Well, another year steams away down the Americana UK Tracks, and it’s therefore time to do the annual compare and contrast in which we find just which songs you enjoyed each month dear readers, and compare that to the ones that this Deputy Editor thought shone above all the others. Sometimes they match. Sometimes. But it’s a heck of a task, as we run something like 400 Track features over the year, and that represents several hundred different musicians and bands. There certainly is a lot of new music out there, and for every track we feature there’s at least 10 we can’t squeeze in – we do listen to them though so hopefully no-one will get too discouraged if this hasn’t been the twelvemonth in which a spotlight has been shone on them. Maybe in 2024? No promises.
It’s an opportunity to point again at some songs that I’ve really liked – and of course they are all great songs in the Tracks section, but some have more staying power than others. So here we go, month by month since last December and up to the end of November 2023 – the readers’ favourite, my favourite and a couple of nearly made the top spot choices. En y vas!
December is always an odd month – fewer Tracks because of the annual holiday, and a lot of Christmas related tunes in the ever popular Jingle Bells Friday. But there’s still some excellent choices and none more so than the Milk Carton Kids’ ‘When You’re Gone‘ equating (in part) solace from loneliness with banjo practice.
Readers’ Choice: Obviously attracted by the rediscovered, and superb, early seventies folk of Trevor Beales the readerships’ choice was ‘Then I’ll Take You Home‘.
This would be a year when Eric D Johnson would be everywhere, but his own album under the Fruit Bats name included a great single in the form of ‘Rushin’ River Valley‘.
Honourable Mentions: Iris Dement proffered some timely positivity on the title track of her latest album ‘Workin’ On A World‘.
Readers’ Choice:Meanwhile, the readership were leaning into the surprisingly upbeat ‘Cemetery Dreams‘ from Zach Harjo.
And we were really on a roll now with songs coming in thick and fast, but Kassi Valazza’s ‘Watching Planes Go By‘ really was something very special – as was the whole of the album and therefore of course all the subsequent singles.
Readers’ Choice: Excellent taste was shown with the popularity of Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore and their song ‘Borderland‘.
It was the urgent declaration ‘Come Fetch My Soul!‘ from Sun Years that set the spine-a-shivering this month. The album was great too.
Honourable Mentions: The No Ones had two singles featured this month, but the REM-ism of ‘Phil Ochs Is Dead‘ was the best of them by a nose. And waving the flag for Nordicana Darling West brought us ‘Cosmos.‘
Readers’ Choice: Well, you really restored our faith in the readership by picking ‘There’s A Part Of Me‘ by Randy Steele & High Cold Wind. Bluegrass!
It doesn’t always need a big band or an anthem to get noticed, Midwestern Mrs really cut deep with a painfully thoughtful song ‘Me and You.‘ There’s still new things to sing about.
Honourable Mentions: Also treading a songwriting path of some originality, Julian Taylor’s ‘Opening The Sky (Acoustic Version)‘ was moving and confessional. A pure balm of instrumental majesty came from Alison Brown & Steve Martin with ‘Foggy Mourning Breaking.‘
Readers’ Choice: Loose Cattle’s cover of the Lucinda Williams song ‘Crescent City‘ hit the spot for you this month.
Ok, so I noted down seven songs to pick from this month – but since we’ve been talking of Lucinda Williams let’s go with the defiance and determination of ‘Where The Song Will Find Me.’
Honourable Mentions: Son Volt put out an excellent album as a tribute to Doug Sahm, and ‘Sometimes You’ve Got To Stop Chasing Rainbows‘ was an excellent single. Deer Tick kicked all kinds of arse with ‘Once In A Lifetime.‘ Not a cover, we feel we should repeat. And Starpainter addressed SAD on the whoozy ‘Summer In Your Mouth‘.
Readers’ Choice: It was the anxiety of body image addressed on ‘Since I Was Eight‘ by Katie Dahl that really appealed.
To our near-shame we almost skipped over Laura Zarougian, ‘Back To Me‘ will tell you why that would have been a serious error. What a song.
Honourable Mentions: The title song from Israel Nash’s new album ‘Ozarker’ was a glowing glory that in any other month would have gotten the top pick. ‘Joseph‘ by The Handsome Family had us thinking all kinds of strange things…dark and mysterious and a wonderful and overdue return.
Readers’ Choice: It was another cover version that attracted you this month, with Joy Zimmerman’s take on ‘If I Should Fall Behind.’ Also featured Katie Dahl.
Another really strong month but there was no denying the absolute beauty of Darlingside’s ‘All The Lights In The City‘. Splendid.
Readers’ Choice: It was a good month for folk, as you plumped for Ed Snodderly and ‘Better Just Ride The Mule.‘ It actually posted on the last day of June, but you listened to it a lot in July, so there we have it.
‘The Man Who Would Be King‘ was the title track of Jerry Joseph’s new album, and it was a repeat listen favourite in August.
Honourable Mentions: Robert Rex Waller, Jr, the lead singer of I See Hawks In LA, had a solo album coming, and his take on ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore‘ really…umm…shone. And The Handsome Family went all sixties psych-rock on us with ‘The King Of Everything.‘
Readers’ Choice: Oh, we were so nearly in synch this month as you played Robert Rex Waller, Jr to death. Seems our readership does like a good cover version.
Margo Cilker cemented her place in our hearts with the great ‘With The Middle‘ which wonders what to do between morning coffee and evening wine.
Readers’ Choice: And again, nearly together as the Readership played Rod Picott over and over again.
Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but wow John Grant can make it sound good – as on the new song ‘You Don’t Get To‘ recorded with Midlake.
Honourable Mentions: Naturally Carla Olson and Gene Clark get a nod, a big nod, for ‘Set You Free This Time.’ And Jeffrey Martin impressed on the confession of youthful unkindness on ‘Red Station Wagon.’
Readers’ Choice: Scott Whiddon’s tribute to bands who never quite made it ‘Maybe That’s Enough For Now‘ took your fancy in October – nostalgic and celebratory in equal measure.
Gregory Dwane conjoured up many roots-rock greats on ‘3000 Miles‘ but the real strength of the song was the attempts for redemption.
Honourable Mentions: It truly was a pleasure to have Tim Smith (ex-Midlake) back with his new band Harp and the song ‘Throne Of Amber.‘
Readers’ Choice: Also on a journey were Other Brother Darryl, with their song ‘Drive‘ picking up on a Crosby Stills & Nash vibe.
What a musical year it has been – and it’s always a great pleasure to flick back through the Tracks and remind myself of the incredible variety we get to feature at Americana UK. But, as a final act to this article is it traditional to unveil the Readers’ song of the year.
And it was…Katie Dahl, and you can take another listen right now