What a year it’s been for roots music. So much wonderful, high quality work by a host of artists in a diversity of styles – variously with country, blues or folk to the fore. That being the case, it’s hard to suggest a best of list. But here goes. We’ve grouped them into two sets of ten and then a group of six. Each set is in alphabetical order.
Here’s our Top 10
In an album produced by Joe Henry, Amy Helm, daughter of late Band drummer Levon gives us ten songs tinged with soul and gospel, featuring uplifting lyrics and beautiful nuanced singing. A wonderful set of interesting, sometimes obscure covers and lovely originals.
This is simply an outstanding album of classic Americana. JT Nero and Allison Russell’s vocals and rich harmonies, as usual, meld wondrously, and the song arrangements are innovative and imaginative while, at the same time, warm and inviting.
Double album of wonderful songs, brilliantly presented by the blues troubadour. As much world-music as Americana or blues, this is surely one of Bibb’s best accomplishments. There’s joy, love and hope inhabiting these songs, as well as a dose of righteous protest – whether it’s at the materialism of the age or the frightful tweeting of number 45.
Reworking of some of the songs Gary Louris, has co-written with other artists, including the Dixie Chicks and two new songs. It’s a great Jayhawks album, with the band in great form over the course of 11 songs of magnificent alt-country.
In his first album in four years, Hiatt is in fine form, his crusty vocals accompanying a largely pared back band. This is an album that draws you in and enchants you the more you listen to it.
Quite simply this is an extraordinary album from the very talented Lovell sisters in their 4th studio album. The two sisters play every instrument, aside from some wonderful slide guitar in one song by Tyler Bryant, creating a wonderful variety of sounds and textures. Classic but innovative, with traditional, primal sounds mixed with electronic beats.
Lori McKenna is a brilliant song writer. Here she gives us 10 songs about family life and the tensions of everyday existence in a fabulous, understated record, produced by Dave Cobb. Outstanding.
Melodic and bluesy, rock and roll-ish outing from Oklahoma born singer, songwriter and bandleader, Parker Millsap. The depth and range in Millsaps vocals are terrific, across twelve rollicking, pulsating songs.
Unabashed album of gospel music, with Paul and his band, and a group of top notch collaborators including the Blind Boys of Alabama, the McCrary Sisters, Bonnie Bishop and New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Horns, all in scintillating form. Check out our interview with Paul Thorn here.
An album of wonderfully reinterpreted old gospel songs and hymns, from the guitar virtuoso. Cooder’s first album for six years has been hailed as “destined to become an instant classic” the produce of a “musical mastermind” and “completely fresh and contemporary.” These are songs that will speak to anyone, believer or unbeliever. There’s humanity, decency, inspiration, hope in these songs, that anyone can feel. You can find more comment on this album here:
Here are our picks for 11-20, again in alphabetical order:
Find our full review of Lucky Star here
Check out our interview with Shemekia here
And the rest of these excellent albums: