It’s that time of the year again, time for obligatory best of lists and damnitt I am actually going to join in on the fun this year. These are my favorite records of 2013. I am sure as soon as I get done posting this I will suddenly remember a bunch more that should have made the list. This list unlike most of the others that I have posted in the past will be in order from 25-1.
It seems that every year I look back and think that there were an unusual amount of great records for one year. This year is no exception to that theory, but it may also be a product of paying more attention to this site again, so therefore listening to a lot more new music. I’d like to thank all of the musicians, publicists, managers, etc. that have sent along submissions to the site this year. While, we have not reviewed them all, trust me all of them are greatly appreciated. Make sure you are following us on Facebook, Twitter and also my personal Facebook, because often times we will mention albums or artists that have not been featured on the site, but definitely deserve your attention. While you are at it, please also “like” the Looking for Lewis and Clark Facebook community page that is managed by our own Mark Hayes (the person resposible for a daily history and live music roundups). Every day there we have music discussions and Mark posts tons of interesting tidbits and videos.
So enough foaming of the mouth or keyboard as the case may be, on to the list.
25. Mark Robinson : Have Axe, Will Groove (CD Baby)
Mark returned this year with a follow to his debut, Quit Your, Job Play Guitar. Have Axe, Will Groove is another record of blues mastery by Robinson who continues to show why he is one of the finest guitar players working today.
24. Jefferson Ross: Isle of Hope (Deep Fried Discs)
This is the first album of Ross’s I had ever heard. Along side producer/ guitar player Thomm Jutz Ross delivers a fine album of folk music that gathers influence from the realms of acoustic blues and bluegrass at times. Ross’s vocals put me in the mind of a young Greg Brown and his songs are extremely well written.
23.Chad Elliott : So Sang The Crow (Independent)
Another new find for me this year was Chad Elliott, an Iowa based singer/songwriter and artist who has a huge back catalog that I now get to dive into. Chad’s songs are sometimes very dark and foreboding and his vocals are along the line of Rodney Crowell. After just one listen to this record, I slid Chad along side of all the other great songsmiths that have called Iowa their home.
22.The Deadstring Brothers: Cannery Row (Bloodshot)
After moving to Nashville, lead singer and guitar player Kurt Marschke reformed the Deadstring Brothers with the help former Whitey Morgan bassist, JD Mack. The album that came about from the songs he had been writing were able to showcase some of the country influence of his new home without compromising the rust belt rock n roll sensibility of his former stomping grounds.
21.Frank Turner: Tape Deck Heart (Interscope)
British folk/punk singer, Turner returns here with what is probably his most personal record to date. I fell in love with Turner’s songs and youthful energy when I caught him live a few years ago sort of by accident. Tape Deck Heart, shows a certain amount of growth in Turner’s songwriter without losing the fuck off attitude of his former albums.
20.Buddy Guy: Rhythm & Blues (RCA)
What can you say about Buddy Guy that hasn’t been written a million times, the answer: not a damn thing. Well, Buddy dropped this double record earlier this year and it’s the rare occasion where a two disc set is not too much, but in fact leaves you wanting more. There are a few songs on here that have Buddy reflecting back on his lengthy life and career that are absolute masterpieces.
19.Bill Eberle: Bill Eberle (Independent)
Debut record by Nashville by way of Pittsburgh roots singer, Bill Eberle. Although a fairly short record, Eberle manages to prove that he has made the correct career choice. His songs are powerful yet vulnerable and the song “Gone” is one of my favorite tracks of the year, the kind that raise the hair on your arms and bring a tear to your eye. Watch out for this young man in the future.
18. Robbie Fulks: Gone Away Backward (Bloodshot)
I was turned on to Robbie’s older records earlier this year by our very own Mark Hayes, then in August Fulks drops Gone Away Backward and nearly rendered all of those other albums useless. This album is in my opinion head and shoulders above anything Fulks had released before and they were all good. I love the sound of this entire album and Fulks’s songwriter receives and A+ on this one.
17. So Long Problems: Ashes in the Rearview Mirror (Independent)
So Long Problems is an Austin, Texas band that features Broken Jukebox favorite Graham Weber along with Mike Schoenfield, Matt Winegardner, and Dylan McDougall. Their debut record reminds of the first couple Wilco albums. It was also great to hear some familiar Weber tunes backed by a rock n roll band.
16.Pokey Lafarge: Pokey Lafarge (Third Man Records)
I love the old time sound of Lafarge and the fact that he genre hops with complete ease among all of the traditional American music styles. Lafarge does this without coming of as a novelty act and adds his own freshness to these sounds on every track, I think this is also his finest record to date.
