Josh Ritter – The Beast in its Tracks (2013)
Looking back over the past twelve months I couldn't think of many new albums that made a huge impression on me. The one exception is Josh Ritter’s The Beast in its Tracks, an album I’ve played endlessly. I never tire of the beautifully produced and crafted songs, largely written, like Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, around how the singer-songwriter rediscovered love and optimism after the dissolution of his marriage. This is Josh Ritter’s seventh studio album, contributing to a deeply impressive body of work. He’s a truly gifted, literary and sensitive songwriter.
Son Volt - Honky Tonk (2013)
With Honk Tonk, Jay Farrar with his band Son Volt, continued to release fine music always set against wonderfully obscure lyrics. Alt-country, Americana, call it what you will.
Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You (2013)
The Texan singer-songwriter Guy Clark, now in his seventies, released a poignant collection of songs last year with My Favorite Picture of You. Age is no barrier to the creation of good music.
Townes Van Zandt – Sunshine Boy - The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971-1972 (2013)
The legendary singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt tragically died far too early in his life (http://douglascuba.blogspot.com.es/2009/09/waitin-round-to-die.html). This 2 CD collection of previously unreleased material Sunshine Boy is a fine reminder of just how good he was. Almost all the songs are played with only acoustic accompaniment, a pleasant change from some of his overproduced studio albums.
Quique González – Delantera mítica (2013)
This album Delantera mítica was the product of the Spanish musician Quique González's second recording visit to Nashville. It’s not as strong as his previous album Daiquiri Blues (http://douglascuba.blogspot.com.es/2011/06/poetic-sensibility-of-quique-gonzalez.html) but as with all his albums it still includes some beautiful, poetic lyrics. He also does a good cover in Spanish (¿Es tu amor en vano?) of Dylan’s Is Your Love in Vain?
Karine Polwart – Scribbled in Chalk (2006); Traces (2012)
Over the past year I reconnected with Scotland in a personal, literary and musical way. My main musical discovery was Karine Polwart, and in particular her albums Scribbled in Chalk and Traces. Her singing is pure and unaffected, and her songwriting successfully manages to straddle the traditional and the more modern. She’s a major musical talent.
As in recent years I listened to many, many hours of jazz music in 2013, both old and new. The musician who impressed me the most, if only because I’d never heard of him before, was the Catalan pianist Tete Montoliu. He died in 1997 but has left behind many great recordings such as: Blues For Myself; Face to Face; Let’s Call This; and Tête à Tête. Tete Monoliu had an astonishing technique and, while he was influenced by Art Tatum and Bud Powell among others, he had a highly distinctive style of playing.