Best Songs of 2023 (So Far)

Along with our ‘Best Albums of 2023 (so far)’ lists, we’ve also compiled Folk Alley hosts favorite songs of the first half of the year. These are standout songs that didn’t also appear on our best albums lists.

For more of the Best of 2023 (so far,) listen to the Fresh Cuts stream here on the website, via the Folk Alley mobile app, or ask Alexa to “play Folk Alley Fresh Cuts.”

Brad Kolodner’s Favorites (so far)
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway – “El Dorado” from City of Gold
Following up on her Grammy winning release, Molly Tuttle is right back at it with a banger about the early days of the California Gold Rush.

Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves – “The Snowstorm” from Hurricane Clarice: Outtakes, Vol. 1
Fiddle and banjo music at its finest. Allison and Tatiana sit right on the cutting edge of Old Time music, slicing and dicing their way through groovy, gritty tunes.

Natalie Padilla – “Larkspur” from Montana Wildflower
One of the most versatile fiddlers on the scene today, Natalie Padilla, released an albums of tunes inspired by the Montana landscape. Joined by multi-instrumentalist Quinn Bachand, there’s magic in this final cut on the record.

Robbie Fulks – “Old Time Music Here To Stay” from Bluegrass Vacation
An ode to a genre of music near and dear to my heart. As Robbie Fulks says “Hearts fall, troubles rise, hopes dim and rain dries, Old time music’s here to stay.”

The Fly Birds – “Josephine” from The Band Is Playing Covers
A bluegrassy spin on one of my all-time favorite Brandi Carlile songs. Sarah Jane Twigg has an incredible voice and it shines on this one.

Cindy Howes’ Favorites (so far)

Jaimee Harris – “Missing Someone” from Boomerang Town
I hear this super catchy song and then it’s in my head for 3 solid days. Then I think about the music video that features Jaimee’s partner, luminary Mary Gauthier, running an aerobics class in hot pink duck shorts. Perfection.

Kara Jackson – “pawnshop” from Why Does the Earth Give Us People To Love
This song is next level and it’s on Chicago singer Kara Jackson’s debut album. Channeling magic 60’s folk dissonance, Kara’s contralto voice sounds like an older Joni Mitchell. Which is mind-blowing since Jackson’s only in her mid-twenties.

Buffalo Nichols – “You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond” from The Fatalist
Carl Nichols, aka Buffalo Nichols, is interpreting Blind Willie Johnson with a 2023 voice. He shares, “I tried to reimagine the blues with this song as if it were allowed to grow and progress uninterrupted, uncolonized and ungentrified.”

Mark Erelli – “You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This” from Lay Your Darkness Down
Mark Erelli has had his “Ma’am I am tonight!” (Thank you Marc Cohn “Walking in Memphis”) moment on his song “You’re Gonna Wanna Remember This.” Erelli, who is slowly going blind, co-wrote this with Lori McKenna and says, “After my experience these last couple years, I take the metaphors in this song quite literally.”

Rhiannon Giddens – “You’re The One” from You’re the One
Rhiannon Giddens is really showing her soft side on this banger, which serves as a love song to her first-born. This fun new song will appear on her much anticipated new album, of the same name on August 18.

Elena See’s Favorites (so far)

Steep Canyon Rangers – “Hominy Valley” [single]
Well, after Woody Platt announced his retirement from the Steep Canyon Rangers I think we were all a little apprehensive. Good news. The band is STILL in fine form – they’re sounding as engaged and as strong as ever. This is one of the songs on their newest album, out in September, called Morning Shift.

Eric Bibb – “Ridin'” from Ridin’
What does freedom look like or feel like or mean to you? Maybe freedom’s all about the opportunity to make a choice that works best for you. What a reminder from Eric Bibb – chances come and go and you’ve got to grab them when you can. Do what’s best for YOU. And take a chance on freedom.

William Prince – “When You Miss Someone” from Stand In the Joy
It’s the kind of song that makes me say awwwwww when I hear it. A song about love, a song about kindness, a song about the sort of love I hope we all get to experience at least once in our lives. Plus, William Prince! This guy could sing anything and I’d listen.

Caitlin Canty – “The Odds of Getting Even” from Quiet Flame
I like Caitlin Canty’s voice and I like the imagery and ideas she’s sharing in this song. I also like the idea of “getting even” with certain people…and I know the odds are NOT in my favor.

Dan Tyminski Band – “Hey Brother” from God Fearing Heathen
I missed this when Dan Tyminski first sang it in 2013 with Swedish DJ and producer Avicii; good thing Tyminski and has band have redone it for their new album, God Fearing Heathen.

Matt Reilly’s Favorites (so far)
Bonus points if you can spot the common denominator in this songs category.

Abraham Alexander – “Tears Run Dry” from SEA/SONS
I’m a sucker for a cool organ sound. That’s not the only selling point of this song though. Solid soul vibes weave through this tune, with the highlight being Abraham’s clear, pure voice. Keep you eye on this guy. He’s going places.

Jess Williamson – “Hunter” from Time Ain’t Accidental
“I need a mirror, not a piece of glass”. “You’ll live through hell for the dream…”. These are just a couple of the well-turned phrases in Williamson’s new song Hunter. Her twang gives this song that much more of a plaintive, longing feel.

Robert Ellis – “Gene” from Yesterday’s News
For his new record Yesterday’s News, Ellis decided to totally pare things back. It’s just his distinct voice and his guitar which really allows the lyrics to shine through. With a voice like his, less is definitely more.

Slaid Cleaves – “Second Hand” from Together Through the Dark
Slaid has been writing great songs for decades now and this is no exception. What’s great about this one is the double entendre and word play. His friendly singing voice belies the hard truths underneath.

Brennen Leigh – “Running Out of Hope, Arkansas” from Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin’ Yet
It sounds old but it’s not. This song harkens back to when this style was just referred to as Hillbilly music. Leigh is carrying the torch for all the Western Swingers out there. The lyrics are decidedly modern, and paired with that vintage vibe, will hopefully attract some new folks to the old ways.

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