Why 13, you ask? Well, it’s my favorite number and, conveniently, it is also the number of albums that grabbed my attention this year. Plus, I like the title of “Lucky 13” for my list.
13. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire. This is the album I’ve turned to all year whenever I’ve been in the mood to chill. Perfect for sitting back with a bottle of scotch. (Sound pretentious enough?) On a side note, Ryan did a couple excellent covers of my music idol, Bob Mould, this year: Black Sheets of Rain (Live on Letterman) and Heartbreak a Stranger (Bob Mould Tribute Concert)
Ryan Adams – Chains Of Love
12. Foster and Lloyd – Its Already Tomorrow. This album out jangles The Byrds. The title track and “Lucky Number” are the best power-pop songs I’ve heard in years.
Foster and Lloyd – Lucky Number
11. R.E.M – Collapse Into Now. I doubt if R.E.M could have left after a better album, short of retiring after Automatic For The People (a valid argument). “Discoverer” may be their best opening track since “Begin the Begin” off Life’s Rich Pageant. “Uberlin” may simply the best song they’ve recorded in the past 10 years.
R.E.M. – Uberlin
10. Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories). Hayes gets the most attention for his romps and stomps, but his songwriting really shines on the slower songs. “Another Like You” is a cleaver give and take with Cary Ann Hearst.
Hayes Carll – Stomp and Holler
9. Drive by Truckers – Go-Go Boots. One of the things about doing these lists is you go back to revisit albums from earlier in the year that you got burned out on. Sometimes you realize they weren’t as good as you thought. Other times they sound even better on the second “first” listen. This is the latter.
Drive-By Truckers – The Weakest Man
8. Have Gun, Will Travel – Mergers and Acquisitions. Pretty much everything Autopsy said.
Have Gun Will Travel – Freightliner
7. Dave Alvin – Eleven Eleven. No better CountryRockBlues album released this year. Like his songwriting, Dave’s baritone is as strong as ever. How did I overlook reviewing this? Gonna have to rectify that after the first of the year.
Dave Alvin – Johnny Ace Is Dead
6. The Decemberists – The King is Dead. I’m one of those who never got into The Decemberists before this album. But, being a REM-head since the mid-80s, it is in my DNA to adore this one. “Down By The Water” another of my songs of the year.
The Decemberists – Calamity Song
5. Jason Boland and The Stragglers – Rancho Alto. A true country album in every sense of the word. If anyone is carrying the “traditionalist banner”, it’s Jason. This album is proof. “Farmer’s Luck” ranks with Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow” as one the great songs describing the troubles of the American farmer. “False Accuser’s Lament” is a prime example of Jason’s vivid storytelling.
Jason Boland & The Stragglers – False Accuser’s Lament
4. The Damn Quails – Down the Hatch. See review
The Damn Quails – Me and The Whiskey
3. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest. Top notch songwriting, great band, great album. “Codeine” is one of my songs of the year, although “Go It Alone” might be the song that got the most play as it has helped me get through my separation and pending divorce.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Go It Alone
2. Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods. Anyone from Nashville that calls themselves “Outlaw Country” needs to listen to this and then hang their heads in shame. Review is upcoming next week.
Hellbound Glory – You Better Hope You Die Young
1. John Moreland and the Dust Bowl Souls – Everything the Hard Way. See review
John Moreland and the Dust Bowl Souls – Christian Rock
Bonus: Jody Booth – Nashville. Perfectly describes the corporate music machine in 2011.