Releases from John Paul White, Buddy and Julie Miller, Chuck Mead, Tanya Tucker, and many others were cause for … She chose a wide range of material, including one track each from the National, the Rolling Stones, Arthur Russell, Karen Dalton, FKA Twigs, Rancid, Grateful Dead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Harry Styles, and Cat Stevens. We could easily have added more as there are many deserving records. The albums on this list encourage hope for the future based on a belief in the human spirit. The Northern Belle became a blip on the Americana radar this year with We Wither, We Bloom. 28 John Moreland- LP5 Notably, her use of 1980s pop-synths, or crisper rock 'n' roll sensibilities, enshrines her arresting vocals. The Secret Sisters believe change is inevitable, and very often, will lead to promising new beginnings. Sales Data = AMERICANA/FOLK ALBUMS. He even pays tribute to the late great Jimmy Reed. Saturn Return reiterates the power found in cherishing the connections that usher metamorphosis. "Five More Minutes"—a steady-moving soul tune with 70s-era clavinet inflections that sweetly showcases the couples' effortless vocals—perhaps tells it best. Indeed, the album overtly opposes ICE and the caging of children at the border. Listen closely, her drawl occasionally emphasizes her melodies while concretizing her position in Americana music. – Jonathan Frahm. She interlaces her struggles with national themes such as criticizing the American healthcare system and economic depression. When he presents the narrative of a miner's widow, her devastation is tangible and raw. – Steve Horowitz. 2020 gave us a fine new collection of Americana/roots music. In May, the singer-songwriter released his follow-up, Folk N' Roll, Vol 1: Tales Of Isolation , an 11-song collection written and recorded by Ondara, in less than a week, while in lockdown in Minneapolis. Whereas she honors those challenges, she rejects singularity as the underlying factor in defining her music and identity. – Jonathan Frahm, Bruce Springsteen has been on a roll lately by moving backwards as a way of heading forward. Sometimes, it's a modern arrangement that the older-school influences are backing up—such is the case of "The Beginning"—but even when Bailey takes us full-on into the honky-tonk, her palpable authenticity instantly besmirches any attempts at discrediting her sound. Critical of capitalism's need for human sacrifices, Earle masterfully balances righteous indignation with empathy and grief. The Best That I Could Do 1978 - 1988. By Matt Miller , Madison Vain and Dave Holmes More so, the album's energy is expanded by Tejano accordion great Flaco Jimenez and Santana/Los Lobos keyboard player Alberto Salas. Well, it's all of that with the bonus of the album, musically, being damn good. In a world of persistent change—and, often, in 2020, not necessarily for the better—Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline comes across with a warm familiarity thanks to where it sews its roots, with Bailey being the fresh new face to carry that Bakersfield sound back to the forefront. Now, though, she is a thunderous voice in the fight for human rights, leveraging her artistic talents to spotlight injustices that are plaguing people—and particularly women—of color today. 33 Cordovas- Destiny Hotel Here are our picks in two batches, 22 in all,… 35 Lily Hiatt- Walking Proof This album reflects 2020. After emptying his heart into the music, Young hid the album away to avoid exposing his emotional ruination. Williams specifically castigates Donald Trump on "Man Without a Soul". Apologizing for the delay, Young admits the album was reflective of his devastating heartbreak, rendering him too fragile to release such a personal artifact. A muted trumpet aligning with a steely guitar, a mariachi band flirting with twangy vocals, and an 11-piece string section all support bandleader Raul Malo as he shifts between bravado and vulnerability. The Mavericks have defied this singularity and use the album to establish a musical common ground. They also undertake larger social issues like domestic abuse and toxic relationships to model resilience as an act of agency. 30 Katie Pruitt- Expectations We have gathered a list of (our version) the top albums for 2020. Thematically, the album focuses on that particular event, but Earle makes room for considerations of the dehumanizing work conditions that miners endure, ultimately leading to lifelong illnesses such as "Black Lung". Gospel First Nation is the culmination of Prince's inner reflection, reflecting on the crossroads between two seemingly unrelated topics: Christianity and growing up in the First Nation. As such, the album is a consideration of identity, a reflection of the past as an informant of the present while finding the artist squarely focused on the future. The duo channel a range of emotion, never overextending their display of affect, thereby avoiding alienation. Tuttle keeps the arrangements simple and uncluttered. The New Ok's strength is derived from its overtness. Walking Proof, Whitney Rose's We Still Goes to Rodeos, John Moreland's LP5, Elizabeth Cook's Aftermath, Eliza Gilkyson's 2020, Dave Alvin's From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings, The Band of Heathens' Strange, Jess Williamson's Sorceress, Jeff Tweedy's Love Is King, Blitzen