I have to start by telling you that I’ve written 30 album reviews for Country Music People (CMP) this year. I receive records/files to review from the magazine. In addition but not for review I ask for lots of major artists albums and recommendations from the editor. As a consequence my list is distilled from a lot of music. I add to this my own purchases or streamed favourites.
Not many of the albums make it to be my ‘Record Of The Week’, and amongst the discarded artists are some platinum acts, which is a measure of the disappointing quality that’s been coming my way this year. However, I’m happy to volunteer these as my best of the year.
1. Ashley McBryde presents Lindeville
With the world now at her feet McBryde convened a Nashville workshop with other artists and friends; this was the result. Anna and I saw her at Leeds University in the spring and the former refectory where I saw B B King, The New York Dolls and Sparks amongst many others was sold out and jumping. So Leeds does Country music, obvs. Here are a set of vignettes about small town America dripping humour, heartbreak, getting by and nostalgia. The production values and variety of country sounds are exceptional.
2. Molly Tuttle – Crooked Tree
As I mainly write about Americana for the magazine I regularly get the acoustic roots genre of bluegrass to write about. Frankly, it’s like lager, always consistent but never memorable. I have a theory that his other writers have vetoed receiving it! However, I’ve found complete joy with this release. This is a wonderful combination of melody, voice, musicianship and stories. Truly vibrant and refreshing. She’s a star, look out for her.
3. Jaimee Harris – Boomerang Town
This Texan bowled up to The Crescent in York last month and her brief set was wonderful with confessional and intimate songs about small town America. Her voice is a delight and she can write and play a tune. I think she’s destined for a lot of recognition and success with this album.
4. Amanda Anne Platt – The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea
Platt has been on the periphery of real stardom and recognition for years and despite a long time band behind her she’s the lead and writes and sings interesting Americana Country songs that come together like a series of short stories. Her tunes and lyrics on the 20 track album are excellent and a new release from her is like a much anticipated meet up with a dear old friend.
5. Kameron Marlowe – We Were Cowboys
Commercial Country Pop isn’t my bag generally. I have visions of no one listening to this easy sound on the radio as they flip burgers in South Carolina or take the kids to school. This may not be his time but if the next album is anywhere near as good as this he’ll be cluttering every US country radio playlist. He’s got a terrific voice, better lyrics than most bro-country and some great tunes.
6. Bruce Springsteen – Only The Strong Survive
The Boss has been granted an indulgence by his record label and this three sided LP is a selection of Soul music covers. His bellow of a roar, some well chosen classic songs and a faithful creation of that 60s sound make this a compelling listen. Maybe I’m a Soul boy at heart (where are my dancing shoes)?
7. Mary Gauthier – Dark Enough To See The Stars
This is a quote from Martin Luther King , which took Gauthier’s fancy to include. She’s a unique artist that draws you into stories with raw and disarming emotion about events and times that we all know so well. The lyrics border on poetry and the tunes fit like a glove.
8. Willie Nelson – A Beautiful Time
‘A legend’ doesn’t do his stature justice. This album of crafted tunes veers lyrically dangerously close to a valedictory with his reflection on a long and successful life. Sentimental, humorous and full of wisdom. I’d usually be suspicious of the creative merit of an album made by a chap 89 years old but class will out. Beautiful indeed.
9. Edgar Winter – Brother Johnny
Thanks to the Mighty Jessney of Vixen 101 fame I get to listen to a lot of blues. A lot of it is rollicking and heartfelt fun but not all of it sticks in the memory. Winter now a sprightly 75 released a tribute album to his blues legend brother, Johnny, who died in 2014 at the age of 70. (Frankly, judging by what Johnny ingested or drunk during his life it was a miracle he clocked up such an age!) This is a 17 track tribute with a list of guitar wielding guests that can’t be beaten: Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Billy Gibbons, Joe Walsh etc. A complete joy.
10. Various Artists – Something Borrowed, Something New: A Tribute to John Anderson
If you haul out John Prine, Tyler Childers, Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, Eric Church and their like and pair them with this strong Country songwriter’s catalogue then you’ve nailed one of the albums of the year. Unlike a lot of tributes then Anderson is still alive and this compilation is a terrific introduction to his talents
1 thought on “Records Of The Year 2023”
Well Tony, you are staying busy, working and riding! Merry Christmas to you and your family!Bob
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