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Favorites of 2013

Favorite Albums

William Clark Green – Rose Queen.  Rose Queen is a stylistic triumph that builds on the strengths of Green’s previous album Misunderstood.  Producer Rachel Loy manages to smooth out Green’s rough edges without losing any of his intensity and authenticity.
-Brad Beheler

Holly Williams – The Highway.  Williams’ songwriting hits a high point on her third album, The Highway. The album’s great acoustic arrangements and honest songwriting will solidify her as one of Americana’s leading female artists. Williams’ voice is as authentic as her songwriting, making for a very emotional album.
-Dallas Terry

Jason Isbell – Southeastern. I can’t stress enough how amazing this album is, and it seems that the more I listen to it, the better it gets. The way the songwriting flows from story to story through “Traveling Alone”, “Elephant”, and “Flying Over Water” is so powerful and raw that you know Isbell had some particularly rough moments in production that he isn’t afraid to share – to me, that’s what makes someone a true artist.
-Susan Turpin

Jason Boland & the Stragglers – Dark and Dirty Mile.  Boland yet again released a fantastic album built on solid songwriting and eschewed the opportunity to go for the “Popular” sound. He also found a way to make NSA spying a lighthearted topic in the song “Electric Bill.”
-James Ward

Jason Isbell – Southeastern.  In a career of personal inspirations, Southeastern is Isbell’s most personal work, and quite frankly his best.  The songs on this collection detail his personal battles with finding sobriety and love with Amanda Shires.  He details the missteps along the way and lays every vulnerable piece of his life bare for the world to see.  Each lyric is wrung from Isbell’s hard fight with addiction in some way.  The emotion-packed lyrics are surrounded and supported by the least rockin’ production of Isbell’s recorded career.
-BB

Patty Griffin – American Kid.  As one of Americana’s most essential artists, Patty Griffin never ceases to amaze her listeners. Employing the spirited and talented Dickinson brothers (from the North Mississippi All-Stars) as her backing musicians, Griffin delivers an album full of expertly written songs. As always, her unique and powerful voice gives the songs an avenue to come to life in a way that few artists are able to achieve. American Kid is a solid album, and one of the bests of 2013.
-DT

Drew Kennedy – Wide Listener. This guy gets better with every verse and chorus. What a great record by a stand up dude. I look forward to him a Lori McKenna writing some more tunes together.
-Jon Paul Long

Will Hoge – Never Give In.  Hoge uses a different sound than that of traditional country but he refuses to compromise in quality. Here’s hoping that this album gets more airplay in the traditional airspace and helps convert people to the Texas/Red Dirt scene.
-JW

Holly Williams – The Highway.  This entire album is brutally honest and absolutely beautiful. The Highway isn’t simply an Americana record, certainly not a Texas record, sadly couldn’t even be referred to as country by most modern definitions…but the one label it deserves is brilliant.
-BB

J. Roddy Walston and The BusinessEssential Tremors. This is what Rock and Roll is supposed to sound like. It’s like Jerry Lee Lewis goes Led Zeppelin goes J Roddy. Killer live show too. I’ll be spending my New Year’s with them.
-JPL

Reckless Kelly – Long Night Moon. I’ve been the resident Reckless Kelly fan in Corpus Christi since I was 19 years old and the release of their latest studio album brings the guys back to the days of “Millican” and “The Day” with some phenomenal songwriting yet manages to show how they’ve grown as a band. There are some really great tracks with a lot of chart potential, which is good news for the guys since they’ve been making the cross-country and cross-continent treks to get their music out there.
-ST

Cody Canada – Some Old, Some New, Maybe a Cover or Two. It’s probably not going up for Grammy’s but I dig that Cody got his family, friends and peers together hit record, told stories and sang his songs. This record reminds me of a million reasons why I do what I do now. That’s what a favorite album of the year should be to you. It needs to mean something to you, take you back to a space in time or on a new journey all together. Cody Canada’s music has been part of my life for 14 years. I’m always paying attention to what this talent is going to do next.
-JPL

Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit. Porter’s first album on Blue Note Records is an instant classic. Porter’s music drips with classic elements of soul, jazz and gospel. Porter’s songs are expertly delivered in a voice as beautiful as the songwriting itself. This album appeals to music listeners of all types, because it is just as brilliant as most Blue Note albums, but it also emits all of the passion and emotion that blues and country music are famous for.
-DT

ShinyribsGulf Coast Museum. When you can go from a pistol and a sprocket to feeding Davey Crockett, you have my attention. The final track a cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” with Brandy Zdan is pretty incredible. Take a listen friends. Go see this show.
-JPL

Sturgill Simpson – High Top Mountain.  Sturgill Simpson is a refreshing throwback of country music purity and goodness.  Whereas Jason Eady’s fantastic AM Country Heaven album was a tribute to the music of yesteryear, Simpson’s High Top Mountain sounds like something that was unearthed from  the vaults of the famed Hillbilly Central Studio in Nashville.  The energy, sound and production is all vintage without losing any modern punch.  Simpson’s voice recalls inflections and timbres of many 70’s favorites while maintaining its originality.  This is traditional country music done right.
-BB

Lincoln Durham – Exodus of The Deemed Unrighteous . About as solid of a sophomore effort as you will find. The Shovel and The Howling Bones was bluesy, gritty and heavy lyrically in spots, but the Exodus is just plain dark, greasy and full or angst. It’s a reckoning of a record. He has clearly grown into his own as an artist and writer. I’m really close to this record not only because I ride with it, but it speaks to me. I feel it and I relate to it.
-JPL

Favorite Songs

John Dempsy – “Heroes and Angels”.  Few events affected my 2013 quite like the tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX.  I grew up very near there and had family and friends directly impacted by the blast.  On the night of the blast, my grandmother was a resident of the West Rest Haven nursning home and amid the chaos we were frantically searching for her.  I soon received a message from my buddy John Dempsy that he was down there helping out and had seen her.  Little did I know that Dempsy was internalizing all of the images flashing before he and all the other everyday folks down there helping out to later exorcise those demons so ferociously in song.  This tune drips with emotion.  If you weren’t there, you feel like you were.  One of the most powerful songs of this year…or any year.
-BB

Jason Isbell – “Elephant”.  One of the greatest skills of a poet is to pick each word with careful precision so that every syllable counts. Theoretically, a poet should be able to write a two-stanza poem with as much depth as a 300-page book. “Elephant,” by Jason Isbell, is pure poetry. Within the first verse of the song, Isbell establishes an extraordinary amount of depth in a way that only a true poet could. This is one of the best-written songs to ever be recorded.
-DT

Kacey Musgraves“Follow Your Arrow”.  There has been much made of this envelope pushing Musgraves tune, and rightfully so.  While Taylor Swift generates headlines for singing about the carefree world of being 22, Musgraves seems to be telling the more authentic tale with her work.  This motivational salvo to be yourself no matter the circumstances surrounding your situation is just the type of song to help push country music out of the how country are ya truck song doldrums.  Innovative, brave and creative.  Dig this song…or don’t…that’s okay with Kacey Musgraves, and the lesson therein is greater than the song itself.
-BB

Aoife O’Donovan – “Red & White & Blue & Gold”.  I don’t know how to explain the feelings that are contrived while listening to this song. Every time I hear the pedal steel at the beginning of the song, my mood changes to fit the vibe of the song. O’Donovan’s inflection is just so beautiful, and the instrumentation takes the song to new heights.
-DT

Jason Boland & the Stragglers – “Dark and Dirty Mile“.  Jason Boland has always had a slightly different take on what he wants to do with his music. His songs have an older classic country feel that’s refreshing, and his track “Dark and Dirty Mile” is no different. As a lady who really loves steel guitar, most of the Stragglers’ tracks make me extremely happy. Pair that with the lyrics and you’ve got one of the greatest tracks released this year.
-ST

William Clark Green – “Rose Queen”.  I’ve always been a William Clark Green fan but this year’s album has really expanded his style. This is evident in this story song.  William has always had a rocking side to him and it is good to see country come through on this song.
-JW

