10 beautiful, beguiling and bold folk albums from 1969

1969 was an amazing year for music, particularly for the album format.
Ralph McTell
Ralph McTell / Michael Putland/GettyImages
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9. Oar – Alexander “Skip” Spence

A rather disturbing listen and perhaps the most personal album ever recorded, Alexander “Skip” Spence’s (formerly of Moby Grape) debut album was recorded after he got out of prison for menacing one of his former bandmates with an axe after consuming untold amounts of LSD. That tragic backstory anchors a harrowing listen, especially since Spence’s voice went from keening and energetic during his Moby Grape days to a deep, defeated baritone on this folk album.

"Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" is an eviscerating listen, and it truly sounds like the work of someone who needed medical attention instead of extended incarceration. The sprawling yet interior album features several simple melodies on numerous songs that all build up and climax during the distressing mantra-like “Grey/Afro” which features exploratory sonics and deeply interior lyrics. An eminently unique and rewarding listen from a tortured soul, this is one of the most isolated and insular albums of all time – but one that you truly must hear to fully grasp.

8. What We Did On Our Holidays – Fairport Convention

The first of three albums by British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention in 1969 (a staggering feat that was only matched by Creedence Clearwater Revival stateside), this album marked the debut of Sandy Denny as the group’s lead singer – the element that marked the beginning of the group’s classic period. Surprisingly, just as quickly as she joined, Denny would leave before the release of the group’s final 1969 album to embark on a solo career as well as various side projects and collaborations.

This album doesn’t quite represent the group’s classic Fairport sound just yet, but there are myriad highlight tracks that hint at what the near future would bring for the group, such as the surprisingly heavy blues-rock of “Mr. Lacey,” which is laced with brilliant guitar work from Richard Thompson, the gorgeous harmonies of “Book Song,” or the stirring, life-affirming closer “Meet On The Ledge.”