So 2022 – the first year which has felt like a normal year in a long time, and then only relatively speaking. It has however been a year where full-on album releases have returned, some of them waiting in the wings for a couple of years while the pandemic put a hold on touring, marketing, the meaning of life. Over the last couple of weeks, we have bashed our heads together to try to come up with our own list of the best albums from the last 12 months, with much bloodletting. We’ll be revealing the details of that list over the next 3 days and then on Friday of course we’ll be revealing your own choices when we reveal the winners of this year’s AUK readers’ poll. Let’s kick things off with four cracking albums which if you haven’t heard yet, er, there’s your homework for tomorrow.
Number 10 – Will Hoge “Wings on my Shoes”
With his twelfth studio release, Will Hoge proved yet again that he can always be counted on for a great album filled with excellent storytelling – something that’s showcased nowhere better than on the twisty tale of a crime gone awry that is ‘Dead Man’s Hand’... If you like you Americana with peeling guitars and a whiff of Nashville tradition coupled with astute lyricism then Hoge’s your man and with its strong songwriting and balanced palette of styles “Wings on my Shoes” is as good a place to start as any. (HJ/KH)
Number 9 – Curse of Lono “People in Cars”
My first introduction to the brooding baritone and songwriting genius of Felix Bechtolsheimer. An album that fizzes with creativity, gorgeous instrumentation and memorable tracks. Think a Leonard Cohen / War on Drugs fusion. One of those albums that send you scurrying in search of the back catalogue. Brilliant live band that deserve much higher profile. Whether it be the duet with Tess Parks and distinctive backing track on ‘So Damned Beautiful’ or the epic nine-minute closing track ‘Timeslipping’ that leaves us with a lovely warm glow as the music wends it way to a glorious climax, the album impresses from first to last and overflows with memorable tracks. (PC)
Number 8 – Michelle Rivers “Chasing Somewhere”
Michelle Rivers exudes the space, freedom and beauty of her Montana home. Nanci Griffiths comes to mind but Rivers is her own blend of country and bluegrass arrangements with her imaginatively crafted songwriting sung in a voice that sparkles like the waters up in those Montana wilds. ‘Chasing Somewhere’ has freshness and sincerity. Rivers has immersed herself in her surroundings and whether place, people or emotion she depicts all with great candour. Her sound that trips lightly across much of americana is a pure pleasure. (LB)
Number 7 – Dean Owens “Sinner’s Shrine”
This long-delayed album, recorded prior to lockdown, found Scotland’s Dean Owens recording in Tucson with Calexico and it was well worth the wait. Owens’ love of southwest music lore is perfectly complemented by Joey Burns et al, the songs soaked with the menace and romance of the borderland. Musically this is very much what you might expect from a Calexico-influenced set and the whole feel of the album is delightful. (PK/GS)
Check back tomorrow when we’ll be running down numbers 6-3 in our albums of the year.