I wanted to wrap up the year by showcasing my favorite five albums of 2020, in no particular order:
“Wreckless Abandon” (The Dirty Knobs) – Mike Campbell, co-captain guitar player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, has broken out on his own with a greasy garage rock record steeped in blues, country and soul. Campbell capably sings lead, and the production is superb with George Drakoulias and Martin Pradler at the helm. Guitar bliss from a new weave you need to know – Mike Campbell and Jason Sinay, with some very catchy rock ‘n’ roll numbers.
“Mystic Traces” (Greg Loiacono) – Co-captain of The Mother Hips, Greg returns with his solo follow-up to “Songs From A Golden Dream.” His “Mystic Traces” delivers an eclectic blend of folk, rock, country, R&B and soul, melted together with precision. Mixed expertly by Scott Hirsch, this record is perfect for first thing in the morning or late at night. Guests include Neal Casal, Mikael Jorgensen, Barry Sless, Tim Bluhm and Jamie Drake.
“New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers – Volume 1” (Jim Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Charlie Musselwhite, Jimbo Mathus) – This archived potluck blues jam from the Dickinsons Zebra Ranch studios embraces the bleed of live tracking in one room, and it feels very old-school Chess Records from the 1950s or 1960s. This record should have been nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues. The mysto and magic is there. I can’t wait for Volume 2 in early 2021.
“From Within Marin” (Green Leaf Rustlers) – The Northern California honky-tonk super group released its debut album in the spring. Comprised of all covers and mixed by Betty Cantor-Jackson from an early run at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, the sound is warm and excellent. There are some heady jams and a lot of swagger. Crooning throughout, Chris Robinson is in top form.
“Reunions” (Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit) – Jason’s originals have become more refined over the years, a far cry from his feedback-tinged rocking with the Drive-By Truckers many years ago. “Reunions” offers a reflective Isbell, now a family man, and his introspective lyrics fit perfectly with the restrained chaos of his blend of country, Southern rock, folk and Americana, all tied together with fresh Nashville production.
— Jon Siembieda
Coming next: Tom Clarke reveals his top 10 albums, plus favorite live album, from 2020.