Americana UK’s Top 20 Albums of 2023: Part One, 20-11

Photo: Alex Ellis

Here at AUK Towers, like all loving families, we fight – a lot – over who has used the last of the milk, left the washing up in the sink, accidentally locked the cat in the attic. But on one thing we are agreed – there have been some spectacularly good Americana albums over the past 12 months. And so, after huddling with a bottle of absinth and a Ouija board, we have nailed down our top 20 albums of 2023. How did we do it? Every writer selected their album of the year – each one of the choices below was number one for someone – and then the whole writing team voted on this shortlist (or longlist?) Today, we share with you numbers 20-11.

20. Lukas Nelson + POTR “Sticks and Stones” Lukas Nelson’s latest album had something for everyone in terms of musicality, with many different styles all played beautifully by Nelson and his band. I must admit I also enjoy that he sounds so much like his father. You can hear the joy they must have had playing it just like a good old hoe down on tracks like ‘Icarus’. The duet with Lainey Wilson, ‘More Than Friends’ has every element you could wish for. It’s a great blend of voices, great production, and for a country song just the right amount of cheese. (RT)

19. My Politic “Missouri Folklore: Songs & Stories From Home” My Politic are an acoustic duo, whose tenth album is influenced by the small town of Ozark in Missouri where they grew up. This is a record of finely crafted songs, which provide an honest examination of the complex webs that people weave, set against the monotony of everyday life in nowheresville, mid-west America. Songs such as ‘Buzzards On A Power Line’ bring a painfully honest perspective to the challenges of beating addiction, an issue that afflicts many Americans. ‘Missouri Folklore: Songs & Stories From Home’ is an excellent album which brings together exceptional musicianship with perceptive and thoughtful lyrics. (DL)

18. Nathan Seeckts “Something Rare and Beautiful” A wonderfully vibrant alt-country album of very memorable, melodic songs with Aussie Nathan Seeckts’ gravelly vocals brilliantly driven along by steel guitar with fiddle and keyboard added at times. This vigorous record is bursting with life, starting with his tale of a brief encounter, ‘The Wildest Thing’. Seeckts’ lyrics really capture your imagination, from his railing against someone talking at a show, to describing being in his dad’s car with his sister, to a tale of a wedding gone wrong. But to cap it all, there are also poignant descriptions of years of love for a wife or the sorrow at a funeral of a loved one. (AR)

17. Ben Stubbs “Light of My Life” Ben Stubbs’s debut album is stunningly crafted with all the makings of a classic. Throughout the album, Stubbs’ performance exudes a calm confidence, making the listener feel secure. His writing and musicality demonstrate great thought and wisdom in analysing human relationships and social situations, whilst the overall production is infinitely soothing. With terrific vocals and backing vocals, musically full songs, some catchy hook lines, subtle piano and acoustic guitar and nice electric guitar breaks, the record offers a superb range of insightful, intelligent, sweet, sad, and menacing songs. A brilliant debut. (VF)

16. Old Crow Medicine Show “Jubilee” I haven’t heard any new artists that have really grabbed me this year, and there was nothing that sounded like a complete triumph until Old Crow Medicine Show released ”Jubilee”, back in August. I’m a long-time fan of the band and it’s great to have them back and really firing on all cylinders. The new members seem to have brought renewed enthusiasm to the band and the guests on the album, including Sierra Ferrell and ex-band member Willie Watson, really give it a celebratory feeling. Old time string band music at its best. (RB)

15. Wilco “Cousin” A brilliant return to form as Tweedy relinquishes the reins of control to Cate Le Bon and together they create the most compelling Wilco album since “The Whole Love”. This is experimental, ordered, nuanced fare; leavened by flights of fancy from Nels Cline and delightful passages of interplay and imagination from probably the tightest band on the scene at the moment. Stunning stuff for now, not then.  (KH)

14. Our Man in the Field “Gold on the Horizon” After a matter of weeks, iTunes informs me that Our Man in the Field’s “Gold on the Horizon” is already my most listened to album of the year, which tells the story. Alex Ellis’s lyrics and songwriting are utterly captivating. The signature sound of Henry Senior’s pedal steel sweeps through the beautifully-layered songs, which are superbly arranged with outstanding production by Tucker Martine. The opening three tracks, particularly ‘L’Etranger’, are as good as anything I’ve heard this year and ‘How Long’ is another highlight. We’ve been posting music from Our Man in the Field for some years now and it’s a delight to see the band and their music grow and develop.  Anyone who caught the AUK listening party prior to the release of it was privileged to a spellbinding evening of chat with Alex and an early opportunity to hear the new material. What a pleasure to host the party and to call this my album of the year (AF).

13. Starpainter “Rattlesnake Dream” Starpainter were my great discovery of this year, a “Lethbridge-based twangy rock band” who have been around for a bit now but only recently hit AUK’s radar. The record this most reminds me of is an Americana album from an Athens band called Great Lakes from 2006 called “Diamond Times” which is one of my favourite albums ever, and this has the same great harmonies, the production, the arrangements, everything is pitch perfect but more than anything the songwriting is so strong. Our own review back in July described the record as an “uneasy prairie-cosmos of sparkling yet hazy alt-country” with echoes of everyone from Neil Young to Fleet Foxes, which was spot on – for my money, I haven’t heard a better album this year. (MW)

12. Jaimee Harris “Boomerang Town” Jaimee Harris was a new name to this writer until having the good fortune to see her performing with Mary Gauthier earlier in the year. Her performance was mesmerising, the songs memorable. The title track alone is up there as one of the songs of the year but this is one of those albums where just when you think the next song can’t possibly compete with its predecessor along comes another stunner.  The review on this website rightly lauded the album and signposted it as one to watch for when the ‘Best Of 2023’ lists were put together. Happy to oblige. (PC)

11. Far From Saints “Far From Saints” Given my past contribution to AUK’s ‘But Is It Americana?’ feature was an article extolling the virtues of the early Stereophonics music, it made me very happy indeed when I heard frontman Kelly Jones was releasing an Americana album with Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker (of The Wind and the Wave) as part of Far From Saints, and it made me even happier when I heard it and found it to be everything I hoped it might be. The lead single ‘Let’s Turn This Back Around’ was a building epic with perfect harmonies that saw Jones and Lynn desperately trying to save their relationship. (HJ)

About Mark Whitfield 2018 Articles
Editor of Americana UK website, the UK's leading home for americana news and reviews since 2001 (when life was simpler, at least for the first 253 days)
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alan Peatfield

Heartening to see “My Politic” and “Jaimee Harris” acknowledged.