00. Pip Blom – Boat
Fervent fans of the Indie Rock scene of the 90’s , the Dutch band Pip Blom has released their most fully realized effort to date. Sonically excellent lead singer Pip Blom sounds a bit liked an escaped Runaway. The guitar pop on this one is next level. If you are looking for a rambunctious romp through a 90’s Post Punk garden this is your jam.
99. Liz Brasher – Painted Image
This one is likely to be on the list of best debut albums of the year. With vintage Dusty Springfield old school grooves mixed with contemporary Blues swirling throughout there is a definite new age feel to the record to complement the vintage sounds. “Cold” baby sounds like Otis Redding’s long lost sister.
98. The Steel Woods – Old Woods
This Americana and Outlaw Country by way of Southern Rock band is the real deal. The opening couple of riffs on the lead off song, “All of These Years” will have you digging out your old Lynyrd Skynyrd records, and if that’s not enough, their cover versions of “Whipping Post” along with Petty’s ” Southern Accents” will direct your attention to the music that these guys discovered when they were growing up.
97. Justin Townes Earle – The Saint if Lost Causes
Steve Earles’s Son Justin Townes Earle is back with another solid set of introspective songs. This time, turning to more expansive road themes instead of the deeply person familial portraits he shared on his last two records, the results are equally impressive.
96. Joan Shelley – Like The River Loves The Sea
This record is a slow burn. After one listen you will go, ok, Joni Mitchell for the new millennium. After a second listen you will think there is something a bit deep going on here. And, after a third listen, you will be putting this record on your own personal best of the year lists. This record is sensual, provocative and alarming all at the same time.
95.Madison Cunningham – Who Are They Now
It seems appropriate that Madison Cunningham would eventually land on the Verve record label. Her nuanced and sophisticated guitar playing as well as her vocal delivery will remind you of Joni Mitchell in her prime. The songwriting is pure Karla Bonoff.
94. Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers – No Good Deed
Winners of many 2018 independent Blues awards including artist of the year, No Good Deed might be the roadhouse record of the year.
93. Samantha Fish – Kill or Be Kind
Six albums in, and her first on Rounder Records, Samantha Fish is still somewhat of an unknown quantity. Whether she is laying down a greasy blues riff or belting out a Soul screamer, Samantha is a Swiss Army knife of talent. And, and if there is a musical God, her new record should land her on the music radar right alongside Beth Hart and Bonnie Raitt.
92. Elles Bailey – Road I Call Home
Finally, Elles Baily has a proper release under her belt. Part Blues, some Country, all very cool, Elles Bailey is on the verge of stardom. After touring with Eric Gales and garnering high billing on several festival circuits this one just might be the breakthrough she so richly deserves.
91. Daddy Long Legs – Lowdown Ways
If Little Walter was in the Stray Cats you might get Daddy Long Legs. Just listen to “Mornin’ Noon & Night” and tell me I’m wrong. This record is a smasher from “Pink Lemonade” all the way to “Ding Dong Dang.” Old-School meets New-School in all the best of ways on this one.
90. Jeremy Ivey – The Dream and the Dreamer
Mostly known for his work with Buffalo Clover as well as his role as Mr. Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey is stepping out on his own in fine fashion. Here, his 60’s County-Pop flag is flying as he carries his Laurel Canyon vibe to what should be the start of a terrific solo career. “Diamonds back to Coal” is the cream of a stellar crop.
89. Black Pumas – Black Pumas
Hard to classify this group of Austin musicians. Rock, Soul, R&B with a hint of Tex Mex? Yep, Yes, and sure. The best we can come up with is that if Marvin Gaye fronted The Black Keys, and were based out of Tijuana, they would sound like these guys. Check them out for yourself.
88. Camila Meza – Ambar
A bonafide triple threat Camila Meza Sings, plays exquisite guitar, and writes most of the songs on her latest release,Ambar. Singing in both her native Chilean tongue as well as English, her George Benson and Pat Methany influenced soundscapes with full orchestral accompaniment are delicately nuanced wonders.
87. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
And speaking of Jack White, The Raconteurs are back. This is notable mostly in that we get a Halleys Comet type appearance from the Power Pop genius Brendan Benson who inexplicably only shows up in Jack Whites side-piece band. The Ying to White’s Dirty Blues Yang. If you haven’t heard Benson’s 1996 album One Mississippi search it out.
86. Josh Ritter – Fever Breaks
Superbly backed by Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit, this record just might be Ritter’s best yet, easily his best in several releases. Every song is a cracker with Josh easing into each song like a hand in a glove.
85. Cody Jinks – After The Fire
With each successive record he releases Cody Jinks seems to channel Chris Stapleton more and more, and that is a very good thing. Now that he is back to being independent after a brief dance with Rounder Records, Cody delivers a solid set of Outlaw Country complete with Honky Tonk blazers and mellow ballads. Jinks blends the darkness with the light with a nimble touch and his Randy Travis Meets Garth Brooks croon is wearing very well on him.
84. BAILEN – Thrilled To Be Here
If you are a fan of the Laurel Canyon multiple harmony sound and groups like The Milk Carton Kids or the new Cactus Blossoms record then Thrilled To Be Here will be your new jam. Featuring fraternal twins Daniel and David Bailen along with their younger sister Julia , there is a First Aid Kit meets Dawes aura going on here with this impeccably produced record. There is even a dusting of Fleetwood Mac on “I Was Wrong.”
83. Janiva Magness – Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty
As big fans of Janiva Magness when she plays it straight, and here where she covers some of our favorite John Fogerty songs we are all in as well. Thankfully no “Centerfield” here, but with such afternoon delights as “Lodi” with Sam Morrow, Rock is the New Roll favorite “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade,” and a sublime version of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain, this one is a stone cold winner.
82. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress
Another stellar and eclectic release from the Nashville based Dan Auerbach studio, Easy Eye Sound, the outfit that brought you Yola, Dee White, and Shannon Shaw just to name a few. Now, with Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, we are introduced to one of the last living bluesmen. Mixing a fuller sound than you would expect, drawing in a full band that includes Marcus King on a couple of songs with just Jimmy and his guitar on others, the essence of a real Mississippi juke joint is on full display with every gutteral vocal and every greasy guitar lick.
81. Diane Coffee – Internet Arms
If Prince and David Bowie had a love child he probably would sound like Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming and his swaggering odd ball alter ego Dianne Coffee. Mining the the same Glam Psychedelic territory that he favors with his main gig, Internet Arms feature mostly mid-tempo synth numbers with “Stuck In Your Saturday Night” a real banger, and “Like A Child Does” turning of the beats a bit on a thoughtful dance tune. This record is one to put on when you are ready to go out on a Saturday Night.
80. The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
After spending time apart going back to 2014 Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are reunited and it feels so good. Blues, Garage, and old Soul are still at the core of their sound, but this time around there is a joie-de-vie amplification that seems to have the band reenergized.
79. The Magpie Salute – High Water II
High Water II, the appropriately titled sequel to High Water I, comes so close to sounding like vintage Black Crowes it might as well be a reunion record. And no, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Heavy on rockers and blues-boogie with an occasional acoustic interlude thrown in for good measure with Rich Robinson providing the guitar riffage. In the battle of the brothers Robinson for world domination Chris definitely has some catching up to do.
78. Flying Colors – Love Letter
A Progressive Rock supergroup channeling their inner Beatles and ELO, Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse and Neal Morse join singer Carey McPherson in a harmony drizzled dose of Sunshine Pop. The song “Love Letter” is definitely worth the price of admission alone.
77. Quaker City Nighthawks
Formed in Forth Worth in 2012, the Quaker City Night Hawks are constantly and consistently refining their sound. On their latest self-title record they mix funky rockers with piano-led ballads. On “Suit In The Back” they look back to when they were pulled over and arrested for the possession of marijuana concentrate.
