Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 20 Roots/Folk/Country/Blues/etc Albums of the 2013

1. Sturgill Simpson - " High Top Mountain" (High Top Mountain Records/Thirty Tigers)
The former leader of Sunday Valley delivers his solo debut and what an album it is. Drawing from Hard Country, Bluegrass, Outlaw Country and more Sturgill crafted a colossal album and he's now reaping the benefits of it. I do miss SV but this softens the blow.

2. Jayke Orvis and The Broken Band - "Bless This Mess" (Farmageddon Records)
The 2nd album from Jayke Orvis since exiting .357 String Band is yet another feather in the cap of one of Roots music's finest musicians and songwriters. With The Broken Band finally having a solidified line up of Liz Sloan on Fiddle, Jared McGovern on Upright Bass and James Hunnicutt on Guitar, this album shows why Jayke Orvis and company are among the premier acts in the Roots scene.

3. Possessed By Paul James - "There Will Be Nights When I'm Lonely" (Hillgrass Bluebilly)
Possessed By Paul James has been steadily writing better and better songs and albums over the years, and while not losing the wildman edge that his early work was defined by, he has certainly rounded some of the sharp edges off. However, what he may have sacrificed in the area of lunacy, he has more than made up for in the songwriting and musicality department.

4. S.S. Web - "1933" (Wayward Parade)
"1933" is the 2nd album from  Milwaukee's S.S. Web, and shows the group to be continually improving on there already stellar sound. One of the best and most original groups in the greater Roots music scene, S.S. Web has crafted a sound all their own with elements of Country, Punk, Folk, Americana, Rock, and much more. The sound is nearly indefinable, so I suggest you see them live and pick up this album as well as their debut "North".

5. Crow Cannons - "Texas Rain" (Self Released)
This 2 piece band from Terre Haute, IN has quickly made their mark with 2 great albums and one of the most intense live shows you're likely to see. Combining balls out, Blues Rock swagger with a bit of Country and Roots, depending on the track, Crow Cannons are melting faces whether on disc or on stage.

6. ToeKnee Tea - "Elkhart County Jail" (Self Released)
Another Hoosier, Toeknee Tea plays Blues, with a few hints of Punk underlying the surface, and in the last couple years has quickly made a name for himself as one of the premier one man bands around the midwest. This full length fullfills the promise shown on his debut EP, "Disappointing Noises".

7. Hangdog Hearts - "Under The Floorboards" (Self Released)
"Under The Floorboards" is the 2nd album from Indy's Austin Stirling, under the moniker The Hangdog Hearts. The group has bounced back and forth from being a one man band project of Austin's and having various other backing members. The first album, "Good Ol' Fashioned Gentleman's Music" showed the immense talent and songwriting ability of Austin but lacked a bit of the raw power and intensity of his live performances. "Under The Floorboards" remedies that issue and shows HDH stripped down to a primal level that evokes a wealth of emotion and shows with even greater detail the depth of this man's heart and soul.

8. The Devil Makes Three - "I'm A Stranger Here" (New West Records)
The Devil Makes Three have been at it for awhile now, long before many of the other Roots and String Bands even dreamed of picking up a banjo. After toiling away in relative obscurity, playing countless shows where they earned a reputation as one of the premier live bands in this scene, and releasing one great album after another, it seems they are finally getting some of the recognition they deserve.

9. The Goddamn Gallows - "Acoustic Bootleg" (Farmageddon Records)
This very limited edition CD release from Farmageddon Records captures an intimate live acoustic performance from The Goddamn Gallows at a Tattoo shop. Not only is it interesting to hear an acoustic performance from these lords of misrule, but it also includes them doing a few covers that are not available on any other Gallows' release.

10. Austin Lucas - "Stay Reckless" (New West Records)
Bloomington, IN's Austin Lucas has been writing great songs and albums for years now, whether as a member of various Metal and Punk bands or as a solo Country and Bluegrass performer, and his latest is no exception. Excellently crafted songs that display great songcraft and exceptional musicality.

11. Mikey Classic and His Lonesome Spur - "Self Titled" (Farmageddon Records)
This is the self titled solo debut from the front man of The Goddamn Gallows, Mikey Classic. Old school Country Blues jams with Mikey's unmistakable voice and style. Excellent songs and it shows even more just how versatile Mikey Classic is.

