There has been many wonderful albums to cross my path in 2013, some submitted for review while others were confined to just listening pleasure. With an unashamed and vain attempt to join the throngs of end of year best lists, here is the twenty records that left the most impression. Enjoy….
1. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
2. Danny and the Champions of the World – Stay True
3. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
4. Jason Isbell – South Eastern
The blossoming and maturity of a long established talent is the legacy of an album with that much over used cliché of containing ‘not a bad track’. The path to Americana iconic status is there for Jason Isbell to follow and the pleasure of his journey is there for us all to enjoy.
5. Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison – Cheater’s Game
The power and the beauty of the duet is an intrinsic value of country music and there was no better example of this art form in 2013 than the long awaited debut effort from these two valued husband and wife members of the Texas music community.
6. Billy Bragg – Tooth and Nail
There has always been a potential for Billy Bragg to exploit further the rich seam of country and Americana influence that has flavoured some of his material over the years. 2013 saw the lifting of all inhibitions to produce an album that had the intelligentsia of that genre drooling.
8. Travellin Rose – Cinderella Dreaming
A breath of fresh air to the UK country music scene and an album that refused to fade into the distant memory. All the components of a very fine country record with a traditional stance were in evidence and it laid the foundation of a talent that has the potential to flourish in the future.
9. Emily Baker – All at Sea
10. Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse
The eponymous career album is still in the can but this latest offering from one of Music City’s most respected artists contained enough evidence to suggest the peak is not far off. A continuation to push boundaries within the genre is the defining feature of this satisfying release.
12. Audrey Auld – Tonk
A hard hitting album with instant appeal and a lot of attitude leaving you in no doubt that the flame of feisty female flair is alive and kicking on the buzzing peripheral of Nashville, Tennessee. Also a reminder that the rest of the English speaking world can serve up a hearty portion of honky tonk.
13. Pistol Annies – Annie Up
Take three of the finest female young talents in Nashville and free them from the pressures of individual success. The result was a fun, breezy and an uninhibited release which managed to match commercial viability with artistic merit.
14. Ashleigh Flynn – A Million Stars
Another album which succeeded in meeting the Americana ideal of drawing influence from a multitude of roots sources and importantly showcasing that female artists can do this as laudably as some of the male counterparts of this style which tends to dominate the establishment appreciation.
15. My Darling Clementine – The Reconciliation?
16. Aoife O’Donovan – Fossils
An end of year country, roots and Americana list is not complete without a classical offering of sheer vocal beauty and there was no finer exponent in 2013 than Aoife O’Donovan’s debut solo effort which attracted deserved plaudits and justified the decision to go alone for this release.
17. Jamie Freeman Agreement – 100 Miles from Town
A prime example of how we can compete over here with the best over there. Multiple music genres went into the ingredients but let’s leave labels to one side for a minute and just reflect that Jamie produced a damn good album with all the hallmarks of a lengthy shelf life.
18. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon
The golden collaboration of the year, which had the industry gasping, drooling and rushing out the accolades. For once the critical acclaim was not mistaken and both these highly respected artists rose to the challenge of proving that their best recording days are far from behind them.
19. Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo – Dear River
20. Natalie Maines – Mother
The record that Natalie always wanted to make saw a welcome return for one of the finest band vocalists of the last 20 years. The style may have divided opinion but the unmistakable vocal quality reminded everybody that her recording hiatus had been far too long.