76. Allison Moorer – Blood
You will be hard pressed to listen to a more poignant record this year as Mrs. Hayes Carll presents a biographical record in conjunction with a book release later in the year. Having been raised by her sister Shelby Lynne after her father killed her mother and turned the gun on himself, the album, as well as the book, will take you on an emotional journey that will make you feel alive.
75. Goodbye June – Community Inn
Nashville’s favorite sons Goodbye June finally deliver what should be their breakout album. Full of anthemic Southern Blues Rock with more hooks than a season of Dangerous Catch, this just might be the Rock and Roll record of the year.
74. Miranda Lambert – Wildcard
With her latest album, Wildcard, Miranda Lambert seems to be walking on the wild side after a much publicized public divorce. Ditching her old producer in favor of Jay Joyce who twirled the knobs for Brothers Osbourne, Brandy Clark, and Ashley McBryde, there seems to be a bounce in her step that wasn’t there before. There is a bit of Swamp Funk on “Holy Water,” and 80’s Rock on “Mess With My Head.” This is a diverse and textured record that will reward with multiple listens.
73. Grace Cummings – Rescue Grove
The big whiskey soaked voice emanating from Australian Grace Cummings comes across like some sort of devil spawn from the loins of Patti Smith and Melissa Etheridge. Part pastoral folk, part beat poet, this one is an eclectically pleasing Scott Walker sort of listen. Let it grow on you.
72. Jade Bird – Jade Bird
One of the British shining stars on the Americana Folk scene, on her debut record there are soaring pop epics the likes of “Side Effects,” introspective slow burners with “My Beauty” where she sounds like Melissa Etheridge in her prime, and on the low and slow “Does Anybody Know” her songwriting talents really shine. This one will be on heavy rotation for quite a long time.
71. Black Star Riders – Another State of Grace
With a more than solid follow up to 2017’s album Heavy Fire, this band born from the ashes of Thin Lizzy continues to place themselves on the mount Rushmore of bands that are saving Rock and Roll. The song “Don’t Let Me Down” is a distant cousin to Lizzy’s “Dancing In The Moonlight and is worth the price of admission alone.” The title track is Thin Lizzy meets Dropkick Murphy’s.
70. Angel Olson – All Mirrors
A bit of a Swiss Army Kinife sort of artist, here, Angel Olson mostly shreds her country inflected Indie-Folk for a more lavish and expansive sound. Bolstered by a 17 piece orchestra, this record should be a master class in how to do Symphonic Pop the right way. From the title track to the moody and expansive “Impasse” your ears will take you on a journey that would make The Moody Blues proud.
69. Twin Peaks – Lookout Low
Famous for their live shows in their home town of Chicago, on Lookout Low the band channels 70’s FM Rock. Produced by Ethan Johns, the setting is Big Star in places and Basement era The Band in others. “Dance Through It” has a Jackson Browne by way of Simple Minds flavor to it and is worth the price of admission alone.
68. Leeroy Stagger – Strange Path
Americana artist Leroy Stagger delivers a solid set of Roots Rock. Listen to Leeroy channel his inner Tom Petty on “Deeper Well” and pay tribute to the late Tragically Hip singer on “Hey! Hey! (Song For Gord).”
67. Jade Bird – Jade Bird
One of the British shining stars on the Americana Folk scene, on her debut record there are soaring pop epics the likes of “Side Effects,” introspective slow burners with “My Beauty” where she sounds like Melissa Etheridge in her prime, and on the low and slow “Does Anybody Know” her songwriting talents really shine. This one will be on heavy rotation for quite a long time.
66. Austin Meade – Waves
This denizen of the Texas hill country lays down a template of 70’s outlaw inspired country influenced songwriting with more of than a touch of Rock as well as Roll.
65. The Yawpers – Human Question
If you could only listen to artists from one single record label then Bloodshot Records should be your jam, and The Yawpers are right up there as show horses in their stable. A little more on the Rock and Roll Side than their last album, “Earn Your Heaven” will Rock your ears off and on “Dancing on My Knees” the rhythm section shows the musicianship and energy worthy of Stevie Ray’s Double Trouble.
