AUK’s Top 10 Americana Albums of the 21st Century: The Shortlist

We began our quest to find the ‘Top 10 Americana Albums of the 21st Century’ way back in January. Since then, thirty AUK writers have offered up their own personal selections for readers to peruse. We hope that you have gasped as often as you’ve guffawed, nodded as much as you’ve nixed, but above all that you’ve enjoyed reading our lists and maybe discovered something new from them – I certainly have.

Having crunched all the numbers it is interesting to note that the received wisdom that an album needs to stand the test of time in order to establish itself as a true classic doesn’t appear to stand up here. The most popular year was 2018 with 25 album nominations from that year. In fact four out of the five most chosen years were in the last ten years rather than the previous twelve. The exception being 2007 which was the third most chosen year. The most barren year according to our writers was 2010 with just six out of the 300 albums chosen coming from that year. Even this current year of 2022 had seven albums picked as instant classics.

There was remarkably little consensus amongst our writers. The most popular album was picked by just seven of the thirty writers. Nevertheless, enough albums came up multiple times for us to establish a shortlist of twenty albums. Our writers will now vote for their top five from the shortlist to generate the collective ‘AUK Top 10 Albums of the 21st Century’.

The shortlist:

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Laura Cantrell – Not the Tremblin’ Kind
The Delines – The Imperial
Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
Mary Gauthier – Mercy Now
Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway
Felice Brothers – Tonight at the Arizona
Levon Helm – Electric Dirt
Jason Isbell – Southeastern
Nick Lowe – The Convincer
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – Not Dark Yet
John Murry – The Graceless Age
Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co.
Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Lucinda Williams – Essence

Did we get it right? Are there any glaring omissions? Let us know your thoughts. Next week the countdown begins on our definitive Top 10.


About Clint West 295 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,


    • Lucinda Williams was on the twenty shortlist but seems to have got cut off the final draft – now reinstated. Steve Earle was one of a number of artists that were represented in writers’ lists but with different albums, so no one single album appeared often enough to make the cut. Similarly five writers chose a James McMurtry album, but each of them chose a different one, and so he also failed to make the cut. That may seem a bit unfair but ultimately this is about the best album rather than best artist. And yes, Danny George Wilson, in all his musical guises remains an AUK favourite, despite not registering on the shortlist, even though one of our writers put him at number one.

  1. Dear Clint,
    Old 97s, Satellite Rides?
    Neil Young, Greendale?
    Sherry Rich, Dakota Avenue!
    Farrar, Sebastopol
    Adams / Cardinals, Cold Roses?
    Ray LaMontagne, Trouble

    Its’s late …..

  2. Glaring omissions dept: I See Hawks in LA… any/all of Grapevine ’04, California Country ’06, Hallowed Ground’ 08, or Live and Never Learn ’18.
    Dan Baird…So Low, and (with Homemade Sin) Rollercoaster both ’17
    I can only say just listen to them.

  3. Any list of 21st century Americana that doesn’t include Brandi Carlile, either The Story or By the Way, I Forgive You, just isn’t credible.

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