That time of year has come around again (it has come by quickly), the time where we reflect on the music that has been released in 2019 and which albums have left the biggest impression on us. It has been another great year for new music across several genres and styles and it was quite difficult to narrow down my favs but I gave it a bash anyway.
So without further ado I present the albums that have made the biggest impression on me.
Cody Jinks - After the Fire
The first of two albums released a week apart, After the Fire is definitely the stronger of the two in terms of song writing. Cody Jinks has a fairly unique ability to write a song about his own struggles and make it relatable for the listener, and this album does not disappoint. Highlights for me are the superb tear jerker William and Wanda, and Think Like You think.
Church of the Cosmic Skull - Everybody’s Going to Die
Their third album and for me the best yet. It was released late in the year but I have been listening relentlessly and have deemed it more than worthy of inclusion. The Skull just keep getting better with each release. This is a collection of insanely catchy psyche grooves but with honest and heartfelt writing. Great writing, great musicianship, beautiful harmonies and Brother Bill’s glorious beard; the album has the lot.
Beth Hart - War in my Mind
We all go through that battle to silence the conflict that goes on in our own minds that often feels like two different people fighting for supremacy over what can be considered right or wrong. That battle is what Beth Hart attempts to convey on War in my Mind. She nails it in that soulful and emotionally expressive way we have come to expect from her. I have been a fan of Beth Hart for a number of years now and I am constantly impressed at the passion she puts into every song she performs. It starts out with purpose, strength and purpose on Bad Woman Blues and as the album progresses she opens up about her own vulnerabilities and path to recovery. The last two songs on the record are absolutely beautiful and, I am not ashamed to admit, they did bring a tear to my life. Thankful is about appreciation to her family for being there through the bad times, and I Need A Hero is pure honesty that I am sure we can all relate to.
Rhiannon Giddens - there is no Other
Rhiannon Giddens is someone who has always defied the separation of people and their music based on race, nationality, culture etc. That is what this album is about and the capitalisation of Other in the title is quite intentional. She is a singer and a song writer who has always incorporated influences of several different genres from country to blues, to soul, to americana, to folk; and she does it again on this collaboration with Francesco Turrisi. On this record we see a melding of american roots music with mediterranean, african and middle eastern music to great effect. As ever Rhiannon Giddens’ voice shines on this record especially on my favourite tracks Wayfaring Stranger and Ten Thousand Voices.
Joseph Huber - Moondog
I’ve been a fan of Joseph Huber since I discovered his first album, The Suffering Stage, in 2017 (which was in my top 5 that year); so I was looking forward to the followup. This doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. The instrumentation from the string band and the poetic lyricism makes this a very fine bluegrass tinged country album. There is even a musicalisation of the WB Yeats poem The Wild Swans at Coole which is truly epic.
Taylor Alexander - Good Old Fashioned Pain
If you have even a passing interest in country music you will want to listen to Good Old Fashioned Pain. The title says it all really, it is very much classic country themed with songs all about the struggles faced as life goes on from struggling to make a name for yourself, getting by on pittance, trying to hold on to love while trying to maintain an optimistic outlook that it will all come together eventually.
Cormac Neeson - White Feather
I have been a fan of Cormac Neeson as front man for The Answer for many years so when he announced a solo album I was on board. White Feather is a very different body of work to anything The Answer has done and it is a highlight of the year for me. This is a very personal album for Cormac as it tells the story of the hardships his family has been through and how he was able to get through it. The lead single Broken Wing was written for his son who was born with down syndrome and the proceeds went to Mencap, a charity here in Northern Ireland that works with people with disabilities. This may not be an album he envisioned writing but as you listen it feels like an album he needed to write.
Michaela Anne - Desert Dove
A very fine country/americana album from an artist I hadn’t heard from until this year. The song writing is top notch and at times betrays a vulnerability like the line “will I ever learn to protect my heart” on One Heart or the song Two Fools. At times the lead guitar work will remind you of Tom Petty or Mark Knopfler and the production is spot on for the message being conveyed