Trapper's Holy Smokes Future Jokes, My Morning Jacket's The Waterfall II, Stephanie Lambring's Autonomy, Leslie Barth's Big Time Baby, Anthony Garcia's Acres of Diamonds, Great Peacock's Forever Worse Better, Jason Wilber's Time Traveler, Anders & O'Bitz's American Bardo, Della Mae's Headlight, Paisley Fields' Electric Park Ballroom, Golden Shoals' Self-Titled, Front Country's Impossible World, Dustbowl Revival's Is It You, Is It Me, and Letitia Van Sant's Circadian. "Life may be full of trouble", but it beats the alternative. Rather, Isbell and the 400 Unit revel in strength and collectivity. (Find our 100 Best Songs of 2020 list here.) 2020, Best Albums, Review, Album Reviews, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Concerthopper Chris Griffy December 10, 2020 americana, best of 2020, sarah jarosz, jason isbell and the 400 unit, tami neilson, will kimbrough, 2020, concerthopper, new music, music, album review, review 1 Comment Tuttle's list is esoteric and reveals the pleasures of having catholic tastes. The production work of Shooter Jennings, who had a very busy 2020, put this one over the top. Essentially, En Español is a study in the subjectivity of conventions. The other nine tracks address his youthful concerns salted with the experience of age. The 30 best country and Americana albums of 2020, including records by Ashley McBryde, Elizabeth Cook, Jason Isbell, and Hailey Whitters. From its precipice, Hearts Town, their third studio effort, erupts with victorious determination. Lyrically, he's a Whitmanian witness testifying with his tongue in cheek. And there are ways to escape and find our sanity, if only momentarily. Therefore, it should not be surprising that Americana music in 2020 connected to what was happening during this turbulent year: concerns such as COVID-19, Trumpism, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and such regularly made appearances in these chosen records. 24 Steep Canyon Rangers- Arm in Arm Long time collaborators with singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, she returns to co-produce Saturn Return but leaves a subtle mark. There's something comforting about the sound of familiar music. She relies on folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, and bluegrass genres to centralize her roots but manages to define a musical space endowing Jarosz's caliber. Discover and listen to new music releases and 2021's best new album releases this week and every week here. Homegrown was cut between 1974-1975, right after Young endured the breakup from Carrie Snodgress. 26 Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started Using a musical vocabulary rooted in everything from Jerry Lee Lewis-style rockabilly to Philly R&B to glam rock to the Great American Songbook, frontman/songwriter/piano monster Adam Weiner urges listeners to keep on punching and never give up. XOXO does not have a cohesive theme as much as a consistent sunshiny tone in the land of gloom: the silver lining to the dark cloud. Each track finds value in human connection regardless of the emotional fallout. Those worthy of an honorable mention include Lilly Hiatt's The chart debuted on the issue dated December 5, 2009, as a 15-position chart with its first number-one title … cultural platform and music to trumpet his political beliefs, 2010 West Virginia mining explosion that killed 29 miners, dehumanizing work conditions that miners endure, past as an informant of the present while finding the artist squarely focused on the future, apathy towards and acceptance of the dysfunction caterwauling from the politically powerful, white supremacist march through Charlottesville, North Carolina, writes the artist for the Neil Young Archive, Saturn returns to the same astrological place as the day of one's birth, The 20 Best Folk Albums of 2019 - PopMatters ›, The 20 Best Americana Albums of 2019 - PopMatters ›, The 10 Best Americana Albums of 2010 - PopMatters ›, The 60 Best Albums of 2020 - PopMatters ›, The 20 Best Folk Albums of 2020 - PopMatters ›, The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne on Worry, Freetime, and His Band's New "Head" Trip, Post-rocker Chris Brokaw Is Onto Something with 'Puritan', Paul McCartney Goes Back to the Home Studio for 'McCartney III', Buzzcocks Beat the Bootleggers with 'Late for the Train', Heart's Nancy Wilson Takes Solo Turn for 'You and Me', Sleaford Mods' 'Spare Ribs' Offers a Rich and Welcome Catharsis, The Bug and Dis Fig Soundtrack Lockdown with 'In Blue', On Jean-Luc Godard's Game of Despair, 'Pierrot le fou', Star Wars Alternate Endings That Give Padmé Dignity, The Artless Losers: Trump and Monty Python's Black Knight, Why Racially Diverse British Period Dramas Matter, Amanda Gorman's History Lesson: An Inaugural Poem in the Shadow of White Supremacy, Stefano Mancuso's 'The Nation of Plants' Gives the Green Party a Podium, The Mandalorian's Political Allegory: Diversity Is the Way, Pretend It's a City Proves Once Again, You Can't Argue with Fran Lebowitz. When the PopMatters staff first met to discuss the year-end column, we thought that we might have to limit the number of highlight records to 15 albums instead of the usual 20 because of the negative circumstances. Songwriting, songwriting, songwriting: The albums on our year’s-best list all raised the bar with their lyricism. Their elegant vocal