Americana UK’s Readers’ Poll 2021 – the results!

Photo credit: Gaelle Beri

So here we go, drum roll, break a leg, etc. We have counted up all your votes and are now ready to announce the winners of this year’s Americana UK Readers Poll. It’s been a funny old year for music obviously, the first full one of the pandemic which means that there were far less opportunities for artists to tour their new albums, some of which had been on the back burner for some time, or indeed play festivals and play to a whole new crowd. Still, it’s clear from the number of votes we got that there is still a real passion out there for the music, and plenty to get excited about. Without further ado…

Best UK act of 2021: Dean Owens

Runners-up: Yola, Danny George Wilson, Peter Bruntnell

Dean Owens is firmly established on the UK americana scene, recording with Calexico, playing virtual gigs and collaborating with author Ian Rankin for ‘The Wanderer’, a tribute album for the late Jackie Leven. His new album ‘Sinner’s Shine’ is due out in early 2022, apocalypse not withstanding. Dean told us: “This is a truly lovely thing to happen to me in what has been an extremely difficult year. I’m very grateful to all the readers who voted for me, as there are so many great artists out there. I’m also very grateful to everyone at Americana UK for all their support. They do a great job at spreading the word. Last week I got Covid, this week UK Act Of The Year. It’s a funny old world. Happy Christmas one and all.”

Best international act: Allison Russell

Runners-up: Jason Isbell, Nathan Bell

Canada’s Allison Russell has many strings to her bow – she’s a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, poet, and activist, having previously been a member of bands who have featured on these hallowed pages many times over the years including Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago, and Our Native Daughters. Her first solo album ‘Outside Child’, released in 2021 and exploring her experiences during her youth, including her recovery from the trauma of her childhood abuse received a Grammy nomination for best americana album. Allison sent us this message: “I am honoured beyond measure that Americana UK readers have chosen me as their International Artist of the Year! The support that Americana UK and UK Americana listeners and show goers have shown  me and my other projects (Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago, Our Native Daughters) is a large part of what’s kept me going as an independent artist through the years. Thank you for listening with such open hearted generosity. I love our expansive, inclusive #AllAmericana community and family!”

Best breakthrough act: Lady Nade

Runners-up: Margo Cilker, Sierra Ferrell, Amythyst Kiah, John Jenkins

Lady Nade describes her music as “eclectic Americana folk” which is good as we like all three of those things. Nade started writing poems and songs as a form of healing from grief, performing in venues across her native city of Bristol, and she describes her work as “a calling to connect with fans on a deeper level and help lead them through life’s complicated tapestry with the healing power of music”. Her third album ‘Willing’ features AMAUK nominated Best Song ‘Ain’t One Thing’. We raved about it back in July, saying of it: “That such an aged, pleading, world-weary yet immediate sound could be brought forth from such a young artist, it really is from another time and place, undefinable.” Lady Nade told us: “It’s an absolute honor to be AmericanaUK breakthrough act of 2021!  Wonderful to be recognised by AUK’s readers who have welcomed me with such open arms. Community is essential to me so this is so special. It’s more than sharing my voice and songs, it’s making connections and bringing people together. Without community I wouldn’t  have been able to release my third album ‘Willing’ during this pandemic, which is all about talking openly about struggles, life’s tapestry, raising mental health awareness, and promoting positive change. I value both the importance and significance of how music has an impact on people’s lives. Thank you so much for voting for me it truly means the world!”

