What a year it has been! Thankfully there’s been some great music to help sustain us. Here are my picks for the best albums of 2020.
Another rock and roll tour de force from Terra Lightfoot. Consider the Speed is brimming with fervent guitars and musical bravado, not to mention Lightfoot’s commanding presence.
Key Tracks: Called Out Your Name, It’s Over, Empty House, Consider the Speed, Midnight Choir, Paper Thin Walls, One High Note
Featured Twangville coverage of Terra Lightfoot: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2020, Part 4, Monday Morning Video – Massey Hall, Monday Morning Video – Terra Lightfoot, and Terra Lightfoot on Drinking Good Coffee and What Makes Her Happy
Beware the artist with a lot on his or her mind. All the more so in the troubled times like those in which we are living today. Bloomington, Indiana native Austin Lucas has been riding out the Covid storm in Germany, watching from afar 2020 unfold in his homeland. He pour this unique perspective into Alive in the Hot Zone, an album that bursts with a lyrical and musical intensity.
Key Tracks: Already Dead, Drive, The Truth Is Supposed to Hurt, Cry Over, Shaking, The Drive
Featured Twangville coverage of Austin Lucas: Austin Lucas Reflects on The Times – A Twangville Premiere, Monday Morning Video – Austin Lucas and Garrett Owen, Mayer’s Playlist for Summer 2018, Part 2, and Austin Lucas on Rehearsing in a Nuclear Bomb Shelter and “Rockin’ with the Dinosaurs”
Sam Morrow channels Lynyrd Skynyrd and Little Feat while adding in a healthy dose of no BS attitude. Gettin’ By on Gettin’ Down is gritty, fun, and bad ass.
Key Tracks: Rosarita, Gettin’ By On Gettin’ Down, Money Ain’t A Thing, Make ‘Em Miss Me, Sit Crooked Talk Straight, I Think I’ll Just Die Here
Featured Twangville coverage of Sam Morrow: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2020, Part 4, Sam Morrow – Gettin By On Gettin Down, Monday Morning Video – Sam Morrow “Paid By the Mile”, and Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2018, Part 2
As the title suggests, Tiny Little Movies is an album of stories. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, and sometimes angry, all are immaculately crafted and brimming with musical spirit and charm.
Key Tracks: Midway Motel, The Overthrow, Even the River Runs Out of This Town, That’s How You Lose Her, Is This All You Wanted Me For, The Curse, All the Pretty Horses
Featured Twangville coverage of Will Hoge: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 4, Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2018, Part 2, Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2017, Part 3, Monday Morning Video – Will Hoge, and Will Hoge on The Tour Van in His Driveway and Why Tour Journals Are Important
Michael McDermott has become something of a regular on these lists, and with good reason. What in the World… is another batch of tremendous character-driven story-telling, from the fated lovers of “New York, Texas” to the tale of McDermott’s own path to sobriety in “No Matter What”. McDermott sucks you in with endearing melodies and then floors you with raw and heartfelt lyrics.
Key Tracks: What in the World…, New York Texas, The Things You Want, Die With Me, Contender, No Matter What, Until I Found You, Positively Central Park
Featured Twangville coverage of Michael McDermott: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 4, Michael McDermott On the Spinal Tap Stonehenge Set and a Career’s Worth of Tour Vehicles, Mayer’s Playlist for January/February 2019, Part 1, Michael McDermott Comes Out From Under (Album Premiere), and Michael McDermott On the Spinal Tap Stonehenge Set and a Career’s Worth of Tour Vehicles
Anchored by the twin guitar attack of Rebecca Lovell’s fiery electric and Megan Lovell’s raucous lap steel and dobro, Larkin Poe mix classic blues with their own style of punch to the gut rock and roll. Self Made Man bristles with confidence and swagger.