harmonies hearten the sparse instrumentation while providing a touch of warmth to heavy topics. Rounding out at 15 tracks, it's a fun, retro romp that mostly evades sugary sentiment. In order to grow, new blood needs to be pumping and many of the artists on the list have had either debut or breakthrough albums in 2020. Week Next Week Current Week Through Woman in Color, Zaragoza is an active voice against misogyny, chauvinism, environmental injustices, gentrification, colonization, and imperialism. Gospel First Nation is a firsthand account of Prince's childhood, recalling the roots of his faith and culture to examine how they inform each other. Crockett wrote all the material except for Red Lane's "Blackjack County Chain", a violent chain-gang/revenge song. © 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. Then, Crutchfield acts as a medium for humanity to navigate the world through when it feels irresolute, all without being schmaltzy or purblind about it. 25 Reckless Kelly- American Jackpot/ American Girls 23 Corb Lund- Agricultural Tragic February 28, 2020. 15 Brent Cobb- Keep ‘Em on they Toes 29 Elizabeth Cook Aftermath The 20 Best Folk Albums of 2020 By Paste Staff January 18, 2021 Michael C. Hall and His Bandmates Discuss His New Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum Album By Tom Lanham January 13, 2021 Altogether, Gospel First Nation intrigues with its expression of an Indigenous, Christian upbringing, but keeps listeners going with its expression of serenity and hope in such a time of uncertainty. Contending with sobriety, parenthood, and childhood trauma, Isbell delivers his lyrics as a testament affirming that trials often lead to empowerment. Instead, the opposite was true. Calling out apathy and those who "worship a monster/Such a foolish endeavor", the Mastersons are overt in their standpoint. Songwriting, songwriting, songwriting: The albums on our year’s-best list all raised the bar with their lyricism. This mediation is likely the result of Shooter Jennings' astute production work. <a href="https://thenorthernbelle.bandcamp.com/album/we-wither-we-bloom">We Wither, We Bloom by The Northern Belle</a> Charley Crockett's old school style country-western blues songs take place in the present with an overlay of the past to show the connections between the modern world and its historical antecedents. For all the novelty that one might presume of this meshing in the hands of a lesser songwriter, Leigh's consummate disposition ensures that her message cannot be interpreted in any way other than authentic. – Jonathan Frahm. – Jonathan Frahm, Lucinda Williams makes her independence clear from the beginning of her anarchic Good Souls Better Angels. Share: Say what you will about 2020 (and you can say a lot), but the music has been spectacular. Despite the lack of touring, artists have showed up in a bigger way than ever with some of the most introspective and creative albums of their careers. Life is full of bad news on both a public and a personal level. As it often has been throughout our Best Americana Albums of 2020, authenticity is key, and Saint Cloud has it in spades. New Releases Now - Sign up to find top new songs of 2021 and videos from the best new 2021 albums! Anyway, that’s a roundabout way of saying that the brilliant PopMatters has listed its 25 best americana albums of 2020, and it’s a terrific list with some familiar names and some which haven’t even crossed our well-worn path yet. It rounds out on a high note with "Dices Adios", a yearning ranchera ballad replete with impressive self-harmonization and gritos abound. She knows the world is falling apart. ICYMI: The 25 Best #Americana Albums of 2020 #BestMusic2020. She may have "Shadows and Doubts", but Williams claims her soul as her own. ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ is such a powerful, cohesive statement that it’s right up there with Williams’ best work. 21 Chris Stapleton- Starting over The musical accompaniment is atmospheric more than melodic and creatively sets the lyrics into a netherworld where dreams and reality elastically merge. In fact, her characters find strength in their individuality. "Sometimes life hurts. Musically, the songs seem mostly rooted in the Blues. Spotify. – Notable Americana and Roots Music Releases for 2020 2019 turned out to be another excellent year for Americana and roots music. Observing the general discord caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, William Prince looked inward to find healing. 5 Jamie Wyatt- Neon Cross -- Elisabeth Woronzoff. When the duo sings, "And this world is hard enough/Try and find a better way for you and me" they unequivocally position this album as that 'better way'. Though the latter will be less comprehensive than this one. I will start with the best Americana albums. The same thing is true for her voice. Americana is popularly referred to, especially in print, as alt-country or sometimes alt.country. It's best told in the album's title track, penned by Prince, but exists throughout the album's entirety. Hear the hot songs of the year … 8 Sarah Jarosz- World on the Ground Best Country and Americana Albums of 2020. admin 1 month ago December 11, 2020 no comment No tags. Indeed, songs such as "Homecoming" and "This Forgotten Town" would fit right in with Smith's delicate yet noisy oeuvre. 32 Colter Wall- Western Swing and waltzes and othe Punchy songs Afflicted with PTSD after serving in Iraq, Trotter thought that his life insurance policy might be the answer to saving his wife and son from their financial woes. On songs such as "I Contain Multitudes," and "False Prophet", the Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter combines myth, popular culture, literature, and autobiography to address where we are now as a society. — Steve Horowitz. Often Saturn's journey spans between 27-30 years, with many believing the event marks a period of awakening. Though the latter will be less comprehensive than this one. The Mastersons are done mincing words. The definition: Americana is an amalgam of roots music fused by the confluence of the shared and varied traditions that make up the American musical ethos; specifically those sounds that are merged from folk, country, rhythm & blues, rock & roll and other external influential styles. View Charts Legend. 12 Lucinda Williams- Good Souls Better Angels Produced by Sturgill Simpson, That's How Rumors Get Started uses a multitude of instruments to create an expansive sound. But, for me, the album of the year is from Americana royalty Lucinda Williams. 4 Emily Zuzik – Torch and Trouble – Jonathan Frahm. Lane's song fits right in with the other 12 cuts in terms of its evocation of good and evil and how the line between them is often grey and fuzzy. While picking the best albums was an impossibility, because this year of chaos produced a lot of great artistic output. Whereas some of these songs appeared in live performances and subsequent bootlegs, the tracks' mixings are entirely new. Rather than becoming another imitation of the Bakersfield sound, Bailey is the catalyst through which it sees its natural extension. Navigating rocking, high-octane arrangements with soaring crescendos and crisp, tasty guitar tones and harmonies, the septet have often drawn comparison to 1970s-era Fleetwood Mac and others that fall within the "desert rock" aesthetic. The album's title was intended as a nod to Elliot Smith's sensitive masterwork XO. As a multi-instrumentalist, she shifts between mandolins, multiple guitars, a clawhammer banjo, and piano, all the while her vocals are at the forefront. – Steve Horowitz. B.J. In Mid-West Farmer's Daughter, Price described herself as an outsider. On cuts such as "One Minute You're Here" and "Last Man Standing", Springsteen acknowledges that memories will always haunt us in a positive manner, as he celebrates the power of friendship and song. And now he gathered the remnants of his old group back together for the first time in more than ten years for a new record where they even recorded three colorful songs ("Janey Needs a Shooter", "If I Were the Priest", "Song For Orphans") from the beginning of his career that were never officially released. One might think that the fact musicians could not jam together or perform live on stage because of lockdowns and safety issues would limit creativity and there would be fewer new records. Her storytelling is compelling, often showing affinity with Gillian Welch or Mary Gauthier. The album demonstrates how the joy of music can bring us together. Still, You Say Adios makes for an easy listen from the Chilean Americana artist. 20 Old 97’s- Twelfth Thursday, December 24, 2020 By Chip Frazier 1 Comment. There's room for pure nostalgia, such as with "The John Deere H", but that it recounts Leigh's genuine childhood makes it out to be more touching than mawkish. Indeed, Homegrown enshrines Young's fragility and vulnerability, while also adroitly capturing love's magnitude. There could be plenty more, which is why it’s great that there’s a handy … 18 Ben De La Cour- Shadow Land – Jonathan Frahm. – Steve Horowitz. - Elisabeth Woronzoff. Low Cut Connie invite listeners to celebrate the "Wild Ride" life offers. Bob Dylan at 79 showed his genius once more and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band came through with a classic-sounding album. Drive by Truckers do not hide their intent in symbolism or purple lyricism. She announces this in the title of the very first song "You Can't Rule Me" and establishes that fact with a gnarly attitude and a nasty sounding electric guitar throughout the album. PopMatters choses its top americana albums of 2020. Other notable releases came from Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams and Welch & Rawlings. The album's title, Saturn Return, for example, refers to the occurrence when Saturn returns to the same astrological place as the day of one's birth. Drive by Truckers are not content to examine contemporary political angst as a singular historical moment. Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline recalls the era of its titular star without the sense of emulation that so often plagues such well-intended releases. All the while, she ensures a visceral Americana energy, judiciously using her twang but forgoing genre staples such as the steel guitar and fiddle. She lets it sparkle and shine when the song calls for it, such as on her version of the Stones' semi-psychedelic "She's a Rainbow" or in the giddy moments of falling love as on Arthur Russell's "A Little Lost". John Hiatt: Bring The Family (1987) Hiatt’s breakthrough album, Bring The Family is at least … More so, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Emmylou Harris, Karl T Himmel, Tim Drummond, and Ben Keith lend their musical support to the album. A new year means new music, and 2020, so far, boasts a nice variety of album releases in the country and Americana music worlds. The moments of joy are present, especially with subversive rejections of gender norms. Nashville's Molly Tuttle has taken this a process a step further. 