024. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Downey to Lubbock
When Americana Royalty, one a Blaster the other a Flatlander, come together to make music together the result is pure magic.
023. The Mother Hips – Chorus
Fans of the San Francisco Bay Area band The Mother Hips were over the moon ecstatic when they were treated to a new record. Newcomers to the group that flies somewhere between Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead will be even happier to discover their favorite new band that has a very rich back catalog.
022. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – Rocket
Not very far from one of the best albums in their career, this new record by Edie Brickell is fresh and bursting with energy. “Exaggerate” and “I Don’t Need a Man” are show stoppers. Anybody that can rhyme prison cell with hypno cell has got to be on top of their game.
021. Asleep at the Wheel – New Routes
Taking a bit of a break from their Bob Wills traditional mainstay tunes, the kings of Western Swing have released a true Americana record. The current line-up of Asleep at the Wheelers is a rock solid unit with one boot on the dance floor and the other in the back of a dimly lit bar having a drink with Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown.
020. Amy Helm – This Too Shall Light
Her version of Mandolin Wind is the centerpiece of a wholly satisfying album. The daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm doesn’t mess around here. “Odetta” and “The Stones I Throw” are as good as songwriting gets.
019. JP Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
While he is starting to establish himself as a bit of an Outlaw Country bad boy, JP Harris is one hell of a songwriter. “JP’a Florida Blues #1 is a scorcher, and “I Drink Alone” could have easily have been a Merle Haggard tune.
018. Amanda Shires – To The Sunset
One of two husband and wife teams to make the list with separate albums Mrs. Jason Isbell has crafted the best album of her career. The musicianship is over the top good, the songwriting is stellar, and there is even a little Rock and Roll thrown in on “Eve’s Daughter.”
017. Church of the Cosmic Skull – Science Fiction
As you would expect from a seven-piece band from Nottingham, U.K., there are a lot of sounds to come from this group. Multiple harmonies and keyboards, the vibe is Kansas meets The Alan Parsons Project by way of Yes. Sometimes different is not better, but that is not the case here. “Cold Sweat” is pound for pound one of the best songs of the year.
016. Lera Lynn – Plays Well Will Others
On her latest record, Lera Lynn enlists a stable of Falcon’s Nest favorites including Rodney Crowell, Shovels and Rope, John Paul White formerly of The Civil Wars, Nicole Atkins, and Dylan LeBlanc among others.
015. Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville
Any album that spins the hip sounds of the 60’s pretty much is guaranteed to have our ear-tention. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the vintage sound he creates on this record brings to mind Dusty Springfield at the peak of her powers.
014. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Mrs. Ruston Kelly lifts her Emmylou inspired voice to new heights with this excellent album. “Space Cowboy” is in the running for song of the year, and “Slow Burn” is not far behind.
013. Joshua Hedley – Mr. Jukebox
One of a handful of artists that are bringing the “classic” to the resurgence of classic Country to the Americana scene. The Honky Tonk album of the year, the song “Mr. Jukebox” is a timeless masterpiece that would make Faron Young blush.
012. The Devil Makes Three – Chains Are Broken
More Wet Willie than Lynyrd Skynard, these Southern rockers are putting the Country in Country Rock. With an expanded sound that now includes a drummer, Chains Are Broken is a fun set of mid-tempo rock melded with breezy ballads.
011. Cody Jinks – Lifers
Outlaw Country is alive and well and living in the very essence of Cody Jinks. There really is no logical reason, other than he does not live in Nashville, that this guy is not as big as Chris Stapleton.
010. Howlin’ Rain – The Alligator Bride
Blues Boogie Meets Classic Rock, the latest effort from Howlin’ Rain brings to mind the very early pre-Michael McDonald Doobie Brothers.
009. The Essex Green – Hardly Electronic
Take a listen to “Sloane Ranger” by The Essex Greene and you might be listening to the song of the year. The entire album simply sparkles with happy organ riffs and perfectly produced male-female vocal interplay. “Don’t Leave It In Our Hands” would have been a perfect duet vehicle for Billy Idol, and “Waikiki” would have played quite nicely with any of those early ABBA hits.
008. First Aid Kit – Ruins
First Aid Kit jumped on the scene singing new songs that sound old and this trend continues on Ruins, their fourth L.P. “Fireworks” has a girl group Phil Spector quality about it and on “Rebel Heart” the vocal harmonies freelance a bit which is a good countermeasure to the otherwise pristine production.
007. Nicki Bluhm – To Rise You Gotta Fall
At first listen, with titles like “I Hate You,” “You Stopped Loving Me,” and “Last to Know,” Nicki Bluhm’s break up record seems to somewhat of a Debby Downer listen. But with more careful reflection there is a lot of depth to be absorbed. The title track is one of the songs of the year and “Battlechain Rose” is as good a piece of songwriting as you will have heard in a long while.
005. Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Nightsweats – Tearing at the seams
This one has to have been one of the most anticipated records of the year. Having scorched the festival scene with their unique brand of Rock and Soul. “Hey Mama” might be the song of the year.
004. Lucero – Among the Ghosts
Thankfully these road dogs took time our from a 200 dates a year touring schedule to lay down a record this year. A lot more tight and concese that we are used to from Lucero, the band seems to be in lock step laying down their Bruce Sprogsteen by way of the Drive-by Truckers of Rock and Roll direct from America’s heartland.
003. The Struts – Young and Dangerous
With all due respect to Greta Van Fleet, if any band is, The Struts are the saviors of Rock and Roll. Rock is not dead it has just inhabited the body of lead singer Luke Spiller, Freddie Mercury on steroids. Anthems abound on this one. “Bulletproof Baby” and “Body Talks” would have worked well at Live Aid and ‘Somebody New” is a bit more nuanced than the rest of the tunes and might be the best song on the record.
002. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers – Years
A great set of ragged Honky Tonk song, Sarah Shook sets the stage on fire standing tall with Lydia Loveless, Nicki Lane, and Margo Price. The opener “Good as Gold” is a perfect introduction to a talent that should be much more famous.
001. Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue
The title track might be the best song of 2018. Elvis, Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers all wrapped up into one deliciously retro listen. “Walk Like a Man” should have been a Sun Records single.