This has been a great musical year and we’ve still got several months — and some highly anticipated releases — to go before it ends. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite releases from the first half of 2013.
You’ll see that I’ve listed my favorite Boston releases as a group. Each of these releases would be on this list even if the artists weren’t from Boston. Taken together, however, they showcase the incredible music coming out of Boston this year.
I was enamored with this album upon its release and it has only gotten stronger with each subsequent listen. From the dramatic ballad “Elephant” to the rockin’ “Flying Over Water,” Isbell showcases songs that are lyrically raw yet musically inviting.
Key Tracks: Cover Me Up, Stockholm, Traveling Alone, Elephant, Flying Over Water, Super 8
Additional Twangville coverage of Jason Isbell: Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern”: The Twangville Team Take and Monday Morning Video: Jason Isbell’s “Elephant”
There’s a refreshing honesty to both the songwriting and performances on May’s long overdue solo release. He balances confidence and vulnerability on both heartland rockers (“Gadflies and Magpies”) and tender country ballads (“Left To Your Own Devices”).
Key Tracks: Why Don’t You Come Around Lately, Left To Your Own Devices, Gadflies and Magpies, St. Albans Girl, Alphabet City, Rickenbacker Girls
Ritter tackles the painful break-up of his marriage with maturity and optimism. That, in itself, is worthy of admiration. The fact that he does so with a magical musical touch makes this album all the more praiseworthy.
Key Tracks: A Certain Light, Hopeful, New Lover, In Your Arms Awhile, Joy To You Baby, Lights
If you’re like me, you have high expectations for every new Steve Earle release. Well Earle doesn’t disappoint on this one. Earle mixes his typical political missives with some rockers and some fine New Orleans-influenced fare. The closing ballad “Remember Me,” written for Earle’s young son, tugs at the heartstrings in dramatic fashion.
He is as fiesty as ever
Key Tracks: The Low Highway, Calico County, Burnin’ It Down, After Mardi Gras, Invisible, Remember Me
Additional Twangville coverage of Steve Earle: Mayer’s Playlist for February 2013, Part 1, SXSW 2013: The Sounds, Part 2 and Monday Morning Video: SXSW 2013 Highlights, Part 1
Griffin wraps her enchanting voice around a collection of songs that are moving and powerful. Close your eyes and get lost in this release — you won’t be disappointed.
Key Tracks: Go Wherever You Want To Go, Wild Old Dog, That Kind Of Lonely, Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone
Few artists wear their country pride as strongly — and as rightfully — as Jennings. His latest release is an enticing blend of outlaw country and bad-ass rock. As the man says, “Country ain’t just about where you’re at, it’s about bein’ true to what’s inside.”
Key Tracks: Wild & Lonesome, Outlaw You, The Low Road, Mama It’s Just My Medicine, The Outsider, The Gunslinger
There’s a burning intensity that courses through Kingsley Flood’s latest release. Sometimes dark and mysterious while other times loud and ferocious, the band mixes intelligent lyrics with impassioned musical performances.
Key Tracks: Sun’s Gonna Let Me Shine, Pick Your Battles, Waiting On the River To Rise, Down, Strongman, Habit
I’m still shaking my head in awe of how well Thibaud sets dark lyrics against such upbeat melodies. This is a record meant to be played loud… and often.
Key Tracks: What May Come, Not For Me, Waterfall, Hollow, Wears Me Down, Change a Thing
There’s something special about old school R&B when it’s done right. And Jesse Dee does it right.
Key Tracks: No Matter Where I Am, From the Start, Sweet Tooth, Stay Strong
Additional Twangville coverage of Jesse Dee: Mayer’s Playlist for February 2013, Part 2.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.