Wade Bowen – “Songs About Trucks”.  Much has been written about the proliferation of truck songs and the fad crested to a head in 2013.  The backlash has grown larger and to such a degree that Bowen releases a song that takes the ridiculous fad to task and ends up being the song all the others were aiming to be in the first place.
-BB

Holly Williams – “Waitin’ On June”. This song exemplifies how powerful story-telling can be in country music. Williams tells the story of her grandmother, June, with emotion and conviction. “Waitin’ On June” will surely bring a tear to every listener’s eye.
-DT

Zane Williams – “While I Was Away”.  This song rips your heart out.  The message will resonate with fathers moreso than others, but the impact is great on all who hear this gem.  It’s a stone-cold country take on the “Cats in the Cradle” theme with every ounce that Williams can pour into it.  It serves as a startling reminder that the musicians we adore onstage are often somebody’s daddy…and are far too often away from those they love.
-BB

Drew Kennedy – “Jesus Can See You” – Kennedy has again proven himself as the greatest songwriter toiling in the Texas boundaries.  On this standout song from his fine Wide Listener release, Kennedy also once again displays that he’s at his best when he’s finding out clever ways to deliver his commentary on life’s hypocrisies. A startling mix of musical styles helps deliver this off-kilter lyrical punch.
-BB

Buster Jiggs – “Soul Like a Rocket”.  Buster Jiggs has been one of my favorite bands for a few years. As a whole, they’re moving in a more rock & roll direction, which works wonderfully for them. Their EP “Dirty Little Secrets” leads off with the track “Soul Like a Rocket” that blends Kristin’s unique voice with some gritty guitar playing and it is marvelous. They’re working on finding their niche and if hearing their progress as they maneuver through means more tracks like this one, I’m excited.
-ST

Favorite Discoveries

William Clark Green – A name that has been percolating in Texas Music circles for a few years now, found his breakthrough with the release of Rose Queen.  The latest in a long line of Lubbock bred singer/songwriters, Clark manages to mix uniquely commercially viable music with some of the freshest lyrical yarns around.
-BB

Spirit Family Reunion – This is a very spirited (yeah, I know) group of roots musicians. They play their music with such joy and passion that it’s impossible not to fall in love with this group. Check out their song “I’ll Find A Way” for a good representation.
-DT

Chris King – I picked up a copy of 1983 and was blown away by Chris King. This guy clearly has talent and is making music he loves. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for Chris.
-JW

American Aquarium – I’m always excited to talk about American Aquarium as much as possible. Their 2012 album burn.flicker.die. is on repeat in my car right now because it is the closest thing to perfect I’ve heard in an extremely long time. With songs like “Saint Mary’s” that toast to the times of our youth and “Casualties” that really make you understand the blood, sweat, and tears these men have put in as a constantly touring band over the years, American Aquarium helps define the alt country genre with attitude.

Zane Williams – I was somewhat familiar with Williams’ work prior to 2013 due to Troubadour, TX.  But, this was the  year it resonated with me upon the release of Overnight Success.  A songwriter with the ability to rip at your heartstrings (“While I Was Away”) at one moment and make you chuckle knowingly the next (“Overnight Success).   Williams is an adept, able and fantastic entertainer to boot and 2013 should be a springboard to large scale success in the future.
-BB

Quaker City Night Hawks – I’ve beat that Honcho record up to an oblivion. Their drummer Matt should be playing in the Foo Fighters. Dude kills it. Great group of dudes. Can’t wait for their next effort to be released.
-JPL

Sturgill Simpson -I ran across some live recordings from Sturgill Simpson at Sun King brewery. If Sturgill is the future of music then we have nothing to worry about. I hope Sturgill books a run in TX/OK and gets the support of this scene.
-JW

Quaker City Nighthawks – Rock ‘n’ Roll is alive! The Quaker City Nighthawks released Honcho this year, and the first three songs on that album were three of my favorites of the year.
-DT

Folk Family Revival –  I was late to the party, but I really dig their Unfolding album. Them Lankford’s and Mr. Pace have got something going on here.
-JPL

