Strand of Oaks – In Heaven (Galacticana Records)
We’ll kick chapter two of the year end saga with the great new Strand of Oaks album. Jimi & Stan is a big personal favorite here, because it’s a song dedicated to his cat Stan who is now partying with Jimi Hendrix in heaven. We lost our own dear Luna early in the year and that made the song even more meaningful. I hope Luna gets to hang out with Jimi & Stan too.
Pony Bradshaw – Calico Jim (Black Mountain Music)
More captivating storytelling from Georgia-based songwriter Pony Bradshaw. I’ve been fan since I heard Josephine years back and I don’t expect that situation to change.
Austin James Craig – Violet and Still
Ohio-songwriter Austin James Craig is a bit more obscure favorite, but I’ve loved his dark storytelling since the early releases that aren’t even available anymore. Such a great release once again.
Damien Jurado – The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania (Maraqoba Records / Field Painting Music)
Well this man doesn’t need an introduction. Damien Jurado is one of the finest songwriters of the past twenty years and hardly ever fails to impress. Another great addition to his catalogue.
Quinn Pilgrim – Jericho Dream (Partially Sealed Records)
Next we travel to Louisiana for another bit more obscure pick. I’ve loved this one from Quinn Pilgrim from the beginning. Nothing fancy, but if you just want to listen to great folk songs, your heart will find a home here.
Jeremy James Meyer – Alive & OK (American Standard Time Records)
Back in the state of Washington for the new American roots album from Jeremy James Meyer. I’m especially fond of the ballad Thought That You Could Tell, but the whole thing is great. Also kudos to American Standard Time Records for releasing a lot of excellent albums this year. A couple made the cut on this list, but they would all be worthy of a spot.
Garrett T. Capps – I Love San Antone (Vinyl Ranch)
Carrying our bags to San Antone, TX for a real country monster from Garrett T. Capps. If you think my favorite list is dreadfully boring (and it’s a totally fair criticism, because I love a lot of those sad and beautiful ones), give a spin to this one. A tearjerker or two here too, but for the most part this is a great country album with a whole lot of rock’n’roll and listening to it is a whole lot of fun.
Charley Crockett – Music City USA (Son of Davy)
More old school country gems from Charley Crockett. He actually released a couple of albums this year. I’ll go with the original one on this list, but highly recommend also checking out the tribute album 10 for Slim – Charley Crockett sings James Hand.
Amythyst Kiah – Wary + Strange (Rounder Records)
Amythyst Kiah’s powerful song Black Myself already appeared on the wonderful Our Native Daughters album and now it was time for a new solo full-length. Wary + Strange is an impressive American roots album with a lot of variety.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It (Merge Records)
Hiss Golden Messenger has a pretty much guaranteed spot on these year-end lists. M.C. Taylor again crafted a beautiful sanctuary for my soul. There’s also a brand new seasonal album O Come All Ye Faithful, if you need some new Christmas music.
Scott Hirsch – Windless Day (Echo Magic)
As you may have noticed, instead of ranks, there’s some awkward transitions from an album to another. Some probably are very forced. This one not so much, because moving from Hiss Golden Messenger to a new Scott Hirsch album is almost too obvious. Anyway, Windless Day is again a gorgeous sonic adventure in folk, soul, psych and what not.
Michael James Tapscott – The Only Dance There Is
More blissfully strange California folk sounds. This time from Oakland from a long time favorite Michael James Tapscott who quietly self-released this lovely album. It may be only 20 minutes long, but there’s plenty that I love so there’s not a chance I’m going to leave this one out.
Sam Tudor – Two Half Words
This chapter needs some Canadian music too, so let’s travel to Vancouver, British Columbia. Sam Tudor’s Two Half Words has been somewhat surprise favorite, because this well-crafted pop beauty definitely challenges my simple taste here and there. Somehow I still find this totally irresistible and get lost in his comfortable sonic world whenever I put the headphones on and hit the play button. Such a beautiful album.
Karen Peris – A Song is Way Above the Lawn (Bella Union)
Next we have a tremendous solo album from Karen Peris (The Innocence Mission). I think this is technically a children’s album, but one that seem to work equally well for middle-aged men like yours truly. So don’t get caught up in that minor detail. You are going to love this.
Bea Troxel – Gettin’ Where (Ruination Record Co)
Wrapping this second chapter in Nashville, Tennessee with a deeply moving album from folk songwriter Bea Troxel. This has been a big grower for me and I’ve played this a lot during he last weeks. What a beautiful treasure.