Once, when I interviewed "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" songwriter, Jack Tempchin, he said the writer's greatest tool is a deadline. While I see the wisdom in his statement, I am a walking contradiction of the concept. I get a deadline, I forget, I procrastinate and eventually, the blessed event has come and gone. So, as Stephen Stills once famously said, for what it's worth, here's mine. 

But first, let me say, I found 2013 in Americana music to be exceptional.  Many of new artists coming up(Shovels & Rope, JD McPherson), established one's doing their best work(Robbie Fulks) and veterans adding to their legacies(Steve Earle, Richard Thompson). The history and its interaction with the present that always makes me a believer in this movement of music.  

2013 was, for me, a year to drive south, with apologies to John Hiatt. I decided, while in Nashville, to go to Memphis. So I took the southern journey down Music Highway while the rain pounded on the windshield of my rented car deep in the night. I found myself in Graceland on a cool, clear breezy morning impressed with the energy, the obvious love the place still carries for the man and his music and the tragedy of his early passage.  Bu it was standing in the main room of Sun Studios that made a mark on me. I knew what it must feel like for a weary pilgrim to reach the destination of a holy journey only to discover, it's really the beginning after all and everything is there that you've known all along. But, I'll never be able to hear Elvis, Ike Turner or Howlin' Wolf again without thinking of Sam Phillips sitting in that control room buried in such heavy duty equipment as he captured the comet of music coming from the streets and fields of his homeland. And today it has remained so from Billy Bragg to Kanye West;  it's the music that dwells at our core and comes out from us into the world that drives us and ultimately redeems.

1)  Carla Olson-Have Harmony Will Travel

L.A's own Carla Olson finally emerges from behind the producer's control room to pay tribute to her heroes friends and peers including the likes of Gene Clark, Richie Furay, P.F. Sloan, Moby Grape's Peter Lewis and James Intveld. It's a joyous celebration of how good music can be when egos are checked in at the door.  Below is a clip of her performance with all of her friends on stage at McCabe's in Santa Monica acommpanied by John York of The Byrds.

2) World Boogie is Coming by North Mississippi Allstars

This album is a revelation. A true blues revival from Mississippi's best. The collection has a sweep to it that is epic in nature. It comes across like a tour of the deepest of the deep south. It haunts, rages, celebrates and boogies us until our ears bleed.

 

3) White Swan by Susie Glaze and the Hilonesome Band 

Susie Glaze and Hilonesome have been wowing Americana and folk audiences in Los Angeles for several years now. She's a traditionalist with a modern bent. She and the band including her husband, Steve Rankin and songwriter, Rob Carlson, have made a string of fine albums over the last decade taking the ordinary themes of the bluegrass nation and filtering them through Appalachian and Celtic sensibilities. This is their best work to date.  Think Fairport Convention with a bluegrass flair.

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4)  Rattle Their Chains by Brian Wright

As a triple-threat singer-songwriter and instrumentalist, Brian Wright has entered the Nashville scene this year with this dynamic release by way of Texas and Los Angeles. He covers the blues-rock landscape with lyrical tools provided him by Kris Kristofferson and the vocal soul of Waylon Jennings.

 

5) Down in Louisiana by Bobby Rush

This album drips with the perspiration of the sheer pleasure of rythm & blues; rough and dirty, funky and real, Rush is a veteran of decades of solid Stax like country blues. This album sums it all up for the genre and his ancestors like Otis Redding and Solomon Burke. 

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6) My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark

Guy Clark shows how the harder stuff of life is the material for songs. On this album, Clark has turned in what may be his most heartfelt work without any degree of false sentimentality or compromise.

 

7) The Highway by Holly Williams

Holly's been around for a while, but with The Highway she shows that she most likely carries more of legendary Hank William's talent than her other pedigree combined. The Highway takes us through her own journey of song and leaves us

wanting more.

 

8) Gone Away Backward by Robbie Fulks

Fulks continues to tread the folk-country ground with more finesse than most and with an ironic sense of humor not heard since John Prine first climb up on a haystack for that famous photo shoot.

 

9) The Low Highway by Steve Earle

Steve Earle's good fortune seems never ending making album after album of landmark material, contemplative themes and always daring to push the boundaries just enough to make us sit up and take notice. The Low Highway plays like the underside of Woody Guthrie's dream like, "This Land Is Your Land."

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10) Southeastern by Jason Isbell

Southeastern is a landmark album this year. Isbell takes the lead in exploring themes, while sometimes familiar, always with a clear eye'd vision and a sensibility that shows both wisdom and humility.

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Comment by Easy Ed on December 21, 2013 at 4:15pm

I'm sorry Terry...did you say best but mean favorite?

Comment by Terry Roland on December 21, 2013 at 5:47pm
Naw....im tired of being diplomatic. Maybe Best(for me) but not dogmatic enough
Comment by Easy Ed on December 21, 2013 at 5:52pm

Tsk. And to think, you live in California...birthplace of the politically correct obsession.

Comment by Terry Roland on December 21, 2013 at 6:16pm
Wait a minute....my name is up there like a Tyler Perry kind ofthing..that takes away away from the dogma! I live near Orange County now so I'm in right wing dogmatic training camp..
Comment by Easy Ed on December 21, 2013 at 6:23pm

That's a good point. You did brand it. But by calling these "the best", you're committed. 

Comment by Terry Roland on December 21, 2013 at 7:05pm
Yup! it's as branded as Chuck Connor's in black and white!
Comment by Hal Bogerd on December 21, 2013 at 7:56pm

Hey Terry, nice list but one correction, Holly William's disc is "The Highway" not "The Road".

Comment by Terry Roland on December 21, 2013 at 9:12pm

Thanks Hal...got it!  It's still a good CD. Very Good.  

Comment by Easy Ed on December 21, 2013 at 10:03pm
I believe it originally was going to be called The Avenue.
Comment by Terry Roland on December 22, 2013 at 8:46am
The minimalist in me wants to call it The Curb.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.