Americana UK writers pick their albums of 2018

Once upon a time we used to do a “Top 10” list of our favourite stuff from the last year, but we used to all fall out, on several occasions it came to blows and three ex-AUK staff are doing life sentences for killing other writers purely for their taste. So we moved to a one member one vote system but as it happens, 2 records were chosen by more than one writer this year. What are the chances? They sit at the top of the list below – so here they are, our essential 22 albums for 2018:

Courtney Marie Andrews ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ (Loose) Arizona’s finest turns somber and reflective with her trademark uplifting and powerful vocal, understated guitar and mix of traditional country and gospel style in an album that shows personal growth, wider subject matter and deeper understanding of the music that she clearly loves. This is an outstanding record which cements her place as one of the finest acts working in the genre and long may she remain. (Phil Grant) From the moment the ethereal hum of a Hammond organ stops you in your tracks on the title track, this record of devastating songs and singing represents an artist hitting the peak of their powers. There’s politics and personality contained within, but nothing that jumps out and hits you over the head… this is an old-fashioned album of country soul that reveals its beauty to you over a series of dates.  (Alan O’Hare)

 

Bennett Wilson Poole ‘Bennett Wilson Poole’ (Aurora) A joyous jangled whiff of the sixties allied to current affairs with psychedelic 12-string decoration, BWP’s debut album is a glorious affair. Great songs all perfectly played with a knowing wink to The Byrds, Beatles and of course, CSN which spills into the live shows and videos. Our very own “supergroup.” (Paul Kerr)  Robin Bennett (Dreaming Spires), Danny Wilson (Danny & the Champions of the World) and Tony Poole (Starry Eyed And Laughing) have made a masterpiece of cosmic English music. It nods to Sixties beat groups, recalls the best of CSN, offers overtones of psychedelia and has harmonies to die for. (Jeremy Searle)

Gwenifer Raymond ‘You Were Never Much of a Dancer’ (Tompkins Square) A Western soundtrack to a film with no good guys, only woe and suffering. Breakneck speed fiddle, banjo and guitar that stretches into almost hypnotic moods. With tracks like ‘Bleeding Finger Blues’ she punishes the banjo and her right hand to dark, painful excess. (Mark Nenadic)

The Milk Carton Kids ‘All The Things That I Did and All The Things That I Didn’t Do’ (Anti/Epitaph) The duo have gotten better with every release, but this will surely be looked back on as their masterpiece. With the addition of session musicians to bolster their sound, they have gained a diversity which adds depth to an already otherworldly sense of melody, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Simon & Garfunkel. (Graham McCusker)

Ruston Kelly ‘Dying Star’ (Concord) An incredibly human, autobiographical debut chronicling a personal journey of recovery from a drug addiction. Ruston Kelly is a fantastic songwriter, lyricist and performer and definitely one to watch in years to come. A solid foundation for what should become a promising and long-lasting career. (David Ray Stevenson)

Jeffrey Foucault ‘Blood Brothers’ (Tone Tree Music) Americana at its glorious best. Grabs your attention from the start and never lets up. Sometimes bluesy, sometimes soulful, sometimes gently country but always delivered with gorgeous vocals that wrap themselves around you like a warm blanket on a bleak December day in England… which it will be when you read this. (Pete Churchill)

Jerry Leger and the Situation ‘Nonsense and Heartache’ (MAPL) A double album is enough of a rarity these days, but even more so is one that’s able to navigate such different territory across both sides of a record, ranging from the bluesy more electric feel of its opening eight numbers to the more considered, reflective and acoustic sounding side two. It’s also a measure of Jerry Leger’s burgeoning creativity that this gifted Canadian songwriter is capable of producing material in such quantity without comprising the high quality of the material on offer. (Mark Underwood)

Ben Fisher ‘Does the Land Remember Me?’ (Independent) I had never heard of Ben Fisher until I was asked to review ‘Does the Land Remember Me?’  It’s not my normal “thing” but I just found the album was so cleverly written, and the sparse production allows the deeply insightful lyrics the space and time to register deep in your psyche. (Jim Finnie)

Ruen Brothers ‘All My Shades of Blue(Ramseur) There have been many great records this year but this is the one that’s stuck in my head. It’s steeped in the history of American music, from the consciously vintage album cover to the rockabilly twang of their guitars… and yet it manages to sound fresh and modern, thanks to great songwriting and Rick Rubin’s production. The history of Americana made new.  A genuinely timeless album. (Andrew Frolish)

Curse of Lono ‘As I Fell’ (Submarine Cat) The lyrics of Felix Bechtolscheimer could be the subject of a thesis on the human condition, so you’ll need to go ahead and pick up a copy of ‘As I Fell’ to grapple the vast soundscapes and dark ironies which Curse Of Lono use to tie these threads of loneliness, addiction and triumph. The UK Americana Bob Harris Emerging Artist of 2019 have jumped the queue to secure their place among the elite of the genre. (Tim Merricks)

