This is the latest permutation of an ever-evolving list. It comes with all of the usual caveats.
1. The Muse/ The Wood Brothers/ Southern Ground Artists – This band brings out the horrific fangirl part of me that I try very hard to keep hidden deep down inside, so excuse me while I gush. The Muse, and the band’s previous release, Smoke Ring Halo, are two of the best albums I’ve heard in a very long time. Funk, blues, jazz, rock, country – it’s all there, and often in the same song. If you have the chance to see the Wood Brothers live, do it. Just don’t have three bourbons and then tell the band “JUST HOW GREAT THEY ARE” after the show. Not that I did that…
2. Gone Away Backward/ Robbie Fulks / Bloodshot Records – A collection of excellent songs, including two gorgeous instrumentals. Fulks is an enormous talent, and this release reflects that. What you don’t get on his studio CDs is his cutting wit and irreverent sense of humor. You’ve got to catch him live for that. Make that one of your New Year’s resolutions. Roadtrip if you have to.
3. Essential Tremors/ J Roddy Walston & The Business/ ATO Records - Where have you been all my life J Roddy Walston? Happy I found you in 2013, just in time for this rockin’ release. A musician who names his third album after his neurological disorder, the symptoms of which include uncontrollable hand shaking, then proceeds to burn the house down with his piano, guitar and vocals, is a man after my own heart. This is a superb CD from a killer band.
4. Rule the World/ Max Gomez/ New West Records - this young Taos musician writes impressive lyrics and makes beautiful music.
5. Willie Sugarcapps/ Willie Sugarcapps(Will Kimbrough, Sugarcane Jane, Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes)/ The Royal Potato Family – Released on the very cool, Brooklyn-based Royal Potato Family label, it’s some seriously great Americana synergy.
6. Southeastern/ Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit/ Southeastern Records – As good as they say it is.
7. Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous/ Lincoln Durham/ Droog Records – A brilliant sophomore release from this very talented one-man swampy blues band. He puts on an outstanding live show.
8. The Devil & the Diamond/ Matuto/ Motema - World music fusion at its best, or “Brazilian Bluegrass”, as the band calls it.
9. Sunday Morning Record/ The Band of Heathens/ BOH Records - Some new band members and maybe a new direction, but still great music.
10. Bottom of the World/ Terry Allen/ Redeye - It’s hard not to love those Lubbock, Texas songwriters.
And then some…
Burden of Proof/ Bob Schneider – A big ol’ quirky talent; a very cool CD.
The Why and The What For/ Semi-Twang – John Sieger’s singular vocals and songwriting and a rockin’ band.
Never Give In/ Will Hoge – Hard-working roots rocker who deserves a good listen.
Love Calling/ Darden Smith – Smith’s voice and arrangements are so easy to listen to that they can fall dangerously close to the dreaded “easy listening”. But they aren’t. They are just gorgeously crafted and beautifully delivered songs.
Same Love/ Earl & Them – Fayetteville, Arkansas based Earl Cate and his talented band (including Levon Helm’s nephew, Terry Cagle, on drums and vocals) cover some awesome tunes on this one.