What a year 2019 has been for so far for Americana music.
Female artists have dominated, with The Highwomen acting as catalysts for conversation and setting agendas – who could forget them bringing Yola and Sheryl Crow onstage at July’s Newport Folk Festival – but it’s not just era-defining live performances that have offered up high spots as the decade draws to a close, 2019 has delivered some fantastic recorded music up to now.
Albums are how music lovers measure our lives. We all have a record that reminds us of growing up, falling in love or saying goodbye to someone special. It doesn’t matter if you own your favourite on vinyl, CD or cassette, it’s that tangible and tactile artefact that you can see, smell, touch and hear that matters.
That’s why on #NationalAlbumDay, we thought we’d share with you nine of our favourite Americana albums from 2019. Have we missed out the one that rocked your world? Forgotten a couple of overlooked gems? Let us know via social media and then we can all discover more great music together. Happy #NationalAlbumDay!
Yola appeared to come out of nowhere in 2019, but that’s not the case. The Bristolian songwriter has paid her dues around the music industry for a while, writing and singing for others, and that experience has really informed and improved her debut album, ‘Walk Through Fire’. Full of quality songs, great singing and the best country soul hooks and licks you’ve heard since ‘Dusty In Memphis’, Yola’s first shot across the bow made its mark.
Wilco – Ode To Joy (dBpm)
“Who needs new Wilco music in 2019?” That was the question main man Jeff Tweedy asked as the Chicago-based Americana pioneers prepared to release their 11th album. He need not have worried, ‘Ode To Joy’ was received with rave reviews by critics and open arms from an army of fans who sold-out gigs on both sides of the Atlantic last month. The record itself is still revealing its beautiful secrets, but it’s sure to dominate all those ‘best of’ lists as 2019 turns to 2020…
Mercury Rev – The Delta Sweete Revisited (Bella Union)
Featuring Norah Jones, Margo Price and Lucinda Williams, ‘The Delta Sweete Revisited’ saw Catskills Mountains group Mercury Rev pay tribute to country music legend Bobbie Gentry’s classic 1968 album. Following up ‘67’s massive hit ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ proved no problem to Gentry, whose country-rock opera has attained lost and legendary status over the years. With startling sounds and singers, Mercury Rev judged this tribute just right.
The Highwomen – The Highwomen (Elektra)
What can you say about a record that has taken country music by the scruff of the neck in 2019? The work of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires, ‘The Highwomen’ was the album of the summer. Recorded in RCA Studio A in Nashville, it’s a record that rewrote classic hits and starred one of its own in ‘Redesigning Women’.
Songs Of Our Native Daughters – Songs Of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways)
Banjo players Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell joined forces to create a record filled with the sounds and stories of African American struggle. Then music moved, but the tales told were more moving and ‘Songs Of Our Native Daughters’ staked its claim as one of the most important records of 2019.
Brittany Howard – Jaime (ATO)
One of the founding members of renowned roots rockers Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has moved seamlessly into solo stardom in 2019. Debut album ‘Jaime’ has met with critical acclaim across the board and the record confidently captures the soul singer’s progression from blues hollering to a more colourful stew, with different colours and shapes. No matter if it’s a one-off or the start of something bigger and better, ‘Jaime’ is an album that has been heard all around the world.
Jenny Lewis – On The Line (Warner Bros)
The ex-Rilo Kiley singer and songwriter delivered a career-best last summer with ‘On The Line’. Recorded in California with a star-studded session band (Ringo Starr, Ryan Adams), Lewis’ fourth solo album matched classic songwriting with an Americana wall of sound that recalled Fleetwood Mac at their most authentic.
The Lumineers – III (Decca)
For their third album, The Lumineers kept many things the same but added gravitas to the tales told by main man Wesley Schultz. Acoustic guitars still rattle, pianos still roll and drums still bang, but ‘III’ represented a step up for the ever-popular folk troupe. A concept album? You better believe it…
Madison Violet – Everything’s Shifting (Ultra)
Released on the duo’s 20th anniversary, ‘Everything’s Shifting’ is a melodic delight filled with the kind of tunes that make you want to roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair. With distinctive fiddle work and harmonies, Madison Violet have created a country-inspired emotional roller-coaster.