21) Kacy & Clayton “The Siren’s Song”
The songs on this duo’s album could have been b-sides to any Joni Mitchell album from the 1960s. It’s such a throwback to the 1960s that it felt fresh among the more modern singer-songerwriters crowding my iTunes Music library, all trying their best to redefine the ‘alternative’ genre. Kacy & Clayton aren’t trying to be alternative to anything. They’re just creating songs that inspire additional listens.
22) Dave Rawlings “Poor David’s Almanac”
While Dave removed the “Machine” from the name, I don’t think of this as a solo effort. His machine is Gilllian Welch, along with Willie Watson, Paul Kowert and Brittany Haas. Even if it’s billed as a Dave Rawlings album, it’s greatness is due to the combination of the folks in the previous sentence.
23) Anthony da Costa “da Costa Deluxe”
I first heard of Anthony da Costa when tagging photos from Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in 2013. He played with the band “I Draw Slow”, but otherwise didn’t stand-out to me as someone I needed to look-up. It wasn’t until his work with Aoife O’Donovan at the Newport Folk Fest in 2016 that I knew he wasn’t meant to just be on the sidelines. Aoife’s phrasing is unique, which makes it especially hard to harmonize with. I was impressed with his work with her, both live and on her solo albums. This led me to his solo album “da Costa Deluxe”. While it can be branded as the dreaded (to me) genre of “alternative”, it truly plays as a unique Americana album.
24) Threshold “Legends of the Shires”
I have a long history with Threshold. They provided part of the soundtrack to my college years, especially the album “Clone” from 1998. While the band members are nearly all different 20 years later, it still sounds like Thresold to me. “Legends of the Shires” is my favorite album of theirs since 1998.
25) Dori Freeman “Letters Never Read”
After my first listen through this album I knew it was something special that would require many more listens.
It starts off with a rather standard tune called “If I Could Make You My Own” fooling the listener into thinking this is a standard folk album. It’s not.
“Ern & Zorry’s Sneakin’ Bitin’ Dog” is completely a cappella, though never loses my interest. “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” is a Richard Thompson cover that reminds me of his songwriting genius, even if, just like Bob Dylan, his greatness is best revealed in covers such as this one.
“Yonder Comes a Sucker” closes the album with a unique drum and vocal duo. In the first listen I waited for the band to kick in. By the time it was over I was glad it never did.
26) “Amelie” the Musical
This 2017 musical crafted after the 2001 movie closed on Broadway in a few short months. It wasn’t a success, but that doesn’t mean that the soundtrack wasn’t a good time. Part of its appeal to me may be in the pure delight that I get when I hear the name “Amelie” and think of my favorite podcast “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” and their classic Amelie bit.
27) Oh Wonder “Ultralife”
This seems like a typo. It doesn’t belong here. It’s a dance-pop album that I clicked on at work and it ran on repeat for a bit. It grew on me and I ended up listening to it while cooking dinner for a few weeks.
Please do not recommend other similar albums to me. This was a weird experiment and it’s unlikely that I’ll listen to this album again.
28) Billy Strings “Turmoil & Tinfoil”
Billy Strings is the type of virtuoso guitar slinger that you don’t want to take home to your mother. Not because your mother would disapprove, but because he would steal her away from your father with his 10-speed bad-boy guitar picking. It would just be a bit old mess for your family in general.
Billy shines best live, when he steps in front of the microphone and starts his carpal-tunnel inducing double-picking to an array of standard bluegrass tunes. But on his solo album his songwriting also shines.
29) Disney’s Coco Soundtrack
I entered the movie theater with relatively low expectations when my family saw Coco on Thanksgiving weekend in 2017. Any expectations were blow away, both for me and my 2 girls. They both were inspired to pick up the guitar, but not quite yet willing to put in the work to get started.
After the movie was over, the soundtrack took over our household’s listening experience for several weeks. My 6 year old was nearly fluent in Spanglish by Christmas.
30) Front Country “Other Love Songs”
“Front Country” was built for the festival circuit. They fit into the genres of Americana, Roots, Folk, Pop, and Blues so they make great utilities players for any festival.