Here it is, the long-awaited list of the best albums of 2019. It has been a really great year for music. We heard from a couple of deceased legends in Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen, were treated with new records from Texas Honky Tonk legends Jack Ingram, Corb Lund, and Dale Watson, and bright lights shone for the first time with a bevy of new artists to discover including the one name wonders Lizzo and Yola.
Rock is not dead with White Reaper, Drugdealer and Balck Country Communion all inviting us to a party like it’s 1979. And of course, the singer-songwriter is back. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back and better than ever and Rock is the New Roll favorite Tom Russell gave us a history lesson in 11 songs with October in the Railroad Earth.
This year we will be releasing our top 100 list 10 tasty gems at a time, so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the ear-pleasing top 100 records of the year.
60. Jamestown Revival – San Isabel
Every 18 months or so Jamestown Revival will release an album and remind me that I really love this band. Their latest, San Isabel, takes them back to their roots and their Simon and Garfunkel by way of CSN vibe. Their loving tribute to California Dreamin’ is worth the price of admission alone.
59. Tyler Childers – Country Squire
A more than solid follow up to his 2017 release, purgatory. The songwriting appears to have a bit more of an edge and even without Sturgill on the knobs the production value is pristine.
58. The Wild Reeds – Cheers
Expanded to a five-piece with a more fleshed out expansive sound that will bring to mind sort of a groovy-tone hybrid of The Go Gos and Fleetwood Mac. All of the songs are pretty much festival stage ready with a bounce that might remind you of Oh Pep!, Lucious, or even First Aid Kit.
57. Los Coast – Samsura
This Austin based combo is a bit genre-defying, and in ‘this case that is a very good thing. Part Soul, part Surf-Rock, a lot Psychedelic, and all Cool. If Jellyfish merged with The Dap-Kings the resulting hybrid might sound like these guys.
56. Jesse Dayton – Mixtape Vol. 1
This covers record is a lot more than a slap-dash between albums mail-it-in effort. This is a seriously eclectic and cool set of songs arranged to perfection with a lot of thought going into the song selection. If Elton’s deep track “Country Comfort” or ACDC’s “Whole Lot of Rosie” isn’t good enough for you the Cars Power Pop gem “Just What I Needed” will have your head spinning until Jesse’s love of Punk comes crashing through on the Clash tune “Bankrobber.” Great stuff indeed.
55. Joseph Arthur – Come Back World
Joseph Arthur is nothing if not prolific. Despite this being his first solo project in three years, Arthur has definitely been part of the scene organically implanting himself into many musically diverse projects including Arthur Buck with Peter Buck, Fistfull of Mercy with Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper, and Jeff Ament. Here, his pals Jesse Malin, Ben Harper, and Patrick Carney join in on the fun with a spirit calming set of his most personal and powerful songs to date.
54. Delbert McClinton – Tall, Dark, And Handsome
Delbert pretty much paints from the entire Blues palette on this one. From Jump Blues to Dirty Blues, Country Blues, and Delta Blues with a little bit of Smokey Jazz mixed in, this one has a little bit of everything. Tall Dark and Handsome Doesn’t break any new ground but should serve to remind us that much like John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton is a National treasure.
53. Robert Ellis – Texas Piano Man
Somehow, right before our very ears, Robert Ellis has turned into Ben Folds. Texas Piano Man is a throwback to the 70’s singer-songwriter in all the best of ways. “Father” is a stunner of a song where a son tries to get to know more about what his father is all about and why he left, the line “I wanted a father but I’ll settle for a friend” pretty much sets the stage on this one. A new direction for sure, but still brilliant.
52. The Lilac Time – Return To Us
A lovely sort of pastoral listen, there is meandering pedal steel that sets much of the tone on this nine-song set. Slightly political in some places, the title track, written three days after the current inauguration, plays off an Obama speech, and elsewhere there is melancholy whimsey in the Country inflected “Simple Things” remembering a time with less technology.
51. Shana Cleveland – Night of the Worm Wood
Known mostly for her work with the Surf-Noir Band La Luz, Shana Cleveland doesn’t stray too far from the vintage guitar, psychedelic haze ambiance on Night of the Worm Moon, her second proper full-length record as a solo artist. The cool, laconic, mostly psychedelic undercurrent that wafts through the entire proceedings like an early era Leonard Cohen poetry reading will instantly take you back to a time when television came in both colors. Black, and white.
“The Fireball” is a shoegaze-y mellow-tron of a tune and “Solar Creep” is a night time chill-out experience. Don’t expect the jams to be kicked out anywhere on this record, just a fine, understated, spectral beauty of a listening journey.