64. The Regrettes – How Do You Love
Their Pop driven Punk songs are a must hear. If the Go Go’s were actually cool they might have sounded like The Regrettes. Their sophomore record is full of Ramones worthy ear blasts.
63. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Believe the Hype. Behind the Lizzo-Mania is a serious talent. On her break out record she blends Pop, Soul, R&B with a touch of Hip Hop for good measure. Listen to her get funky on “Cry Baby,” a little frisky on “Better in Color,” and downright bombastic on the stellar “Juice.” Lizzo is one of the best talents to come down the road in a long time.
62. Kyle Craft – Showboat Honey
This dude is a bit genre defying, this dude is. A bit Kinks, slightly Brit Pop, some Power Pop and Badfinger, but it’s all pretty cool. This one is a nifty follow up to the equally excellent Full Circle Nightmare from all the way back in 2018.
61. Beth Hart – War in My Mind
Beth Hart has never been one to bury her darkest secrets, and on her latest record she continues to peel away the layers of her soul. This is one of those rare artists that you feel you really know and appreciate simply by listening to her songbook.
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 a 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 ambience on Night of the Worm Moon, her second proper full length record as a solo artist. The cool, laconic, mostly psychedelic under current 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.
50. Renée Wahl – Cut To The Bone
With a spaghetti western Quentin Tarantino vibe courtesy of her Cracker Jack band The Sworn Secrets, this one sounds like a cross between Melissa Etheridge and Nicki Bluhm.
49. Dale Watson – Call Me Lucky
Truly an original, step back 50 years into Dale Watson’s Honky Tonk World.
48. Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse – Love & Murder
Lead singer Greta Valenti is the straw that stirs this drink, but it doesn’t stop there. This is a lot of Country Blues swagger to love about this album.
47. Molly Tuttle – When You’re Ready
This one is for this of us who think they don’t like bluegrass. With stellar playing and vocals that would make Mary Capin Carpenter blush, Molly Tuttle should be on your own personal best new artist list.
46. Kingfish – Kingfish
20-year old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is nothing short of the next great blues prodigy. Growing up in the Mississippi delta just a few miles from the actual “crossroads” just listen to the tone coming from this guy.
45. The Teskey Brothers – Run Home Slow
The Teskey Brothers, and yes, they are real brothers, channel Motown, Blues, Funk, and Blue-Eyed Australian Soul. With a shuffling rhythm that hooks you on every note, their sound bears similarities to Michael Kiwanuka. Listener beware though, the hipsters are starting to catch on to this band.
44. GospelbeacH – Let It Burn
Much like he did with his former band Beachwood Sparks, with GospelbeacH, lead singer Brent Rademcker, channels Tom Petty and the Laurel Canyon sound with a Country Rock vibe that is timeless. Adding even more to the Pop credentials laid down on the highly excellent 2017 release Another Summer of Love, “Dark Angel” could have been a long lost Heartbreakers song, and even when the band goes low and slow like they do on “Get It Back” there is a cool nostalgia that can be traced back to The Long Run era Eagles. The late Neil Casal, who was a member of Beachwood Sparks, contributes searing solos throughout the record and is a bittersweet presence on an uplifting record.
43. Jade Jackson – Wilderness
No real new ground is broken here, just a solid set of highly listenable Pop tinged Americana tunes. And, that is very special.
42. The Pearlfishers – Love & Other Hopeless Things
This fine Scottish Pop group delivers an often time glorious Brian Wilson inspired set of songs.
41. Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real – Turn Off The News (Build a Garden)
As the son of Willie Nelson and the bandleader for Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born, Lukas Nelson is as hot as a firecracker right now. Lukas and his boys have even found the time to release a new record in between concerts as the backing band for Neil Young. With a Traveling Wilburys vibe in places and a widescreen pop dusting in others along with a scent of herbal hippie sensation wafting across the entire proceedings, the experience of listening to this album will be mind altering.
40. Bedouine – Bird Songs of a Killjoy
’60s Folk meets 70’s Country-Funk on this one, Azniv Korkejian performing under the name Bedouine delivers a sparse yet eclectic vibe with a slight touch of bossa nova cool that makes things all the more interesting.
39. Jack Ingram – Ridin’ High Again
The album title pays tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker and Texas hill country music almost as well as the entire album does. “Straight Outta Jail” is a Lyle Lovett inspired gem and the sublime version of “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train” is the stuff Texas Legends are made from. Welcome back, Jack Ingram.
38. Big Search – Slow Fascination
If you are a fan of the Laurel Canyon Beach Boys West Coast vibe then the new record, Slow Fascination, is definitely your jam. Big search is the solo moniker for Matthew Popieluch who when he is not sitting in as a sideman for bands like Papercuts and Fools Gold is creating lush Indie Pop orchestrations. Pianos and acoustic guitars blend delightfully with blended harmonies and intricate arrangements.
37. Chuck Mead – Close To Home
With more than a passing homage to Chuck Berry, Honky Tonks, and good old Rock and Roll, this record could have come right from Sun Studios circa 1957.
36. Steve Earle – Guy
I would guess when Steve Earle stood on Bob Dylan’s coffee table and proclaimed Townes Van Zant the best songwriter ever that Guy Clark must have been a close second. This collection of songs is nothing short of terrific. With his band playing just the right notes at just the right times, the song “Old Friends” with cameos from Terry Allen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Jo Harvey Allen is worth the price of admission alone.
35. Marvin Gaye – You’re the Man
for some strange reason, this album never saw the light of day when it was originally recorded in 1972. Billed as the “Lost” album, this one was recorded between Marvin Gaye’s masterwork, “What’s Going On” and 1973’s “Let’s Get It On.” A mostly disjointed affair, which explains why it never reached proper release standards, when you stack it against what we are exposed to on the present day music scene, it is a top of the pops effort.
34. Ex Hex – It’s Real
Ex Hex is Mary Timony, Betsy Wright and Laura Harris, all veterans of the Indie Rock scene over the last decade or so. Sort of a more punk version of the Pretenders, the crunching guitars and the glittering sheen that is filtered throughout the record will have you spinning back to those days when Rock and Roll was nothing but fun.
33. Kenny Wayne Sheppard – The Traveller
Kenny Wayne Sheppard with each release seems to be more and more comfortable with his place in the pantheon of guitar slingers. His latest, a Classic Rock concoction of Blues, Boogie, and Rock is a powerhouse. Singer Noah Hunt is in fine grizzled form still sounding like Warren Zevon’s less drug addled brother, and Stevie Ray’s old stick man Chris Layton pushes the band down the rails like a runaway train. Including eight originals and two covers, the best of the lot being a scorched earth version of Neil’s Mr. Soul, this one might be the bands best record to date.
32. Old Crow Medicine Show – Live at The Ryman
Weighing in a lean 42 minutes, Old Crow Medicine Show pays tribute to the iconic palace of Country music on this joyously vivacious live set. From the opening 1-2 punch of “Tell It To Me” and “Shout Mountain Music” the template is laid down for the evening as the band weaves hee-haw nostalgia with contemporary coolness. Margo Price joins in on the fun playing Loretta Lynn to Ketch Secor’s Conway Twitty on “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” with Molly Tuttle and Charlie Worsham jumping on stage for the showstopping and show ending “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”
31. Matt Andersen – Halfway Home By Morning
This melting pot of a record has it all. Gritty Muscle Shoals Soul, Heart felt Americana, Gritty Blues and good old Country. Recorded live in Nashville in the same studio that Jerry Lee Lewis and Emmylou Harris made magic, this one is leaps and bounds better than his also excellent 2016 release Honest Man.
30. The Drunken Hearts – Wheels of the City
With their hardscrabble approach to Americana, The Drunken Hearts lay down an earthy blend of Bluegrass, Outlaw, and Americana that would make Jamey Johnson and Cody Jinks proud. Lead singer Andrew McConathy has a bit of Michael Stipe by way of Hootie and the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker in his voice, particularly on the title track. The band mixes rowdy anthems with broad soundscapes on a record that will capture your ears with subsequent listens.