Key Tracks: She’s a Self Made Man, Holy Ghost Fire, Keep Diggin’, Back Down South, Tears of Blue to Gold, Every Bird That Flies, Ex-Con
Featured Twangville coverage of Larkin Poe: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 4, Readers’ Pick: Larkin Poe – Self Made Man, Monday Morning Video – Larkin Poe, Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2018, Part 2, and Larkin Poe Talk About Playing Guitar with a Heavy Hand and Why Change Is Nothing To Fear
Christopher Paul Stelling is one of the more compelling voices creating music today. His proficiency stretches in all aspects of the craft – engrossing lyrics, intricate guitar-playing, and earnest singing. Put it all together and you get one of the most mesmerizing releases of the year.
Key Tracks: Have to Do For Now, Lucky Stars, Trouble Don’t Follow Me, Made Up Your Mind, Something In Return, Hear Me Calling
Featured Twangville coverage of Christopher Paul Stelling: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 1, Christopher Paul Stelling on Gas Station Coffee and Things Better Off Forgotten, Monday Morning Video – Christopher Paul Stelling, and Twangville Premiere: Christopher Paul Stelling on “The Cost of Doing Business”
Ben de la Cour’s music is steeped in Southern gothic storytelling – dark, brooding, and occasionally ferocious. De la Cour fills his songs with troubled characters, telling their stories in vivid detail as he alternates between singing soothing melodies and harshly spitting out his words. That dichotomy is equally present in the music, as Shadow Land includes both acoustic guitar-based folk arrangements and tumultuous blasts of electric guitar.
Key Tracks: God’s Only Son, In God We Trust…. All Others Pay Cash, Amazing Grace (Slight Return), Shadow Land, Basin Lounge, Swan Dive, From Now On
Featured Twangville coverage of Ben de la Cour: ….All Others Pay Cash – a Premiere from Ben de la Cour, Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 4, Video Premiere: Ben de la Cour – Last Chance Farm, and Ben de la Cour on the Beauty of Surprises and Playing CBGBs
There are plenty of dark shadows hanging over Alpine Coda as Emmer confronts tough life decisions, broken relationships, and troubled times. Interspersed among these stark and poignant songs are beautiful moments of quiet reflection (“Little Things”) and levity (“I Don’t Want This (Job Interview)”). It all comes together as one of the year’s most compelling releases.
Key Tracks: When the Lawn Gets Dark, Turn Up the Jukebox, Little Things, I Don’t Miss You, I Don’t Want This (Job Interview Song), Acetaminophen
Featured Twangville coverage of Jackson Emmer: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2020, Part 2, When the Lawn Gets Dark – a Premiere from Jackson Emmer, Monday Morning Video – Jackson Emmer, and Jackson Emmer on the “Get Discovered” Fairytale and Chasing Todd Snider
Talk about not missing a beat after an extended absence. Kathleen Edwards’ calling card has always been the combination of engaging melodies and biting lyrics. Her songs, generally about broken relationships, are very personal – sometimes projecting strength and other times vulnerability. Total Freedom is a tremendous addition to the Edwards canon, not to mention a compelling and much welcome return after an eight year hiatus.
Key Tracks: Glenfern, Hard on Everyone, Birds on a Feeder, Simple Math, Options Open, Feelings Fade, Fools Ride, Take It With You When You Go
Featured Twangville coverage of Kathleen Edwards: Mayer’s Playlist for Fall 2020, Part 2 and Monday Morning Video – Kathleen Edwards “The Cheapest Key”
My favorite Americana record this year came from Liverpool, England. Robert Vincent’s In This Town You’re Owned is an album of unparalleled beauty and depth. He shifts effortlessly from the anguish of a broken relationship (“I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now”) and a considered reflection on life’s purpose (“Conundrum”) to lighter fare like a portrait of small town life (“This Town”) and a genteel, optimistic take on love (“The Ending”). Vincent has a wonderful sense of melody and the musical arrangements, whether relaxed charm or brooding intensity, add to the album’s grandeur.
Key Tracks: This Town, My Neighbour’s Ghost, The Ending, Conundrum, I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now, If I Were You, Cuckoo
Featured Twangville coverage of Robert Vincent: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2020, Part 2, Readers’ Pick: Robert Vincent – In This Town You’re Owned, and Robert Vincent on Bad Day Jobs and Selling His Songs on the Road
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.