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 Black 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.
10. Yola – Walk Through The Fire
You won’t need to wander much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.
09. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
Quite possibly the best record The Boss has delivered in the past 15 years, this expansive record covers all of the Springsteen touchstones. Fine song-craft, common man storytelling, and superb musicianship all come together for one of the more compelling releases of the year.
08. Mercury Rev – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete revisited.
This is one of those rare entities where the tribute album is better than the original. This thing is ridiculously cool. With a different female singer for each song, Mercury Rev puts their own swirling psychedelic spin on the original Country-Folk classics. “Big Boss Man” featuring Hope Sandoval is an eclectic stunner, on “Reunion” you just might find out what was thrown off of the Tallahatchie bridge, and Susanne Sudfor’s spin on “Tobacco Road” will tingle your spine. With only one song that was not on the original recording, Lucinda Williams does what Lucinda does on “Ode to Billy Joe” to polish off a sublime set of masterful songs.
07. Trigger Hippy – Full Circle
On their second incarnation of the band, Amber Woodhouse replaces Joan Osborne when a female lead singer is needed as the band lays down the best Country Soul this side of Delaney and Bonnie. This one is decidedly Laurel Canyon retro in all the best of ways.
06. The Delines – The Imperial
With every song being virtually a Raymond Carver short story, Willy Vlautin and company have come up with another masterpiece. “Eddy and Polly” is the “Jack and Diane” for the new millennium, If Jack was an abusive husband with an alcohol problem, and Diane was a cheating wife that is, and in “Holly the Hustle” as the song unfolds From drinking wine coolers at age 13, there is only one way things will end for Holly. Not well.
05. The Cactus Blossoms – Easy Way
The Cactus Blossoms make absolutely no effort to disguise the fact that they love The Everly Brothers. If you are looking to be transported back to a time when the Beatles didn’t exist, Then, this is your jam. Lead-off track “Desperado” really shows off the brotherly harmonies, and “Downtown” could have been a hit for Roy Orbison.
04. Drugdealer – Raw Honey
With a lot of very stiff completion, Raw Honey, the latest album from Drugdealer just might be the Laurel Canyon record of the Year. Fully capturing the singer-songwriter cult of the ’70s, on songs like “Honey” featuring Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood that could be a Harry Nilsson song, and “Fools”, is a tune that could be mistaken for a Steely Dan B-Side, the only thing missing is a Boz Skaggs Lido Shuffle.
03. J.S. Ondara – Tales of America
Coming in at number three and generally regarded as one of the best debut records of the year, J.S. Ondara, hailing from Nigeria and currently living in Minnesota, almost literally chases his Bob Dylan Muse on this set of songs that should very soon elevate the young songwriter to Leon Bridges status.
02. Jenny Lewis – On The Line
Working with a bundle of top-rated players including Benmont Tench, Beck, Don Was, Ringo Starr, and Jim Keltner. There is an 80’s AOR vibe throughout the record that gives it a nostalgic touch that will spin your head back in time. Lewis is in fine vocal form, and like its predecessor, Voyager, really benefits from the Ryan Adams production touch.
01. Tom Russell – October In The Railroad Earth
Another stellar master’s level course in Americana songwriting. “T-Bone Steak and Spanish Wine” is a standout as is “Highway 46” a song where none other than the late and not so great Spade Cooley is name-checked. Where were you on the day Merle Haggard died?