Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, a new year has begun! And as if you hadn’t heard enough about 2013 from me, other blogs and social networking, here’s my special Hall of Fangirl dedicated to looking at 2013 and the great music that came out of it.
Most Impressive Debut of 2013
There were quite a few debuts this year, not least from Kacey Musgraves, although she has released albums before independently, so we’re kinda counting her out of this one (album review here though!). Brandy Clark has been endlessly lauded by myself and just about everyone with something to say about country music beyond the truck phenomenon, and it must always be noted that her debut ’12 Stories’ is fantastic (album review here). But actually, I would like to spotlight someone else for a change.
Brett Eldredge’s ‘Bring You Back’ was received well, but deserved more, as out of all of the records released last year, it’s one of the few I keep returning to time after time. Perhaps the lead single, ‘Don’t Ya’, wasn’t an accurate representation of what he was capable of, as despite its success in the charts it was decidedly cookie cutter in subject matter. Yet the full album, while not so “country-sounding”, as you might expect from something I love, it’s a record of delightfully solid, well-written, well-produced songs that begin to lose the hindrance of genre and are simply there to be enjoyed. Brett’s voice is in top form (and one of the sexiest I’ve heard in a while), and his soulful vibe can be heard throughout, as well as a loyalty to emotional, heartfelt subjects. It can be blasted in the car or quietly listened to at home (although I find it’s best turned up loud). I think Brett deserved way more attention for this, and I hope that he achieves more recognition in 2014 (album review here).
Most Unexpectedly Awesome Album of 2013
So, I’m kind of tied here. I was bowled over by Dean Brody’s ‘Crop Circles’, the Canadian artist with years of success in his home country, but little reach outside. I found the record to be a clever, funny, heartfelt and well-put-together release that went toe to toe with Nashville’s contemporary country, southern rock and bluegrass also making their appearance (album review here).
But when it comes to the mainstream, which we’re primarily concerned with here, I have to hand this to Krystal Keith. I’m not a huge fan of her father in any aspect (although I respect his business acumen), so Krystal’s record came as a huge pleasant surprise, captivating me immediately and drawing me in from the first track. It love when an artist has a clear-cut artistic voice and identity when the get-go, and this is certainly the case for Krystal, whose take on struggling ordinary people, full of grit, sass and strength, is a born winner. I found I warmed to her and her sound, a healthy dose of modern twang with influences from southern rock, blues and even latin music to spice up an already rich album. You go Krystal! You can find our album review here.
Best Independent Artist (Featured On FTCR) of 2013
I’ve featured plenty of independent/unsigned/up-and-coming artists in 2013 here. In fact, it wasn’t intended, but it’s become a significant part of the site, and I love that. Dealing with independent artists is so gratifying because you know just by publicizing them a little bit, you’re making their day, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the gratitude of various artists, who have been absolutely lovely, even if all I did was post a press release. It’s incredibly tough, therefore, to pick a favorite, so I’m going to give you 3 who I loved featuring, and hope that I haven’t forgotten anyone!
These guys were super cool. You couldn’t ask for more twang from them, as they’re a bluegrass band with a killer sound and some great, haunting songs. I rarely write full album reviews on non-major releases, but this one I just had to. If you haven’t checked them out, you’re definitely missing out. Read my album review of ‘Cannonball’ here.
Another who strays from the country/pop of the mainstream, Logan’s rootsy Americana came with a Miranda Lambert-like edge, and a bluesy sensibility that really set her apart for me. She also has powerful, husky voice that could easily take over country radio, and her debut album ‘Walking Wires’ is fantastic. Check out my interview with Logan here.
Justin has got to be one of the nicest artists who has ever existed. He’s always been genuinely lovely and a ton of fun, and his big following on social media is testament to that. He’s far more commercial than the other artists handpicked here, but behind that he has an amazing songwriting ability that only truly gets showcased on the deeper, more meaningful songs. But then, you get the best of both worlds with him. Check out my play-by-play of his EP here.