2022 Album of the Year by co-editor Greg Jones

10) Big Little Lions – Happy Accident
-People who have been reading ETTG this past year won’t be surprised to see Big Little Lions on this list. I think I covered nearly half of these songs as separate single features throughout the year. All of the things I wrote about them separately holds true of the album collectively; the songwriting is great, the harmonies are wonderful, and the whole mood feels like it’s own incredible adventure. Fans of folk music (which is probably most of you) will really enjoy the spirit and mood of this album. Honestly there are no “skip” tracks on this one. Put it on and enjoy the layered vocal harmonies and exceptional composition on each track. If you only have time for one or two, go with “Only a friend like you” or “We were young.” It’s a very enjoyable album from start to finish, though, so I would encourage listening to all of the tracks.

9) Jon Bell – Something Behind
-Look, I’m not saying I put this album on the list for two songs… but, I will say that “City Stars” and “Who We Want To Be” might be the best two-songs-in-a-row that I heard this year. Genuinely. Regardless of genre or artist or label size, these two tracks are ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. The harmonies are out of this world. The folk core of the tracks combined with the stellar production work makes for something that is beyond words (which is problematic for someone like me who uses words to describe things). Kidding aside, I find the sort of Beach Boys harmonic sentimentality on “City Stars” to be fantastic. Then “Who We Want To Be” is… I don’t even know how to put it… in a category all its own with this gorgeous intimate style and an acoustic glow that make it feel like the only thing that matters when you listen to it. This is a good album that ends with two absolutely amazing songs.

8) Katie Buchanan – Are you mad yet?
-This album might be the most outside of the typical ETTG sound that we’re featuring on this list; it’s aggressive, rock-based, and full of a lot of angst. Coming out of a lot of the fear we experienced in the past two years, there was a lot of anger to cope with this year and Buchanan seemed to capture that well in sonic form. “All of it, again” was the song that directed me toward the album, but the whole thing is really nicely done. Whether it’s a pop influenced rock track or more of a grungy alt sound, it’s Buchanan’s phenomenal vocal that really makes the sound resonate. It takes a lot of skill to be able to sing with this kind of passion while maintaining control and tone throughout each performance. If you only have time for one, I’d say listen to “All of it, again.” But if you can spare a second, try the title track, “Are you mad yet?” The latter is stylistically more folk singer songwriter than the rest of the album, but the sense of melody and Buchanan’s amazing vocal take center stage.

7) Abigail Lapell – Stolen Time
-Abigail Lapell’s songwriting brings me peace. From the very first time I clicked play on the first track on this album, “Land of Plenty,” I was hooked on this sound. There’s a richness and authenticity the flows from the track through the guitar and the timeless vocal style. One of the things I like about the album is that it’s not defined by a singular genre; there’s folk, rock, and a sort of artful pop in some places. The combination makes for a cohesive sound that is purely Abigail Lapell rather than an overarching style. It’s defined more by Lapell’s unique vocal style and phrasing than by any external definitions. “Land of Plenty” and “Stolen Time” feel like old school, rootsy Americana music. A few of the tracks in the middle of the album like “Scarlett Fever” and “All Dressed Up” feel like Joni Mitchell style folk. The whole dang album is great.

6) Jacksonport – Scenes from Bellevue Park
-If you’ve been reading my folk coverage this year, you will not be at all surprised to see that this Jacksonport album made my top 10 for the year. I’ve loved several of the songs on this album. The acoustic fingerpicking is amazing, the songwriting fascinating, and the overall production gives the listener that feeling of sitting right with the performer. It’s a delightful experience from start to finish on this fantastic album. I found “Fresh flowers” to be a pretty breathtaking song honestly. But if you have time for a few others, I would recommend both “Silver Bullet” and the Prine cover “Boundless Love.” I think it’s safe to say good old John Prine would be a fan of Jacksonport’s songwriting. They’re cut from the same cloth.

5) Madeleine Kelson – While I Was Away
-This is the first country album on this list… and the reason for that is that it’s probably the best country music to release in 2022. It’s also one of the best country music albums of the past decade. I really enjoy the throwback energy on the recording; everything from the steel guitar to the fiddle solo feels like a collection of country music history. Kelson’s vocal has that vintage flavor, dripping with authenticity and sincerity. The clever turns of phrase on several of the songs provides an homage to the classics of the genre. The fantastic track, “The way I do” is how I found the album, but “Shep’s song” is really good, too. Fans of country and folk music are going to enjoy the whole dang album. Give it a spin!

4) Abby Gundersen – Out Walking
-I’ve been a fan of the Gundersen family for many years, but it’s usually because of their great family harmonies and classic folk music. This album by Abby Gundersen is neoclassical piano instrumental music, but I love it just the same. Gundersen writes with an emotionalism that doesn’t require lyrics to convey its meaning. I’ve featured her songwriting in the past, but Out Walking really spoke to me this year. When I found myself needing a bit of solace, I put this album on quite often. It’s great for meditation, journaling, and allowing the music to invoke some of those feelings that you push beneath the surface in your own heart and mind. It’s impossible for me to pick one or two songs to recommend as I love them all. I guess I would say (in a pinch) “Watershed” and “North,” the bookends of the album, are probably my favorites. But do yourself a favor and listen to the whole album; it’s gorgeous.

3) Joe Purdy – Coyote
-Joe Purdy was probably the most prolific folk songwriter of 2022. He released several albums, including Coyote, a collection of “cowboy songs” and otherwise delightful acoustic folk tunes. It’s an absolute gem from start to finish. Longtime fans of Purdy will find a lot to like about these tracks, full of heartache, lament, and loneliness. It’s the kind of music that will help your heart feel a little less alone to know that other people hurt and have hurt like you do. Purdy’s vocal has a sincerity to it that’s quite unmatched. Pairing that vocal with clever songwriting and expert phrasing, it makes for a timeless sound that we’re happy to support. Try “My loving arms” for sincerity and “Heartbreak in the key of Roger Miller” for something a bit more whimsical (but no less sincere).

2) Jude Moses – The Beauty EP
-When it comes to pure folk harmonies, I don’t think I heard anything even close to Jude Moses this year. It’s one of those albums that just makes you stop in your tracks to take it in. The harmonies are breathtaking. Fans of Fleet Foxes and that artful, harmony-driven folk style will find a lot to like with Jude Moses. The lyrical richness on “So far from home” shows a sophisticated style in the songwriting. The horns, string work, and consistently high-quality vocal work make each track a must listen on this album. If you only have time for one or two, try “Kokoro” the opener as well as “Isle of Skye.” The whole album is great, though. There’s so much to like from this talented band.

1) Ben Rector – The Joy of Music

-I knew this album was going to win my album of the year within minutes of finding it. Ben Rector has always been a good songwriter, but this album has captured something truly remarkable, bringing to life a tangible sense of the “joy of music.” Using his characteristically charming nostalgic style in songwriting, Rector croons throughout the album with several enjoyable tracks. The list of guest stars only further buttresses what is a phenomenal bit of pop songwriting. “Dream on,” “Living my best life,” and “Daughter” are all great. If you haven’t seen the short film that doubles as the music videos for the album, definitely check it out as well. Everything about this album is wholesome and relatable.

*Honorable mention: Tyler Childers – Can I take my hounds to heaven – I really liked this album (especially the Jubilee version), but I don’t think Childers needs help with coverage at this point. He’s going to win a lot of awards for that album. The soulful/gospel/country blend on the album really tickles my fancy for a number of reasons. I’m sure anyone interested in Americana music enough to read this list already knows about Childers and the magic of that album.

Discover more from Ear To The Ground Music

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.