Americana UK reveals its album of the year for 2021.
Following a few dormant years when trying to decide on an albums of the year list we ended up scratching (and sometimes gouging) each other’s eyes out, this year we decided to try and come up with a list of our favourite albums of the year. Yesterday we counted down numbers 10-6, so today we count down numbers 5 to a very well-deserved number 1, culminating in our album of the year. Tomorrow we’ll look at some other stand-out choices from writers for the the past 12 months.
Number 5: Peter Bruntnell “Journey to the Sun: (Domestico)
Peter Bruntnell’s twelfth studio album, ‘Journey To The Sun’, was much more sparse and stripped-down than its predecessor – 2016’s ‘Nos Da Comrade’. As well as folk-horror/Nick Drake vibes and aching, acoustic, country-tinged ballads, Bruntnell experimented with vintage, Eno-inspired synth sounds, but he hadn’t lost his knack for writing gorgeous, melodic songs, laced with feelings of longing, regret, nostalgia, loss and melancholy. (SH)
Number 4: Yola “Stand For Myself” (Easy Eye)
On Yola’s second album we get impeccable songwriting with Yola’s incredible voice and equally impeccable musicianship. We get that combination of soul (‘Barely Alive’), gospel (‘Diamond Studded Shoes’) country ballads (‘Be My Friend’) and all the facets that fit into an almost perfectly crafted Americana album. Some purists might complain that Yola might become too successful for her own good. With music like this, she probably will, but then, why would that be a problem? Talent like this should be at the top because that is where they belong. (LZ)
Number 3: Los Lobos “Native Sons” (New West)
Los Lobos are one of the greatest American rock bands of the last forty years with a remarkable consistency of album releases. Sometimes when an established act records an album of covers alarm bells start ringing that the resulting record will not match the artist’s usual standard. Los Lobos are too good to let that happen, and their heartfelt tribute to their own hometown and influences is a great rocking party record that celebrates the signature sound of Los Lobos through a variety of genres and songs and helps shine a light on how Los Lobos developed their unique sound. If you are new to Los Lobos this would be a good introduction to their unique sound, and if you are already a fan then this is a must-listen. (MJ)
Number 2 : Billy Strings “Renewal” (Rounder)
Well aware that the pyromanical improvisations of his live band are impossible to capture in the studio, ‘Renewal’ concentrates on down home bluegrass values of songwriting and virtuosity – initially at least. The renegade shredding/Dead/freestying is buried deep, checkout ‘Hide & Seek’. The genius of his generation. (MJ) Billy Strings flat-picking bluegrass roots shine through on his latest release, but ‘Renewal’ offers so much more–country, rock, psychedelia, folk/prog rock, and gypsy jazz/ragtime, all presented with authenticity and verve. Great vocal stylings throughout and excellent lyrics complete the perfect package for a rare 10 from me. (DJ)
Americana UK’s Album of 2021: The Felice Brothers “From Dreams to Dust” (Yep Roc)
The ragged horsemen at the end of the world ride in with a glorious and arresting statement of intent as well as a commentary of the end times in which we live. Instrumentally joyous and melancholy and lyrically dense and affecting. An essential purchase. (KH) While all of their albums are recommended, ‘From Dreams To Dust’ finds the The Felice Brothers at their pinnacle. A tremendous mix of folk, country and shambolic rock, it is both on point politically and wonderfully absurd in its cultural appropriations – “From Francis of Assisi to the fans of AC/DC…” (PK) Here is an album that takes in everything it means to be human, the narrative sweep of our lives, the deepest emotion and loss and the little details that make the everyday magical. It’s irreverent, full of humour and slightly mad. Musically, it’s an ambitious, genre-smashing, varied delight. Most of all, though, this album just made me feel better. As they sing on ‘To-Do List’, I need to, “Become a lot more happy.” Indeed. And this album helped. Singalong everyone, “Does it feel like jazz? // Jazz jazz jazz // Jazz on the Autobahn!” (AF) This album is ambitious, interesting, witty, clever, even uplifting despite themes of some songs seeming quite dark. Strong hints of Dylan and The Band, it was even recorded in a church which simply adds more ‘feel’ to the project, just perfect. Almost bonkers and definitely their finest. (RM)
Don’t miss our look at all the other great albums you may have missed in 2021 – here tomorrow at 11am UK time.