Tyler Byant & The Shakedown – Tyler Bryant is a young blues-rock guitarist and singer from Honey Grove, Texas. Bryant was taught guitar by a local delta-style blues guitarist, and his influence shines in Bryant’s music. Blues is not Bryant’s only influence though; his music often sounds closer to Led Zeppelin than Robert Johnson. Think Lincoln Durham mixed with Whiskey Myers, and you’ve got Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown.
-DT

Sturgill Simpson – Continuing my theme of being late to the party on several acts I should’ve been paying attention to much sooner, Simpson brings a refreshingly authentic take to country music.  Honky-tonk, winsome, lonesome, hard drinking and hard living all find their rightful spots in Simpson’s musical canon.  Hopefully, his influence spreads far and wide beyond the Americana and vintage country circles that have already quickly and rightfully embraced him.
-BB

Favorite Live Acts

Lincoln Durham – The bastard son of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s meditation and Jack White’s nightmares continued to put his Texas spin on Mississippi Fred McDowell-esque blues.  A Durham show is a one man beatdown of your senses.  He’s constantly expanding his one-man band repertoire all while he expands expectations of what one inspired artist can accomplish.
-BB

John Fullbright – John Fullbright is often praised for his songwriting. Fullbright, however, is a sorely underrated musician and live performer. In the live setting, Fullbright plays guitars, keyboard, and harmonica and sings his heart out. I watched him do a call-and-response with himself between his harmonica playing and keyboard. Yeah.
-DT

Phil Pritchett – My favorite live act will always be Phil Pritchett. He puts so much of himself out there on stage in every single performance that you can’t help but love it as much as he does. His latest live album “Corpus Christi Live” does a fantastic job capturing the spirit and energy of his craft.
-ST

Josh Weathers – Weathers was one of my choices in this category last year and built upon that standing by playing fewer gigs in 2013, making each one all the more special.  Weathers has crafted a performance style that borrows from all the best elements of soul, r&b, country and rock.  The intensity and soul he puts into each note is truly remarkable.  Weathers is taking a break from performing in 2014 and the stages of Texas will miss him dearly.
-BB

Lincoln Durham – If you want your band to get sacked by one dude then follow this guy. I don’t know if I’ve ever worked with a harder worker than LD. I watch this guy grow up a little more every time he takes the stage. It’s pretty f*cking exciting to be part of it.
-JPL

JJ Grey & Mofro – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: JJ Grey & Mofro is the hottest touring band out there. They put on an amazingly spirited, talented, unique, spontaneous, and tight live show. JJ Grey will make you laugh and he will make you cry. Then his band will finish the job and knock you on your ass.
-DT

Stoney LaRue –  I’ve seen Stoney a multitude of times over the years and I never get tired of his live show. He repeatedly shows off not only his talent, but that of his band. When you go to a Stoney show you are going to get some Stoney tunes with some serious jams thrown in between.
-JW

Uncle Lucius – Kevin Galloway is a powerhouse vocalist and entertainer. And he makes Axl Rose’s whistling sound like amateur hour. Mike Carpenter is full beast mode on the guitar and has that Dickey Betts thing going on. You won’t find 5 more talented and entertaining dudes to get you all jacked up about life and a good time.
-JPL

Uncle Lucius – Few artists truly make the audience feel something.  Truly feel something.  As if they’re a part of a larger experience.  Uncle Lucius shows are as close to a religious experience as can be had in a live music venue.
-BB

Royal Southern Brotherhood – Composed of singer/guitarist Devon Allman (son of Gregg), blues singer/guitarist Mike Zito, legendary funk singer/percussionist Cyril Neville, former Derek Trucks Band drummer Yonrico Scott, and bassist Charlie Wooten, Royal Southern Brotherhood is one of the most eclectic and talented touring bands on the road today. RSB knows how to rock, how to groove, how to jam, and how to play the blues. This is a must-see live band.
-DT

Shinyribs -Kevin Russell, formerly of The Gourds is maybe the most fun I have had at a concert in some time. This guy is “The Entertainer.” If you can’t have a good time at the Shinyribs show. I give up on you. He will bring out your inner dancer. Shake yo bone let’s get it on now!
-JPL

Favorite Musicians

Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien – Both of these guys get a lot of credit for their songwriting abilities, but their musicianship is equally as impressive. Both Scott and O’Brien have about five different musical instruments in their arsenal, and they can play each of them masterfully. It is a joy to witness their preservation and expansion of American roots music.
-DT

Brandy Zdan – Be it fronting her own projects or backing other artists, Zdan infiltrated the boys only club that permeates most country and Americana musician crowds by mixing a humble personality with hard-earned chops to truly by envious of.
-BB

Lincoln Durham – That’s easy for me. Go play all the shit Lincoln Durham plays and get back to me so I can at least have some more nominees.
-JPL

Kris Farrow – Farrow is a multi-instrumentalist (Zane Williams, Josh Grider and others) with a musical range as wide as anyone’s I’ve ever known. He has both the technical skills and the heart that are required of a great musician and you can see it as he plays that this is what he was made to do. He brings a very specific kind of edge and style to the songs he’s a part of that leaves you wanting to hear more.
-ST

Vince Gill & Paul Franklin – These two musicians showed their superb talent on their Merle Haggard/Buck Owens tribute album Bakersfield. Gill is an excellent guitar picker and a frequently utilized session musician. Paul Franklin is one of the best living pedal steel guitarists. Along with Bakersfield, Franklin also recorded some fantastic steel guitar lines on John Mayer’s 2013 album Paradise Valley. These two musicians are only improving with age, and don’t seem to be slowing down.
-DT

Brandy Zdan – It’s always good to have a lady that knows how to rock balls. She kinda scares me and I like it.
-JPL

Caleb Jones – In a year of transition among the Wade Bowen band, the bass player held down the low end while moving to the forefront in a band leadership position.  His jam band apprenticeships have paid dividends in his current role as he adapts and pushes the new formation of the Wade Bowen band to greater heights.
-BB

Joe Bonamassa – Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa has released two live albums this year. His first, An Acoustic Evening at Vienna Opera House, is Bonamassa’s first ever acoustic-based album, and it was recorded with backing musicians that he met for the first time only a few days before the show. His second live album, Tour de Force, was recorded over four separate evenings in London at four different venues with four different bands and four different setlists. Bonamassa just might be the most ambitious musician alive today.
-DT

Mike Carpenter of Uncle Lucius – Dude will solo your face off.
-JPL

Jon “Johnny Chops” Richardson – Chops has long been known solely as the bassist in the Randy Rogers Band, but found himself stretching creatively in 2013 by releasing his debut solo album and pushing the RRB to expand its sonic stature
-BB

Seth James – You can’t not mention “I’m Seth James B*tch” in the same sentence with the names of guitar bad assery. Not to mention the dude talks like George Strait, but sings like an old black man. I’ll miss that guy in The Departed, but I am equally excited for them and Seth on their new adventures
-JPL

Favorite Venue

Off Broadway (STL) – I live in Saint Louis. We have a great venue up here called “Off Broadway” that plays many Americana-type shows: Band of Heathens, John Fullbright, Stoney LaRue, Turnpike Troubadours, Whitey Morgan, etc. Off Broadway is a laid-back venue with good sound and good lineups.
-DT

River Road Ice House (New Braunfels) -What Nick Sisoian has done with a place that was falling by the wayside is nothing less than a miracle. The new stage, sound, shows he’s bringing out there. Nick and his team are constantly working to make it better and bring bigger shows to the table. The beer is always cold too. Not to mention they have one of the greatest Bleeding Cowboy font displays I have seen in the bathroom and that is saying a lot. I get out from time to time.
-JPL

Exit/In (Nashville) – I’m partial to Exit/In now that I have moved to Nashville. It is refreshing to see a venue in a city full of bad music that embraces the guys that make authentic music. The venue is intimate, the staff is intimate and the place is full of history.
-JW

Brewster Street Ice House (Corpus Christi) – Considering the area of Texas I live in, my go-to venue is always Brewster Street Ice House. They do a great job with bringing both up and coming artists and industry veterans to a town that didn’t have much of a scene even five years ago. I’d also like to make note of Executive Surf Club since I’ve been watching shows there for as long as I can remember – it’s a smaller outside venue that forces you to be there for the love of the music.
-ST

Cinema (Waco) – Sprung from the minds of several people with creativity to burn and backgrounds in various entertainment avenues, Cinema brings to life a concept that even Jon Taffer wouldn’t yell about.  Mixing elements of an elegant lounge with a bar and music venue in the confines of a non-smoking environment make this new venue one to watch.  They’re booking a variety of acts ranging from national touring acts, local musicians, regional favorites and even comedians.
-BB

Hat Trick’s (Lewisville) – Tony Avezzano has been at the helm of this tiny sports bar that could for over a decade now.  Avezanno manages to cater to all sorts of demographics through a strategic booking strategy and the ability to maintain artists loyalty long after they’ve grown past his tiny stage.
-BB

Favorite Artists

Anders Osborne –In February, Osborne released an EP entitled Three Free Amigos that was mostly acoustic based and featured two of my favorite songs by him, “Never is a Real Long Time” and “It’s Gonna Be OK.” In October, Osborne released the tremendous album Peace, his third album in a trio of fantastic releases through Alligator Records. Aside from his two excellent releases, he also played shows as a singer/guitarist with Phil Lesh & Friends, with Luther Dickinson, and with Voice of the Wetland All-Stars. This man is a true artist.
-DT

Will Hoge – A critical, underground darling for years, 2013 saw  Hoge take his heartland rock aesthetics, mix in some country roots and find a larger audience.  Aided by a Chevrolet ad blitz, Hoge’s musical abilities were discovered by millions for the first time.  Long after “Strong” fades from the radio and television waves, Hoge’s career will be standing tall.
-BB

Gary Clark Jr. – This guy has been hitting it out of the park all year. Grammy Nominated, Blk and Blu has been charting all year. Clark killed the 31st annual Austin Music Awards for 2012-2013, collecting eight awards, he earned the following: Band of the Year, Musician of the Year, Song of the Year – “Ain’t Messin Round” (from Blak and Blu), Album of the Year – Blak and Blue, Electric Guitarist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Blues/Soul/Funk Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year. He was also nominated for his song “Ain’t Messin Round” for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 2013. He was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
-JPL

Turnpike Troubadours – These guys built off 2012 and are completely killing it right now. Their tunes are singable without sacrificing artistic merit, which can be a rarity in this business. Their version of “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle In The Band)” on High Cotton: A Tribute to Alabama completely blew me out of the water and I genuinely look forward to what they’re going to do next.
-ST

Jason Isbell – I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a buzz as large as the one that Jason Isbell created this year. You know an artist is exceptional when every single opinionated music snob on the Internet is in agreement with each other. Southeastern is a remarkable album by a remarkably talented artist.
-DT

Sturgill Simpson – Traditional country savior Sturgill Simpson made a huge name for himself this year with his first solo release High Top Mountain. Simpson has all of the makings of a great country singer: the angry Southern attitude, the deep voiced groan, and the lonesome country songwriting. I’m unbelievably anxious to see what else Sturgill Simpson has in store for us.
-DT

Jason Isbell – I was never a DBT diehard and only passingly cared for Isbell’s previous solo or 400 Unit efforts…but in 2013 he could not be denied.  He managed to create his masterpiece in the early stages of a newfound sobriety.  He toured his tail off and generated some of the most monster buzz we’ve ever witnessed for someone in whatever we’re calling this scene/genre at the moment.  2013 was Isbell’s year, everyone else was fighting for second place.
-BB

Walt Wilkins – It’s my church. Walt’s lyrics hold me accountable and I could use some of that from time to time.
-JPL

3 Responses to “Favorites of 2013”

  1. Best part of “Songs About Trucks” is that it was written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, two of country’s top hit songwriters. Love how they made this a trojan horse — a truck song song about being sick of truck songs.


    Reply to this comment
    • Straggler42 December 17, 2013

      I agree Jeff. Not sure how sincere that song is. I hear the lyrics and it just sounds like a typical truck song. I find it rather ironic. Trojan horse is a perfect description.


      Reply to this comment
  2. They are also responsible for most of Kacey Musgraves album and Brandy Clark helped write a song by Musgraves that is on this list. So you are saying that Musgraves is nothing, but a Nashville trucks and tailgates artist too.


    Reply to this comment