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

Lists & Polls 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

Shine – Ana Cristina Cash

The New OK – Drive -By Truckers

Woman In Color – Raye Zaragoza

The Chaser – Secret Emchy Society

Ghosts Of West Virginia – Steve Earle And The Dukes

The Unraveling – Drive – By Truckers

Love Life – Tawny Ellis

Overnight Lows – Sunny Ozell

Love In The Midst Of Mayhem – Joe Ely

Good Souls Better Angels – Lucinda Williams

Unemployed Highly Annoyed – Jeremiah Johnson

You Better Hurry Up – Caleb Caudle

No Time For Enemies – Gangstagrass

L.A. Yesterday – Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah

Total Freedom – Kathleen Edwards

Shine – The Danberrys

Burn The Witch- Sarah Peacock

Self Made Man – Larkin Poe

Saturn Return – Secret Sisters

Never Will – Ashley McBryde

Welcome To Hard Times – Charley Crockett

Years -John Anderson

Quarantine Blues – Mike Zito

Listen – Kyshona Armstrong

Neon Cross – Jaime Wyatt

Country Westerns – Country Westerns

Blue Hearts – Bob Mould

The Offering – Xanthe Alexis

The Reservoir – Kenny Roby

Many Moons – Jeremy Squires

First Rose Of Spring – Willie Nelson

Honky Tonk Hell – Gabe Lee

Lamentations – American Aquarium

Torch And Trouble – Emily Zuzik

Solo Acoustic Vol. 1-Steve Wynn

Gaslighter – The Chicks

.Reunions – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

That’s How Rumors Get Started – Margo Price

The Country – Tennessee Jet

Country Supper – Robert Connely Farr

Bears & Bulls – The Stone Foxes

Pressure – Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown

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

Forever Worse Better – Great Peacock

Rough and Rowdy Ways- Bob Dylan

The Tango Bar- Greg Copeland

Flyover Country – Susan Werner

Make Things Better – Town Meeting

The Witches Made Me Do It-Ryan Cassata

Duo Numero Uno -The Nadas

Band Together – The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

Heavens To Betsy – Jeremiah Johnson

Field Recordings, Vol. 1- Charley Crockett

Elisabeth – Zach Bryan

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

Vintage Machine Digital Album – Jackie Venson

Pay It Back – LP Kelly

Early Morning Rain – Steve Forbert

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

Hard Lines & Headlights – Whiskey Foxtrot

Cool. – seela

Also, Too – Darlin’ Brando

The Prettiest Bird – Susan Pepper

All This Time- Heather Anne Lomax

Glitter & Gold- Dead Rock West

Starting Over – Chris Stapleton

Hard Love -Rascal Martinez

Calamity – Stillhouse Junkies

Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? – Fantastic Negrito

World Is Waiting – Nikki O’ Neill

Wildhorse – Malin Pettersen

Distance and Time – Becky Buller

We Wither, We Bloom – The Northern Belle

Mondegreens- Rachel Garlin

Bad Luck – Sylvia Rose Novak

Long Violent History – Tyler Childers

Sorry You Couldn’t Make It- Swamp Dogg

The White Sea- Diane and The Gentlemen

Asterisk The Universe – John Craigie

Time Traveler- Jason Wilber

Aftermath – Elizabeth Cook

Far From Home – Aubrie Sellers

Blues Comin’ On – Joe Louis Walker

Quarantine Blues – Roman Barten-Sherman and Tom Walbank

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

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

Spirit Rising – Phillip Sayce

Leave It All Behind – Mike Frazier

The Balladeer – Lori McKenna

Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers

Your Life Is A Record – Brandy Clark

We Still Go To Rodeos – Whitney Rose

The Sick Season – Becky Warren

Altar Of Harmony – Luke Schneider

Sides – Emily  King

Get in Union – Bessie Jones

World On the Ground – Sarah Jarosz

Sister – Puss N Boots

A Small Death – Samantha Crain


Favorite EPs Released In 2020

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

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

Oh Sedona -Michael McArthur

How To Fall In Love – Michael McArthur

Bridges – Mickey Guyton

Letters From A Broken Heart – Whitney McClain

They’ll Never Keep Us Down – Kelsey Waldon

Too Blind To Hear – Peter Wise

Live From Capricorn Studios – Blackberry Smoke

Quiet, Heavy Dreams – Zach Bryan

For The Forgotten – Live from MOXE  – Kyshona Armstrong

The Times – Neil Young

Rodeo Queen – Kylie Frey

Heart In Tennessee – Teni Rane

A Zillion Stars Overhead – Debra Devi

Life Is Beautiful – Matthew Ryan

Show Pony – Orville Peck

After Midnight – Callie McCullough

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

Burial Ground EP – Roman Barten- Sherman and Tom Walbank


Favorite Live Recordings Released In 2020

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

Live At The Forum – The Teskey Brothers

Live At The Paramount -Ruthie Foster

Live In Europe – Sara Schorr

Live at Austin City Limits – Jackie Venson

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

Heathens Homecoming 2020 – Drive-By Truckers

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

Return To Greendale – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Live From the Midwest – The Way Down Wanderers!

Jackrabbit Slim Live In Concert – Steve Forbert

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

Recorded Live At The Recording Shop Studio – Sunny Sweeney

Live And Solo -Edward David Anderson

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

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

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

Perfectly Imperfect At the Ryman (Live) – Margo Price

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

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


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