Best UK album: Danny George Wilson “Another Place” (Loose)

Runners-up: Dean Owens “The Desert Trilogy”.  Peter Bruntnell “Journey to the Sun” Yola “Stand For Myself”

Danny George Wilson goes together with AUK like peanut butter and jelly, like macaroni and cheese, like Michael Jackson and the moonwalk. In his various guises over the years, whether it’s in a full band, a trio or solo, AUK readers have never lost sight of his brilliance and dynamism which keeps every new album sounding as fresh as the first – as we said of it: “each track is always anchored with Wilson’s voice and underlying sensibilities, making all the parts form a thoroughly enjoyable whole”. Danny sent us this message for our readers: “I’m absolutely blown away by this news folks…it means such a lot to me. It was about 20 years ago that Grand Drive received a similar Americana-UK honour and I just feel so lucky that you’re still listening…Thank you so much! Huge thanks to Hamish Benjamin for making the left turns on the production and sound…it’s been a lovely and unexpected trip! Love to all xx”

Best international album: The Felice Brothers “From Dreams to Dust” (Yep Roc)

Runners-up: Aaron Lee Tasjan “Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!” Allison Russell “Outside Child” James McMurtry “The Horses and the Hounds”

With synchronicity God or whoever the creator of the universe is would be proud of, AUK’s album of 2021 is also the one you voted for in droves for best international album of the year.  As we said of it: “For a band who were often compared (favourably) to The Band when their debut album was released, The Felice Brothers have gone on to create their own unique style over the course of eight albums: there are few outfits who sound quite like them.” ‘From Dreams To Dust’ is perhaps the finest Felice Brothers’ album so far with the band playing a tremendous mix of folk, country and shambolic rock. Ian Felice told us: “On behalf of the band and myself I’d like to thank the readers of Americana UK for listening closely to our songs over the years and for showing us such generous support. It never ceases to amaze us how our music has the ability to influence other people, for us this is the greatest reward. So thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over.”

Best radio show: Bob Harris “Bob Harris Country” BBC Radio 2

Runners-up: Mike Ritchie On Sunday(Celtic Music Radio), Richard Leader’s American Pie

Bob Harris’ connection with americana goes back a long way, and indeed for as long as we’ve been running our readers poll Bob has been winning Best Radio Show of the year on and off but mostly on. His country show is still the best place to hear americana music on national radio in the UK, and at a time you might actually be awake. Bob said to us: “I am genuinely thrilled and honoured that my Country Show has topped the readers poll again this year.  I’m so happy you’re enjoying the music.  Thank you for your votes and thank you for your incredible support.  It means the world to me.  Here’s to 2022 and beyond…”

Hero of 2021: The NHS

Runners-up: Marcus Rashford, Greta Thunberg

For the first time ever, our hero of the year goes to a thing rather than a person, but what a thing. At a time when it’s facing significant pressures yet again and having endured a decade or so of underinvestment from people who are probably not that keen that it exists at all, it’s a triumph of collectivism and something ironically many of our friends in the US still envy.

Villain of 2021: Boris Johnson

Runners-up: Priti Patel, Matt Hancock, the Conservative Party

What else can you say about this guy, or any of them? Maybe we’ll leave you with his own words via Cassetteboy. Thanks for your votes everyone.


About Mark Whitfield 2031 Articles
Editor of Americana UK website, the UK's leading home for americana news and reviews since 2001 (when life was simpler, at least for the first 253 days)
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Andrew Riggs

Marcus Rashford oh dear – really ?


Yes, Marcus Rashford. And your point is…?

andrew riggs

My point is that I disagree with this, simple really. ‘Hero’ really ? After the year we’ve been through surely AUK could have found someone from the NHS not a pampered over rated footballer and don’t get me started on ole Greta os is that Grata ?

Mark West

Sad that politics edged its ugly head into a celebration of music


I’m not sure why it may have escaped your notice, but AUK has and has always had a political aspect to it.

And why not? Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and politics has an impact on both music and musicians. Politics can be ugly, beautiful and many things in between. Unfortunately, as it’s practiced by those running and ruining the UK at present, mostly ugly and destructive.

But it’s not wrong to name that, or indeed the people and institutions who in words and practice show that another world is possible.

andrew riggs

Didn’t Corbyn win the hero spot a few years ago ? I used to write for AUK but the political drift and message is not for me – this used to be a site that introduced new music and didn’t push an agenda. Someone casually reading this would not be informed like the site used to – sadly AUK no longer promotes new new artists in my view.

Andrew Riggs

Thanks Mark, hope you are well and Best Wishes for 2022