Top 15 Folk Vinyl Records
Folk music represents generational storytelling through sound. Traditionally, folk music emphasizes a focus on community with limited use of instruments. Most songs are performed with guitar, piano, or acapella. At its core, the lyrics and instrumentation of folk music are created with the intention of being inclusive and uplifting.
Technology, specifically the emergence of online record stores and modern sound equipment, has changed traditional folk music and has made it more accessible to a digital audience. Original records have been remastered to embody richer, more complex versions of time-honored favorites. This also rings true for other genres like jazz vinyl records or rock vinyl records. As with the jazz and rock music genres, folk music also covers several sub-categories.
There are heavy country music influences on folk music, as well as gospel and light pop. Here are 15 of the top folk vinyl records that embody classic American folk music to add to your collection.
One of the most prolific folk musicians of all time is Woody Guthrie. As his folk album name confirms, he is an American folk legend. What’s probably his most notable folk song, “This Land Is Your Land,” was adapted from the melody of a gospel song and sung in schools nationwide.
Guthrie represented a strong stance politically and musically, and American Folk Legend is a strong representation of his popular sound and impact on the world. Other songs from this compilation album include “Ramblin’ Round,” “Jesse James,” and “Cowboy Waltz.”
Bob Dylan is another iconic singer-songwriter that performed a mix of folk, Americana, and alternative country music. His Basement Tapes album was released in 1975 as his 16th studio album. It features 24 tracks recorded in homes in and around upstate New York where he and his band lived.
Dylan’s songs showcase unique composition and performance style. Among those found on this album are “Million Dollar Bash,” “Too Much of Nothing,” and “Bessie Smith.”
As a popular music group of the ‘60s, The Byrds blended elements of folk, country, jazz, and psychedelic rock into their sound. They used instrumentation like the modular synthesizer and pedal steel guitar to create an ethereal sound.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers is a limited edition folk vinyl record that reflects an era of music that was becoming more progressive in both sound and lyrics. This 10-song album includes “Artificial Energy,” “Change Is Now,” and “Space Odyssey.”
Joni Mitchell is one of the most beloved folk rock-artists of all time. Mitchell’s 19th studio album focuses on her vocal power and minimal approach to song. Released in 2007, this was the first album featuring new songs in nearly a decade and features 10 songs.
There’s a special appearance by Mitchell’s longtime friend and fellow singer-songwriter James Taylor on the title track. She also includes “Bad Dreams” and “Big Yellow Taxi” on the tracklist.
Brandi Carlile is a Grammy award-winning indie-folk artist who debuted her fourth studio album, Bear Creek, in 2012. It’s one of the best folk vinyl records of modern day.
As a frequent performer at the Newport Folk Festival, she has collaborated with several major country, pop, and folk musicians to reach a wider audience. Songs like “That Wasn’t Me,” “Heart’s Content,” and “Hard Way Home” showcase the emotion she delivers in her music as she continues to build a following of fans new to the sounds of folk.
#6 Tim Buckley -March 66 - The Folk Rock Demos (2018)
Tim Buckley’s March 66 - The Folk Rock Demos is one of the rarest folk vinyl records. It showcases four previously unreleased song demos recorded before he was signed to Elektra Records.
Although Buckley’s roots began in folk music, he’s known best for blending in other genres as well, including funk, soul, and jazz. This recently discovered gem is a favorite for those who appreciate folk-rock history and the evolution of its sound.
Sigh No More is the award-winning debut album of English folk quartet Mumford & Sons. It features hit singles “The Cave,” and “Little Lion Man,'' which reached popularity on pop radio and those within the folk music and bluegrass scene.
Mumford & Sons became crowd favorites as they began touring and headlining indie music festivals. They’ve maintained success nearly a decade after their emergence onto the scene. Their music embraces what mixing traditional folk music with more modern influences can achieve.
Judah & The Lion takes traditional folk music and adds their alternative edge with notes of bluegrass, electro-pop, and even hip hop to the mix. The Folk Hop N’ Roll vinyl LP is a deluxe edition album that includes four new studio tracks and adds seven songs previously unavailable on vinyl.
The Nashville-based group has created a musical following that appreciates and admires their unique sound and approach to classic sounds. Songs from their 2016 album include “Graffiti Dreams,” “Folk-Hop Sound,” and “Take It All Back.”
Van Morrison’s Versatile is one of the top folk vinyl records. It’s a limited double vinyl LP pressing in a gatefold jacket. The record offers 16 songs with six new compositions, including “Broken Record,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” and “Start All Over Again.” Morrison’s mix of classic rock, swing, and folk music solidified his place in the music world.
Acoustic folk music band The Kingston Trio helped launch the popularity of folk music in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Their pure sound is easily recognizable and beloved, which led to soaring record sales.
The Best of the Kingston Trio vinyl record is the group’s first-ever compilation. It’s pressed on audio-grade 180 gram vinyl with a restored full-color sleeve. “Tom Dooley,” “Scotch and Soda,” and Everglades” are a few of their most cherished songs. As a folk music record collector favorite, The Kingston Trio influenced many musicians throughout the decades.
Singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recently released his first new album in 16 years with Solo. The collection materialized through previously unreleased material that he recorded nearly two decades ago. Song listings include “Better Off,” “Just a Little Bit,” and “Easy Flo.”
Lightfoot was known best for his rich baritone voice accompanied by only his acoustic guitar, which helped him establish a career spanned over six decades.
Janis Joplin is a cultural icon who was known for her bluesy rock and folk-inspired music. Pearl was released posthumously by Columbia Records in 1971, and the album features one of her best-known hits “Me and Bobby McGee” along with 13 other songs.
Rolling Stone ranked Joplin number 46 on its 2004 list of 100 Greatest Artists of all Time. She was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is one of the most prolific and top-selling musicians in history.
The Mamas & the Papas Collected album is a double vinyl LP that showcases the hits of the American folk-rock quartet. It includes tracks from the band and solo recordings from Mama Cass.
“California Dreamin’,” “Monday Monday,” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” are a few of the favorites found on the 30-track collector record.
Matthew & Son is Cat Stevens’ debut album released in 1967. It features 13 tracks, including “Lady,” “Here Comes My Baby,” and “I See a Road.” Known mainly as a folk-pop singer, he also explored secular and Islamic music genres later in his career.
Progressive sounds and eclectic instrumentation defined his contribution to the folk music scene. He incorporated the mandolin, piano, and bass guitar into his performances. Over the years, he received multiple music awards and recognitions and several humanitarian awards, and honorary degrees.
Joan Baez’s self-titled track is a collector’s item for any contemporary folk music fan. It’s one of the top folk vinyl records and was challenging to get your hands on for a long time. After being out of print for several years, this reissued vinyl album is cut from the original stereo tapes.
She performed at the inaugural Newport Folk Festival in 1959 and recorded this debut album a year later. Her music was heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and traditional folk ballads. Songs on the record include “East Virginia,” “Little Moses,” and original and extended versions of “John Riley.” Baez paved the way for other female musicians as a folk singer, songwriter, and musical activist who often used her voice to sing songs of protest and social justice.
Choose The Folk Records You’ll Love
These albums all represent a different place within this musical movement’s grand span. Folk music has transformed throughout the years but has always kept true to its roots. Powerful vocals, poetic lyrics, and unexpected compositions are all components that have made this music genre a favorite generation after generation. Start or continue to grow your collection of vinyl folk records with albums you’ll love, and play them on high-quality record players like Victrola.