The Incredible String Band – The Big Huge

Warm, mellow Scottish folk with lyrics that border spiritual, philosophical, and fantasy themes. The arrangements are a bit stripped down from their lush psychedelia of previous releases, but still feature a good amount of sitar, organ, Irish harp, and violin to add some color to the vocals and acoustic guitar-centric songwriting.

Ryley Walker – Golden Sings that have been Sung (Deep Cuts Edition)

Ryley Walker’s virtuosic fingerpicking and intricate folk-rock songwriting vibe heavily with a backing band of Chicagoan jazz musicians, including upright bass, drums, Rhodes and electric guitar. The first LP of this release is a studio album of jazzy folk rock songs for fans of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks or Tim Buckley’s Happy Sad, while the Bonus Lp of this “Deep Cuts edition” is a 40 min live improvisation on one of the album cuts that probably beats anything on the studio LP. It’s rad to be able hear both the concise, song-centric studio side and the loose jammy side of this exciting artist in the same release.

David Grubbs – The Thicket

On experimental musician/author/professor David Grubb’s first album as singer-songwriter, he synthesizes technical bluegrass banjo and fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing with imaginative arrangements, abrupt stylistic shifts, philosophical questioning lyrics, improvisation, drones, and an eclectic cast of musicians, including drummer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake), bassist Josh Abrams (Natural Information Society), and drone violinist Tony Conrad.

Strunz & Farah – Mosaico

“World Music” is often a cheap umbrella term for non-Eurocentric music, but when acoustic guitar shredders Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, from Costa Rica and Iran respectively, bring together a Cuban rhythm section, South Indian violinist, and Kuwaiti guitarist, the music they create truly does have a sense of cultural unity deserving of the term.
For fans of flamenco, Arabic folk, and acoustic guitar virtuosity

Sandy Bull – Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo

On his debut album, the guitar and banjo virtuoso starts off with a 22-minute droning epic fusing American and Arabic Folk music with Indian Raga on his acoustic guitar (often trying to imitate the feeling of the oud). Here, he is accompanied by the fluid, driving drums of Billy Higgins. Side 2 is made up of 4 shorter solo pieces, mostly for the banjo, including an impressive rendition of “Carmina Burana” by German composer Carl Orff and a folky mountain song.

Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness

Julie Byrne’s gentle new-age folk is so light and airy it’s easy to miss its depth, but repeated listening shows that it’s strength lies in its weightlessness. Her soothing voice and delicate fingerpicking are enveloped in warm string arrangements, all tied together by soft reverb and pristine production that makes for an inviting, peaceful listen every time.


Shakti – Shakti with John McLaughlin

Shakti means “Creative Intelligence, Beauty & Power” and trust me, these are all in abundance on these devotional jazz ragas. Featuring John McLaughlin joined by a quartet of Indian master musicians, this album is a blissfully uplifting and meditative release.

Shakti – Natural Elements

In this energizing exploration of Hindustani classical music from a jazz perspective, John McLaughlin joins a virtuosic trio of Indian musicians who inspire some of the most impassioned and impressive playing of his career. His acoustic guitar shredding veers close to the bendy sounds of the sitar and fits nicely with the dense web of percussion created by Vikku Vinayakram and Zakir Hussain. Violinist Lakshiminarayana Shankar’s emotive themes and fiery solos make him a perfect foil to McLaughlin.

Mdou Moctar – Sousoume Tamache

Guitar-genius Mdou Moctar visits Portland, Oregon from his home country of Niger to record a hypnotic solo album of desert folk sung in Tamasheq. Most songs consist of intricate fingerstyle acoustic guitar with occasional electric guitar overdubs to accent the melodies.

Tim Buckley – Blue Afternoon

Blue Afternoon continues the flowing jazz-folk of Tim’s previous release (Happy Sad) while starting to detour into the avant-garde atmospheres that would manifest more fully on his next two albums, Lorca and Starsailor. The songs and lyrics refuse to be boxed into one category as “joyful” or “lonely” or “sad” and instead reflect the intangible multi-dimensionality of feeling.