This has been a great year in music, a feast for the ears but a challenge when it comes to picking my favorite albums for the year. A good problem to have, I suppose. Without further ado….
Ryan has never been one to pull his punches so why should we expect anything different on his latest release? Boxers tackles topics social, economic and romantic through the eyes of characters who are bruised but still have some fight left in ’em. The musical performances, infused with a healthy dose of rebelliousness, are just as bracing.
Additional Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan: Music With a Purpose: Matthew Ryan’s “An Anthem for the Broken”, Mayer’s Playlist for October 2014, Part 1, and Reader’s Pick: Boxers by Matthew Ryan
Music doesn’t get much more captivating than this. Every song on Alexandria crackles with magnificent grace and intelligence as Mills brings them to life with a voice that resonates with pure emotion.
Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are at it again, serving up a rock and roll extravaganza. The two just about evenly split the songs so we get an impressive mix of Hood’s storytelling and Cooley’s piss-and-vinegar song craft. And we get guitars, plenty of guitars.
Simpson establishes himself as the standard bearer for true country. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music demonstrates that real country isn’t about pick-up trucks and parties, it’s about authenticity of voice, song and character. And, apparently, turtles.
Featured Twangville coverage of Sturgill Simpson: Mayer’s Playlist for June 2014, Part 1, Monday Morning Video – Sturgill Simpson and Sturgill Simpson/Metamodern Sounds in Country Music; Todd Begins Looking Back on His ‘Best of 2014’
The veritable Americana super-group showcase some of their (and my) favorite songwriters. It’s hard not to love these gritty performances of songs by Brian Henneman (The Bottle Rockets), Randy Newman, Kevn Kinney (Drivin’ N Cryin’) and more.
The fact that the group book-ended the year with a live album that features many of theses same songs was just icing on the cake.
Featured Twangville coverage of Hard Working Americans: Mayer’s Playlist for January 2014, Part 1, Readers’ Pick: The First Waltz by Hard Working Americans and Mayer’s Playlist for October 2014, Part 2
The perpetually touring Fletcher took his recording gear on the road and emerged with a marvelous folk album that hearkens back to the classic field recordings of the 20th century. It’s a beautiful testament to Fletcher’s talent, ambition and commitment to craft.
Featured Twangville coverage of Joe Fletcher: Mayer’s Playlist for September 2014, Part 1 and Monday Morning Video – Joe Fletcher Covers Tom Waits
Ragan marries his punk-rock spirit with roots-based instrumentation to create an album of earthy intensity. Let’s call it Americana with an edge.
Featured Twangville coverage of Chuck Ragan: Mayer’s Playlist for April 2014, Part 1.
Bains clearly had something on his mind when he sat down to write this collection of songs. The Alabama native and his band map out the complex character of the modern South and set it against a blistering attack of electric guitars.
Featured Twangville coverage of Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires: Mayer’s Playlist for July 2014, Part 1.
One of the ways that I judge an album is the length of time that the songs stay on my listening playlist. The Damn Choir was this year’s dark horse with an album that held its own throughout the year. The Chicago-based group enthralled with a sound that is simultaneously majestic and edgy.
Featured Twangville coverage of The Damn Choir: Mayer’s Playlist for Feb/Mar 2014, Part 2.
Read more Twangville Best of Year coverage here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.