Americana Highways

Editor’s Pick: 2020 Top Dozen Americana Albums with Two Playlists

Lists & Polls Reviews

As the managing editor of Americana Highways I listen to a lot of new music, but I also miss quite a bit, so please take this 2020 top favorite albums list with that caveat. On the other hand, that is not meant to detract one iota from these dozen utterly amazing albums.

This is also the year when Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and All the Rest remaster came out.  I operate with the assumption they automatically top each list.

Did you share that meme that says if you really want to know somebody ask them to give you their favorite songs or albums?  Whether that matters here or not, I hereby present my top favorite albums of 2020:

[Click on anything in bold to read more about the artist; click to purchase for your very own if you haven’t already; then scroll to the bottom for playlists for both Apple Music and Spotify and follow all of the artists.  Play it on shuffle!!! ]

[Click here for my favorite songs, the earworms of 2020: Editor’s Pick: 2020’s Road Trip Earworms ]

Jerry Joseph’s Beautiful Madness.  I love this one.  By any definition, I’ve converted to a fan at this point.  Produced by the Patterson Hood and featuring the Drive-By Truckers.  All of them.  Even Jason on one song.  But it’s pure Jerry.  Beautiful.  Madness.  Please listen.  And read the liner notes.

Jenny Reynolds Any Kind of Angel.  This album is amazing.  Reynolds’ songwriting excels.  She delivers complex stories and makes it look easy with a clarity that comes through from the first note.

Jason Isbell Reunions.  In addition to superlative songwriting, Jason Isbell emotes like no other.  Between the stories, the imagery, the way he plays guitar and something intangible about his vocal tones, his music always hits home.

Ben de la Cour Shadow Land. Dark and wonderful.  Incredible talent.  Dark genius talent.

DL Marble. One Line at a Time.  I put this one in the category of easy to love.  There’s something about the frailty of the human experience that comes through perfectly in his songwriting. His vocals help.  Marble makes instant hits. The production by Eric Ambel is always a fav.  Rock n roll without a wall of cymbals.

Nathaniel Rateliff. And it’s Still Alright. This album is full of nuances and subleties.  Very avant-garde.  Rateliff can hold your attention down to the hush of only a shaker.  All love.

Julian Taylor.  The Ridge. I saw him on a livestream show and went shuffling back through my music in a frenzy to find his album.  His songs are stories woven to catch your heart on each one. Fantastic.

Arlo McKinley Die Midwestern.  This is a perfect Americana album.  I’ll say it again.  It’s perfect.

Bonnie Whitmore. Last Will & Testament.  Energizing, southern gothic with distortion and swagger.  Kudos on the unique style.

Chris Smither More From the Levee.  I put this one on and it stayed on.  To be honest, although I’ve been a fan, I hadn’t expected it to be as great as it is.  It’s pure gold.  Sorrowful and relatable.

Becky Warren.  The Sick Season.   Authentic, raw.  She has that voice and the songs to support it. Americana music lovers identify with the outsider and this album is outsider stories.

Justin Farren.  Pretty Free.  This is a stripped down album showcasing Farren’s excellent songwriting, and I will be happy to see what his songs become with a full band gathered around them.

Bob Dylan Rough & Rowdy Ways.  I couldn’t leave it off.  It’ s the crown.  Not every Bob Dylan album will bring you to tears but this one will.


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