Beat Surrender : Best of 2013

It’s that time of year again to try and break down this years favourites into some kind of order, truth be told the #1 choice was the easiest I’ve had to make in recent years, separating #2 through #5 was a little more difficult – they are all great albums, stylistically very different but all have outstanding songs, from #6 onwards the degree of separation reduces and to be honest if I sat down with the final list next week the order could shift significantly, in the tradition of never doing it exactly the same way year-on-year this time around I’ve gone for a more straight forward chart and the number 33 seemed an appropriate choice given the top ten all found their way into my collection on vinyl (no doubt this influenced the final choices). Having already seen a number of fellow bloggers best of’s it evident there are some big name Americana acts missing from the Beat Surrender run down, as ever too much music and not enough time.

1. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

2. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

3. Danny & The Champions of the World – Stay True

4. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

5. Caitlin Rose – The Stand In

6. Lindi Ortega – Tin Star

7. Holly Williams – The Highway

8. Sturgill Simpson = High Top Mountain

9. My Darling Clementine – The Reconciliation

10. Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

11. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

12. Chris T-T & The Hoodrats – The Bear

13. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

14. John Moreland – In the Throes

15. Frankie & The Heartstrings – The Days Run Away

16. Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Dear River

17. Star Anna – Go To Hell

“For Anyone” by Star Anna (official music video) from Coalter Digital on Vimeo.

18. Thee Spivs – The Crowds & The Sounds

19. Doc Feldman & the LD50 – Sundowning At The Station

20. Israel Nash Gripka – Rain Plans

21. Shona Tucker – A Tell All

22. The Lucky Strikes – The Exile & The Sea

23. Laura Cantrell – No Way Here From There

24. Possessed by Paul James -There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely

25. Amanda Shires – Down Fell The Doves

26. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

27. MG Boulter – The Water Or The Wave

28 Annie Keating – For Keeps

Annie Keating – All Gone

29. The Handsome Family – Wilderness

30. Paper Aeroplanes – Little Letters

31. Wynntown Marshalls – The Long Haul

32. Slaid Cleaves – Still Fighting The War

33. Lloyd Cole – Standards

Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

Austin Lucas - Stay Reckless

This year it seems is shaping up to be particularly good one music wise, I’d go as far as to say a ‘classic’ if you’re partial to male singer songwriters in the alt-country / americana genre, so far 2013 has served up a slew of great albums including releases from Jason Isbell, Doc Feldman, John Moreland, MG Boulter, Cam Penner, Jeff Finlin, Sturgill Simpson and Leeroy Stagger, all share a certain strand of musical DNA though they are all very distinct and now there’s another great album to add to that list – Stay Reckless is Austin Lucas’ fifth solo album and his debut album on New West Records (how must they be regretting passing over him until now (read all about it in an interview Austin did with the wonderful Saving Country Music), hopefully the tie-up with New West will bring a wider audience to Lucas music as his compositions are deserving of greater attention and Stay Reckless is the highlight of his work to-date in this listeners opinion and I’m confident it will feature on many an end of year best-of list amongst writers and bloggers with a penchant for alt-country.

austin-lucas

Though released as a solo recording Stay Reckless is a collaborative effort between Austin and longtime friends Glossary, with Joey Kneiser (guitars, piano and organ) Eric Giles (drums), Bingham Barnes (bass) and Kelly Kneiser (backing vocals), the album also features a guest appearance from one of Lucas’ previous collaborators Cory Branan who plays lead guitar on Small Town Heart and organ on Alone In Memphis, the all important pedal steel element is handled by Lucero’s Todd Beene and the album was co-produced by Lucas and Mark Nevers (whose impressive credits include – Caitlin Rose, Lambchop, Laura Cantrell, Jason Isbell, Mount Moriah and Bonnie Prince Billy), the album was recorded at Nevers’ Beech House studio in Nashville where the Indiana born singer-songwriter Lucas currently lives.

In an interview with American Songwriter Lucas described the personal circumstances under which the record took shape and it’s very much a heart-on-the-sleeve recording;

“I wrote the majority of this record leading up to and in the aftermath of separating and divorcing my ex-wife,” Lucas tells American Songwriter. “In many ways it could be considered a typical breakup album, however, I really wanted there to be a glimmer of hope that existed along with the heartache. Hope for a future without the stress and isolation that I’d been feeling for so long and hope for the possibilities that life might now place in my path. There’s a whole lot of sadness in the songs on Stay Reckless but alongside it, there’s also the glimmer of happiness to come.”

Pointless exercise trying to filter out and highlight a favourite track or two from this album as the whole thing is excellent and perfectly balanced too with the amped-up numbers sitting side-by-side the quieter more reflective tracks and country inflected ones, combine this with Lucas’ best song-writing so far (a case of no pain no gain?) and his great vocal that’s so emotive throughout working particularly well when he’s joined by Kelly Kneiser, overall what you get is a must have for any self-respecting fan of alt-country or indeed of damn good music.

If you’re not familiar then I’d recommend you subscribe to Otis Gibbs podcast ‘Thanks for Giving a Damn‘ starting with the recent Austin Lucas one.

Austin talks about sword fighting trees, growing up in Southern Indiana, dealing with social anxiety, Lotus Dickey memories, Chuck Ragan stories, The Revival Tour, singing Get Up Kid songs with Frank Turner and Matt Pryor, Glossary stories, drinking all of Europe’s booze, picking up Cory Branan at the airport, playing Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown Tour, leaving Bloomington, Indiana and moving to Nashville, etc.