It’s the genre that just keeps on giving and 2020 has been a vintage year for country music and Americana. Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth rounds up the very best of the year’s releases.
10. JuBilee – You And I (Vacancy Records)
Scottish couple JuBilee dropped two country staples in 2020 in the shape of Bed Of Lies and Don’t Make Me Look Into Your Eyes. But it’s a measure of You And I that an album packed with potential boasted even more must-hear country with a commercial edge. Justine Wilson and Billy Warren’s personal connection spilled over into their professional lives to underpin a record rich in emotion and authenticity. JuBilee flew the flag for British country in some style.
9. Lindsay Ell – Heart Theory (BBR/BMG)
Ell’s most revealing record to date tackled some big issues wrapped in even bigger choruses as Heart Theory comfortably straddled genres and stunned fans. Giant’s Dann Huff did a typically awesome job squeezing every last drop of soul-searching sentiment out of one of country’s hottest properties. And Heart Theory’s poignant piano balled Make You made Rushonrock’s top 10 tracks of 2020. One Ell of an album.
Read the full review of Heart Theory here
8. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over (Decca Records)
The undisputed king of country returned with a record so accomplished it left fans wondering where Chris Stapleton could possibly go next. Chart busting collabs with a bunch of mainstream peers have pushed the singer songwriter up front and centre since 2017’s From A Room series. But Starting Over reminded the country crowd that Stapleton impresses most flying solo. Taking its lead from Traveler, this forward-looking throwback fused rousing roots with simmering country rock to triumph in spectacular style.
7. Brothers Osborne – Skeletons (Snakefarm)
Denied the chance to grow their rapidly expanding fanbase with another round of must-see live shows the world over, the Brothers pulled Skeletons out of the closet. Some of their rockiest work to date veered towards Blackberry Smoke and Tyler Bryant and that was no bad thing. John and TJ pulled out all of the stops as their heady blend of 80s rock and trad country bristled with intent and buried the opposition. All Night emerged as another tune of 2020.
Read the full review of Skeletons here
6. Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started (Loma Vista Recordings)
Three years after Price dropped All American Made her career trajectory took a sudden upward turn off the back of That’s How Rumors Get Started. As stark as it was stirring, a melting pot of raw emotion ripped apart any lazy preconceptions of this singer songwriter as a waning one trick pony. Perfectly imprecise and impressively on trend, That’s How Rumors Get Started ensured a truly special talent gained fresh recognition. In 2020 the Price was right.
Read the full review of That’s How Rumors Get Started here
5. The Cadillac Three – Country Fuzz (Big Machine Label Group)
Fuzzing hell. What a record. Comfortably outshining surprise October drop Tobasco And Sweet Tea, the crazily addictive Country Fuzz saw Jaren Johnston and co. reach dizzying new heights in 2020. The natural follow-up to Legacy and Bury Me In My Boots, TC3’s fourth long player was a career high for the fast-evolving three piece as the raw appeal of their early years was drip fed into some seriously catchy and commercial country rock. Wondered what all the Fuzz was about? Skip to Labels and you’ll get the gist.
Read the full review of Country Fuzz here
4. Secret Sisters – Saturn Return (New West Records)
The Simon and Garfunkel of rootsy country drained the emotional well dry to deliver one of the albums of 2020. Laura and Lydia Rogers leaned on a tried and tested familial bond to create a bittersweet record rich in heartwarming melody. Saturn Return was a go-to record throughout the year as we struggled to come to terms with an energy-sapping pandemic and its relentlessly negative impact. The Secret is out. This delightful duo is the future of dreamy folk and hazy Americana.
Read the full review of Saturn Return here
3. Ashley Campbell – Something Lovely (Vacancy Records)
This carefully curated collection of country classics really was Something Lovely as the classy Campbell followed up 2018 debut The Lonely One with a far brighter vision of the future. Driven by the pandemic-busting message of ‘make a space for light in this world and fill it’, this assured album truly enhanced the Campbell canon. If I Wasn’t, featuring Vince Gill, proved to be the pick of a consistently impressive bunch but the highlights came thick and fast for the face of new country label Vacancy Records.
2. Lucinda Williams – Good Souls, Better Angels (Highway 20/Thirty Tigers)
Wow. With a whole posse of pretenders snapping at her heels, Williams whipped out one of the albums of her storied career in the shape of Good Souls, Better Angels. Timed to perfection and pulling no punches, a moving document of unforgiving upheaval was as brilliant as it was sobering. In her seventh decade Williams excelled – her intoxicating blend of Americana, country and blues smothered in darkly measured cynicism. A companion to troubled times and proof positive that there’s plenty more to come from an essential artist.
Read the full review of Good Souls, Better Angels here
1. Tenille Townes – The Lemonade Stand (Columbia Nashville)
Nashville-based Canadian singer songwriter Townes always had a record like The Lemonade Stand in her locker but this major label debut did more than deliver on longstanding potential. It was the sound of modern country mixed with throwback tradition – commercially savvy but sufficiently convincing in its comforting truth. Townes has the personality and the songwriting craft to dominate the 20s and this album sounded like the opening salvo of a career destined for greatness. If you’d been Holding Out For The One then Townes was that artist. Unique, unifying and unequalled in 2020.
Read the full review of The Lemonade Stand here