9 The Secret Sisters- Saturn Return Where Prairie Love Letter shines the most is where Leigh gives a nod to those who the Midwest has often trod down upon; for instance, "Billy and Beau" is a subtly sweet Appalachian love song that just so happens to be written about gay love, while Leigh makes for a convincing call to action against Big Oil on the hot button "Pipeline". He has a sense of humor lest one take him too seriously. You know what I mean. 7 Ray Wylie Hubbard- Co-Starring 40 The Band of Heathens- Stranger, Filed Under: Americana, Best of Year, Reviews Tagged With: American Aquarium, Emily Zuzik, Jamie Wyatt, Marcus King, Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Jayhawks, The Wood Brothers. On "Nowhere Baby," they sing "It's not glamour, it ain't fortune," enshrining beauty on mystifying human experiences such as death and pregnancy. For Isbell, the strength he demonstrates now is the result of his struggles. 16 Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Renions https://www.popmatters.com/best-americana-albums-2020-2649095681.html Rather, this is a call to bridge political divisiveness, and in solidarity, realize capitalism is the ultimate oppressor. PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have to move off their service. The 20 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2020 2020 has been one of the most difficult, turbulent years that we’ve lived through in recent memory. Here are the 2020 Americana Honors & Awards winners: John Prine's Songs Streamed More Than 20 Million Times Since His Death Album of the year: The Highwomen , … Some will bandy about this record as the best released so far in 2020, and it sure makes a big case for itself, especially in the Americana and songwriting realm, while also making for a good specimen of a record that is able to broach political subjects in a respectful manner in what promises to be a very political year in American roots music. Life may be hard, but we have to do what we do to survive. The worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 left a mark on everyone not least of all the music industry. This is Bob Dylan's first album of original material since 2012. The sense of purpose is matched by musicianship of the highest standard. Year in Review: The 30 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2020 Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, and … The result, Influenced by all manner of soul, rock, and folk alike, Hearts Town is the War & Treaty's most matured and moving collection of songs yet. I will start with the best Americana albums. In "It's About Blood", for example, Earle names the 29 victims in a poignant interlude tinged with a bluesy sadness and punk rock ferociousness. There were so many good albums this year I am breaking my list into two posts. <a href="https://jasonisbell.bandcamp.com/album/reunions">Reunions by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit</a> One of Americana's biggest head-turners in 2020 hails from Norway. Is Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew' a Tradition-Carrier or a Sellout. Swift still has an ear for clever word play and a smart line that has layers of meaning that one can ponder long after the 16-tracks on folklore have ended. December 10, 2020 Mark Whitfield News 2. The 17 tracks here offer compassion for those who live on life's margins whether because of poverty, race, gender identity, or personal circumstance. Songwriting, songwriting, songwriting: The albums on our year’s-best list all raised the bar with their lyricism. No matter how dark the outside world may seem, we can huddle by ourselves and play our favorite songs for consolation and reassurance. For Michael and Tanya, the tune is rooted in self-reflection; its chorus is a direct quote from Tanya during a time where she was fighting to save her husband from suicide. Crockett's tracks could be obscure folk songs sung around the campfire dressed up for recording, except they are not. In the next couple of weeks I will post my Best Indie/Rock albums list. They might find solace and love in the arms of others but remain true to their solitary nature. -- Elisabeth Woronzoff, Previous Jayhawks' records primarily featured the work of leader Gary Louris (or if one goes back far enough Louris and Mark Olson). The contributions of guitarist extraordinaire Will Donnelly should also be noted. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development. 17 Tennessee Jet- The Country Musicians as different as the Drive-By Truckers, Molly Tuttle, and Taylor Swift (among many others) used the change in circumstances to learn new skills and create fresh music. <a href="https://drivebytruckers.bandcamp.com/album/the-new-ok">The New OK by Drive-By Truckers</a> Taylor Swift was set to tour before the recent pandemic brought live performances to a close. The combination of all of the above factors put it at the top of my list. 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