, and an album that can happily hold its own against James Murphy’s dancefloor angst.

Jonathan Roscoe


Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.

From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.

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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk



Shire Folk Album of 2017

Martin Simpson
Trails & Tribulations