29. Milk Carton Kids – The Only Ones
Be ready to lay down some chill vibes with the new Milk Carton Kids Record, The Only Ones. If you could create a Frankenstein duo with one member of Simon and Garfunkel and one of the brothers Everly, the resulting spawn would give you The Milk Carton Kids. At a tidy 7 songs this one is a perfect listen for that spare half hour in an otherwise hectic day.
28. Durand Jones & The Indications – American Love Call
A vintage 70’s R&B sound with a modern day political bent. With dual vocals Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer, Jackie Wilson along with Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions will be an immediate comparison. This a a terrific record and would have been made by Marvin Gaye if he was still alive.
27. White Reaper – You Deserve Love
heading towards the head of the pack on our list of 2019’s favorite records, White Reaper with their latest release hits that sweet spot between Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy. From the opening track, “Headwind” that sounds a bit like The Killers in Glam mode, to the twin guitar attack on “Might Be Right” this is an old school Rock and Roll record for the new generation.
26. Orville Peck – Pony
Once you get by the Mystery Man face-veil gimmick there is some real substance her. With a vibe that harkens back to the Glen Campbell glory days, Peck sounds like a voodoo mix of Chris Isaak and Roy Orbison with a Tarantino soundtrack playing in the background.
25. The Mavericks – Play The Hits
News Flash! Raul Malo Can Sing. And here, he does it in exquisite fashion. In places where keeps the arrangements close to the bone like he does on “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” he shines, and things get even cooler when The Mavericks get jiggy with the essence of the songs they are covering as displayed on the John Anderson classic “Swingin'” where mid-song they morph into “Feelin’ Alright.” You likely have never heard anyone cover “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” any better than what is presented here.
24. North Mississippi All-Stars – Up and Rolling
Their debut record for New West, working for a semi-major label hasn’t slowed these Cats one bit, and while the production does seem a bit more glossy and less ramshackle than their previous affairs, the result is no less appealing and their boogie till the break of dawn spirit flag is still waiving proudly.
Calling on a gaggle of talented friends to lend a hand in the making of this record in their family studio in the hill country of Mississippi, there is never a dull moment, and every track has a live feel to it especially on their reading of Little Walter Johnson’s “Mean Old World” featuring Duane Betts and Jason Isbell on guitar with Isbell also handling lead vocal duties.
23. Babe Rainbow – Today
Another album with strong Laurel Canyon vibes. “Morning Song” would have been a hit duet for Herbie Mann and Donovan in 1965.
22. Peter Bruntnell – The King of Madrid
Flying just underneath the Americana radar Peter Bruntell really should be better known. His latest The King of Madrid is more of a 60’s psychedelic pop record with a bit of a Byrds essence wafting in the air. The song “Dinosaur” is even a not so distant cousin of “Last Train to Clarksville.” Don’t hold it against him that on “Lucas” he sounds like Steve Miller. Cult status be damned. This guy is seriously good.
21. The Limboos – Baia
The Limboos are pretty much the very definition of a genre defying band. A bit soul, retro in all the coolest of ways fusing together Soul, Rumba, Jazz, Blues, Funk, and a bunch of others we are probably skipping. On songs like “Till The End Of Town” you would bet your last dollar this was a Stax single from the 60’s.
When the sax kicks in on “Where Did She Go,” the first single from the album, there is a sense that you should be in some sort of Jetsons hipster go-go bar. The vocals are front and center and the production value is first rate with no single instrument overpowering another. And yes, they have a female drummer, as if they needed anything else to add to their coolness.
20. Brittany Howard – Jaime
The Alabama Shakes front-woman steps out with her powerful solo record. Combining Rock and Soul along with contemporary beats, her debut record goes low Nina Simone Slow one minute, James Brown Funk the next with a lot of Janelle Monáe flair thrown in for good measure. Named after her sister who passed away from retinal cancer when Brittany was 9, this album is a stunner.
