I love end of the year best of lists. I think anyone who is obsessed...be it with music, movies, books, whatever wants to share their opinions and take in those of others. For me 2013 will be remembered for the songwriters and their songs. It was such a good year for songs and I hope 2014 continues the trend. So here it goes my favorite albums of 2013!
Jason Isbell - Southeastern
Jason Isbell is the finest songwriter in America right now. Hands down. No questions asked. After 3 really good records and powerful live album, Jason Isbell has created a timeless work of loss, love, longing, pain and redemption. That is to say it is very much a record about life. I've been gushing to anyone who will listen (and even those who could care less) since its release. If you have not taken my advice up to now...go out and get it. You will not be disappointed because right now nobody, and I mean nobody, does it better than Jason Isbell.
Holly Williams - The Highway
That's not to say that Holly Williams doesn't come close, because she most certainly does. The Highway is a mature work by the one Williams that has done Hank proud. A strong cycle of songs about life on the road and at home told with depth and emotion. A fantastic record.
For those of you in the Metro NY area Jason Isbell and Holly Williams are playing at the Space in Westbury on January 31st.
The Best of the Rest
In no particular order here are the records that round out my Top 10. All of them deserve a listen on your part if you haven't heard them yet.
The SteelDrivers - Hammer Down
This is the first album since Gary Nichols replaced Chris Stapleton on guitar and vocals a few years back and the good news for Steel Heads is they sound just fine. A really good modern bluegrass album. If you are not sure if you like bluegrass (and we all do...some people just don't know it yet) this is a pretty good place to start.
John Moreland - In The Throes
All you have to know about this record is that Bruce Springsteen probably wishes he could have made it. He may not be a household name, but man can he write a song.
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison - Cheater's Game
Sort of a Texas singer-songwriter royal couple turns in an album of tales of love gone wrong...and right. Great songs and the incredible vocals of Kelly Willis. I really like their cover of Robert Earl Keen's No Kinda Dancer.
Sturgill Simpson - High Top Mountain
I love country music. I hate the current pop crap country that is found on the radio and CMT. This is very much the former to make you forget the latter. Brings Waylon Jennings to mind and I mean that as the highest form of compliment.
Dale Watson - El Rancho Azul
Dale Watson has made the perfect honkytonk record to waltz your baby across the dance floor. Slow slow quick quick slow slow.
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - Old Yellow Moon
It's pretty great but what did you expect form Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell?
Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby - Cluck Ol' Hen
I know bluegrass is not supposed to have piano but this set absolutely cooks with the talents of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder along with Mr. Hornsby. Check out Ricky Skaggs taking the lead on Honrsby's The Way It Is. Traditional? Maybe not, but it sure as hell is fun.
Son Volt - Honkytonk
Jay Farrar finally gives in to his country heart, picks up the peddle steel guitar and makes the best Son Volt album since Trace (at least in my opinion).
How about 1 More....
Robbie Fulks - Gone Away Backwards
Robbie Fulks drops the yucks and turns out what may be the best bluegrass album of the year. It's bluegrass in instrumentation and pure country in tone. Brilliant.
Happy Holidays to You and Yours from Me and Mine. Let's hope there is much to write about in 2014!
See ya' in 2014!