Last one... till December.
~Travis Erwin1. Ward Davis - Black Cats & Crows
The title track was the first track I heard here and was strong enough to have me digging in for more. “Sounds of Chains” keeps the murder ballad alive and in gritty capable hands. The fourteen tracks here take you for an emotional ride and the collection feels traditional, without ever coming across as cliché. even on the Alabama cover, “Lady Down on Love.”
2. Bruce Springsteen - Letter to You
The now 71-year-old Springsteen has spent the better part of 50 years writing about characters as frayed as the cuffs of a well-worn denim jacket. Selling a idea of nostalgia has always been a big part of Springsteen, but here on this album, those sentiments feel more like affirmations than mystical ideals that maybe never were. ThetTitle track along with “Burnin’ Train,” “Janey Needs a Shooter,” and “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Stood out for me.
3. Waylon Payne - Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me
Seventeen years is a long time to wait for a follow up album, and beyond that, Payne has a lot to live up given his royal lineage and ties to Outlaw hierarchy. This album lived up to all of it and perhaps even exceeded expectations.
4. Marcus King – El Dorado
With a bit of 70s funk throwback, King offers a unique vocal style. “One Day She’s Here,” and “Beautiful Stranger” were my favorite cuts.
5. Ruthie Collin – Cold Comfort
The album’s opening track, "Joshua Tree," might be my favorite cut of the year. It was inspired by the relationship of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Other favorites of mine were “Dang Dallas,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “You Can’t Remember.”
6. Swamp Dogg - Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
A few years back, I had the pleasure of witnessing Swamp Dogg join John Prine on stage a few years back, and this album again showcases their friendship as it includes a couple of Prine covers, but the richness of this album is in the soulful passion of the vocals even more than it is the song selection. Not traditional country by any stretch but soulful and meaningful as god music should be.
7. Thieving Birds – American Savage
After a long seven year wait between album releases these birds came back with a thieving vengeance in 2020. “Ruin,” “My Sweet Baby,” “Somewhere to Run,” “Sweet War,” and “Pockets of Gold” are all tracks that spoke to me.
8. American Aquarium – Lamentations
No one speaks their mind like B.J. Barham and that is why his music tends to be so provocative.
- Country Shade
More of a singer/songwriter, than a natural showman, Baumann’s sounds isn’t exactly traditional country, but it always feels pure and true. So it is ironic that the lead track, “The Country Doesn’t Sound The Same,” is about the old sound disappearing. “If You Really Love Someone,” “Sunday Morning Going Up,” and “I Don’t Know” also spoke to me.
10. Stephanie Lambring – Autonomy
“Joy To Jesus” is as powerful of a track as I heard in 2020, but Lambring’s talent goes well beyond this one track. The writing is powerful and the delivery emotional throughout the album.