Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Blog - Brianna's Best Albums Of 2013

I’d like to thank Kelli for allowing me to put my list of 2013 favorites on her blog. She’s got brilliant taste in music, and I'm honored that she offered to shared her awesome internet space with me today.  This year was so amazing for music. Not necessarily mainstream music, but for lesser-known artists, it was fantastic. It was so hard to choose my favorite albums, that this list will not be in order.

Sturgill Simpson: “High Top Mountain”
This guy is single-handedly bringing country back. Seriously, his album is full of amazing traditional country sounds, great songs, and wonderful Kentucky vocals. I’ve played this album out for months now, and still am not tired of it. It’s honky-tonk, it’s ballads, it’s country, it’s fantastic. If you want a new country album that doesn’t rely on cliche themes, look no further.

Medicine Springs(Live, Not On the Album)

You Can Have the Crown/Some Days (Live)

The Mavericks: “In Time”

I’m not someone who knows all that much about The Mavericks, or their work in the 1990's. What I do know is, this reunion album is amazing. It somehow manages to be rock, Latin, and country music  all at the same time. Whenever I listen to this album, it makes me incredibly happy, and the energy on it is just so infectious, you can’t help but replay certain songs. And dance. The fact that these guys manage to blend all these genres into one song, let alone an album is ridiculously amazing, and I definitely think anyone who likes any of these genres shouldn’t pass this one up. 

Come Unto Me (Live)

Back In Your Arms Again (Live)

Jason Isbell: “Southeastern”

I had never heard of Jason until this year, when  “Southeastern” came out. All of the buzz made me pay attention, go out, and get  this album. I am so happy I did, because it’s such a powerful one. It’s so emotional, with such amazing musical arrangements, I can’t help but love it. Some people may find it sleepy, but I love the acoustic sound that most of the songs have. It allows the lyrics and themes to shine. Not that Jason isn’t capable of rocking out, because he certainly does a wonderful job of it on Super 8. But honestly, it’s on those sad, wonderful ballads that this album is made. Through them, the listener experiences grief, personal struggles, the search for redemption, and many other things that you won’t want to miss out on, if any of this sounds even remotely appealing.

Cover Me Up (Live)

Live Oak

Jason Boland and the Stragglers: “Dark and Dirty Mile”

I am a huge Jason Boland and the Stragglers fan. I just love their hard country sound, and meaningful lyrics. This is my favorite album of theirs to date, and it has the usual sound and deep lyrics in spades. I have listened to this album for months on end, and I never tire of the important messages Jason embeds into his songs. This was a masterpiece of an album, and it definitely deserves more recognition. There are political messages, sad stories, and just amazing music that you don’t want to miss.

Lucky I Guess (Live)

Brandy Clark: “Twelve Stories”

I know that Kacey Musgraves is probably more popular than Brandy, and more people will like Kacey’s album, but me? I think Brandy’s is a bit better. I get bored halfway through Kacey’s album, and I only really like eight out of twelve songs on there. When I listen to Brandy, I never get bored. Yes, she has a lot of ballads, but Brandy is able to paint such vivid characters, you can’t help but be drawn to them. Even my least favorite song on the album “Get High”, makes me think, and I believe that is a sign of a great artist. This album really is twelve stories, and Brandy brings them into real life with her amazing songwriting. This is what country should be. Real, honest, simple stories about life.

Hung Over

Take a Little Pill

Reckless Kelly: “Long Night Moon”
I am a huge Reckless Kelly fan. Anything these guys put out into the world, I will buy. However, before you think me too biased, I did have my doubts about this album. When I first started listening, I didn’t think I would like it. Yes, Willy’s voice was wonderful as always, but the sound was more mellow, and I like my Reckless Kelly rock/country. Eventually though, I came to see the album for what it is. It’sa masterpiece that touches on home, traveling, and love. If Reckless Kelly have changed a bit over the years, so what? That’s a  sign of progress, and even if you are a fan of these guys and this album scares you, don’t let it. It’s worth your time and attention.

Didn’t Mean to Break Your Heart (Live)

City and Colour:  "The Hurry and the Harm"

City and Colour is definitely NOT country, but after debating for a while, I decided that my list wouldn’t be complete without this album. I played it out for months, almost nonstop. City and Colour are highly underrated and relatively unknown in America, and it’s a shame. City and Colour is really a moniker for Dallas Green, who used to be in a popular Canadian metal band. However, when he started wanting to write songs that were a bit softer and different, he called himself City and Colour, and started putting out albums of songs that were mostly just him and his guitar. All that began to change with 2011’s “Little Hell”, where he used a bit more electric guitar. This year, “The Hurry and the Harm” takes more of  a middle-of-the road approach. There are quite a few acoustic songs, but there is at least one rock song, and a couple others that have a full-band approach. Dallas Green has such a wonderful voice, and it’s showcased here beautifully on this album, along with his amazing songwriting skills. At this point, Dallas Green could sing the phone book, and I’d listen. However, that’s not what he chooses to do for “The Hurry And the Harm”, of course. Dallas sings songs about life, how our fast pace will hurt us in the end, how he feels about people hiding behind the internet and making mean comments, among other things. If you like great singing, a bit of acoustic music, and songs with important messages, definitely get this one.

