Henry Carrigan's Top Folk & Americana Picks of 2020 at Folk Alley

By Henry Carrigan(@henry.carrigan), Folk Alley

1. The War and Treaty, Hearts Town - “Five Minutes” (Rounder)

Hearts Town brims over with unbridled passion and torrid energy, never letting up, but spiraling higher and higher with a soul-searing musical power. The songs lift us from the album’s opening note, inspiring, enlivening, delighting, challenging us, and eventually transporting us and leaving us with the fervent desire to play the record over and over. Hearts Town is one of this year’s best albums.

2. Della Mae, Headlight - “Headlight” (Rounder)

There are some albums that come along whose musical brilliance simply shines so radiantly that they guide our paths, illuminating the dark corners of our lives. Della Mae’s Headlight more than brightens the corners where we live; with powerful writing, soaring vocals, and moving musical unity, the songs on the album challenge us, energize us, and touch us. Headlight transforms and celebrates, and its lyrics and music linger in your soul long after the final note fades.

3. Kyshona Armstrong, Listen - “Fallen People” (Tone Tree)

Listen, like Mavis Staples’ albums or Marvin Gaye’s albums, is an album for our troubled times. Kyshona’s brilliance is her ability to see inside our human nature, to name the pains and problems of our culture, and to offer a transporting musical path to reconciliation and hope. Taking the first steps requires just one act: listen.

4. Eliza Gilkyson, 2020 - “Promises to Keep” (Red House)

Every song on 2020 moves us with its eloquence and heart-rending beauty. Gilkyson’s brilliant lyrics provide the hope we need in this year when the world seems to falling down around us. Everyone should own a copy of 2020, memorize its songs, sing them at rallies and hootenannies, and let them ring through halls and parks as anthems of change and hope and love.

5. Sierra Hull, 25 Trips - “Beautifully Out of Place” (Rounder)

Hull’s ceaseless inventiveness guides us through a mesmerizingly eclectic set of songs that flow from bluegrass to free form jazz. 25 Trips carries on an exhilarating journey through the musical heart of one today’s finest musicians.

6. Indigo Girls, Look Long - “Country Radio” (Rounder)

The Indigo Girls—Amy Ray and Emily Saliers—have never sounded better; they’re playing at the top of their game, and their writing shines with the brilliance we’ve come to expect from them. It peers into our hearts and into the shadowy corners of our world to speak the truth with power.

7. David Bromberg Band, Big Road - “Diamond Lil” (Red House)

Any time is a good time to have a new David Bromberg album, and this time he’s joined by a cast of musicians who carry us down a winding road of blues, jazz, and bluegrass with a joyful abandon that revels in the music itself. Big Road is a joyous celebration of music, and Bromberg and his band do what they do best: carry us on an exhilarating ride, sharing with us their deep love of music by carrying us over every musical landscape they visit.

8. Suzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche, I Can Still Hear You - “I Think I Am a Soul” (Storysound Records)

I Can Still Hear You wraps us warmly in its lush vocal harmonies, its magical lyrics, and its ethereal musical atmosphere. Listening to this album is a bit like walking into a forest and being surrounded by sounds that beckon us with their beauty, leading us deeper and deeper into our soul’s dwelling place. The sonic structure of each song both comforts us and carries us out of ourselves, at least momentarily, flowing along cascading rivers of sound.

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