Top Albums of the Year, 2014 Edition

2014 has turned out to be a great year for (mostly) independent music. This is the 6th annual favorite albums of the year list that I have made on this blog.  This year I’m highlighting 12 albums from this past year that (I believe) stand above the rest.

Before we get too far into this year’s list, here are the lists from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Below I list my favorite 12 albums from 2014, the band’s name links to their official website. Click play on the video above and continue on.

12) Asylum Street Spankers: The Last Laugh.  This band is a lot of fun, but I almost left them off this list because they broke up back in 2011. This is “new to us” music recorded live at their final performance. (It appears that their website forwards to facebook so I won’t link to it.)

11) Little Buffalo: Little Buffalo. Debut album from this Northern California Roots/Country/Americana/Rock band. I confess to not knowing much about this band, other than the fact that I really like their debut. This album can be streamed from their website in its entirety.

10) Cory Branan: The No Hit Wonder. I first heard of Branan when he joined Bloodshot Records back in 2012, this is his second album with that label, his 4th album overall.  I place his music in the “country rock” category within my collection, but his style is one that transcends country and rock and folk and could just as easily fit in any of them. Twang Nation review.

9) Chuck Mead: Free State Serenade. This former BR-549 front man returns with his 3rd solo album. This one does not fail to impress, a rollicking roll in Mead’s own brand of Americana country.

8) Bap Kennedy: Let’s Start Again. A two disk album of new music from this genre defying singer/songwriter. The artist’s webpage has videos and tracks to stream, well worth checking out!

7) Whiskey Myers: Early Morning Shakes. The 3rd album from this Texas based Southern Rock band. While they get most of their attention from the country music scene, they channel everything that makes Southern rock great. The entire album is well worth checking out.

6) Blackberry Smoke: Leave a Scar (Live in North Carolina). A double live disk from the hardest working band in show business. This Southern rock band is a touring band first, as such their albums are few and far between. Having had the opportunity to see them over the summer, I can attest that this album captures some of the vitality of their live shows. They have a new album coming out early next year that I am sorely looking forward to.

5) Bob Wayne: Back to the Camper. If you like your alternative country with attitude, Bob Wayne may be the band for you. This is great story telling with a musical assault that leaves you both exhausted and wanting more. I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see this band live but I imagine that it would be a show to remember.

4) Paul Thorn: Too Blessed to be Stressed. I had never heard of Paul Thorn when I saw him over the Summer, since then I’ve had his music in constant rotation. Like many of the musicians on this list, his music defies easy categorization; but I would call him blues rock with a heavy southern influence. Beyond genres, Thorn is a story teller, and his stories are well worth listening to.

3) Corb Lund: Counterfeit Blues. This is probably Lund’s most approachable album to date. On his past albums this Canadian story teller has had a sparser sound. This album is some of his classics remixed for an American audience and broader appeal.

2) Old 97’s: Most Messed Up. This country rock group from Texas makes repeated entries on my yearly music round-ups. If you’ve listened to their latest album then you know why. I am unsure if there is a band out there that turns a phrase better than this band.

1) Sturgill Simpson: Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I cannot sing the praises of this album (and of Simpson himself) loud enough. A classic country sound with lyrics that are honest and modern in their sensibilities. While it may be a burden too heavy for any man, Simpson may be in the position to save country music from the powers in Nashville (who seem hell bent on taking it to vacuous irrelevance.)

Edit: Cracker just released an album too late to make this list, but it is great. Thier best stuff in some time, Berkeley to Bakersfield…check it out!