Favorite Ten Songs of 2013
As Nodepression.com’s Top 50 Albums poll proves, 2013 was a banner year for roots-oriented music. Since several bloggers have already posted their top albums of the year, I’ll use my initial blog entry to reveal my ten favorite songs. The competition was particularly fierce in 2013, so, rather than try to “rank” the songs, I’ll just post them alphabetically by artist. When possible, I linked to either a live performance or the proper video for the song. Thanks to all the songwriters and performers for taking it to another level in ’13.
Sam Baker – Isn’t Love Great
The story of the defining moment in Baker’s life has been recounted often on sites such as this. Instead of repeating it, I’ll just post a link to this exquisite song, which is a sterling example of Baker’s heartfelt view of the world.
J.B. Beverley – Disappear on Down the Line
As leader of the Wayward Drifters, Beverley has been one of the leading lights of the underground country scene. His new Stripped to the Root album is his first solo release, and features everything from introspectively penned ballads to a cover of Motorhead’s “I Ain’t No Nice Guy.” The song chosen for this list was written during a particularly dark time in Beverley’s life. It should appeal to anyone who’s ever hung out on the corner of alcohol and heartache.
Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You
Long considered one of America’s finest songcrafters, Clark shows no signs of slowing down at age 72. Written by Clark and Gordy Sampson as a tribute to Clark’s late wife Susanna (prior to her passing), this gem was originally recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker on 2011’s marvelous This One’s for Him tribute to Clark himself. This live performance is courtesy of the ever-reliable Music Fog.
Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting the War
Inspired by Craig F. Walker’s Pulitzer-winning photo essay regarding a soldier’s post-war civilian life, the title track of Cleaves’ latest album captures the physical and emotional scars that vets deal with without getting too politically heavy handed. It’s another winner from a guy who’s consistently flown under the radar.
Jason Isbell – Traveling Alone
A cathartic album if ever there was one, Isbell’s Southeastern has spent December at or near the top spot on many “Best of 2013” lists. Among its many highlights is “Traveling Alone,” which stands as one of the most romantic songs in many a moon. The official video linked here includes Isbell’s wife, the talented Amanda Shires, in a supporting role.
The Mavericks – Come Unto Me
One of the highlights of the past two years has been having The Mavericks back in the fold as a recording and performing entity. For those who haven’t heard it, the deadly “Come Unto Me” is bound to stay in your head for days. This riveting performance comes from the 2012 Americana Festival.
John Moreland – Your Spell
A product of Tulsa’s underground rock scene, Moreland turned the volume down on his In the Throes album, revealing himself as a songwriter of uncommon depth. Gruffly sung and with instantly quotable lyrics at every turn, the album is perfect for anyone who finds redemption in the power of sad songs. The wistful “Your Spell” finds him coming to terms with a recently spotted lost love. Expect a breakthrough in 2014 as Moreland is too good to be unknown for long.
Willie Nile – American Ride
Think rock ‘n’ roll is dead? Then you likely haven’t been party to the four-album rebirth of Nile, whose sheer enthusiasm for the genre makes him a veritable one-man scene. Brimming with memorable hooks, sing-along choruses, and infectious energy, American Ride is highlighted by an acoustic-based title track that qualifies as the best musical travelogue since Chuck Berry’s “The Promised Land.”
Lindi Ortega – Tin Star
A Canadian who recently moved to Nashville, Ortega is a major talent who, in this song, captures the Nashville condition for many a struggling musician. Brilliantly recording, excellent video.
Holly Williams – Waiting on June
Free of major-label shackles, Williams came into her own with The Highway. Somewhere up there granddaddy Hank is smiling down with pride.
Those are my favorites. What are yours?