12. Townes Van Zandt - "Sunshine Boy" (Omnivore Recordings)
"Sunshine Boy" is a collection of unreleased studio tracks and demos from the greatest songwriter of all time Townes Van Zandt. This double disc set is especially cool because the tracks are mostly just Townes with a bare minimum of extra instrumentation that always seemed to plague his studio albums from this same era. Also, this collection includes for the first time anywhere, studio versions of his cover of The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" as well as a few other tracks that TVZ never recorded on any other album.

13. Jason Boland and The Stragglers - "Dark and Dirty Mile" (Thirty Tigers/Proud Souls Entertainment)
"The Dark and Dirty Mile" is the 7th studio album from Jason Boland and The Stragglers, and it could very well be his best work. He has made a career of writing great songs but so far has largely remained somewhat unknown outside the Red Dirt scene, hopefully this album will change that.

14. David Hanners - "There Are No Secrets In This Town" (Self Released)
David Hanners is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has became a well respected Singer/Songwriter. He's recorded a few albums now of great Folk/Americana jams and his newest is perhaps his best. "There Are No Secrets In This Town" was inspired by an interview given by a woman who had been a madame in Terre Haute, IN for several decades during the city's era when it was known as "Sin City". Hanners wrote songs based on her stories and on the people she talked about, as well as historic events in the city's past. Its a great album regardless, but for anyone from Terre Haute or the Wabash Valley, it is of exceptional interest.

15. Hank III - "Brothers of the 4x4" (Hank III Records/Megaforce)
The newest album from Shelton Hank Williams III, while having an awkward title, is actually his best work in  a few years in my eyes. While I am still a big fan of Hank, his recent output has been uneven at best, and nowhere near the level at which his earlier works like "Lovesick, Broke, and Drifting" and "Straight To Hell" were at. It has seemed that he really needed someone who could help him edit his works and say "maybe leave this song off". While "Brothers of the 4x4" is not as good as his seminal albums, it is a much more enjoyable album than anything he's done in recent years, and despite a few questionable tracks or awkward lyrics, its a fun record and hopefully a stepping stone for Hank to return to his former greatness.

16. Jason Isbell - "Southeastern" (Southeastern Records)
This is the 4th studio album from Jason Isbell, the former member of The Drive By Truckers, and has garned almost universal acclaim this year. Recently getting clean and sober and surviving much turmoil, Isbell turned all that drama into great songs and perhaps his defining work, that may even eclipse his previous group's best efforts.

17. John Moreland - "In The Throes" (Last Chance Records)
"In The Throes" is the 3rd album from Oklahoma's John Moreland and should be the album that introduces him to a wider audience. The tracks vary in style to some degree from more Singer/Songwriter and Folk type jams to songs that are more Rock influenced. The common thread among them all however, is Moreland's exceptional songwriting ability. The man may one day be remembered along side people like Graham Lindsey and William Elliott Whimore as one of the finest songwriters of his generation.

18. Guy Clark - "My Favorite Picture of You" (Dualtone)
The newest album from the legendary Guy Clark is an emotional and powerful record. Guy's wife and longtime companion, Susanna Clark, died prior to the writing of this album and as such became the inspiration behind the album. Guy has long been one of America's greatest songwriters and will always be connected to his friends and fellow legends Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle, but this album is among Clark's best and most poignant work, as it is a tribute to the woman he loved.

19. J.B. Beverley - "Stripped To The Root"
"Stripped To The Root" is the long awaited solo album from the frontman/leader of The Wayward Drifters and former frontman of The Murder Junkies (post GG), J.B. Beverley. This album may surprise many who are expecting a new Wayward Drifters album because it is most definitely NOT that, and isnt really even a Country album. The album varies greatly from song to song but is carried by just how personal the material is to JB. There are originals and there are covers, there are Folk songs, Rock songs, Country songs and Bluegrass songs. It is a very different record for JB but shows just how diverse the man and his influences are.

20. Robbie Fulks - Gone Away Backwoods" (Bloodshot)
The latest album from Robbie Fulks, "Gone Away Backward", is yet another great album in a career that is full of them. The Illinois resident has released over 10 albums and is still going strong as evidenced by the greatness of this album. One of the most purely "Country" albums on this list, this record is a must own album for anyone who is a fan of TRUE Country music and is tired of the god awful shit pouring out of Nashville on through the radio these days.

Andy Sweitzer

No comments:

Post a Comment