Truth, Hope, And Inspiration: My Favorite Music From 2020

Lists Reviews
Photo by Dark Rider on Unsplash

Like a lot of writers I love making lists and I had a blast putting the list you see below together. The entries are unranked on purpose because I feel like putting a number beside them would cheapen the process in that it would suggest a super qualitative decision on my part. I approach listening to and writing about music simply as a fan, not as a critic.
In a year when music became an even bigger lifeline to me than it already was, I feel like I am not qualified to tell you what the “best” record of the year was, only what some of my favorites were. There are undoubtedly countless other potential favorites from 2020 that I have missed and not had the pleasure to listen to yet. It is my hope that in my eternal, constant, and relentless pursuit of good music I will experience the joy of discovering them too.
What you see below are my picks for 100 of my favorite studio albums, 20 of my favorite EPs, and 20 of my favorite live recordings released during 2020. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded reissues and boxed sets released over the past year, of which there were many of those that I enjoyed as well.
Under each entry you will see a direct link to where you can find out more about the artists and their work and where you can purchase their music. Musical artists and venues need our support now more than ever and I am committed, like I am sure you are, to doing all that I can to help these two most precious cultural resources thrive and survive.
In 2021, I sincerely wish peace, love, happiness, safety, and last but not least, good music to us all.
John Michael Antonio

 

Favorite Albums Released In 2020

Half Moon Light -The Lone Bellow

https://www.thelonebellow.com/

Shine – Ana Cristina Cash

https://www.anacristinacash.com/merch

The New OK – Drive -By Truckers

https://www.drivebytruckers.com/

Woman In Color – Raye Zaragoza

https://www.rayezaragoza.com/music

The Chaser – Secret Emchy Society

http://www.emchy.com/

Ghosts Of West Virginia – Steve Earle And The Dukes

https://hifi247.com/steve-earle.html

The Unraveling – Drive – By Truckers

https://www.drivebytruckers.com/

Love Life – Tawny Ellis

https://www.tawnyellis.com/

Overnight Lows – Sunny Ozell

https://www.sunnyozell.com/

Love In The Midst Of Mayhem – Joe Ely

http://www.ely.com/music

Good Souls Better Angels – Lucinda Williams

https://www.lucindawilliams.com/music

Unemployed Highly Annoyed – Jeremiah Johnson 

https://jeremiahjohnsonband.com/store

You Better Hurry Up – Caleb Caudle

https://www.calebcaudle.com/

No Time For Enemies – Gangstagrass

https://gangstagrass.com/

L.A. Yesterday – Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah

https://www.leegallaghermusic.com/

Total Freedom – Kathleen Edwards

https://www.kathleenedwards.com/

Shine – The Danberrys 

https://www.thedanberrys.com/

Burn The Witch- Sarah Peacock

https://sarahpeacockmusic.com/

Self Made Man – Larkin Poe

https://www.larkinpoe.com/

Saturn Return – Secret Sisters

https://stores.portmerch.com/secretsistersband/

Never Will – Ashley McBryde

https://www.ashleymcbryde.com/music

Welcome To Hard Times – Charley Crockett

http://www.charleycrockett.com/

Years -John Anderson

https://johnanderson.shop.musictoday.com/store/

Quarantine Blues – Mike Zito

https://www.mikezito.com/

Listen – Kyshona Armstrong

https://www.kyshona.com/shop

Neon Cross – Jaime Wyatt

https://www.jaimewyatt.com/music

Country Westerns – Country Westerns

https://countrywesternsband.com/music

Blue Hearts – Bob Mould

https://bobmould.com/category/music/solo/

The Offering – Xanthe Alexis

https://xanthealexis.com/#buy

The Reservoir – Kenny Roby

https://kennyroby.net/

Many Moons – Jeremy Squires

https://www.jeremysquires.org/store

First Rose Of Spring – Willie Nelson

https://willienelson.com/collections/music/products/first-rose-of-spring

Honky Tonk Hell – Gabe Lee

https://www.gabeleetn.com/

Lamentations – American Aquarium

http://www.americanaquarium.com/

Torch And Trouble – Emily Zuzik

http://www.emilyzuzik.com/

Solo Acoustic Vol. 1-Steve Wynn

https://stevewynn1.bandcamp.com/album/solo-acoustic-vol-1

Gaslighter – The Chicks

https://thechicks.com/music

.Reunions – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

https://www.jasonisbell.com/

That’s How Rumors Get Started – Margo Price

https://margoprice.net/

The Country – Tennessee Jet

https://tennesseejet.com/

Country Supper – Robert Connely Farr

https://www.robertconnelyfarr.com/

Bears & Bulls – The Stone Foxes

https://www.thestonefoxes.com/

Pressure – Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown

http://www.tylerbryantandtheshakedown.com/

The Life and Times of James “The Rooster” Corcoran – Vincent Cross

http://www.vincentcross.com/

Forever Worse Better – Great Peacock

https://www.greatpeacock.com/

Rough and Rowdy Ways- Bob Dylan

http://www.bobdylan.com/

The Tango Bar- Greg Copeland

https://gregcopeland1.bandcamp.com/releases

Flyover Country – Susan Werner

http://susanwerner.com/

Make Things Better – Town Meeting

https://www.townmeetingmusic.com/

The Witches Made Me Do It-Ryan Cassata

http://www.ryancassata.com/music

Duo Numero Uno -The Nadas

https://thenadas.com/album/1526692/duo-numero-uno

Band Together – The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

http://www.thewhiskeytreaty.com/

Heavens To Betsy – Jeremiah Johnson

https://jeremiahjohnsonband.com/store

Field Recordings, Vol. 1- Charley Crockett

https://charley-crockett-official-store.myshopify.com/

Elisabeth – Zach Bryan

https://www.zachlanebryan.com/music

The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story , Vol. 1 – Various Artists

https://biglegalmessrecords.com/collections/bible-tire/products/the-last-shall-be-first-the-jcr-records-story-volume-1

Vintage Machine Digital Album – Jackie Venson

https://jackievenson.bandcamp.com/album/vintage-machine-digital-album

Pay It Back – LP Kelly

https://lpkelly.bandcamp.com/album/pay-it-back

Early Morning Rain – Steve Forbert

https://www.steveforbert.com/

Touch Of You: The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart-Mike and the Moonpies

https://mikeandthemoonpies.bandcamp.com/album/touch-of-you-the-lost-songs-of-gary-stewart

Hard Lines & Headlights – Whiskey Foxtrot

https://www.whiskeyfoxtrotmusic.com/music

Cool. – seela

https://iamseela.com/

Also, Too – Darlin’ Brando

https://brndngldstn.wixsite.com/darlinbrando/music

The Prettiest Bird – Susan Pepper

https://susanpepper.com/music

All This Time- Heather Anne Lomax

https://heatherlomaxmusic.com/store

Glitter & Gold- Dead Rock West

http://www.deadrockwest.com/music

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton

https://www.chrisstapleton.com/music/

Hard Love -Rascal Martinez

https://www.rascalmartinez.com/music.html

Calamity – Stillhouse Junkies

https://stillhousejunkies.com/welcome

Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? – Fantastic Negrito

https://fantasticnegrito.com/

World Is Waiting – Nikki O’ Neill

https://nikkioneill.com/

Wildhorse – Malin Pettersen

http://malinpettersenofficial.com/

Distance and Time – Becky Buller

https://darkshadowrecording.com/becky-buller

We Wither, We Bloom – The Northern Belle

https://thenorthernbelle.bandcamp.com/album/we-wither-we-bloom

Mondegreens- Rachel Garlin

https://rachelgarlin.com/new-album

Bad Luck – Sylvia Rose Novak

https://sylviarosenovak.com/#home-section

Long Violent History – Tyler Childers

https://longviolenthistory.tylerchildersmusic.com/

Sorry You Couldn’t Make It- Swamp Dogg

https://www.theswampdogg.com/

The White Sea- Diane and The Gentlemen

https://www.dianegentile.com/

Asterisk The Universe – John Craigie

https://johncraigiemusic.com/music

Time Traveler- Jason Wilber

https://jasonwilber.com/

Aftermath – Elizabeth Cook

https://www.elizabeth-cook.com/

Far From Home – Aubrie Sellers

https://home.aubriesellers.com/

Blues Comin’ On – Joe Louis Walker

https://www.joelouiswalker.com/music

Quarantine Blues – Roman Barten-Sherman and Tom Walbank

https://romanbarten-sherman.bandcamp.com/album/quarantine-blues-2

Quarantine Blues Vol. 2 – Roman Barten-Sherman and Tom Walbank

https://romanbarten-sherman.bandcamp.com/album/quarantine-blues-vol-2

Quarantine Blues Vol. 3 – Roman Barten-Sherman and Tom Walbank

https://romanbarten-sherman.bandcamp.com/album/quarantine-blues-vol-3

Spirit Rising – Phillip Sayce

https://philipsayce.com/

Leave It All Behind – Mike Frazier

https://mikefrazierva.bandcamp.com/album/leave-it-all-behind

The Balladeer – Lori McKenna

http://www.lorimckenna.com/

Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

https://store.phoebefuckingbridgers.com/collections/music

Your Life Is A Record – Brandy Clark

https://www.brandyclarkmusic.com/#

We Still Go To Rodeos – Whitney Rose

https://whitneyrosemusic.com/

The Sick Season – Becky Warren

https://beckywarren.bandcamp.com/merch

Altar Of Harmony – Luke Schneider

https://lukeschneider.bandcamp.com/

Sides – Emily  King

https://www.emilykingmusic.com/

Get in Union – Bessie Jones

https://alanlomaxarchive.bandcamp.com/album/get-in-union

World On the Ground – Sarah Jarosz

https://www.sarahjarosz.com/

Sister – Puss N Boots

https://www.pussnbootsmusic.com/

A Small Death – Samantha Crain

https://www.samanthacrain.com/

 

