AUK’s Top 10 Americana Albums of the 21st Century: Number 1 – Jason Isbell “Southeastern” (2013)

After late nights of deliberating whilst clutching a glass of bourbon and nibbling nervously on Texas BBQ Pringles, decisions were finally made, often followed by changes as we sobered up the next morning, and then the inevitable reversal of those changes as we realised that a drunkard rarely lies. In this way thirty of our writers chose their personal top tens. From this we drew up a shortlist of the twenty most popular albums. The writers then ranked in order their top 5 from that shortlist. We then kept a Eurovision style tally as the votes came in. I tried my best to maintain a Woganesque calm as some writers affirmed my own preferences, or more often, quite bizarrely and incomprehensively voted for another record altogether. A clear favourite soon emerged and romped home by a clear distance. In fact Jason Isbell’s 2013 release ‘Southeastern’ polled more than double the votes of it’s closest rival, making it clearly and unequivocally ‘AUK’s Number One Americana Album of the 21st Century’. Here’s what some of our writers said about it:

“the quality of the songs and the musicianship throughout sets this album apart as one of the greatest ever” Fred Arnold

“Back around the time this album was released Jason Isbell was happily playing alongside wife Amanda Shires in a tiny Dorset pub as she toured her ‘Down Fell The Doves’ album. Graciously, Amanda allowed hubby to play one track from his new album and so it was that about 35 locals heard Jason sing ‘Travelling Alone’, most of us completely unaware that we were witnessing Mr Isbell’s launch into the americana stratosphere”. Peter Churchill

“In over fifty years of being entranced by the art of the singer-songwriter, there has been but a handful of albums that have stopped me in my tracks the way ‘Southeastern’ did. And not just on the first listen, but over and over again”. Graham Tait

“this record is deep, and it is not a place for the faint hearted. It is also extraordinary. For a similar experience, it is perhaps only Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ or the most intense work of Townes Van Zandt that compare. It is not so much the subject matter that Isbell delves into, though this does include sexual abuse, cancer, alcoholism, and death. Rather, it is the depth of the songwriting, the extreme detail that Isbell is able to call on, in the very few words that a song allows you. Suddenly, he was at the very top of the songwriting tree, and he has not come down since”. Jonathan Smith

“It’s to Isbell’s immense credit that he chose to inhabit and empathise with so many different characters in the stories he tells here”. Darren Lumbroso

So that dear friends is it – only it isn’t. Look out next week for details of how you can have your own say as we launch our readers vote. Will you confirm the collective wisdom of AUK’s writers or will you correct our glaring omissions?

About Clint West 323 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Mark McCall

The AUK writers are clearly a wise and discerning bunch. I reckon you’ve got this one spot on. Really enjoyed reading all the lists, well done to all involved.

Casey Mack

just found your blog. love it.. great record, though something more than free was the record that hooked me to isbell, aren’t all his records gems?!. when you are ready to get a fort worth Texas honky-tonk and bbq experience, fly to DFW and hit me up, I will treat you to the real deal


Great choice! Great album! Great Artist! Great band! looking forward to 18th November at the Apollo…only been 2 years and several postponements…

Gerald Greene

Great choice.. you could include all his albums he is that good


Great call and his newest may also crack yoiur top 20