In 2019 I listened to over 150 albums. Most I enjoyed, and even those I didn’t I found something to enjoy in them. So it was an unenviable task to filter them down to my favourite 30. However, after an enjoyable time re-listening and revisiting many of those albums I was able to compile my list which I post for you here.
30. The Wanting/After The Fire – Cody Jinks
A new star of country music Jinks has created two albums that are the future of Nashville linking traditional themes and lyrics to a rocky southern sound.
29. Lambs & Lions – Chase Rice
Another new name from the Music City, USA, Rice is a Carolina boy who went to Nashville to pursue a dream creating this album of brilliantly emotional songs that tell the stories in a modern but sympathetic way.
28. Renaissance Men – The Wildhearts
Reforming one of the classic Wildheart line ups Ginger and the boys created a proper balls out Geordie heavy rock ‘n’ roll album with Renaissance Man. Great stuff.
27. Stand Tall – Jason Ringenberg
Referencing the massive Sequoia trees of the Californian Mountains Ringenberg wrote this album as he was the songwriter in residence at the National Park. Spending the time reflecting and referencing Jason’s long career this country punk album is a rollicking ride of hillbilly brilliance.
26. The End Of Suffering – Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes
The limited edition coloured vinyl definitely wins, without doubt, the prize for being the most beautiful release of 2019. The album is, though, a more sublimely reflective release than much Carter has released before but it is no less evocative and vibrant for all that.
25. Guy – Steve Earle
An album of absolute and genuine love by my favourite country artist of songs by one of his favourite and inspirational artists Steve Earle plays awesome tribute to Texan folk singer songwriter legend Guy Clark.
24. Erratic Cinematic – Gerry Cinnamon
One of this years breakthrough artists Gerry Cinnamon has brought his distinctive Scottish voice to an album of quality songs all performed with the innocence of a busker but the professionalism of someone who has worked real hard to get where they are.
23. Hypersonic Missiles – Sam Fender
Another breakthrough artist who has done the hard yards to achieve major success in 2019. And on the strength of this superior album of intelligent electric guitar music it is well deserved.
22. Merrie Land – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
When many of his 90’s contemporaries are content to regurgitate and replicate the music of 30 years, or in case of one particular act longer, Damon Albarn holds more in common with true innovators like David Bowie. With his supergroup The Good, The Bad and the Queen Albarn has tapped into the post-Brexit pervading Little Englandishness to create a broodingly brilliant album of modern folk tunes for the 21st century.
21. Hill of Beans – Ralph McTell
They say plenty good tunes are played on an old fiddle. Well in the case of the 75 year old Ralph McTell plenty of good tunes are played on a guitar by an old folkie. McTell’s voice has not diminished one iota; indeed it could be said that in this album 3/4’s of a centuries experience has combined to create a work of wonderfulness invoked with a tone and timbre that is beguiling.
To listen to me play songs and discuss further the albums from 30 to 21 visit the Tarka Blowpig Music Show here https://www.mixcloud.com/RadioBicester/the-tarka-blowpig-music-show-2019-review-part-1/
20. Heavy Is The Head – Stormzy
Stormzy is now following his debut album, Gang Signs and Prayers, the voice of disaffected, disillusioned and disenfranchised youth of the UK, a position he has reaffirmed with this, his second album, Heavy Is The Head. Lyrically relevant added to the beats and tunes that reflect the areas of London he grew up in, this album is one that will take Grime to the next stage of world domination.
19. Who – The Who
Over 60 years since Pete Townsend and Roger Daltery formed The Who with John Entwhistle and Keith Moon, the remaining duo have lost none of their fire or ability. Daltery, somewhat uniquely to other contemporaries, has kept his voice and Townsend is undiminished in both his guitar playing and songwriting.
18. A Window To Other Ways – Marry Waterson and Emily Barker
Born out of a partnership created at a songwriting workshop Waterson and Barker have put together a delightful collection of songs that showcase their melodic joining. With no need for ego or desire to out do the other, this album is one that allows each singer to compliment the other beautifully.
17. Gaslight Roses – Fine Lines
Mixing the folk traditions of their native North West with superior Americana tinged melodies Fine Lines have created an album of lush country folk rock. Great tunes brilliantly played, this is a band that deserves much greater exposure.
16. Thanks For The Dance – Leonard Cohen
Taking songs recorded before his death in 2016, Cohen’s son Adam has crafted a gorgeous 30 minutes or so of music that bookends his father’s life as one of the most important poets in popular music. An obvious labour of love that pays wonderous tribute to Cohen.
15. Ride Me Back Home – Willie Nelson
Probably the hardest working octogenarian in music the godfather of outlaw country music, Willie Nelson, has produced another album full of his own particular take on country standards and his own songs. Ride Me Back Home also features my favourite cover version of 2019 as Willie, with his sons Lukas and Micah, takes on Mac Davis’ 1980 hit ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble.’
14. While I’m Livin’ – Tanya Tucker
After a career hiatus country legend Tanya Tucker returns with an emotional album that serves as a link between traditional country and 21st century Nashville. At an age when many would start to be thinking of retirement Tucker has relaunched and restarted a career with this high quality release.
13. Texas Piano Man – Robert Ellis
Mixing the country voice of Gram Parsons, the piano stool observations of Billy Joel and a hint of the self destructiveness of Jim Morrison Ellis has produced an album full of acerbic and sardonic wit, songs of heart wrenching emotion and honky tonk bar piano. An absolute gem.
12. Crushing – Julia Jacklin
The grungy guitar sound on this album is reminiscent of another female artiste who I recently found, Courtney Barnett, with this album hitting the same high standards of Barnett’s work. The album drives from start to finish, never letting up on tempo or pace, but yet able to develop nuances that envelop the listener in it’s sound.
11. Small World Turning – Thea Gilmore
Gilmore is without doubt one of the premier female voices in British folk music, a position only reaffirmed by this album. The album has a clear message about the state of the world in the 21st century which is cleverly presented with songs that are influenced by her formative years growing up in Oxford.
To listen to me play songs and discuss further the albums from 20 to 11 visit the Tarka Blowpig Music Show here https://www.mixcloud.com/RadioBicester/the-tarka-blowpig-music-show-2019-review-part-2/
10. Cancel The Sun – The Rails
Husband and wife duo James Walbourne and Kami Thompson have crafted an excellent album of folk tinged rock songs that burn with a defiant message of the damage we are doing to the world. Great playing and great lyrics make this a worthy entrant into the top 10.
9. Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent – Lewis Capaldi
Capaldi is the stand out breakthrough artist of 2019 and with this album will undoubtedly clean up in many of the major awards ceremonies that are coming up. And deservedly so, Capaldi is an exceptional songwriter and performer with a personality to match. His enthusiasm and joie de vivre is apparent and infectious…and he winds up the Piers Morgan of popular music Noel Gallagher.
8. Colorado – Neil Young And Crazy Horse
This is an album which has everything you’d want from Neil and Crazy Horse; down-tuned dirty grungy guitars, epic solos and lyrics full of righteous anger. Like my favourite NY and CH album, Greendale, this is an album of our time, warning of impending environmental disaster in Young’s own inimitable style.
7. Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen
Now 70 years old The Boss has lost none of his ability in writing superior songs that document America, just now from an artist now older, wiser and less combative. The songs on this album are huge, reminiscent of the 1950’s cowboy films that Springsteen would have seen in glorious technicolor in the New Jersey he grew up in. Songs that appear and take over like Jack Palance riding out over the Badlands of wild west America; Western Stars is epic in his composition and execution.
6. Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) – Lukas Nelson And Promise Of The Real
With a significant nod to his father, Willie, and Neil Young, for whom Promise of the Real have been the touring band, Lukas and his band have produced a superior album that acts as a link between outlaw country music and 21st century country rock that bodes well for the future of the genre.
5. Further – Richard Hawley
Sheffield’s finest exponent of beautifully played and atmospheric guitar tunes, Hawley has kept up his high standard with Further. An album of light and shade the songs veer seamlessly from achingly tender love songs to powerful heavy rock riff laden freak outs. Gorgeous.
4. Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka
Reminiscent of 1970’s African fused funk Michael Kiwanuka has pulled off a brilliant piece of lo-fi analogue production without seeming to try too hard and therefore become over produced. This would be an album Fela Kuti would be proud of himself developing, as it does, the roots of African music into the environments that Kiwanuka grew up to create something new and vibrant whilst retaining faith with the music that influenced it so obviously.
3. Hollowbone – Kathryn Tickell And The Darkening
Mixing traditional Northumbrian instruments with thumping bass and drum beats this albums plays folk songs with a heavy metal attitude. Including the song, O-U-T Spells Out, which is my song of 2019, Kathryn and the band have created a brilliant masterpiece of modern folk music.
2. Tiger On The Bridge – James Walsh
This solo album from Starsailor frontman, James Walsh is, as you’d expect an album full of songs of love and loss, but now with the added emotions that come from reaching his forties. Tiger On The Bridge is a tuneful and melodic work that shows a growing maturity as Walsh reaffirms his position as one of Britain’s best, if underrated, songwriters.
1. And Winner Of The Jezzie Award For 2019: Place Of Spades – The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican
This is the album I’ve played most regularly since it’s release, with each listen rewarding me with a new nuance, a different guffaw and a wonderful feeling of enormous joy. The band produce faithful and excellently played parodies of some of the most famous songs, all done so with an obvious love and respect for the originals but with a mischievous glint, Barnsley’s tank top wearing minstrels of mirth, Scott, Alan and Bjorn, fully deserve more accolades than the Jezzie. But it is with great pride and pleasure that Place of Spades gets the accolade for 2019.
To listen to me play songs and discuss further the albums from 20 to 11 visit the Tarka Blowpig Music Show here https://www.mixcloud.com/RadioBicester/the-tarka-blowpig-music-show-2019-review-part-3/