Favorite EPs Released In 2020

Spirals, Vol 1 : Not A straight Line To Be Found – Bruce Sudano

https://therocks871.wixsite.com/brucesudano/music

Spirals Vol 2 : Time & Space In Between – Bruce Sudano

https://therocks871.wixsite.com/brucesudano/music

Oh Sedona -Michael McArthur

https://www.michaelmcarthurmusic.com/

How To Fall In Love – Michael McArthur

https://www.michaelmcarthurmusic.com

Bridges – Mickey Guyton

https://www.mickeyguyton.com

Letters From A Broken Heart – Whitney McClain

http://www.whitneymcclain.com/

They’ll Never Keep Us Down – Kelsey Waldon

https://www.kelseywaldon.com/media-1

Too Blind To Hear – Peter Wise

http://www.peterwisemusic.com/

Live From Capricorn Studios – Blackberry Smoke

https://www.blackberrysmoke.com/pages/music

Quiet, Heavy Dreams – Zach Bryan

https://www.zachlanebryan.com/music

For The Forgotten – Live from MOXE  – Kyshona Armstrong

https://kyshona.bandcamp.com/album/for-the-forgotton-live-from-moxe

The Times – Neil Young

https://neilyoungarchives.com/album?id=A_119

Rodeo Queen – Kylie Frey

https://kyliefrey.fanlink.to/RodeoQueen-EP

Heart In Tennessee – Teni Rane

https://linktr.ee/tenirane

A Zillion Stars Overhead – Debra Devi

https://www.debradevi.com/

Life Is Beautiful – Matthew Ryan

https://matthewryanonline.com/

Show Pony – Orville Peck

https://www.orvillepeck.com/

After Midnight – Callie McCullough

https://www.calliemccullough.com/

A Short Film For A Long Story – Strays Don’t Sleep

https://matthewryanonline.com/

Burial Ground EP – Roman Barten- Sherman and Tom Walbank

https://romanbarten-sherman.bandcamp.com/album/burial-ground-ep-2

 

Favorite Live Recordings Released In 2020

Rocked This Town: From LA To London – The Stray Cats

http://straycats.com/home/

Live At The Forum – The Teskey Brothers

http://www.theteskeybrothers.com/music

Live At The Paramount -Ruthie Foster

http://www.ruthiefoster.com/#homepage

Live In Europe – Sara Schorr

https://www.manhatonrecords.com/product/sari-schorr-live-in-europe-signed-digipak-cd

Live at Austin City Limits – Jackie Venson

https://jackievenson.bandcamp.com/album/jackie-venson-live-at-austin-city-limits

Socially Distant in New Jersey – Live at the Blu Grotto (9/11/20) – Blackberry Smoke

https://blackberrysmoke1.bandcamp.com/album/socially-distant-in-new-jersey-live-at-the-blu-grotto-9-11-20

Heathens Homecoming 2020 – Drive-By Truckers

https://drivebytruckers.bandcamp.com/album/heathens-homecoming-2020

April 25 , 2020 : An Evening Of Songs Performed At Home – Aoife O’ Donovan

https://aoifeodonovan.bandcamp.com/album/april-25th-2020-an-evening-of-songs-performed-at-home

Return To Greendale – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

https://neilyoungarchives.com/album?id=A_116

Live From the Midwest – The Way Down Wanderers

https://thewaydownwanderers.com/store#!

Jackrabbit Slim Live In Concert – Steve Forbert

https://www.steveforbert.com/

Live From Symphony Hall (Atlanta, GA – 11/6/15) – The Milk Carton Kids

https://themilkcartonkids.bandcamp.com/album/live-from-symphony-hall-atlanta-ga-11-6-15

Recorded Live At The Recording Shop Studio – Sunny Sweeney

https://sunny-sweeney-merchandise.myshopify.com/

Live And Solo -Edward David Anderson

https://www.edwarddavidanderson.com/

The Sugar Sessions (Live At Memorial Hall) – Shannon Clark & The Sugar

https://www.shannonclarksugar.com/store

School Daze: A Fundraiser For Durham Public Schools Students – Hiss Golden Messenger

http://www.hissgoldenmessenger.com/

Forward, Children : A Fundraiser For Durham Public Schools Students – Hiss Golden Messenger

https://hissgoldenmessenger.bandcamp.com/album/forward-children-a-fundraiser-for-durham-public-schools-students

Perfectly Imperfect At the Ryman (Live) – Margo Price

https://margoprice.net/

Reunions: Live At Brooklyn Bowl Nashville – Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires

https://jasonisbell.bandcamp.com/album/reunions-live-at-brooklyn-bowl-nashville

Live At the Caverns -Pelham, TN 10/11/20 – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

https://jasonisbell.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-caverns-pelham-tn-10-11-20

 

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