2013 was a great year for Americana music. From legendary performers like Jim Lauderdale and Rodney Crowell to an ever strengthening youth movement featuring the likes of Della Mae and Band of Heathens, there was something for everyone. Narrowing the impressive list of Americana releases down to 20 was a tough task. But in the end, these albums spent more time in our rotation than any others.
You can find places 20-16 here. Today we'll look at the albums inhabiting the 15-11 slots.
15. Patty Griffin- American Kid
Patty Griffin has been a busy lady in the last few years, touring first with Band of Joy and later with Sensational Space Shifters along with beau Robert Plant. But she certainly hasn't forgotten her work as a solo artist, releasing two albums in 2013. One was Silver Bell, the lost album from 1999. The second was an album of new material, "American Kid", her first since 2007. As always, Griffin's songwriting is second to none and her voice is in as fine a form as ever.
14. Band of Heathens- Sunday Morning Record
Since 2011's "Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster's Son", Band of Heathens has seen its fair share of upheaval, with Colin Brooks, Seth Whitney, and John Chipman all leaving the band. While this might have killed, or at least slowed, many bands, Band of Heathens has barely stopped moving and has come out of that fire stronger than ever. "Sunday Morning Record" is well named, with a much subtler and more melodic groove than the band's previous efforts, a perfect soundtrack to a weekend day of rest.
13. Joy Kills Sorrow- Wide Awake
Joy Kills Sorrow is a perfect example of the diversity of Americana's youth movement. Definitely rootsy enough in their sound to fit comfortably under Americana's increasingly big tent, they also have a nose for almost pop-like hooks that draw you in and make their music accessible in a way that should take them far. But don't mistake Joy Kills Sorrow for hipster candy flashes in the pan. With instrumentalists who have already collected a lifetime worth of awards and the fragile yet resolute vocals of Emma Beaton to drive them on, we can't wait to see where Joy Kills Sorrow goes from here.
12. Milk Carton Kids- Ash & Clay
California based duo The Milk Carton Kids, consisting of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, have practically been the poster children for Americana music this year, appearing in a number of Americana Music Association showcases and raking in the critical accolades. At a time when every new band is trying to be as musically bombastic as genre superstars Mumford & Sons, The Milk Carton Kids strip it back to basics, with a sound that is equal parts Gillian Welch and Simon & Garfunkel. While the band has built much of its reputation on its witty stage banter, "Ash & Clay" proves that The Milk Carton Kids have plenty of lyrical depth to back up their stage show.
11. Amanda Shires- Down Fell the Doves
Texas-based fiddler Amanda Shires has spent much of 2013 on the road with two Americana powerhouses, Todd Snider and husband Jason Isbell, and show after show she has held her own with those titans. In addition to touring the world, Shires has also been pursuing a Masters in Poetry from University of The South and listening to "Down Fell the Doves" that poet's touch certainly shines through in her lyrics. At times, Shires voice sounds fragile to the point of breaking but then she starts to belt a chorus and you realize this gal has one heck of a set of pipes on her. She may have spent much of 2013 in the opening slot of touring bills, but you can be sure that in 2014 she'll be the name at the top of many a club's calendar.
What were your favorite Americana albums of 2013? Let us know in the comments section.