Train Wreck’s Best of 2002 Americana:

1. Buddy Miller – Midnight and Lonesome

This is yet another great collection from a master of country-soul. The songs, from the off-center originals of wife Julie to Percy Mayfield’s classic “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” are solid and Buddy’s singing has never been better.

2. Kasey Chambers – Barricades and Brickwalls

Lucinda’s self-titled 1988 album seems to be the model that Kasey is shooting for and if she comes up a bit short it isn’t by much and we can all appreciate the ambition. “Not Pretty Enough” could be the theme song for all the Americana artists who don’t get the radio airplay they deserve.

3. Linda Thompson – Fashionably Late

After nearly 20 years of inactivity, Linda shows us in the first minute of the opening track, “Dear Mary,” that she hasn’t lost anything in all that time. And when ex-husband and partner Richard comes in with a spectacular guitar solo, it’s just like being back in 1982 again.

4. Dixie Chicks – Home

The sales figures and chart action may say that this is a mainstream country record but one listen reveals a beautiful low-key acoustic classic. The key is that Natalie Maines bucks the appalling trend to oversing everything and instead shows the power of restraint.

5. Alison Krauss and Union Station – Live

Given the impeccable playing and singing found here, this could almost be a studio recording of their greatest hits. But with everyone loose and stretching out a bit, especially dobro master Jerry Douglas, this is even better.

6. Heather Myles – Sweet Talk and Good Lies

Heather has that tough honky tonk style sorely missing from country music (Shania Twain’s faux attitude and exclamation points certainly don’t count). She summons the spirit of Loretta Lynn and combines it with a nice touch of the Bakersfield sound to come up with this fun album.

7. Kelly Willis – Easy

The title is certainly apt – this is Kelly’s most relaxed outing ever. While her fireball side is missed it’s hard to complain when the results sound this good. Extra points for reviving the late Kirsty MacColl’s “Don’t Come the Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim.”

8. Hem – Rabbit Songs

If we didn’t already know from Chip that authentic roots music can arise from the big city, we might be surprised that such a warm, natural and organic sound could come out of Brooklyn, New York. This is a record to put on late at night to ease your way out of the day.

9. Jim Lauderdale/Ralph Stanley – Lost in the Lonesome Pines

Ralph had a number of solid releases this past year, but this is the best of the bunch. Jim Lauderdale came up with the best bluegrass originals since Steve Earle’s The Mountain and Ralph put his inimitable vocal touch on them.

10. Uncle Tupelo – 89/93

Yes, this music didn’t come out in 2002 but it was the best representation of the rock side of Americana to be released this past year.

Outside the Americana category there were some records that should not go unmentioned – all are highly recommended:

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me
Hives – Your New Favorite Band
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me


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