Here’s a selection of vaguely Americana-themed albums that made the grade this year.

Miranda Lee Richards – Echoes of the Dreamtime

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If you like your Americana to take you on a trip, then Miranda Lee Richards is for you. Echoes of the Dreamtime was a sublime mix of moods, styles, and continents.

Bob Weir – Blue Mountain

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Talking of taking a trip, Bob Weir released a beautiful album this year. Largely written with or by Josh Ritter, the songs were wistful and the voice was wonderfully earthy.

Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos

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The Todd Snider-led supergroup released their second album. This time, the songs were mainly self-penned. Good choice. These guys work hard and play loud.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee

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HGM just get better and better. Perhaps it’s because MC Taylor writes from such a personal place. But then the songs sound gorgeous too. Good combination.

Treetop Flyers – Palomino

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Treetop Flyers wear plenty of influences on their sleeve, but Palomino weaved them together in a very satisfying way. And the lyrics were striking too. Looking forward to more.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee

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In the Instagram post that accompanied the release of Heart Like A Levee, MC Taylor wrote that he never explained his songs, but he did say that this new collection was meant to be hopeful. Maybe he should have said redemptive. For there’s a very spiritual aspect to MC Taylor and to this record. There’s mention of the ‘Lion of Judah’. Terms such as ‘grace’, ‘Lord’, ‘sinner’, and ‘spirit’ itself are sprinkled liberally across the songs. And there are more indirect Biblical references too. These are not words and phrases that simply fall from the skies, at least not in such numbers. But this is not a preachy album. Quite the opposite. The songs seem to turn inwards, pointing to the self-inflicted consequences of personal choices, notably the effect on family of long absences brought about by touring. For those already well versed in Hiss’s musical message, there’s plenty of familiarity to the sound, particularly in songs like ‘Cracked Windshield’. Happily, though, Heart Like A Levee builds nicely on its magnificent predecessor, Lateness of Dancers. Indeed, the album begins with a wonderful suite of songs that are perhaps the most ambitious and fully realised of anything that MC Taylor and his Golden Messengers have produced to date. When your heart’s like a levee, then it can either withstand the strain, or it breaks. Plenty of musicians on tour, plenty of musicians, plenty of artists indeed have found the pressure too much to take. This album confirms that MC Taylor has great spirit. And it seems to help him manage the pressure that being a creative artist places upon him. More power to him and to HGM.