There’s no denying, this is the decade that acoustic comes into its own. From the rootsiest traditional down-home country, to bluegrass, soul, rock, funk and pop and beyond, acoustic instruments have been taking center stage in all genres, and I say, good for us!
Having stepped up to the plate at Acoustic Nation as we launched in October of 2013, I admit I might have missed a few gems from the beginning of the year. But as a lover of all things acoustic and musical, I can assure you, there are some worthy listens that follow just awaiting your willing ears.
Here are some of my faves of 2013. I’m sure you’ve got some of your own. Let us know!
James Blunt – Moon Landing
I was lucky enough to see the fabulous Mr. Blunt live this year at the Live in the Vineyard concert. Man, so GOOD! His live version of “Bonfire Heart” was rousing to say the least. And that song is creatively written and catchy at the same time. Blunt is clearly a master of the craft, with sweet guitar and ethereal vocals soaring above. I can't get enough of Moon Landing!
Here's the official video for “Bonfire Heart”
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – We The Common
I saw Thao live toward the beginning of 2013 by accident…or luck! She followed the act I was at the venue to see and boy am I glad. Raw with a sincere energy and a truly creative vibe, We The Common is chock full of unique cuts performed on a variety of acoustic instruments, ranging from a variety of guitars to banjo and mandolin, with some outright rockin' from the Get Down Stay Down thrown into the mix. If you can catch her and the band live, go for it!!
Holy Roller live
Lee DeWyze – Frames
Okay, I had a great afternoon meeting and interviewing DeWyze recently, so maybe I am biased. But since this is my list, that’s allowed ☺ DeWyze’s 2013 release solidifies his unquestionable musicianship and superior songwriting chops. With elements of folk, rock, country and more, Frames confirms DeWyze is far more than the winner of American Idol(which is a lot!), he’s an artist that I look forward to hearing a whole lot more from in the future.
Here’s DeWyze performing “Fight” live from the Acoustic Nation studio:
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
Speaking of TV contestants, Kacey Musgraves was appeared on the fifth season of the USA Network's singing competition Nashville Star in 2007, where she placed seventh. But her 2013 release Same Trailer Different Park hit number one on the country charts. Her gorgeous voice and undeniable writing chops shine, with classic contemporary country instrumentation, Musgraves is a solid talent and this album definitely has earned its place on my iPod.
Here’s the lovely Ms. Msgraves live from the 2013 CMA Awards with her song “Follow Your Arrow.”
The Devil Makes Three – I’m A Stranger Here
This infectious album was on replay in my car for weeks. The title track is a mixture of classic Americana and a Danny Elfman soundtrack. In a good way. Originally from Vermont this trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and guitarist and tenor banjo player Cooper McBean know how to combine raw, rousing bluegrass sensibility with some excellently written lyrics. With plenty of barnburners and genre-bending road songs, I’m a Stranger Here is definitely worth a listen, or three.
Here The Devil Makes Three performs “Stranger”
Rory Block - Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt
Old timey goodness with some terrific guitar ramblin’ and relaxed bluesy vocals. Block takes classic John Hurt and not only does justice to it, but she injects a natural sensibility to it. It fits just fine, like your favorite boots. Party of a series of tributes to blues masters, Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt just landed Block two Blues Music Awards nominations for Acoustic Artist and Acoustic Album.
Matt Nathanson – Last of the Great Pretenders
With this album Nathanson’s songwriting takes a giant step forward into the intersection of hooky pop and artful craftsmanship. Guitarist Aaron Tap adds some excellent instrumentation with a mandolin or two thrown in for good measure. Chock full of soulful energy and savvy storytelling, Nathanson’s wit and talent shine. Here’s a live performance of “Kinks Shirt” from the Acoustic Nation studio.
Jonatha Brooke – My Mother Has Four Noses
Ok, this isn’t technically an album release, but it’s such a compelling piece of work, it deserves its place on this list. Brooke, a fabulous singer/songwriter whose last studio release, The Works, featured lyrics by Woodie Guthrie, is one of my all time faves. My Mother Has Four Noses is a musical play that shares the story of Brooke’s challenges as her mother declined into the final stages of Alzheimer’s. She does so with grace, humor and true artistry. Brooke’s show will open at the Duke Theater in New York City beginning February 20 with previews starting February 13. The soundtrack will be out soon, too, and you can preorder here.
Here’s an excerpt from the play, the song “Are You Getting This Down?”
Mike Dawes - What Just Happened?
In the category of sheer guitar-playing skill and genius, Mike Dawes stands solid. Hailing from Britain, Dawes knows his way around the fretboard and incorporates cool and funky percussive tapping in a most musical way. Dawes tours frequently and I’ll bet watching these acoustic calisthenics live is fascinating. Clearly a master of his instrument, Dawes’ What Just Happened? is a favorite instrumental album for 2013, for sure!
Here’s Dawes performing “Boogie Shred”