19. Ryan Bingham – American Love Song
With a sound that could be coming from a back woods juke joint in the middle of Texas, Ryan Bingham along with guitar player Charlie Sexton lay down 15 tracks of Americana and Blues Boogie that will melt your frets. The album has a lived in feel that is perfect for multiple listens.
18. Hollis Brown – Ozone Park
Named after the character in a Bob Dylan Song, this Queens, N.Y. these guys are more U2 mixed with Tom Petty and a dash of Black Crowes than Dylan. An album that is a bit more Rock than Roll, this is an extremely accessible record that will be on your regular listening rotation very soon. There is not a bad song in this basket.
17. Robbie Robertson – Sinematic
For his first new record in 8 years, Robbie Robertson draws inspiration from his friend, Martin Scorsese, performs a duet with Van Morrison, and memorializes the old-time radio serial, The Shadow. The former leader of The Band even waxes nostalgic for his former band mates on “Once Were Brothers.”
16. The New Roses – Nothing But Wild
This one might be the Rock and Roll record of the year. And, if this were thirty years ago most of the songs on this scorcher of a record would be in the top 10 with a bullet. “The Bullet” would have made a perfect Night Ranger ballad, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” sounds a bit like Bon Jovi on steroids.
The choruses are huge, the hooks are everywhere and with songs that extoll the virtues of a six pack and a radio down by the river you won’t even need throwback Thursday to bring back the good old days.
15. Rodney Crowell – Texas
Ronnie Dunn, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbens, Lyle Lovett and more celebrate all things Texas from the border to the oil patches, the strip bars honky-tonks. From the Piney Woods to the Rio Grande this record is almost as big as the state.
14. Ikebe Shakedown – Kings Left Behind
This 7 piece instrumental band from Brooklyn fills the air with a steamy brew of Funk, Soul, and Spaghetti Western Retro Psychedelic flair. This one is the soundtrack for when you are getting ready to go out on a Saturday night.
13. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Blending classic American Pop with contemporary touches, Lizzy Grant, aka Lana Del Rey has created one for the ages. Mostly low key, the songs carry a bit of a 70’s FM feel particularly on “The Greatest” where the vibe is Carole King by way of Karla Boniff. Lot’s of Ladies of the Canyon imagery on this one especially on “Bartender.” The huge Pop hooks are pretty much gone on this album in favor of more lush and expansive soundscapes. “Venice Beach” is simply a stunner.
12. Walker Lukens – Adult
With Adult, Walker Lukens has released his most fully formed record to date. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, the album has an underlying contemporary feel to it while still maintaining its singer songwriter soul. Secret weapon and member of his band The Sidearms, Mckenzie Griffin, really shines on several tracks, most notably on “Frankie & Bella” and “Black Matter.” Vocally, Walker can go from a Harry Nilsson croon to honeyed voice Marvin Gaye at the turn of a tonsil, and he does so often here with the ease of a seasoned professional. The production value on Adult is first rate and there is a lot of nuance and texture for your ears to enjoy as they travel from song to song. There is a lot discover with repeated listens of this record.
11. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
This guy keeps getting better and better with each subsequent album. Here, on his latest album following up the highly excellent 2016 release, Love & Hate, Michael Kiwanuka lays down a pate of Afro-Rhythms, Soul, and Funk along win an Indie-Pop sensibility. This Danger Mouse co-produced gem should land towards the front of many year end best-of lists. including ours.
10. Yola – Walk Through The Fire
You won’t need to to 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.
With a spot already reserved in The Falcon’s Nest/Rock is the New Roll top ten list 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 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 70’s, on songs like “Honey” featuring Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood that could be a Harry Nilsson Song, and “Fools” 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 rate 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 masters level course in Americana songwriting. “T-Bone Steak and Spanish Wine” is a standout as is “Highway 46” where none other than Spade Cooley is name checked. Where were you on the day Merle Haggard died?