End of the calendar year lists propagate like flies at the winter solstice. Many are interesting, but I pay particular attention to the Americana Music Association and the reborn No Depression magazine.
AMA Radio Chart
The AMA’s Americana Radio Chart went full auto this year, I guess, and now features twice the fun with a Singles chart supplementing the traditional Albums chart. The AMA Top 100 Albums & Singles of 2018 is a whopper. Colorado’s own Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats pulls in the top spots on both charts for their bluesy album Tearing at the Seams, with “You Worry Me” at number 1 and “A Little Honey” at number 2 on the Airplay Singles list. Brandi Carlile’s Grammy nomination success with By the Way, I Forgive You is reflected in the number 2 spot on the Airplay Albums chart, followed by John Prine who‘s The Tree of Forgiveness will also be in my Top 10 for 2018 along with The Wood Brothers’ One Drop of Truth. John Prince’s “Knocking’ On Your Screen Door” ranked #5 Airplay Single and Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke” ranked #6 Single.
The Record Company breaks the Top 5 albums for All of This Life and number 3 single “Life to Fix”. I don’t think I’ve never, ever, heard of The Record Company until I sampled the single on Spotify. Pop-folk blech. I’ve like Lake Street Dive’s past releases well enough despite their popish ways–their single “Free Yourself Up” only played #9 while the album Good Kisser took the #4 spot and I can’t say either made much impression on me this year. Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour and Margo Price’s All American Made took #6 & #7 on the Airplay Albums spins but didn’t register Top 10 singles.
The Top 10 Americana Radio Albums were rounded out by self-titled Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, the aforementioned Lake Street Dive and Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 2. Stapleton’s “Midnight Train to Memphis” spun 7th among singles, followed by Elvis Costello & the Imposters’ “Unwanted Number” off a late-year album release. Jade Bird (who the heck is that?) took #9 single with Lukas tapping the #10 spot with “Fool Me Once”.
In the second tier of 11th most played and less for albums, we find Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s Live from the Ryman (recorded in October 2017) and JD McPherson’s Undivided Heart and Soul before we get to Willie Nelson’s Grammy-nominated Last Man Standing, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Volunteer, and I’m With Her’s See You Around. The second tier of most played radio singles slot “Happiness Jones” by The Wood Brothers at #11, “The Middle” by Trampled By Turtles at #12, and releases by Kacey Musgrave’s, Margo Price and Glen Hansard (who?) next in line.
I did the work so you don’t have to, compiling the AMA Radio Chart Top 100 Singles for 2018 into a handy Spotify playlist. You’re welcome.
I loved the original No Depression magazine. And I obsessed over the original No Depression online community, logging on regularly and cross-posting blog posts and last.fm posts and making it a part of my musical routine–I got a significant number of click thru from cross-posted commentary, too. Then they petered out and sold, and I haven’t re-subscribed, not even for a single revived print issue. But I still pay attention to what the No Depression community has to say about music and culture and stuff.
The annual No Depression Readers Poll for 2018 represents, they say, 10,000 readers’ opinions of the best roots albums of the year. Most I actually agree with better than with the AMA Radio jocks. As author Stacy Chandler wrote: “…2018 has seemed like a nonstop firehose blast of new roots music.” John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness takes the #1 spot on the No Depression Readers Poll, followed by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit for Live from the Ryman. If Jason Isbell is No Depression’s Superman, then John Prine is No Depression’s Father Time. Brandi Carlile also took #3 for By the Way, I Forgive You–I guess it is just me that ignores Ms. Carlile. Amanda Shires takes #4 on her own merits for To the Sunset, and album I thought was OK but (continuing my prior theme) beneath her potential. Alejandro Escovedo’s The Crossing rounds out the Top 5 albums, also not a bad album but not his best.
The send half of the No Depression Top 10 albums puts one of the innumerable Bob Dylan bootleg series More Blood, More Tracks at #6. Lucky number 7 is Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour, followed by Willie Nelson’s Last Man Standing. Jeff Tweedy is my less favorite half of the original Uncle Tupelo duo, and his album WARM (#9) wasn’t anywhere on my radar. Rosanne Cash rounds out the Top 10 for her late-year release She Remembers Everything which I’ve just started streaming.
Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats’ Tearing at the Seams polls #11, which I can see–it’s a good album that my good friend Sacha K. also scrobbled most this year, so I’ll go back and give it some more attention in my spare time. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore polls #12 for Downey to Lubbock, which I also liked but didn’t stream so much. I just don’t get Aaron Lee Tasjan, but people I respect like the guy–Karma for Cheap polled #13, followed by John Hiatt’s late-year release The Eclipse Sessions and Mary Gauthier’s very early-in-the-year release Rifles & Rosary Beads which captured almost my undivided attention back in January 2018.