ND Readers' Poll Results: The Top 50 Albums of 2014

A fascinating Top 50 that I do take to be a definitive guide to No Depression, as it mixes Old, New, Borrowed and very little Blues.

    It is no surprise whatsoever that Sturgill Simpson is #1 as his two albums have been 'game changers' and will surely influence Country output at all levels in 2015. Seeing four women including both Lucinda and Lydia Loveless in the Top 10 is wonderful as is Hurray For the Riff Raff at #7 who have hardly featured all year on the website.

     The Top 50 will stoke great debate I'm sure; especially as it doesn't reflect my own Top 10; but there's very little I can argue about apart from the lack of Blues music (regardless of the 'theme' Dave and Phil Alvin's album is 100% Americana!)

Merry Christmas hohoho

Three way tie for last, god bless the Minutemen

Looks like Benjamin Booker is both No. 94 and No. 177 -- can someone fix?

Yup - it's been fixed. Thanks for catching that!

Also Catherine MacLellan, The Raven's Sun - 149 and 277.

Thank you - we'll fix that.

Another fix for you - Marc Broussard's "A Life Worth Living" was released in July 2014. It was my #7 choice. But it was marked as ineligible due to being released in 2013? Not according to iTunes or my own physical copy.

Ok let me take a look.
OK you are correct. There must have been some confusion with a track with the same name that was on a live album the year before. I'm fixing it.


I too wish some of the excellent blues albums issued in 2014 had made the list.  In lieu of that I'm eagerly waiting to see if Gary does his annual compilation of top blues albums.

There IS Jim Byrnes' St. Louis Blues, at 184, although it's mis-stated as "St. Louis Times".  True Blues, and an excellent recording.  It has fine guitar work by Steve Dawson, whose Rattlesnake Cage, a multiple-kinds-of-guitars instrumental album also made the list.

But pretty sloppy on the ND tabulation front, with at least two double entries and at least one blatant mistake in naming getting through the checking process.  If there WAS a checking process.

The checking process involved three of us manually verifying every vote. If we weren't familiar with the album that was voted for, we searched it to make sure it was released this year. If it wasn't released this year, we didn't verify the vote and marked the person's list to reflect that that individual album was ineligible (though all other albums on their list were counted and ranked toward the final tally). With over 500 albums receiving votes, I'd say two duplicates and one misstated album title isn't actually too bad in terms of human error. Three mistakes out of 500 is a margin of error of something like 0.6%. That said, I do wish we had caught that album title at the very least. Apologies to the artist. The duplicates are easily fixed and neither of those two affect the Top 50.

I was a little surprised that the Clapton tribute to JJ Cale did not make the top 50, as well as at least one of the two Johnny Winter albums.  Some other blues artists showing up on the top 500 include Dave & Phil Alvin, Allmans at Beacon Theatre, Gary Clark Jr, Keb Mo, John Mooney, Dana Fuchs, Walter Trout, John Mayall, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ruthie Foster, and Janiva Magness.  There are some nice blues songs on Levon's Ramble 3 album as well as the Lucinda Williams CD.  A couple of others  not mentioned that are favorites of the blues hosts at our local public radio station are Joe Louis Walker's HORNET'S NEST and Tommy Castro's THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.  A personal favorite of a couple of us at the station is YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD WOMAN DOWN by a Memphis band called Low Society.

I have several of those Dave, and the ones you mentioned are all good...glad you specially mentioned the "Low Society" record...excellent...

Come on Ron!! As Kim says; 2 albums duplicatiedway down in a list  of 500 plus 1 album title being mistitled isn't too shabby at all.  I've seen a lot worse from much bigger and more 'professional' publications on the shelves of WH Smith.

Bah Humbug


Yeah, that's right.  But I've got to have a little fun, eh?  Since it's exactly the kind of mistake (details, details) that I'm well known for, I figured a rare chance at being on the other side was a rare pleasure worth indulging.

I do believe the Jim Byrnes album was one of mine, and although I haven't checked it's distinctly possible the album name mistake was mine as well.

And it WAS my mistake originally.

This tells me several things, other than my own propensity to make mistakes.

I don't know the scoring algorithm, but it appears to be based on rank within each list.  If "St. Louis Times" gets ranked, it is probably based solely on my own mistaken naming.  Anyone else listing it probably put it correctly as "Blues", not "Times", and it might then have been listed twice.  So the fact that it's that high in the list based on my single vote, suggests that it's mid-place position put it ahead of other single-vote entries lower down their respective lists.  I could be wrong about this, maybe the tabulators consolidated scoring under my mistaken name.

Personally, I think it would be a better system to simply take un-ranked lists and tabulate the total votes.  Otherwise, a relatively small number of number ones might be enough to put an album over the top.  I'm speaking here as a statistical wonk, one of my actual real job responsibilities.

Ron, you gotta realize this is a shoestring operation run by music fans, who happen to have decent enough chops in the editorial, design, development, or community management fields to keep the whole thing afloat. We are totally figuring this out as we go along, and the seams will most definitely show.