15. Band of Heathens: Sunday Morning Record (BOH Records)
While the Band of Heathens lost founding member Colin Brooks, they still put out one of the years best records. I did miss the grittiest of the Brooks originals, but remaining writers Quist and Jurdi more than made up for his absence with some of their best songs yet. Quist seems to write with everyone in Texas and is one of the my favorite songwriters out there and Jurdi’s vocals are amazing.
14. Will Hoge: Never Give In (Cumberland Recordings)
I love everything Hoge releases, period. Never Give In is no exception to that rule. He gained a ton of well deserved, mainstream notoriety from the Chevy commercials and it’s kind of shame that is what it took to get the country to recognize one of the best recording artists of the last two decades.
13. Phil Lee: The Fall and Further Decline of the Mighty King of Love (Palookaville Records)
Phil Lee’s newest record pulls absolutely no punches, which is what we’ve all grown to expect from Lee. From the cover art to the songs contained within The Fall and Further Decline of the Mighty King of Love is all Mr. Lee with no excuses and that is what puts it so high on my list this year.
12.Austin Lucas: Stay Reckless (New West)
There is nothing more emotional that an album of songs born of a divorce. Lucas’s vocals and lyrics shine through on this album, and it would make this list if it were only a single of the song , “Splinters’. Lucky for us it is a full length album, the first I believe that Lucas has released on New West.
11. Brock Zeman: Rotten Tooth (Mud Records)
Our favorite Canadian, Brock Zeman seems to release a new record every year, and does so without dropping a poor one on us. Rotten Tooth finds Zeman a little rougher around the edges and frankly that is quite all right with me. He once again used master of all instruments Blair Hogan on this record to add layers to all his songs.
10. Scott Miller: Big, Big World (F.A.Y. Reocordings)
I got a chance to sit down with Scott a few weeks after this record hit the shelves and see a ton of the songs performed live. Miller’s writing style never seems to waiver and on this one he puts out one of my favorite tracks of his yet in “How Am I Gonna Be Me”
9. Slaid Cleaves: Still Fighting The War (Music Road Records)
I anticipate every Slaid Cleaves record like a five year old trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve and somehow he never disappoints me. Still Fighting the War is yet another example of Cleaves’s superior songwriting and singing abilities.
8. Tim Easton: Not Cool (Camp Fire Propaganda)
The title of this record couldn’t be farther from the truth. Easton is not only totally fucking cool on this release, but so his band. The record contains some of Easton’s best compositions as well as great cover of what should be an Ohio classic.
7. Chicago Farmer Backenforth Illinois (Chicago Farmer)
Cody Diekhoff, AKA the Chicago Farmer released this album early this year and it’s a great combination of folk and bluegrass that is just a blast to listen to. The album has a very loose feel to it that translates very well to the stage and makes you feel like you are in the room with the singer and the musician as it was being made.
6. (6A) Peter Cooper / Eric Brace: The Comeback Album and Peter Cooper: Opening Day (Red Beet Records)
Because Mr. Cooper cheated and released both of these albums in the same year I am cheating and putting them both on this list expanding it to 26. The Duo record once again shows why these two gentlemen were born to sing together as their harmonies are divine. Both records show why they are both among the shortlist of best country singers/ songwriters of our time. Once again Lloyd Green and his steel guitar appear on both records adding a bonus flavor to them that could not be achieved any other way.
5.Guy Clark: My Favorite Picture of You (Dualtone Music Group)
Very few people can write a perfect song, even fewer can do it throughout a whole record. Fewer people still can seemingly do it every time they sit down to pen a verse, Guy Clark is in that elite group…enough said.
4. Jason Isbell: Southeastern (Southeastern Records)
This album is by far Isbell’s greatest achievement thus far in his career and that includes his work with the Drive By Truckers. Sobriety and marriage have treated Mr. Isbell very well and I believe this will end up being at or near the top of every year end list.
3. Sam Baker: Say Grace (Independent)
All those things I said about Guy Clark, I feel apply to Sam Baker as well. While Sam has not been at it as long as some of his peers, every single track Baker puts out is a flawless gem.
2. Willie Sugarcapps: Willie Sugarcapps (The Royal Potato Family)
An Americana super group? Yes, please, especially if you can include the likes of Will Kimbrough and Grayson Capps who along with Sugarcane Jane and guitarist Corky Hughes made this record in a flash. The best part is that at no point does the record seem disjointed, instead it feels like the world’s greatest back porch song swap with a group of players that have been together for 30 years.
1. John Moreland: In the Throes (Last Chance Records)
I have been singing the praise of this album since the minute it landed in my hands. In the Throes does not have a bad song, a bad note or a bad line all the way through it. Moreland is in my opinion the fastest rising star in the “Americana” sky and quite frankly if you have not bought this record by now, leave this site and do not return until you have done so and spent at least one afternoon listening to it.
There is the list and some quick ramblings about each one. I am sure I have forgotten something on here, so feel free to drop some of your favorites in the comments.