14,000 Artists?! A Deep Dive Into WTJU Folk playlists

On the occasion of WTJU’s 2021 Folk Marathon (go donate!), we decided to look back at 10 years of online playlists from our folk department. Some things were surprising, even to us.

Musical Diversity, Music Discovery

Imagine a small city where literally every man, woman, and child is a folk musician.

That’s how many artists we’ve played in WTJU’s folk department. Over the last decade, WTJU’s folk & roots shows have played music from more than 14,000 different artists.

From those artists, we’ve played more nearly 77,000 unique tracks from more than 47,000 different albums.

Whatever the opposite of “Top 40 Radio” is, that’s us.

That’s because WTJU is about eclectic music and adventurous listening. WTJU’s dozens of volunteer hosts have a passion for this music. They follow it down rabbit holes, finding old favorites, deep cuts, and new sounds to share with our community.

Data & graphic by Erin Hensien


Most played artists

On a radio station that plays 14,000 folk & roots artists, “most played” is something of a relative term. To crack the top 12 list, an artist only needed a few hundred spins over the last decade.

Still, a number of legendary acts populate WTJU Folk’s most-played artists list, plus a few favorites of our WTJU DJs.

WTJU Folk’s Most-Played Artists, 2011-2020:

1. Bob Dylan
2. Tim O’Brien
3. Neil Young
4. Mike Seeger
5. John Hartford
6. Love Canon
7. Bill Monroe
8. Seldom Scene
9. John Prine
10. Taarka
11. Doc Watson
12. Gillian Welch

Zooming in to the most-played artist any given year, Bob Dylan also dominates, topping the chart five years out of 10. Local favorite Love Canon topped the list twice, in the years they released their folk & bluegrass cover albums of 1980s pop songs.

More recently, Che Apalache took the top spot in 2019, bouyed by their live appearance on WTJU. And tributes to John Prine after his passing from COVID-19 made him the most played artist of 2020.

WTJU Folk’s Most-Played Artists by Year:

2011: Bob Dylan
2012: Love Canon
2013: Bob Dylan
2014: Love Canon
2015: Bob Dylan
2016: Bob Dylan
2017: Tim O’Brien
2018: Bob Dylan
2019: Che Apalache
2020: John Prine


Virginia-based artists worth checking out

As a community radio station, WTJU is proud to amplify the music of artists based in the Charlottesville area and throughout Virginia. We analyzed the 50 albums with the most plays on WTJU Folk since 2011, and we were pleased to see that a third of them are by artists based in Virginia.

Here are a few of WTJU Folk’s most-played albums from Virginia worth checking out:

The Honey Dewdrops, Tangled Country (2015) and Silver Lining (2012). Formerly based in Charlottesville, this Americana duo features beautiful harmonies. They’re also the only artist with two albums on WTJU Folk’s Top 50 list.

Love Canon, Cover Story (2018). The fourth installment of what these guys are known for: acoustic-roots covers of 80s & 90s pop hits. It sounds like a shtick, but they’re all really talented musicians.

Victor Furtado, Dellorto Island (2018). Victor won the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass while still a teenager.

The Wildmans, Wandering Thoughts (2017). A young, neo-traditional string band from Floyd. (Includes Victor Furtado – see above).

Michael Clem, Fifty Clementines (2016). Sophomore solo effort from the co-founder of Eddie From Ohio. (Incidentally, Michael lives in Charlottesville, not Ohio.)

Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun, The Hollow (2015). This Charlottesville-based instrumental duo has a sound all their own, influenced by jazz, funk, worldbeat, classical, and more.

Ragged Mountain String Band, Ham (2020). These longtime local favorites play old time Appalachian tunes with a modern-day sensibility. They’ve brought their sound to the WTJU studios a bunch of times.

John Jackson, Country Blues & Ditties (1999). American Piedmont blues musician John Jackson recorded three albums in the mid-1960s, remastered for this Smithsonian Folkways release.

James Leva, Memory Theatre (2001). Based in Lexington, James Leva is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter whose music is deeply rooted in Appalachian tradition.

Old Buck, Old Buck (2013). This all-star string band featured former WTJU DJ Sabra Guzman on bass.

Dori Freeman, Letters Never Read (2017). Based in Galax, Freeman seamlessly blends modern and traditional folk & roots.

Seth Swingle, Solo 5 and 6 String Banjo (2015). Former WTJU host Seth Swingle is a dedicated practitioner of traditional music and an ever-curious scholar of the banjo and its history.

Dan Rublee And Friends, Daybreak (2017). This album features more than a dozen guest artists from around Central Virginia.

Mando Mafia, Get Away (2004). Local favorites with their signature “wall-of-mandolin” sound.

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