The No Depression Community's Top 50 Favorite Albums of 2012

"[The year which just passed] was a great year for new music." So say critics far and wide, pretty much every single year as they gather their words to present a Best Of list yet again. But this year feels different. Twenty-twelve was a really impressive year in the world of Americana/roots/folk/indie/alt/country/whatever music. If there were some kind of gauge of this sort of thing, I might hypothesize that 2012 was one of the best years for "Americana music" since the term started accruing meaning. 

There were [quite good] new releases from some of the most talented, long-lasting path-forging superstars (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Dion). There were surprisingly fantastic debuts (Alabama Shakes, the Lumineers, John Fullbright). And, there were several memorable releases from artists who have been around for years but are just beginning to hit their stride (Justin Townes Earle, Anais Mitchell, Corb Lund). 

Perhaps most remarkably, this year saw the greatest consensus among our readers for the albums which comprise the Top 10 of this list. In fact, to consider the albums which fill those top ten slots is to get a great example of the diverse and creative styles which make up the world of music we here at ND so love.

Since a few albums released in 2011 received enough votes to wind up on this list, and since we had an instance of ballot stuffing, we have adjusted the list accordingly. 

Without more analysis, I hereby present to you the No Depression Community's 50 Favorite Albums of 2012:

  1. Iris Dement - Sing The Delta
  2. Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
  3. Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me
  4. Bob Dylan - Tempest
  5. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
  6. Shovels and Rope - O' Be Joyful
  7. Chuck Prophet - Temple Beautiful
  8. Mumford & Sons - Babel
  9. Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Back
  10. John Fullbright - From The Ground Up
  11. Jack White - Blunderbuss
  12. Ray Wyile Hubbard - The Grifter's Hymnal
  13. Gretchen Peters - Hello Cruel World
  14. First Aid Kit - The Lions Roar
  15. Mark Knopfler - Privateering
  16. Turnpike Troubadours - Goodbye Normal Street
  17. Corb Lund - Cabin Fever
  18. Tift Merritt - Traveling Alone
  19. Chris Knight - Little Victories
  20. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden
  21. Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?
  22. Alejandro Escovado - Big Station
  23. Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
  24. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Psychadelic Pill
  25. Dwight Yoakam - 3 Pears
  26. The Lumineers - Self-titled
  27. Fred Eaglesmith - 6 Volts
  28. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Wreck & Ruin
  29. Bonnie Raitt - Slipstream
  30. Rodney Crowell & Mary Karr - Kin
  31. Heartless Bastards - Arrows
  32. Patterson Hood - Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
  33. Bill Mallonee - Amber Waves
  34. Kevin Gordon - Gloryland
  35. Lucero - Woman & Work
  36. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
  37. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Everybody's Talkin
  38. Melody Walker - Gold Rush Goddess
  39. Darrell Scott - Long Ride Home
  40. Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America
  41. Jason Isbell - Live from Alabama
  42. Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale - Buddy and Jim
  43. JD McPherson - Signs & Signifiers
  44. Ryan Bingham - Tomorrowland
  45. Honey Dewdrops - Silver Lining
  46. Kelly Hogan - I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
  47. Ry Cooder - Election Special
  48. Sara Watkins - Sun Midnight Sun
  49. Marty Stuart - Nashville Vol 1 Tear the Woodpile Down
  50. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

In addition, we asked our most frequently featured bloggers to cast their ballots for a bit of a "critics poll". Since No Depression doesn't employ a staff of writers, these are all folks who post here on their own, because they like to. They just happen to all have a taste in music and writing style which we recognize as being the cream of the ND community crop. We'd like to thank them for not only submitting their lists for this Featured Blogger Top 10, but also for taking the time out of their busy lives to frequently post great blogs on this site. We could not do this without their participation. So, thank you to Joe Lepper, Alan Harrison, Hearth Music, Jeremy Gaunt, Mando Lines, Justin Wesley, Bill Frater (Freight Train Boogie), Ben Bonin, Amos Perrine, Michael Bialas, Julie Wenger Watson, Hal Bogerd, Paul Cantin, Ryan Mifflin, Gillian Turnbull, Kathy Sands Boehmer, Faith Phillips, Jela Webb, Lee Zimmerman, Chris Mateer, Easy Ed, Frank Gutch Jr., Joanna Colangelo, Prescription Bluegrass, Holly George-Warren, Grant Britt, Twang Nation, Dan King, Kevin Oliver, and those among our featured contributors who didn't vote this year . (This list also includes the Top 10 picks from ND Community Manager Kim Ruehl and Publisher Kyla Fairchild.)