Thirst (Live)

Of Space and Time (Live)

Holly Williams:  "The Highway"

I’d never heard of Holly Williams until this year. But I’m so glad I finally know who she is. She’s an incredible singer, who just happens to be related to Hank Williams…all of them. This album, The Highway, was an incredible collection of songs. It’s country, it’s Americana, and there’s even a story about Holly’s grandparents. The songs are really all kinds of styles, from country, to acoustic. It’s a wonderful album filled with stories, and lots of emotion.

Drinkin’ (Live)

Waiting on June (Live)

Courtney Patton:  "Triggering A Flood"

I’m so glad I bought this album. It took me a while to do so, and now I’m hitting myself for not getting with the program sooner. This collection of songs  is a great example of how an artist can do various styles of music, and make them all fit together on one album successfully. There’s country, soul, even a tiny bit of bluegrass influence. Courtney Patton herself has a wonderful, strong voice that she is quite capable of using to bring out her great lyrics. If you’re looking for more female artists, definitely give her a try.

Lamplight (Live)

As you can see, there have been tons of great albums released this year. The fact that my list of must-have albums contains nine of them is practically unheard of. With a year full of new discoveries as well as releases from bands I’ve previously loved, 2013 has been fantastic for the independent and lesser-known music fan. If you have yet to check out one or any of these artists, I definitely recommend you do. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Albums Of 2013

2013 has been a banner year for Americana albums.  Many leading artists from the genre released what are their best records to date; new artists released stellar debuts, making 2013 a year rich in fabulous music.

The highlight of 2013 was the release of Reckless Kelly's stunning "Long Night Moon."  

A lush, beautiful collection of ballads and rockers, this is some of the most superb writing of their career thus far.  I don't have a favorite song on this record because each one is its own little gem.  The theme of traveling weaves its way through the collection, mixed with heartache, loss, and social issues.  The music here is more understated than in past albums and the songwriting is impeccable.  Complex lyrics and the gorgeous instruments make this album a delightful listen time after time.  (Read my full review here

Another magnificent release from earlier this year is Jason Boland & The Stragglers' "Dark & Dirty Mile."  
A diverse collection of subject matter ranging from the Ludlow massacre to poignant love songs to sometimes not so subtle political references.  The Stragglers are deeply rooted in traditional country; Boland's songs are captivating and engage the listener on a level I've not experienced with any other artist.  Every song is a masterpiece, each has its own story to hypnotize the listener.  
Again, it's hard to pick favorites from this set, I love every song.

Ashley Monroe's outstanding "Like A Rose" was released in March and is a mega dose of traditional country served up with a wallop of modern themes.  Standout tracks include the exquisite title track, "Used," "Weed Instead Of Roses," "Monroe Suede," and "She's Driving Me Out Of Your Mind."  This is real, pure country music, Monroe has a lovely voice that has a ethereal sound.

"Same Trailer Different Park" is Kacey Musgraves' breakout major label debut also released in March to much anticipation.  Although the collection is full of simple melodies and beautiful vocals, it offers a heavy punch of small town realities and social issues.  
Topics range from positive anthems like "Silver Lining" and the infectious "Follow Your Arrow" to sad, heavy ballads such as "It Is What It Is" and "Keep It To Yourself."  Standouts include the first single "Merry Go 'Round," "My House," the clever "Step Off," and "Blowin' Smoke."  Musgraves sings beyond her years in a plaintive delivery of real life not heard much these days on mainstream country radio.  Musgraves is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale country format and is breaking down barriers one song at a time.

Courtney Patton's second album "Triggering A Flood" is a powerhouse of a collection, served up with a strong vocal and amazing songwriting.  

I'm a little late to the bandwagon, having just discovered Patton's music recently.  Standout tracks include "Twisted," "Better Man," "Lamplight," "Light Fades," "It's A Shame" and "It's Not Easy."  Patton has a traditional country voice and it shines here on these bitter songs about lost love and cheating.  Patton's profound lyrics and the instruments complement Patton's strong vocal beautifully.  

"Some Old, Some New, Maybe A Cover Or Two" by Cody Canada is an acoustic release recorded in Port Aransas, Texas earlier this year.  Although it doesn't cover any new material, it is a wonderful collection of tunes and stories.  The back stories are worth the price of the album alone.  
The songs range from classic Cross Canadian Ragweed to Neil Young to George Strait to Canada's current band The Departed.  There's something to be said about an artist who just has his guitar, harmonica, and voice to convey such emotion in every song.  Raw and real, this collection has something for everyone.

Go buy these fantastic records, you won't be disappointed.  2013 has been an incredible year for music and here's to 2014!
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