When considering inclusion on this list, I weighed the album’s positioning on my annual lists, how frequently I continue to listen to the recording, its impact on me—has it influenced me down a path of listening— and how enjoyable I continue to find the music. The final element is most important: can I listen to the album today and enjoy it as much (even more?) as I did years ago?
Given the constraints of 50 titles, I limited myself to one album per artist; listing multiple albums by personal favourites would have pushed me to 100 without effort.
As always, these are my favourite roots albums based on what I encountered, not a list of the best released this decade. Anyone who claims they can name the best of anything is too arrogant for roots music. The previous ten titles (#41-50) are found here.
40. Ann Vriend- For the People in the Mean Time (2014) More danceable than most of what you’ll find on this list, Ann Vriend’s blend of soul and rock is just rootsy enough for me. A great album from the Edmonton-based chanteuse. Truthfully, it isn’t particularly roots by any definition. I just liked it. A lot. Also recommended: Anybody’s Different, Love And Other Messes
39. The Honeycutters- On The Ropes(2016) Fronted by Amanda Anne Platt, the Honeycutters offer up country sounds that have a bit of rock ‘n’ roll push, a combination that enhances rather than detracts from their honky-tonk foundation. Their instrumental interplay is excellent, and Platt has an incredible voice, as powerful as needed and as tender as desired. There exists an intimacy within these songs, all but one written by Platt, and that intensity allows the songs (and their performance) to make personal connections with listeners. Also recommended: Me Oh My, Amanda Anne Platt & the Honeycutters
38. Robbie Fulks- Gone Away Backward (2013) Bluegrass from our favourite of the Bloodshot gang. Fulks has a background in bluegrass—more than being raised in ‘grass-rich areas including North Carolina, long ago he busted his chops as a member of the Chicago-based Special Consensus band—so it should not have come as a surprise that he would be able to combine his sparse, singer-songwriter, narrative sensibilities with the intricacies of creating an acoustic album with its foundation in bluegrass. A very good collection of songs, including “That’s Where I’m From,” “Sometimes the Grass is Really Greener,” and “Imogene.” Also recommended: Upland Stories
37. Amy Black- The Muscle Shoals Sessions (2015) An absolutely infectious deep soul groove permeates every song. Spooner Oldham brings emotional and historical depth to the proceedings, laying out funky Wurlitzer and organ. Will Kimbrough adds his touch, and vocal certainty is provided by the McCrary sisters, Ann and Regina. A beautiful recording. Also recommended: Memphis, This Is Home
36. Doc Watson & David Grisman- Welcome to Watsonville(2014) You can’t go wrong with live Doc and not for the first time, so glad Grisman records everything! An enjoyable set that reveals how musically powerful Doc Watson remained in his later years. Also recommended: Live at Club 47
35. George Jones- The Complete United Artists Solo Singles (2013) Straight-ahead country featuring some of The King of Country Music’s greatest songs.
34. Kim Beggs- Beauty and Breaking (2014) Each song on Beauty and Breaking sparkles with sincerity: each character sketched, each moment captured, reveals textures of existence. The more time one spends listening to this 15-song collection, the deeper one’s experience. The song sequenceis ideal. Brooding, atmospherically heavy songs are balanced with lighter sounding romps whose nimbleness belies depth: jazzy blues one cut, a sassy bossa nova rhythm in another, and pedal steel providing a country wash over a third. There is no mistaking that Kim Beggs’ songs are filtered through the past, with the results being as contemporary as they are timeless. Also recommended: Blue Bones, Sad Little Sparrow
33. Matt Patershuk- If Wishes Were Horses (2019) The album flows, an unstoppable set of folk-inspired, country-blues filled with songs that take hold in lasting memory. Top fifty roots and Americana of the decade? Absolutely. If your musical heroes are passing on, it is past time to find replacements to keep you vital, hip, and groovy. Start with Matt Patershuk and If Wishes Were Horses. Also recommended: Outside the Lights Of Town, I Was So Fond of You, Same As I Ever Have Been
32. Ron Sexsmith- The Last Rider(2017) Continuing a streak of excellence, Sexsmith’s 16th (!) album may just be his finest. Excellent songs, catchy melodies, accessible production, a very strong album. The songs alternate between playful and introspective, catchy and maudlin. Layered, but not flamboyant. Also recommended: Long Player Late Bloomer, Carousel One
31. Dan Tyminski- Southern Gothic (2017) An album that sounds best loud. “We have a church on every corner, so why does heaven feel so far away?” Union Station’s ‘other’ main singer asks on the title track, and it just keeps going. Certainly more “Hey Brother” than “O Brother,” with Southern Gothic the bluegrass stalwart steps away from the traditional sounds he has long favoured to head toward a full-bodied rock and roll country approach that is wholly effective. The album is deep, no filler—song after song of surprisingly strong vocal and instrumental performances. Union Station’s Paper Airplane
I’ll be back with the next ten titles tomorrow. Most albums mentioned have been featured at Fervor Coulee, in one way or another, this decade. Use the Search tool to locate the original reviews.