21) Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line “Carnival”
Nora Jane was my summer celebrity crush. If ever given the change to see them live, you too will fall in love. It’s as if “Barn Dance” was written for the dance tent at summer bluegrass festivals. Bearfoot couldn’t hold her for long. Hopefully the “Party Line” is a more permanent project.
22) Steep Canyon Rangers “Tell the Ones I Love”
Not too different from the previous, and probably about the same as the next. They still put out the most consistent modern bluegrass and one of the best live shows I’ve seen in 2013. The low point for me is “Bluer Words Were Never Spoken”. It sounds too much like Railroad Earth trying to sound like the Grateful Dead. Highlights are the title track, “Lay Myself Down” and “Stand and Deliver”.
23) Children of Bodom “Halo of Blood”
I give this the same review as the Dark Tranquillity album. This was a Children of Bodom album. Nothing really stuck out to me, but overall it provided good background music during work. The cover of Roxette’s “Sleeping in my Car” was a change in feel and obviously a cover even to those that hadn’t heard the original. It made an obvious choice for the piano cover as I wasn’t about to pick out a Janne Wirman solo.
24) Flower Kings “Desolation Rose”
This album came out on the same day as the Ayreon album and it took a quick lead in what was otherwise a progressive rock overload week. The playcounts show otherwise, but it’s solid kings.
25) Stephen Kellogg “Blunderstone Rookery”
Sometimes I feel that Stephen Kellogg tries too hard to make his audience feel. In “I Don’t Want to Die on the Road” Stephen compares himself to La Bamba and Stevie Ray Vaughan while hoping he doesn’t follow in the final footsteps of a tragic, early death. “Forgive You, Forgive Me” was stolen from Tom Petty’s notebook. While 10 minutes long, “Thanksgiving” holds my interest though from other Kellogg songs we know this is not autobiographical. “The Best” is where Kellogg employs some indie cliches by adding unharmonized and over-reverbed “Oh” and “Ah”s. However, that song seemed to make the best solo piano version.
26) Milk Carton Kids “The Ash & Clay”
I’m sure I’m not he first to say this, but the Milk Carton Kids are a unique blend of the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel and Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings. Even the guitar noodling is taken out of the Dave Rawlings book of guitar noodling.
27) Blitzen Trapper “VII”
I, like many others, was introduced to Blitzen Trapper after the song Furr gained some attention. It was a somber folky song that was written to make old people cry as a series of old timey photos appear on the screen re-caping a life. This album had none of that. It is lumberjack funk and groovy in a way that suggests it doesn’t know what decade it belongs in. I may have not given this album a second spin had it not had the Blitzen Trapper name. But I did, and on repeated listens it grew on me.
28) Slaid Cleaves “Still Fighting the War”
The only Austin based alt-country star on the list takes a deep spot. “Texas Love Song” plays like a John Prine or Hayes Carll back-and-forth song, even though it’s just Slaid. It shares the humor, at least. And good thing for Slaid, lots of words rhyme with Texas.
29) Josh Ritter “The Beast In Its Tracks”
This album was a bit more striped down than previous efforts. Most songs would work fine with just Josh and a guitar, and some added reverb.
30) Larkin Poe & Thom Hell “The Sound of the Ocean Sound”
Larkin Poe released a lot of albums shortly after they formed, mostly EPs. This albums was something a bit different as it introduced a male vocalist/songwriter in Thom Hell, though it still sounded to me like a Larkin Poe album at heart. Thom did add some impressive range and dynamics to the vocals sounding like Art Garfunkel at times.