The Harrow and the Harvest
2011 was another rich year for the increasingly enterprising 21st century folk scene. While Gillian Welch's first collection of new music in eight years, which signaled a return to the sparse, dust bowl balladry of her 1996 debut, may have cast the largest shadow, there was no shortage of quality releases from both the old (Steve Earle, Martin Simpson) and new (the Civil Wars, the Low Anthem) guards. The muddy lines between country, Americana, and indie pop were skillfully blurred by clawhammer banjo mystic Abigail Washburn, rustic Ohioans Southeast Engine, and soulful Midwesterner Chris Bathgate, while the U.K. sent out a small army of troops led by Laura Marling, the Unthanks, and the legendary June Tabor, the latter of whom managed to sneak in both a solo album and a collaboration/reunion with seasoned English folk-rockers the Oyster Band for good measure.

Chris Bathgate - Salt Year
A.A. Bondy - Believers
Richard Buckner - Our Blood
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Lisa Hannigan - Passenger
The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine
The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
Marissa Nadler - Marissa Nadler
Agnes Obel - Philharmonics
Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
John Renbourn - Palermo Snow
Tom Russell - Mesabi
Martin Simpson - Purpose & Grace
Six Organs of Admittance - Asleep on the Floodplain
Southeast Engine - Canary
June Tabor - Ashore
The Unthanks - Last
Eddie Vedder - Ukulele Songs
Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge
Gillian Welch - The Harrow & the Harvest
William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs