Quick Picks - Best of 2020
Album | EP | Single
The Sound Cafe Rating
5 star = essential, 4 star = excellent, 3 star = good, 2 = fans/collectors, 1 = for completionists only
Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman
The timeless qualities of traditional tunes can carry us across oceans and eons, linking us not only to the past but to each other as well. It was under the banner of those eternal connections that the trio of Bonny Light Horseman came together. From festival fields and a German art hub to a snowy upstate studio and everywhere in between, the astral folk outfit—comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins), and Josh Kaufman (The National, Bob Weir)—is mixing the ancient, mystical medium of transatlantic traditional folk music with a contemporary, collective brush. The resulting album, Bonny Light Horseman, is an elusive kind of sonic event: a bottled blend of lightning and synergy that will excite fans of multiple genres, eras, and ages.
Billy Strings: Home
Billy Strings has been hailed as the future of bluegrass, transcending tradition and genre with his high velocity, flat-picking guitar technique and intense, confessional songwriting. HOME, Strings’ remarkable second studio album, is undoubtedly the Michigan-born, Nashville-based artist’s bravest excursion thus far, completely rewiring bluegrass with elements of punk, country, folk rock, and genuine psychedelic exploration to fashion something altogether his own. Strings has infused the aesthetic with his own experiences and inspirations, adopting traditional sonic and lyrical idioms to confront contemporary social truths.
With guest appearances from the likes of Jerry Douglas and Molly Tuttle and produced by Glenn Brown (Greensky Bluegrass, Marcus Miller), HOME marks a landmark on Billy Strings’ ongoing creative journey, its fearless songs and freewheeling approach recasting string-based American music in his own inimitable image.
Julian Taylor: The Ridge
A Canadian treasure of extraordinary talent, artist Julian Taylor mines his solo singer-songwriter passion with the new Americana album The Ridge.
Co-produced by Taylor and longtime collaborator Saam Hashemi, the eight-song album was originally scheduled for a fall release date, but Taylor decided to release the album sooner in the hope that his songs might bring joy to listeners in troubled times.
The introspective and often tender content of The Ridge is perfectly encapsulated and enhanced by a brilliant cast of sympatico musicians.
The Waterboys: Good Luck, Seeker
The Waterboys, one of the most creative, loved and literate bands of the last four decades, have released their 14th studio album, Good Luck, Seeker. Its 14 songs are populated by unrepentant freaks, soul legends, outlaw film stars and 20th Century mystics, drawing inspiration from the Stones, Kate Bush, Sly and Kendrick as well as Mike Scott’s very own musical past. Part song diary, part epic spoken word adventure, Good Luck, Seeker is a new departure for the restless sonic magician and his merry band of fellow travelers, drawing together the many glistening strands of the band’s unique, wondrous journey.
Molly Tuttle: .. But I'd Rather Be With You
Tuttle has been working on writing another album of all original songs and is still planning to record that this year, but in the meantime she wanted to share these covers that have lifted her spirits, in hopes that you’ll find some much-needed joy as well. Tuttle remembers playing “Olympia, WA” with her middle school rock band, listening to “How Can I Tell You” over and over after her dog died while she was away at college, and playing “Standing on the Moon” with her brother Sullivan and lifelong friend AJ Lee at her San Francisco album release show, and feeling all of the hometown love in the room.
There is no real theme to the songs she has chosen, but they all bring her back to vivid moments in time -- highs and lows. This album is also meant to be a timestamp, capturing this unique moment in the world when all of us have had to find ways to keep going in the face of this terrible pandemic. Tuttle never would have thought she’d be spending 2020 in her room learning Pro Tools and recording a covers album, but she's grateful that she has a home and can shelter in, and that she had time to record for you these special songs that have meant a lot to her during her life.
Dione Taylor: Spirits In The Water
Music has always been an integral part of Dione Taylor’s life. A pastor’s daughter from Saskatchewan, she began playing the organ at age four and by age ten, she was the music director and organist at The Shiloh Assembly Apostolic Church in Regina. Dione is a Juno and Gemini nominated singer-songwriter whose career trajectory has been truly remarkable.
The new album is beautifully crafted from start to finish.
According to the Yuchi Indian Tribe there is a powerful legend of the Tanasi River or “Singing River” in Tennessee. Inside the waterway lives a woman who sings songs to protect those who hear her. Inspired by this mythical folklore, Dione Taylor took an insightful road trip to Nashville Tennessee and found inspiration for her vivid new album, “Spirits in the Water.” This musical odyssey explores the deep sacred, healing journey back to the self.
The Lachy Doley Group: Double Figures
Dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond Organ, Australian Lachy Doley is the most renowned organ player in the world today. Utilizing the Hammond along with a clavinet, Lachy has put out some dynamic songs over the last 10 years.
Lachy Doley and his group have played over 300 shows and festivals around the world since the first release in 2011
Merry Hell: Emergency Lullabies
Merry Hell are an English folk rock band from Wigan, Greater Manchester, formed in 2010. The core members of the band include the three Kettle brothers, who were previously members of The Tansads. As of 2020 the band have released six albums.
Their latest album was recorded during lockdown, members of the band recorded remotely and the entire production was expertly woven together by producer John Kettle.
Jerry Castle: Midnight Testaments
Midnight Testaments finds Castle revisiting and revitalizing his “Cosmic Country meets Appalachian Soul” sound. Jumpstarted by the boozy, bar-band bombast of “Tequila and Tears”, Midnight Testaments showcases Jerry at his best, matching his guitar skills with a deep driving voice that’s equally electric. The eleven-track collection is music for the highway, the heartland, the happy, and the heartbroken. Midnight Testaments is music for all hours.
Gerry Cinnamon: The Bonny
The Bonny is the second studio album by the Scottish singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist. It was released on 17 April 2020 by Little Runaway Records. The album includes the singles "Canter", "Sun Queen", "Dark Days", "The Bonny", "Where We're Going" and "Head in the Clouds". The re-release also includes the single "Ghost".
In November 2020, Cinnamon announced via Instagram that the album was to be re-released on 13 November 2020 including his new single "Ghost", as well as new recordings of "Kampfire Vampire" and "Fickle McSelfish".
Of the re-release, he said: "Been waiting a long time to get those tunes back. Should have been on the first album but that’s what happens when you trust the wrong people. Ghost, Kampfire, Fickle and Roll the Credits were all written around the same time so it’s good to have them all on the same record."