**Editor's note: The initial tally of this featured blogger list was incorrect and had not, in fact, taken one or two lists into consideration. It was a very close vote nonetheless and we are not scientists. After a re-count, the list posted below is a more representative tally. Apologies for any confusion. 

For more info, check out this itemized masterlist of all the lists submitted for this featured bloggers poll.

  1. John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
  2. Iris DeMent - Sing the Delta
  3. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
  4. Bob Dylan - Tempest
  5. Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
  6. Malcolm Holcombe - Down the River
  7. Chris Knight - Little Victories
  8. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
  9. Anais Mitchell - Young Man in America
  10. Corb Lund - Cabin Fever

Views: 13666

Comment by Hugh T. on December 26, 2012 at 9:52am

Thanks for the tabulations. I always enjoy the annual lists. Happy 2013.

Comment by Alan Harrison on December 26, 2012 at 9:54am

For me this must be the definitive Roots/Americana Top 50 albums from  2012 even if NONE of my own Top 10 made the list although I own 24 albums on it and reviewed 17!

    Does that mean I have better taste than everyone else? hahahaha

Comment by Hal Bogerd on December 26, 2012 at 12:17pm

aka  Fifty Shades of Great?

Comment by Easy Ed on December 26, 2012 at 1:22pm

I'm going to guess that Kelly Hogan is not the Hulk's daughter. But god knows I could be wrong. The only glaring takeaway looking at the lists is that Leonard Cohen and Malcolm Holcombe aren't on the reader's Top 50 while showing up on the contributor's Top 10. 

And on another note of interest, let's compare what the Americana Music Association reported were the Top 10 most played albums on Americana radio. 

1) JD McPherson, Signs And Signifiers / Rounder

2) Darrell Scott, Long Ride Home / Full Light

3) Rodney Crowell, KIN: Songs By Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell /Vanguard
4) Justin Townes Earle, Nothing's Gonna Change The Way... /Bloodshot
5) Little Willies, For The Good Times  / Milking Bull/EMI
6) Willie Nelson, Heroes / Legacy
7) Lyle Lovett, Release Me / Lost Highway
8) Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Grifter's Hymnal /Bordello Records
9) Old Crow Medicine Show, Carry Me Back /ATO
10) Ryan Adams, Ashes & Fire / PAX-AM/Capitol
Over at Americana-Uk's website, their readers voted for the Bruce Springsteen album. Runners-up were: John Murry “The Graceless Age” , Iris DeMent “Sing the Delta”, Bob Dylan “Tempest” and  Quiet Loner “Greedy Magicians” .
Comment by Arlene on December 26, 2012 at 1:50pm

Well, it's a little difficult to compare the Americana Music Association list of albums most  played on the radio throughout the year with the ND community's and bloggers' lists because many albums on the ND lists came out during the second half of the year, some near the end of the year.  Therefore, the failure of albums which came out late in the year, such as the ones by Iris DeMent, the Avett Brothers,  Dylan, Mumford & Sons, etc.  to rate higher on the AMA list  is understandable.

Comment by Easy Ed on December 26, 2012 at 2:11pm

@Arlene: You're right.  As I look at the verbiage used in describing their list, its based on "spins" from November 2011 through November 2012. Clearly puts the newer releases at a disadvantage if we took this to be a "best of" or "most popular" list, which it isn't. Thanks for catching that. Nevertheless, it's still interesting to see what radio is playing and what the community is listening to. 

Comment by Victoria Folkerts on December 27, 2012 at 7:29am

It is always of interest to see these lists. To see the ones I own, the ones I love and the ones I might want to get my hands on. And the discussion about them. Some on the lists I could hardly bear to take out of my deck, otherwise I listened once and put away. There are CDs that  you buy (I still like to have an actual physical copy.) that you just are so happy you bought. For me that included Tempest, Kin, 3 Pears, Boys & Girls, Heroes, Carry Me Back, Nothings Going to Change..., Slipstream, Everybody's Talkin and Old Ideas. There are others on these lists that are on my "wish list" and I may come to love them just as much. Thanks!

Comment by steviedal on December 27, 2012 at 7:53am

Beachwood Sparks

Bill Fay

Chris Robinson Brotherhood ...................just 3 of the glaring omissions.

Comment by steviedal on December 27, 2012 at 7:54am

That Jack White album is the most over-rated release since bloody Sgt. Peppers.

Comment by Dirk on December 27, 2012 at 9:31am

Love seeing Iris #1--"Sing the Delta" is to Iris Dement as "The Harrow and the Harvest" is to Gillian Welch, except that the time lag since the last album of her songs is 16 years instead of 8.  Both artists took their music to a new level, a level that could be achieved only with the confidence that came from a couple decades or so of experience.  

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