Folk Alley’s Best of 2014 – Jon Nungesser’s Top Picks of the Year

Top Picks of 2014 by Jon Nungesser

2014, what a year! A vibrant and diverse year for music with releases from First Aid Kit, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Nickel Creek, Rodney Crowell and many more that I don’t have time to list here. The list I chose below passed a crucial test for me – am I still playing them in my car’s CD player? I got hooked on these albums this year and am finding it hard to give them up. Surely, they will be playing in my car well into 2015!

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Passenger – ‘Whispers’

Mike Rosenberg aka Passenger ditched the band and went solo for 2012’s release ‘All the Little Lights’ which produced the memorable hit “Let Her Go.” Now he is back with ‘Whispers’ which builds on the last album’s momentum. It features strong writing that really comes out in tracks like “Scare Away the Dark”, providing a blatantly true look on our modern society.

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First Aid Kit – ‘Stay Gold’
(Columbia Records)

This album is a bit more amped up sonically for the sisters than their last release, but the addition of an orchestra on tracks like “My Silver Lining” only adds to the haunting vocals and vivid imagery featured in this 10-song set. It’s an album that’s hard to put down for sure!

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Rodrigo y Gabriela – ‘9 Dead Alive’
(ATO Records)

Flamenco cranked up to 11! That is how I describe the release from this Mexican duo. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero grew up on a mix of flamenco, jazz, and heavy metal with one of their biggest influences being Metallica. It really should be no wonder this record is pure energy and driving rhythms that would be at home in either a rock stadium or coffee shop.

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Nickel Creek – ‘A Dotted Line’

The trio (Chris Thile, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins) reunited for this much-anticipated 2014 release. I had the pleasure of seeing them live this past year on their tour through Cleveland, and I can tell you, they haven’t lost a step! This album features tight harmonies that truly complement each other. Take a listen to the track “Destination” to see what I mean.

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Justin Townes Earle – ‘Single Mothers’
(Vagrant Records)

Back for his fifth studio album, ‘Single Mothers’ features tracks with a mixture of country-tinged soul as present on the title track and emotional ballads like “Picture In a Drawer.” He takes the concerns and problems of the millennial generation and puts them to song – much like his dad did in his.

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