Album Reviews / Alt-Country / Americana / Country / Features / Folk / News / Stream

FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2020

I think in many ways we’d all like to erase 2020 and start again, but still with the release of the many great albums that came out this year. I’m guessing, like me, most of you found solace, escape, distraction and comfort in listening to music – new and old – to get you through the weirdness.

Here then are the results of our listening over the last 12 months. We ended up with a list of 80 albums that, to varying degrees, inspired repeat listening. Then came the pain and virtual hair-pulling to sort, listen and rank the 40 records that hit the sweet spot from the perspective of sound, atmosphere, sonic texture, lyrics and distinctive and arresting vocals. We could have quite easily included albums by North Americans, SUSS and Lucinda Williams’ Dylan covers but they came late in the piece and we didn’t get to spend quite enough time with them.

I encourage you to dig in, take a listen and buy from Bandcamp if you like what you hear…

40. Robert Connely Farr – Country Supper

39. Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman

38. Early James – Singing For My Supper

37. Colter Wall – Western Swing and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs

36. Fanny Lumsden – Fallow REVIEW

35. CJ Stranger – Hey Stranger

34. Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross REVIEW

33. Jerry Joseph – The Beautiful Madness

32. Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

31. Mitch Dean – Holding Back The Levee

30. Tami Neilson – Chickaboom! REVIEW

29. Sam Burton – I Can Go With You

28. Ryan Adams – Wednesday

27. Steve Earle – Ghosts of West Virginia REVIEW

26. Sunset Stranger – Your Home Town

25. Waylon Payne – Blues Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me

24. Bill Frisell – Valentine

23. Cave Flowers – Cave Flowers

22. D.C Cross – Terabithian REVIEW

21. Gillian Welch – All The Good Times

20. Sturgill Simpson – Cutting Grass – Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions)

19. Cinder Well – No Summer

18. Drive-By Truckers – The New OK

17. Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It

16. Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife – You Be The Lightning REVIEW

15. Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes

14. Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys – Late Night Essentials

13. Califone – Echo Mine

12. Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels REVIEW

11. Bill Callahan – Gold Record

10. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling REVIEW

9. Suicide Swans – Through The Years

8. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

7. Rose City Band – Summerlong

6. Neil Young – Homegrown

5. Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers REVIEW

The evolution of one of the most consistently rewarding songwriters in recent years continues with this devastating treatise and rumination on heartbreak, despair and emotional renewal. Courtney Marie Andrews has taken the tried and true subject of the end of a long-term relationship and bled new life into it with a sharpened pen and plenty of melodies that are full of sublime grace and beauty.

4. James Thomson – Golden Exile REVIEW

On our favourite AU/NZ album of 2020, Thomson delivers his most accomplished work to date… ‘Sunday Girl’ is the closest Thomson’s got to a pop song, ‘Roll Away The Stone’ is smoky, winding blues, while ‘See The Wheels’ could roll on forever with its effortless groove. ‘Fatal Ribbon Highway’ is a dreamy slow dance, cosmic, heavy-lidded and sparkling and just one example of the diversification Thomson has brought to his impressive songwriting on Golden Exile.

3. Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

A new name for us and what a way to announce your arrival. Restrained songwriting with some exceptional lyrical content, Die Midwestern is built on poetry of the finest quality, delivered in a wonderful roughed-up country voice.

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions REVIEW

For us, Isbell was off his game on his last album The Nashville Sound but here he’s fully resumed his mantle of one of the finest songwriters of his generation. Lyrically and melodically there are gems galore right across Reunions. It was one of those albums that constantly inspired repeat listens throughout 2020.

1. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

Once again Bob brought the element of surprise with this immense piece of work. Bold, literary, graceful, funny and highly moving. We thought his muse may have taken an early retirement with the endless touring and American songbook albums taking up his creative real estate. But no, Bob was back, hunched over his typewriter, casting an eye over the last century of pop and political culture, weaving in heartache and devotion. Nobody can bring together universality and the minutiae quite like the master.

40. Robert Connely Farr – Country Supper

39. Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman

38. Early James Singing – For My Supper

37. Colter Wall – Western Swing and Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs

36. Fanny Lumsden – Fallow

35. CJ Stranger – Hey Stranger

34. Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross

33. Jerry Joseph – The Beautiful Madness

32. Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

31. Mitch Dean – Holding Back The Levee

30. Tami Neilson – Chickaboom!

29. Sam Burton – I Can Go With You

28. Ryan Adams – Wednesday

27. Steve Earle – Ghosts of West Virginia

26. Sunset Stranger – Your Home Town

25. Waylon Payne – Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me

24. Bill Frisell – Valentine

23. Cave Flowers – Cave Flowers

22. D.C Cross – Terabithian

21. Gillian Welch – All The Good Times

20. Sturgill Simpson – Cutting Grass – Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions)

19. Cinder Well – No Summer

18. Drive-By Truckers – The New OK

17. Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It

16. Tracy McNeil & The Goodlife – You Be The Lightning

15. Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes

14. Caitlin Harnett & The Pony Boys – Late Night Essentials

13. Califone – Echo Mine

12. Lucinda Williams – Good Souls Better Angels

11. Bill Callahan – Gold Record

10. Drive-By Truckers – The Unraveling

9. Suicide Swans – Through The Years

8. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

7. Rose City Band – Summerlong

6. Neil Young – Homegrown

5. Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers

4. James Thomson – Golden Exile

3. Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions

1. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

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