So it’s that time of the year where I submit my Top 10 albums of the year. This year I’ve received the usual 200 plus digital downloads: some of it by famous artists eg. Drive-By Truckers, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and Shelby Lynne but most of it by folk you’ve never heard of or I’ve never heard of! The source has been from my man in the USA at The Americana Music Show, Country Music People and my own purchases. I’ve bought about 60 albums during the year. A few were new releases but most were of earlier years. As a consequence my list below includes these.
- Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Came
Enthralling from start to finish. Walker’s comfortable mastery of so many country styles with layered arrangements elevates these fabulous compositions to my No. 1.
2. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions (2020)
My Americana album of the year. Terrific melodies and diverting stories often following his philosophical muse with wry observations. A master at the top of his game.
3. Will Banister – Everything Burns (2020)
Everything you could hope for in a pure country album. A sonorous baritone linked to a tight band with compelling tunes. Inevitably he was ‘too country’ to dent the US charts.
4. Brandy Clark – Your Life Is A Record (2020)
Humour, philosophy, tearjerkers and love songs. Her lyrics could make a TV box set of every day USA. For me, a journalist highlight was getting complimentary tickets to her Gateshead concert in January to review the gig.
5. Ashley McBryde – Never Will (2020)
Complete ‘ear candy’ as she produces another fabulous set of blue-collar testaments to love, striving and survival over an upbeat contemporary country Nashville soundtrack.
6. Marshall Chapman – Songs I Can’t Live Without (2020)
Her covers album is an absolute delight with numbers by Leonard Cohen, Elvis, Bob Seger and Carole King. A care worn voice redolent with all life’s experiences and never hurried. Arresting.
7. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (2015)
After having heard one track off a sample CD I eventually bought the album and was captivated by soundtrack about manned exploration flights into space. They caught the majesty, tension and breath taking bravery of man’s endeavours.
8. Pete Atkin – The Colour Of The Night (2015)
I first discovered Atkin playing Ealing Technical College in 1974. From there I collected all his records until his long hiatus. An internet search threw up this fabulous latter day singer songwriter album with Clive James’ words. For me it was like meeting an old friend.
9. Talk Talk – It’s My Life (1984)
A bit like Martin Peters, Talk Talk or Mark Hollis, were ahead of their time. This is elegant and innovative rock with its rhythms and imposing deep vocals. This band should be more lauded than they are. This turned up from a neighbour’s record collection. Result!
10. Ray LaMontagne – Monovision (2020)
He seldom fails with an album and this is a return to form after Ouroboros. Playing all the instruments his gentle ballads serve up a cathartic, melody fest with that staggering voice that captures you from the first track.