Music that I enjoyed in 2020

Well, we are into December and that means we start to think about the music we have listened to over the past year and reflect on the good, bad and ugly.

I think for those of use who really love music, it will have taken on a whole new importance in the dumpster fire of a year this has been. Musicians have not been able to get out on the road to promote their wares but that has not stopped them from writing and releasing some great music.

So, without further ado, let’s get into some of the music that I have enjoyed most.

Honky Tonk Hell by Gabe Lee

Gabe Lee continues to impress me, it is sad that he is not much much bigger in the country music world. Honky Tonk Hell is the follow up 2019’s farmland and his song writing and vocal performance is even better this time around. He starts it off with the raucous title track which has a few choice words for the mainstream Nashville establishment. His wry self deprecating humour is very evident on All Dogs Go To Heaven but it is on the more grounded songs like Babylon, Imogene and Blue Ridge Goodbye where he really shines. An absolute must listen artist for country music fans.

Never will by Ashley McBryde

Ashley McBryde is one of the bright stars on the more mainstream country music scale. The production can be quite overbearing for me on Never Will but there is some great song writing on the album. From One Night Standards telling the story of a woman setting the ground rules for a one night stand to the murder ballad Martha Devine you will find some memorable lyrics.

On The Widow’s Walk by The White Buffalo

The White Buffalo is the professional stage name of Jake Smith, whose music Sons of Anarchy fans should be familiar with. This is a dose of southern rock tinged americana on which he collaborated with none other than Shooter Jennings. The vocals sound like a mix of Springsteen and Johnny Cash at times and some of the lyrics seem eerily prescient. Good stuff in my book, I have listened to this album a lot this year.

Lamentations by American Aquarium

American Aquarium have a knack for brutally honest song writing about the state of the world as well as stories about BJ Barham’s own struggles with addiction. It is this open and honest song writing that makes me say he is the finest country song writer alive today. I particularly found myself relating to the title track. It may be about life in their native North Carolina but I live in rural Northern Ireland and can definitely relate to the theme of the song.

Power Up by AC/DC

What can I say about this one? It’s ACDC, you know exactly what you’re getting with an ACDC album. The lyrics won’t set the world on fire but it is the album 2020 needed. Just good, fun rock n roll to escape the events of the year.

God Made A Woman by Lauren Mascitti

It seems like this one came out of left field. It wasn’t on my radar at the start of the year but I came across it on Spotify and gave it a chance. I’m glad I did because it is a good example of honest authentic country music featuring songs of love and loss, and the regrets that come with a failed relationship.

CHICKABOOM! by Tami Neilson

Tami Neilson is a woman with a big powerful voice and an attitude to match. She has made quite the reputation for a great live show. Sadly there is still too wide a gap between those who know about Tami Neilson and those who should. Country radio has a tendency to ignore artists like Tami Neilson, which she has a little dig at on Queenie Queenie with “Mama got to hustle, do another show, ’cause they won’t play a lady-o on country radio.” Do yourself a favour and have a listen.

Memories of (Etta James) by Kaz Hawkins

I love Kaz Hawkins, I have seen her live and I hope to do so again. She is another woman with a big voice and an attitude to match. She has always been open about what the music of Etta James means to her so you can expect her take on the 10 Etta James songs featured here to do them justice. I honestly think Etta James would be proud.

One Shot by Lynne Jackaman

This one was a long time coming. Long story short this was an album that a backed on Pledge Music years ago and we all know what happened with that dumpster fire. Sadly Lynne Jackaman ended up not getting all of the money pledged by fans so the album took much longer than she expected. I can say it was absolutely worth the wait. Fantastic album of soul/blues/rock music sang wonderfully by a woman with a tremendous voice.

Holy Moly! by Blues Pills

I will admit it, I am a big Blues Pills fan, to the point where I probably am incapable of being objective. No matter though, I loved this album. It starts off with Proud Woman, a statement of intent and gets better from there. Fantastic blues rock music.

Cuttin’ Grass - Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) by Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson started out with bluegrass flavoured country/americana and he has experimented quite a lot. This album sees his return to bluegrass (he has always been a dyed in the wool Kentucky bluegrass guy) and it is a little bit of magic we all needed in 2020. Great stuff.