I’ve picked 14 this year, a 53 minute playlist, selected from albums released in 2018, but ignoring the Tom Petty retrospective which didn’t have music from this year.
Overall: not a bad year, something reflected in this year’s CMA awards, which, judging from the hour selected by the BBC, was the best show for years, ruined only by some tosser who thinks it’s cool to do everything with a Dixie Cup in his hand (Billboard agrees with me this his was the weakest performance of the night: he was completely out of his league).
14. No Man’s Land – The Wild Feathers (Greetings from the Neon Frontier)
One of a couple of bands I discovered this year, both of whom owe a lot to The Band and/or Eagles in terms of their influences. The Wild Feathers offer tight harmonies and anthemic choruses. This one is fairly typical, though also one of the better ones.
13. Not the Only – Sugarland (Bigger)
A welcome return from Sugarland after a long hiatus following the deaths of several fans in a stage collapse in 2011. Both members released solo albums in the meantime, but, like the Beatles, the group is always greater than the sum of its parts. To hear Christian Bush’s gruff voice joined with Jennifer Nettles’ powerful contralto is to be transported. I particularly love this track because Christian takes over the lead vocal for the coda, and it’s just beautiful.
12. Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves (Golden Hour)
Ms Musgraves’ third outing was a success, winning Album of the Year at the CMAs, which is a real rarity in a genre which doesn’t provide a level playing field for women – especially on country radio, which stubbornly refuses to give women artists more than 5-10% of the airplay given to idiots with dixie cups.
11. The Last American – Ryan Culwell (The Last American)
The title track from what is probably the best album of 2018, “The Last American” is one of a series of dramatic monologues on an album that offers a perspective on flyover America in these deeply divisive days.
Guess I’ll vote the ticket
Like I always do
If I can figure out
Who to stick it to…
10. Heart Like a Wheel – Eric Church (Desperate Man)
This is not the 1974 Linda Rondstadt song, nor is it the 1983 film of that name. This is an entirely new heart like a wheel from Eric Church’s excellent Desperate Man. I love the stripped back arrangement and the almost 1950s early rock vibe to this one.
9. Burning Man – Dierks Bentley feat. Brothers Osborne (The Mountain)
Like Eric Church, Dierks Bentley somehow manages to stand out from the rest of the baseball-cap-wearing, cut-off-jeans-and-trucks crowd. I like this a lot, and also whoever edited the video did a good job.
8. Break Out The Champagne – Amanda Shires (To the Sunset)
Any songwriter that begins a lyric with the line “Talking through bathroom stalls…” is confident in their own being, and ready to shatter peoples’ expectations of what an album from a renowned Americana artist and fiddle player will sound like. It sounds like this.
Somewhere above the Newfoundland Sea
Pilot said we’d lost an engine
In a split-second I made an executive decision
I said “Break out the champagne
“Everybody look out below
“Let’s get on with the shitshow
“Here goes a toast: