Kevin Broughton’s Top 10 Albums of 2019
I think 2019 was a really good year for songwriting and debut albums. I’d also note some consensus I had with other FTM contributors; seven of my Top 10 made the critics’ Top 10 as well. And my list falls on a definitive Lone Star-to-Appalachia axis, with four Texans, three Kentuckians and one West Virginian winning accolades.
A change of pace, style and life converge in this brilliant follow up to 2017’s Corners. On this album it’s all about the lyrics, and the artist is brutally honest in his self-reflection. The lyrical imagery is reminiscent of Isbell’s Southeastern, and one hopes that sobriety will have a similarly positive impact on Domino’s career going forward. Even if Songs From The Exile is his upper limit, it’s a worthy career-defining effort.
I didn’t cross paths with this album till late in the year, several months after its release. It’s still in heavy rotation.
Josh Fleming and his rowdy band of Texas rockers had their wish come true when they inked a deal with Bloodshot records, then rewarded the label’s faith in them with this tour de force. It’s an album that combines Fleming’s focused, fiery storytelling with the raw, rough-edged roots you might hear from Lucero or the Old 97s. And oh, the fiddles and horns!
It’s counterintuitive that this band self-produced a masterpiece after having two great records helmed by all-everything Dave Cobb, but that’s exactly what happened here. There’s depth and balance to this album, but ultimately it’s a Southern rock record in the very best tradition of a nearly forgotten genre. “Houston County Sky” channels The Marshall Tucker Band, and “Little More Money” and “Bad Weather” are right out of Dirty South-era Drive By Truckers. “Hammer” is a sultry, swampy reminiscence of early Black Crowes. This album is a triumph, and long-awaited.
4. Jason Hawk Harris – Love And The Dark
Bloodshot continues its hot streak of great debut records. Harris endured an unimaginable series of tragedies in the few years leading up to this album, yet managed to emerge with clarity and hopefulness. He’s a brilliant songwriter who also deserves legitimate Isbell comparisons.
This guy. He writes this generation’s “Sam Stone,” about every other cut. Born for this time, in this day’s Kentucky. The sad, hard truth, from the guy who’s been milling it for a good, long while.
Godwin paints a rich and honest portrayal of his homeland and its people with his debut album. Seneca is a moving snapshot of life and well-soiled roots in the Appalachian hills, a backdrop that has given birth to some of the most intelligent and hard-working people in the country.
7. Kelsey Waldon – White Noise/White Lines
A tough, touring gal posts up with an album and band that shows John Prine was right to sign her to O Boy Records. It’s dreamy and trippy and wonderful, and she’s so full of confidence. Kelsey Waldon will amaze.
The band’s first full-length album in a decade, it’s a top-4 or-5 in the all-time catalog. Kevn and the band are comfortable in their skin, three decades in. And Trailer was right to put “Ian MacLagan” in his top songs of the year.
A couple of things about the fact that all the great Chris Knight songs sound alike: They all rock, they’re all true. And he only puts albums out about every five years. Wait. That’s three things. I don’t care. He’s William Freaking Callahan.
Building on 2016’s Humble Folks – a fantastic album – this one is well-enough produced to ask if Flatland might crack the mainstream. Maybe this could be a “crossover” act that could win converts?