The label of “singer songwriter” gets bandied about by a lot of different people with a lot of different meanings. So for this list let me be clear; what I mean is that these folks wrote these songs themselves and now they’re singing them for us to hear. Another way to put that is that they cut open their hearts and bled upon the page, crooning of love and loss, of dreams and heartaches. They allow themselves to be blissfully and banefully human right before the rest of us mere mortals.
Do yourself a favor and purchase a few of these amazing singer songwriter albums. This will get you started on a wonderful new collection.
Jesse Cohen – City of New York
-Cohen’s sound is that of a seasoned troubadour. It’s got finger picking, clever lyrics, and a good bit of raw emotion. “Ghosts of Manhattan” is the kind of track that could have been written by one of the greats. It’s a reflection on the times we live in while also capturing a beautifully introspective musical aesthetic. It’s a really well done songwriter’s album, comfortable enough for a background soundtrack and engaging enough for just a listening session.
Joshua James – Well, Then, I’ll Go to Hell
-Everything James has done so far deserves its own press coverage. Seriously he deserves his own hype train for the kind of incredible songwriting he puts out. But then again he’s the kind of artist that probably wants none of that. His songs seem to exude his own personal experiences with great earnestness. He also uses unexpected vocabulary and sonic structures to keep listeners on their toes. But his characteristic quiet rasp is everything to his loyal fans. He has the unique ability to elicit a range of emotions with a subtle, engaging aesthetic.
Aaron Howard – Heart On Fire
-Aaron Howard has range and depth; he shows a versatility we don’t often hear in singer songwriters. There’s no gimmick here. He just opens his pipes and lets his heart pour out in song after song. The soothing acoustic guitar provides a beautiful vehicle for his uplifting and inspiring lyrics. If you’re interested in a “pop” sound from the acoustic side of things, Howard’s album will be right up your alley.
Dooney – Dooney EP
-Dooney is the moniker for Dario Griffin, an extraordinarily talented and visionary singer songwriter. Some of these songs really remind me of the early years of John Mayer’s songwriting. It’s the soothing, jazzy electric guitar that does it for me. But some of the tracks highlight the same proficiency on the acoustic guitar. His relaxing vocals and familiar tone create a comfortable vibe perfect for having friends over for some wine and conversation. It’s the kind of album that reminds me why I like a wide variety of musical styles.
Tim Moore – Songs for Little People
-This album is the most adorable thing I’ve run across since starting this website. Each song is beautifully delivered, just oozing with sincerity. Even the familiar songs have been rearranged to suit Moore’s own writing and singing style. It’s so good and moving that I plan on playing it for my own children. It’s the kind of soul-enriching songwriting and melody making that I hope every child gets to hear. Forget Beethoven for babies. Let’s have Australian acoustic music for kids of all ages.
Connor Dodson – Nine Songs
-Connor Dodson has listened to a little bit of Bob Dylan, that much is clearly true. But what’s crazy is how he has developed a sort of embodiment of that Dylanesque blues flavor. Right? Not all blues is created equal. There’s such a thing as folk blues and Nine Songs is all about that subgenre. It’s got great crawling, creeping guitar work. But more than anything it’s Dodson’s seething, piercing tenor vocal delivering lines like “I take my blade to my body and tear it apart” that make the spirit of his blues seem totally legit. This is not a party album; but it is a “feel more human” album, with the depth of human suffering plumbed repeatedly.
The Nocturnal Broadcast – The Nocturnal Broadcast
-Connor LaCour presents his work under the name The Nocturnal Broadcast, even sporting some pretty cool album art on an artful project. There are some moments of real brilliance in the low fi aesthetic on some of the tracks. “Somnolent” is a track for smart listeners who like to have their ears and their minds stimulated at once. LaCour’s writing is existential and often mysterious. That said, he appears to be deeply aware of the depth of American music, using blues, jazz, and folk music flourishes throughout his compositions. And he included a Stephen Foster track on the album. Now that’s paying homage to your ancestors. Bravo.
Adriana Douglas – Set Me Free
-Imagine atmospheric electric guitars combined with gorgeous, crystal-clear vocals. That’s the sound present on Adriana Douglas’s album Set Me Free. It reminds me of the production quality and overall feel of work from artists like Passenger, Hozier, or Bon Iver. It blurs the line between pop and folk music, but Douglas is definitely a songwriter’s songwriter. Her songs tap into identity questions, love, and the adventures of figuring out life with the people we care about. The salvo in the title of “Set Me Free” is evident in nearly every track; it’s evident she’s ready to run on her own. Let’s see where she takes us.
Tim Howe – Under the Powerlines
-Howe’s sound is a lot like the Tallest Man on Earth. And his songwriting is exquisite. “You could be the reason that I have a story to tell.” This is a legitimate folk album done by an accomplished folk artist. From stripped down acoustic tracks to more elaborate full band offerings, Howe’s vocal lead has an inspiring Everyman quality to it. The lyrics and overall feel seem timeless, yet the artistry situates these nicely in 21st century context with tracks like “Modern Destruction.” It’s not old time music for the sake of sounding old fashioned; it’s just real music by a genuine artist.
Dennis Crommett – The Coast Road
-Crommett has a really unique sound in that there are layers of amplified awesome infusing an overall chilled out vibe. There’s not really an easy comparison for Crommett’s sound, but maybe a category is best to describe him. He’s clearly the artist you hear on a college rock station, using all sorts of filters and resonators to make his guitars sound like magic wands. He also uses the kind of complex lyrical strategies that have listeners giving repeat listens just to try to figure it out. There’s a sort of nervous energy on some of the tracks, but overall it’s basically the chill rock from the mid 90s repackaged for a new era with Crommett’s own unique twists.