I jumped out of bed last night with an incredible thought! What if I wrote a blog - try to follow me now - that listed what I thought to be the best Americana albums of 2013? That would change EVERYTHING! So without further adieu....
1) Valerie June - Pushing Against A Stone
Do you remember the old ad for Prego Spaghetti Sauce? They'd have some old Italian lady yelling "it's in there! it's in there!". Garlic? It's in there! Onions? It's in there! That's how I feel about Valerie June's debut album, Pushing Against A Stone. You want bluegrass? It's in there! Gospel? It's in there! Old time country? It's in there! Hard rock? It's in there! For all of the great things this album has going for it, it's variety of styles is what stands out the most. Awesome album, prodigious talent.
2) Bill Callahan - Dream River
I am immersed in Bill Callahan. Sometimes I AM Bill Callahan. For much of 2013 it has been all Bill Callahan, all the time for me. This really concerned my wife and family. "The only two words I've said today were 'beer' and 'thank you'. Beer. And thank you." Haven't we all had days like that? No? Never mind. I'd also recommend his metaphysical novella, Letters To Emma Bowlcut, which I read twice this year. All Bill Callahan, all the time. Call me Bill, we need to talk.
3) Jason Isbell - Southeastern
I can't add anything to what everybody else has already said about this album
4) Dawes - Stories Don't End
If I was 21 again, this would be my all-time favorite band. I'd be having a bro-mance with Taylor Goldsmith, wishing I could be half as cool as he was. I have all of their albums and like every song they've ever done. There aren't many bands I can say that about.
5) Head And The Heart - Let's Be Still
Nice followup to their outstanding debut from 2010 - maybe just a tad over-produced though. I think that the big appeal of their first disc was big voices on top of a relatively spare soundtrack. I think they lost that to some degree on this album. Still, Charity Rose Thielen's sexy yelps on Summertime are enough to make this a Top 10 pick. Hey Charity! "Ow, Ow, Ohhhh!" Awesome......
6) Tift Merritt - Night/Traveling Alone/Traveling Companion
It's been a busy year for my girl Tift. In March she came out with "Night" which was...interesting. There's an old saying you hear at the racetrack - "horses for courses", which means that some horses run better at certain tracks than others. In that vein, "Night" doesn't play too well at an all-night poker game with the boys. Trust me on that. A couple of my buddies were ready to beat the hell out of me when "I Will Give My Love An Apple" played. Maybe it was just the cards they were being dealt. I think that Traveling Alone is Tift's strongest disc yet, but I wish that Traveling Companion (which was heavy on alternate versions from Traveling Alone) was released as a Deluxe Version with the original disc. That would have been a little more user friendly. Still, it doesn't make me love her any less.
7) Patty Griffin - American Kid/Silver Bell
Two really strong releases. "Sorry & Sad" is my choice for single of the year.
8) Kris Kristofferson - Feeling Mortal
Seriously, who's had a better life than Kris Kristofferson? Who has ever been born with more gifts? Singer/songwriter, athlete, Rhodes Scholar, boxer, an officer in the Air Force -- Is there anything this guy hasn't done? He's 77 years old now and finally, FINALLY, he tells us he's feeling mortal. Good album, by the way.
9) Deadstring Brothers - Cannery Row
One of my most played discs this year. This shit kicks ass. "It's Morning Irene" is another good choice for single of the year. You can almost feel the sun rise as it plays.
10) Slaid Cleaves - Still Fighting the War
If I was Slaid's manager, I'd take an old song of his called "Vacationland" and pitch it to the Maine State Tourism Bureau (or whatever they call themselves). The word "Vacationland", if you didn't know, is hammered onto every Maine license plate, and it's how they sell themselves outside the state. "Vacationland" (the song) just bleeds summer and surf and lobster. It's one of the greatest summer songs ever written. So you take that song and sell it to Maine tourism, create an ad campaign around it, driving people to their website where they can download the song for free. Then oliver sudden, everyone starts buying all of his albums and he gets rich and starts twerking with Miley Cirus on the Grammys. Simple as that.
11) Sam Amidon - Bright Sunny South
This album just does it for me. I have no idea why.
12) Avett Brothers - Magpie and the Dandelion
Even after a dozen or so albums, I still don't know how I feel about these guys. "I've been thinking about drinking again" (from 'Morning Song') is an incredibly stark and stunning line, if you stop to think about it. And "always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name" (from 'Murder in the City') still turns my wife to into mush. But they don't come out with the types of songs or albums that I can turn my friends onto. If I ever played "January Wedding" for my buddy Mad Dog, he'd pound me like cheap veal. Magpie and the Dandelion is more of the same which even still, is probably a good thing.
I probably could have easily written a Top 30 or so but no one's gonna read this anyway so I won't, except to leave with some quick hits...
2013 - Good things! (Hurray!!!)
Anders Parker, www.daytrotter.com, Laura Gibson, Laura Marling, Later...with
Jools Holland, my new all time favorite song Bushwick Blues by Delta Spirit, Joseph Arthur,
Elephant Revival, Elijah and the Moon, Little Miss Higgins and the Winnipeg
Five, Sarah Jarosz covering The Book Of Right On, Guy Clark, Hey Marseilles,
Dispatch, Shouting Matches, Palladia TV, Ramsay Midwood, Jason Molina (I was a little late to
that party), Lau (turning me on the Celtic music), and my 2013 Boston Red Sox! Yeah!
2013 - Disappointments (WAH - wahhhhh...)
The new Civil Wars album, Mumford and Sons don't seem to be cool anymore, the most recent
solo releases by Corn Sisters Neko Case and Carolyn Mark, Jake Bugg, my boy Mike
Doughty releasing a disc of Soul Coughing covers after he totally disavowed the
group and their fans in his book (so hypocritical), Jim James' solo release - smoke much, Jim?
Best Music Related Christmas Present
The new Dylan box set (yes, another one) that includes ALL of his studio releases, live albums, as well as an outtakes disc. Beautifully packaged and smartly priced at Amazon.
Happy New Year to all you No Depper's!! Keep all your good shit coming....