Writers Best of .... 2014
It's that time of year again when the great and the good (and of course the ordinary and the bad if such things exist in Americana-UK Towers) have decided upon our Best of the Year. As last time we have eschewed the folly of individual top tens and simply come up with the one record each which has passed over our multitude of desks and which we consider to be the very best of Americana flavoured entertainment. We've batted the thing to and fro and drunk and spilled our regulation two bottles of Blue Nun from the Editor's personal cellar to bring you this: The Definitive Americana-UK Staff Writers Best of 2014. Your comments are very welcome either here, on our dedicated Facebook page and on Twitter. Or even via carrier pigeon if you haven't bought into that 21st Century technology thing. We don't care but we do like to know what our readers think. Speaking of which keep your eyes peeled for our Visitors Best Of 2014 article which will be published in tandem with this article. And of course all of the original reviews are on our reviews database - check them out.
Paul Kerr (Staff Writer):
Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Simpson's album stands out first of all as a great collection of songs. In addition it has ensured that traditional country rock can more than hold its own against the rise of Bro Country and its dumbing down of the genre. Above all it's allowed a guy singing about metaphysical turtles to appear on major TV shows such as Letterman.
Five young men from the Santa Cruz Mountains who've been playing together since 2010 have released one of those albums that just sounds like the most comfortable pair of slippers you've ever worn right from the first note - slippers mind you that look great, people want to ask you about and have the feint scent of Tom Petty and the Jayhawks about them. Oh and with some lovely harmonies (not sure how you fit that into a slipper analogy).
A fantastic country blues album from an accomplished veteran band that is guaranteed to get you moving from the very start. There is originality in abundance with an organic feel to boot, rangy vocals and lengthy instrumentals. Although the album should be listened to from start to finish for the best feel every song is great and will get you in the mood of the deep south in next to no time.
Old school bluegrass music performed with soul, adventure and finesse. With Tim O’Brien, Shawn Camp, Barry Bales, Charlie Cushman and Johnny Warren joining the world’s best Dobro player, Jerry Douglas you can't fail to make great music. Many of the mannerisms are reminiscent of Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt as they cover a bunch of songs from the legendary bluegrass act.
LQ Bucket lives in Hardin, Illinois, a small river town surrounded by the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. This EP really caught my attention this year, the singer songwriter's sparse arrangements and air of mystery kept me hooked. Stand out track is 'They Are Orphans Without You'.
Although only short, Charlie And The Foxtrots crammed together an instantly accessible record which becomes ever more intriguing with every listen. An understated triumph.
Easily the best Americana debut album this year; the rock tracks are good but the ballads, oh the ballads
Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Loads o' good albums this year, but too few really outstanding. This one, though ... I haven't heard an album this year that sounds this conversational or adventurous. Plus, it's got reptile aliens made of light who cut you open and pull out all your pain. That's what I want from my country music. Outstanding stuff.
We've heard those chord changes a million times, but Sturgill Simpson puts new life into the country format. The record is full of character, great songs and brilliant performances, putting some much needed grit back into Nashville.
David Cowling (Lead Writer):
Wussy should be as big as Chuck Cleavers beard, then I said that about Ass Pony's too. Well Wussy, they can make you cry, they can devastate you with one line, they can bring joy, they can be gentle, they can be brutal. They are all of these things on 'Attica!' and more, Chuck and Lisa dovetail beautifully, sharp and vulnerable, tender and bruised, belligerent and loving.
Phil Edwards (Staff Writer):
Various Artists: Strange & Dangerous Times
If your penchant is for metal musicians wielding banjo’s or punk rock smattered with influences such as polkas, country gospel, bluegrass, Acadian, Cajun and African vibes, then this is for you. As Hijaz Mustapha said “Four fifths of the world cannot be wrong.
There's long been a need to be able to have an album to point at when someone asks the inevitable question : "so what is Cosmic American Music and how does it relate to acoustic American folk traditions?". Somewhere Far Away is the answer - it has the musical beauty of Flatt & Scruggs, and the elliptical lyrics of Gram Parsons at his best. It teases and intrigues like the greatest albums are meant to do - it's a complete and flawless beauty, which is a rare thing.
Canadian alt-rock stalwart Owen Marchildon delivers his most direct set of great energetic songs to date. Like The Replacements in a glorious street fight with the E Street band, and we get to hear the soundtrack
Perhaps the finest album yet from Trevor Jones of Miracle Mile, which, given his track record this is no small accolade. There's an impossible beauty to the music, gorgeous melodies, lyrics that do, indeed cut to the bone, music that soars, music with heart and soul. Just perfect. Nothing more need be said.
Back in January when I reviewed this record country got soul in a big way. Now its December and I'm still playing it. That should tell you all need to know.
Beautiful, unsettling, startling, melancholic, unpredictable, angry and inventive. Only The North could produce this: not The South or our friends across The Pond. Unique UK folk.
Paula Cooke (Staff Writer):
Birds Of Chicago: Live from Space
True to life, true to live. This record transports me back to my own live experience of this band in a field in Oxfordshire. Intimate, approachable and REAL. Captures them at their best which is honest, honourable and homegrown. Truly magical.