I have no idea how many roots albums I bought, received for review, actually wrote about, listened to through a brief flirtation with a streaming service, and sampled via Polaris Music Prize jury membership, as well as other industry-provided downloads during 2022. But when I review other lists, I see a lot I am familiar with. But I can only fit so many on my favourites list, and this year I settled on 25 with as many honourable mentions.
Some brilliant stuff, of course. And while I didn’t hear everything, these are my 25 Favourite Roots Albums of 2022.
1 Tami Neilsen- Kingmaker C She is a contemporary country master, pouring classic sounds and inspiration into a modern music that reverberates with passionate fire and amazing vocals. The songs feature playful cadence, gripping rhythms, and acute lyrical precision alongside Willie Nelson’s most appealing duet in years. Somehow, Kingmaker is even stronger than Chickaboom! and was easily the most impressive album encountered in 2022.
I realized recently that I believe Tami most reminds me of (in approach and attitude) Kirsty MacColl. Like MacColl, Tami Neilson isn’t going to back down to those who believe they know better, or need to offer their unsolicited advice. Tami isn’t going to write songs where the voice, the perspective, and timbre of the song aren’t bold, brave, and formidable. As Jean MacColl wrote about her daughter, “…She always felt that women should play a more positive role, and were not the helpless maidens portrayed by male songwriters.” I believe the same could be said for Neilson. An independent, Tami Neilson knows what she wants, how she wants to sound, and how she is going to achieve those goals.
She is, in a word, amazing. As they say, “Kitty, Patsy, Dolly, Loretta…and Tami.” Purchased vinyl.
8 Julian Taylor- Beyond the Reservoir C From great pain comes timeless art, and that is what we have with this recently released album from Julian Taylor. “Seeds” will continue to impact for a long while.
“This land is your land, this land is my land,
this land was made for you and me,
a poor choice of words by Woody Guthrie;
this land was taken and built on slavery—
one family had their land stolen,
the other was stolen from their land,
and here I stand.”
10 AV (Ann Vriend)- Everybody Matters A Traveled to Edmonton last winter to see and hear AV and her friends from the Inner City at a Whyte Avenue pickle shop and was pleased to find her new disc available for purchase. It was a wonderful, intimate afternoon of community togetherness, and that is how this entire disc feels. Strong songs and soulful performances. Looking forward to her Leduc performance in May. Purchased CD.
11 Blackie & the Rodeo Kings- O Glory C Canada’s roots masters return with an album that is about half Tom Wilson songs and unafraid to examine their innermost challenges with honesty. Industry-provided download.
14 Brian Blake- Book of Life One of the finest troubadour albums released this year. This one came to me only recently, and I know I will continue to listen to it into the next year. Vocally, Blake reminds me of Murray McLauchlan while the structure of his songs and their associated insight brings to mind the Texas masters. Serviced CD.
21 Jesse Roper- Horizons C Industry-provided download.
22 Amanda Shires- Take it Like A Man Purchased download
23 Drive-By Truckers- Welcome to Club XIII Purchased download
24 Mike Plume- The Song Harvester EP, Vol. 1 (and subsequent singles “Waiting for the Fall” and “You Don’t Believe That’s Something You Could Do”) A A long-time personal favourite, Mike Plume established such a high bar with memorable songs and performances in the late 90s and early 2000s that many mistakenly believe he is yesterday’s news. Not even close. Purchased downloads.
In no particular order, these were also under significant consideration:
Tanika Charles- Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly C
Shakura S’Aida- Hold On To Love C
Carter Felker- Even the Happy Ones are Sad A
Charley Crockett- The Man From Waco
Mariel Buckley- Everywhere I Used to Be A
Oktoécho- Transcestral C
Joey Nowyuk- Inuugama C
Ray Wylie Hubbard- Co-Starring Too
Lyle Lovett- 12th of June
Hurray for the Riff Raff- Life on Earth
Lynne Hanson- Ice Cream in November C