Dan Parsons ‘Sunday Morning Cinema’ (Independent) This one came out of the blue. I didn’t know much about Dan before hearing this album but this is an impressively accomplished collection, recorded as live with a wonderful, crystal clear sound and never a moment wasted production. Sweetly varied but still within the folk-rock genre it’s not always when I am playing albums for review in my house that I get a ‘so who are we listening to?’, but ‘Sunday Morning Cinema’ reaches out – and satisfies.  (Steven Howlett)

Aaron Lee Tasjan ‘Karma for Cheap’ (New West) Perpetual political coverage reached a fever pitch in 2018.  Thankfully, Aaron Lee Tasjan’s ‘Karma for Cheap’ beamed sunshine, rainbows, and bright, catchy Pop-Ameri-Psychedelia onto a seemingly bitter, cynical world.  We’re now all the better for having been exposed to Tasjan’s love of, and ability to build upon, both Beatle-and-Petty-esque pop. (Mike Elliott)

Will Hoge ‘My American Dream’ (Edlo) Visceral and polemic, Hoge’s State Of His Nation diatribe is heavy not only in subject but in sound, crunching guitars putting this more Southern Rock than country. He doesn’t disguise his politics in allusion; these are protest songs. No record company would touch these: despite past a Grammy nom and millions of sales, this Nashville man needed to self-release. Brave, powerful and gloriously refreshing. (Mark Johnson)

The Decemberists ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ (Rough Trade) This has been the album that I have returned to over and over again this year. ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ has a couple of strands to it – there’s the fatalistic and despairing rage at an unfeeling universe delivered through songs that have The Decemberists playing at being arena-filling rock gods; and then there are gentler sounding, but malevolent in feel, folk songs.  (Jon Aird)

Jimmy LaFave ‘Peacetown’ (Music Road) An extraordinary last will and testament from a dying man whose talent raged against the dying of the light. A double CD brim full wonderful originals and covers – an essential listen for any fan of American music with a heartbreaking backstory. (Keith Hargreaves)

Suburban Dirts ‘I Want Blood’ (Old Jank) I reviewed this album earlier this year and gave it a 10/10 review. I couldn’t believe a UK based band could nail such an authentic Americana sound and this album has continued to fascinate and enthral me. (Rick Bayles)

Dios ‘Life Between The Tides’ (Burger Records) Hailing from Hawthorne, California, home of the Beach Boys, this epic psychedelic gem basically melds the Beach Boys harmonies with Neil Young-esque guitar breakdowns. At times you could be listening to a long lost Crazy Horse record… then in comes some swooning voices and you could be sunning yourself on some 60’s Californian beach. Wonderful! (Del Day)

 

Ferris & Sylvester ‘Made In Streatham’  (Archtop) Ferris and Sylvester’s ‘Made in Streatham’ was my introduction to the duo, and they are one of my favourite groups of all time. Catchy lyrics, great guitar works and a well-produced sound. Between their EP and their new single ‘Burning River’ I have grown obsessed with their music. (Elise Kennedy)

 

Lyman Ellerman ‘I Wish I Was a Train’ (Woodshed Resistance)
This is an album that after regular listening still lingers with and haunts me. Here is Lyman Ellerman’s personal record of life with its highs and lows. But it is an example of one of those Americana CD’s that deserves to reach a much wider audience. Ellerman movingly conveys feelings that range from “run down, tired and empty” to rejoicing in a new day: “Here comes the sunshine!” Just listen to the title track, its words and the music! (Dave Clarke)

 

JP Harris ‘Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing’ (Free Dirt Records) A superb, authentic country rock record by a guy who sounds like he’s lived every word. The album features wonderful ensemble playing – particularly evident on ‘JP’s Florida Blues  # 1’ and  ‘Jimmy’s Dead and Gone.’ Memorable tunes abound that should appeal to the pilgrim soul in everyone. (Rich Evans)

 

Brandi Carlie ‘By The Way I Forgive You’ (Low Country Sound) Fantastic songs from an incredible artist who is growing comfortably into a leading force in Americana and beyond. Her songwriting and the ability to hit a common subject matter is a gift. I simply have not been able to stop listening to this magnificent record. (Mark Hegarty)

 

Passenger ‘Runaway’ (Black Crow) Brexit, sport, the meaning of life and why more americana peeps don’t get Passenger – some of the many mysteries of the universe for me, and as if to hammer the point home Mike Rosenberg produced this album of exquisite americana which changed and grew with each listen, like all the best records do. Near on perfect, it’s all downhill from here! (Mark Whitfield)

 

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Author: Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield has been the Editor of Americana UK for the last 17 years and still feels like this is his pretend job, mainly because it is.

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