Visitors Best of .... 2014
Once again it’s that time of year when we reflect over the last 12 months and think of what a different world the arena of americana is to the cut and thrust of the X-Factor – how their chances of success in primetime TV talent shows are probably inversely proportional to how well they’d go down at the 12 Bar. Susan “David Cameron is my favourite living person” Boyle won’t be making any surprise appearances. Although there might be more surprises than in recent years - remember when Springsteen obliterated every category? He’s nowhere to be seen this time around you fickle bunch. Although that leaves room for many more artists perhaps a bit closer to home, or our cosy genre home. If you don’t like them, it’s your fault sorry – you voted for them! And so without further ado, here are this year’s lucky winners.
- Danny & the Champions of the World - For the second year in a row Danny and the Champs take the best band accolade and much deserved it is. Danny George Wilson’s band has been around for 7 years now, tucking four studio albums and one live album under their belt, and these days has a place in the heart of the UK americana scene like a vital organ. Champions of the UK at least. Just bubbling below them are a new band which might just make an appearance in another category if you look out for them…
- The Delines
- Drive By Truckers
- Old Crow Medicine Show
- Jason Isbell
- The Delines “Colfax” (Décor) - Willy Vlautin from Richmond Fontaine seems to have that Midas effect of turning everything he touches to gold – The Delines are his latest project, featuring RF’s drummer Sean Oldham but with a set of songs - soliloquies, almost – written as a showcase for the amazing voice of lead vocalist Amy Boone. As our own Rudie Humphries said: “it’s truly genre defining stuff. Americana embodied.” A special mention too to Whybird frontman Luke Tuchscherer who gets the runner-up spot in 2 of our categories, impressive for his first solo release.
- Luke Tuchscherer “You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense” (Independent)
- Sturgill Simpson “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” (Loose)
- Danny and the Champions of the World “Live Champs!” (Loose)
- The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream” (Secretly Canadian)
Best Male Artist
- Sturgill Simpson - Kentucky born Simpson, son of a state policeman who formerly worked undercover narcotics, has had his best year yet, with his latest record “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” making the likes of Rolling Stone sit up and take notice. We described it as “an important move on for modern Americana music” and an “audacious boundary smasher.” Elsewhere Mississippi songwriter John Murry rides high on the back of his acclaimed “California” album, described by Uncut as a “genuine American masterpiece.”
- Luke Tuchscherer
- Ryan Adams
- John Murry
- Daniel Meade
- Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams is so popular within the americana genre that you get the feeling that even if she hadn’t had an new album out in 2014 she would have still made the list – but she did, and “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone” could barely have been received with more praise. “As a rule, you can divide music into three categories -- the kind that aims for the head, the kind that aims for the heart and the kind that aims for the hips. Forging two of those connections at once is pretty impressive, but connecting on all three? That’s a rare accomplishment indeed.”
- Mary Gauthier
- Roseanne Cash
- Anais Mitchell
- Jenny Lewis
Best Live Act
- Danny & the Champions of the World - Just being pipped to the post in this category by Springsteen last year was a result of no shame, but Danny and the Champs score their first whatever the opposite of a “double whammy” is (in the “something good” sense) with their second category win this year. If you’ve ever seen the band live, you’ll know why they’ve won this. And while the Boss is nowhere to be seen, the OCMS make a well-deserved runner-up entry in this category for their near-legendary live shows.
- Old Crow Medicine Show
- Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin
- The Delines
- John Grant
Best TV Show
- True Detective (HBO) – “True Detective” had the distinct advantage with an americana audience of having a theme song performed by americana stalwarts the Handsome Family (perhaps the best theme song to a series ever) which perfectly the accompanied the dark detective-noir series from HBO with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Bob Harris’s beautiful documentary on Nashville and country music earned a runner-up spot in this category, broadcast on BBC4 in November as part of their fascinating “Country Nights” season.
- Bob Harris - My Nashville
- Later ..... with Jools Holland
- The Walking Dead
- The Imitation Game - The film about genius British logician and cryptologist Alan Turing who helped crack Germany's Enigma Code during World War II but was then prosecuted by his government for basically being had largely glowing reviews and featured a stellar performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece Grand Budapest Hotel makes a showing too, as does “Still the Enemy Within,” the lesser known but equally as fantastic film about the Miners’ strike in 1984.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- What We Do In The Shadows
- Still The Enemy Within
Best Radio Show
- Bob Harris Sunday (BBC Radio 2) – For the two hundredth year running (or that’s how long it feels like he’s been winning this category), Bob Harris’ Sunday morning show continues to feel like an endlessly ongoing relationship of the most intimate kind that you never want to end – it still manages to surprise, to delight and to leave you feeling like a slightly better person at the end of it. Sandwiched in between this and his Country programme is Cerys Matthews’ show (also on Sunday mornings but at the other side of sleep) which is like a selection box you’ve suddenly discovered from 50 years ago (but one that’s managed to not go off).
- Cerys Matthews (BBC 6 Music)
- Bob Harris Country (BBC Radio 2)
- Today (BBC Radio 4)
- Another Country with Ricky Ross (BBC Radio Scotland)
Hero of 2014
Alex Salmond – A marmite politician if ever there was one (unless you happen to be Scottish), Alex Salmond wins this category by just one vote for losing the battle but perhaps still winning the war – SNP membership has shot up since the referendum and with a return to Westminster, politics certainly won’t be boring when Scotland is on the agenda for a long time to come. We have to mention here too one reader’s response: “My mate Jon - tackling viral cancer, pneumonia and massive blood losses - no one beats that."
Villain of 2014
Vladamir Putin - Funny that if you take the general theme of votes in this category, while “the people who snuffed out the 12 Bar” makes an appearance, the Tories are still the most widely hated people by our readership, but in a general sense (how do you choose between IDS, Osborne and Michael Gove?) – Vladamir Putin on the other hand concentrates unease on one single individual who’s been less popular than chlamydia in many parts of the world, one that we can think of in particular….
Finally, we asked you again what you liked most about AUK, and what you didn’t. Many of you said how much you still enjoyed receiving the CD – in particular for, as one reader put it, “Hearing hordes of new names and songs which would otherwise escape my ears” – or to put it another way, “bringing the unexpected in new music to my sponge-like ears.” What would we do without ears? Many people mentioned the CD reviews, with approval of the quantity and quality, and an emphasis again of the “coverage of independent artists” – “The main line into the best music, no sidings, no branches” “Lot of reviews of interesting music. Picked up several new artists during the year.” There was praise too for the live music reviews “you cover live music brilliantly” and for the scope of interviews – “so many people you speak to: this section just keeps growing!” Overall you very kindly told us that AUK “always does the right thing, for the right reason. Superb!”
Of course we can’t get literally everything right, and there was criticism of the format of the listings (something we’re still working on – bear with us), the disappearance of the forum (our pockets couldn’t keep up with the spam), and the fact that the “staff writer picks never change” (we will try harder…) Some of you commented on the slow loading times for pages and that the site could sometime seem unresponsive. It is admittedly quite an unwieldy beast these days, with 13 years of content buried there within it, but we will try and keep an eye on this area.
In the meantime thanks very much for all your support over the last 12 months – your readership is the only reason we’re around, and whether you’ve stuck with us for years or are new to the site or indeed genre, thank you again sincerely for clicking our way. All the best for Christmas and 2015.
Mark Whitfield, Editor, Americana UK