This past year was yet another great one in the realm of Americana & Roots music. We heard from some old favorites, we had some newcomers to make a big splash, and we had new configurations in which new bands formed or folks known for work in a band had solo albums. Mix it all together and the year churned out great albums week after week.
While a lot of acts on our list are widely popular throughout the world of Americana & Roots music, a few are less known, so we’ll take a moment to talk about those acts.
Better Oblivion Community Center is one of those new configurations we just mentioned. If we offered the names Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, that might ring a few more bells. Oberst, of course, is best known for leading the band Bright Eyes but has been part of other band lineups and has done considerable solo work as well. Bridgers is known for her solo work and as part of boygenius (with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus). Bridgers and Oberst combined to release the self-titled Better Oblivion Community Center album back in January, and it remains one of the year’s great releases.
Big Thief has been around just a few years and has roots in Brooklyn. The group’s album U.F.O.F. was released in early May. Interestingly, the band released a second album, Two Hands, back in the fall. The group consists of Adrianne Lenker (vocals, guitar), Buck Meek (guitar, backing vocals), Max Oleartchik (bass), and James Krivchenia (drums).
Black Pumas is an Austin, Texas-based duo stemming from a funk and soul tradition with some Latin influences also present. As a duo, singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada have been nominated as Best New Artist in the Grammy Awards upcoming on Jan. 26, 2020.
Durand Jones & the Indications got its start at the University of Indiana and released a sophomore album, American Love Call, on March 1. With a nod to 1970s soul, this group has been creating some special sounds in 2019.
Our Native Daughters is another new configuration and marks a second project by Rhiannon Giddens on our “best of” list. Giddens joined Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell to release Songs of Our Native Daughters on the Smithsonian Folkways label early in the year. Giddens, also known for her work in Carolina Chocolate Drops, had an album collaborating with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi that released in May.
As for our best albums of 2019, what follows is a collaborative list of 30 albums generated by the staff at DittyTV. (We’ve even created a Spotify playlist for you featuring all the albums!) So many great albums with so many narrowly missing the list. We hope you own a few of these albums and have listened to most. If not, now is the time to catch up! We invite you to listen to as many of these albums as you can and see what you think. (We’ve embedded the playlist way down at the bottom, so keep scrolling!)
Without further ado, here are the top 30 Americana & Roots albums of the year as ranked by the DittyTV staff.