Our top americana albums of 2021 – Part Three

Over the last couple of days we have counted down our top albums of 2021, with the Felice Brothers triumphantly taking our album of the year slot. But what about those artists who just missed out? Here are some of our other choices for albums of the year bubbling under – each choice was the number one album of the year for at least one AUK writer.

Ross Adams “Escaping Southern Heat” (Independent)
With Jimbo Hart at the controls, Adams and the 400 Unit tackle the American songbook. This record captures the essence of the songs as though they’re being sung for the first time, with the energy and drive that comes from a band who haven’t tired of playing them. (RO)

Lula Wiles “Shame and Sedition” (Smithsonian Folkways)
Lula Wiles tackle difficult subjects head-on. To their tight harmonies, acoustic, folk and lyrics they add powerful layers of instrumentation that hit harder than anything the trio have done before. This is 21st century protest music as they call out the deep injustices in today’s world. (LB)

Bob Dylan “Springtime in New York” (Columbia/Legacy Recordings)
Not just a return to form after a few middling Bootleg and Archive releases but across 5CDs a demonstration that Dylan’s creativity was undimmed in the early Eighties, despite what popular opinion might like to suggest.  (JA)

Esther Rose “How Many Times” (Full Time Hobby)
Esther Rose’s third album was her best yet.The New Orleans resident utiised some of that city’s finest folk/country musicians including members of Hurray For The Riff Raff and The Deslondes to make a live to tape album that sounded as fresh as it did poweful. Rose’s album was just one of a whole slew of exciting new albums by bright new female country artists in 2021. So with apologies to James McMurtry, Israel Nash and Aaron Lee Tasjan, who all released outstanding albums this year, the rest of my list is made up of exclusively of some of those other great female country records from 2021. (CW)

Dar Williams “I’ll Meet You Here” (Renew/BMG)
It’s been something like 6 years since her last studio album so it was with great anticipation that I first listened to Dar’s new album and I was delighted to hear that she hadn’t lost her songwriting touch and her warm, mellifluous voice was in great form on the 10 tracks that make up this superb LP. (AF)

Flo Perlin “Characters” (Independent)
At 8 tracks and just over thirty minutes of music, this album is the little gift that keeps on giving. Each song leaps and swoops around your ears like a dolphin in a moonlit bay.  Flo Perlin has created something wonderfully new and different, yet also eminently listenable. (JS)

Morgan Wade “Reckless” (Ladylike)
Morgan Wade gets what seems to be continued flack on social media for not being “country enough” (the main problem seemingly being that she’s a woman with tattoos), but screw the haters, this is an album that has country and Americana songwriting at its core and it’s something she’s fantastic at. There are a lot of great songs on there, but ‘Wilder Days’ with its hooky chorus is the winner for me: “You said you hate the smell of cigarette smoke / You only used to smoke when you drank / When you lived in Chicago / Unsure where the wind blows / I wish I’d known you in your wilder days.” (HJ)

Caleb Stine “Life and Times of a Handyman” (Independent)
Existing on the dusty fringes of the outlaw-songwriter scene is Caleb Stine who crafts deeply personal albums. His latest and 12th album continues that trend, telling insightful tales of everyday triumphs and troubles, crafting characters who spring to life and enter your home like long lost acquaintances. Lyrically the album ensnares you with a thoughtful narrative that asks for deeper reflection, while musically its loose, live feel reminds of the easy, backwoods romp of ‘The Basement Tapes’. (TN)

Strand of Oaks “In Heaven” (Thirty Tigers)
This album blew me away from the very first listen. It is so rare to receive an album that grabs the attention from the first bars and never lets up. The type of album that sends the listener scurrying away to scour the back catalogues and the dusty shelves. Not a dud track to be found. Great vocals, brilliant musicianship. (PC)

The Delevantes “A Thousand Turns”  (Moon River)
Silent for some 23 years, other than Bob Delevante’s occasional solo albums, the brothers are gloriously reunited as a recording unit and it’s a real pleasure to have them back. Great songs, great musicality, and the best two-part harmonies since the Everly Brothers. An outstanding return to form. (RB)

John Smith “The Fray” (Thirty Tigers)
‘The Fray’ is a stunning album portraying joy and optimism in the most calming, graceful way. Smith is such a seasoned and sensitive musician that you can’t help but feel relaxed and in secure hands whilst listening to his intelligent, relatable lyrics, warm voice and tender, tasteful musicianship. (VF)

Brinsley Schwarz “Tangled” (Fretsore)
I’ve always been enamored of Schwarz’s crisp guitar work in The Rumour and Brinsley Schwarz the band and have long wished he put out more solo work. His first solo album didn’t come out until 2016. Maybe he doesn’t like to sing? He’s in top form on the fantastic ‘Tangled.’ Highlights are ‘Stranded,’ ‘You Drive Me to Drink,’ and a cover of Graham Parker and The Rumour’s ‘Love Gets You Twisted’ from 1979.

Katherine Priddy “The Eternal Rocks Beneath” (Independent)
This album has stayed with me all year and the quality of her songs and singing just keep shining. The delicate arrangements of songs like ‘Indigo’ and ‘Eurydice’ rank them among the best in any genre this year. One of the best new talents in a long time. (TM)

Rod Picott “Wood Steel Dust and Dreams” (Independent)
Picott comes as a songwriting package with Slaid Cleaves and both are great artists which is reflected in this package. It’s a re-run of sorts but does add to the originals and the source material is great. I’ve seen them both in small scale venues and it was a rare treat’. (GS)

About Mark Whitfield 2037 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)
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Pete Thompson

Some great Albums , but how did Allison Russell’s Outside Child miss out ?