Readers' Poll / Top 10 is a great case in point - the weighting system (which was, in fact, explained from a link in the Top 10 form) was ridiculous - 10 points for #1, 9 points for #2, etc. It basically says that your #1 choice is 10 times more valuable than your #2 choice. Like many things we've encountered since getting involved in ND, "this is how we've always done it." We simply did not have time to redesign the system, we just had time to implement it.

We came to a similar conclusion that you did: it makes more sense to simply allow people to vote for their favorite ten, then add 'em all up. And next year we will do just that. But in the meantime - you'll see us make more, different, better mistakes!

'The Defiant,' the masterpiece from The Men They Couldn't Hang, clocks in at #298. ... I see that my work here is not done.

Really good list...lots of great records...not surprised at #1...saw Sturgill live December 7th, still trying to get over the "man crush", he's so good live...he and the guitar player don't plug in the same place where earthly beings do...

Well done ND readers and contributors...

A very useful list. I'll try a few artists I have not listened to, or a few CD's of artists I know, but haven't bought their latest, a few late Christmas presents! I feel Lucinda, Hurray for the Rift Raft, Shovels and Ropes, and Nikki Lane deserve to be there, and probably Lydia and Mary. Not sure about Tom Petty, last two albums not among my favourites; not sure about Justin Townes Earle, saw him here in Christchurch, New Zealand - liked his live acoustic set very much, wasn't as keen on his electric set though; think Jenny Lewis's latest is her weakest to date. So some of these may require a re-listen. And now looking thru the list again I can see the credit card could get quite a hammering. 

Like the site very much, pretty well encapulates the music I like and buy. 

2014 blues albums I bought:

Rory Block - Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James

Ruthie Foster - Promise of a Brand New Day (seen her in concert - really good)

Gary Clark Jr. Live (seen him twice in concert and will see him in Christchurch, New Zealand next year - really good)

Dana Fuchs - Songs from the Road (fantastic live - would love to see her in concert)

Joanna Shaw Taylor - The Dirty Truth (fantastic live - really really good guitarist)

Beth Hart and John Bonamssa - Live in Amsterdam



Steve hi;

       Check my page for reviews of three of these albums - Ruthie, Joanne and Beth/Joe (which instigated a Twitter spat with the guitarist!) and let me know your thoughts.

I'd love to instigate a twitter spat with a guitarist, that is so much the era we live in...well done!

Thanks for a great list of music.  There are many I need to get aquainted with.  I'd be interested to hear what our readers think is the top song of 2014.  For me, it's Mary Gauthier "When a Woman Goes Cold".   

Chuck Prophet's "Wish Me Luck" would be my soundtrack song for 2014.

I second Hal's choice of "Wish Me Luck."

 Acoustic version of "Wish Me Luck". Enjoy it Jim. I know you will!



that's great...thanks Hal...I liked Green on Red (Gas, Food, Lodging), and then I sort of lost track of this guy for a while...I've sort of discovered lately that he was mostly the reason I liked that record...

Man, that kills. Been a big fan of Chuck's since I saw him at a little place in Berkeley around 2000. He's a funny guy, too. Got a future in comedy if this music thing doesn't work out.

My choice would be "Dearly Departed Friend" by Old Crow Medicine Show.

I'd go with "A Feather's Not a Bird" by Rosanne Cash. Hands down.

For me the song that stuck with me most was John Hiatt's "Baby's Gonna Kick".  My 11 year old son was singing it for a while.  Thankfully my wife hasn't been singing that one...



Interesting list, and lots for me to check out! But, ya missed one (unless I missed it...) My #7 choice was Marc Broussard - A Life Worth Living. I don't see it on the rankings. Just wanted to give a shout out to a worthy release.

Booked No. 1 Sturgill Simpson (Nashville 2011) and Lydia Loveless (Boston 2010) for Gram InterNational when they were still off the radar.

I was also the agent to book No. 40, Jim Lauderdale, not an unknown, for the Derry Down Project, but Jim had to stay an extra day at Sewannee, so that gig is now the 50th anniversary of the first show at The Derry Down, Gram Parsons' first performance venue in his hometown of Winter Haven, FL, this Saturday, Dec. 20.


That's some great history Will...tomorrow night is a for Sturgill and Lydia, you were ahead of the curve, as usual.  I saw Sturgill at the last show on his latest tour (Dec.7th)_ and he commented that he had kicked things off in Indianapolis about a year and half before and played for "Maybe 40 people" was capacity and then some at the he played for 10 times as many...he's on the radar now...

Thanks Jim. Actually back in 2011 Sturgill played to a crowd of about 150 at my Gram InterNational IV (now going on VIII), but of course he wasn't the only act and it probably would have been more like 40. When I found Lydia on ReverbNation I think it was, she came to my Boston GPI in 2010 from rural Ohio. I knew after the shows what was in store for both of them, especially Lydia; the crowd wouldn't leave her alone after her slot. There were a couple at least at this year's event that I'd watch, including Ben de la Cour, Mac Leaphart, and The Carmonas. I do look long and hard and start about a half year in advance. Hint to wannabies: don't leave anything on the floor when you think you're done writing, or when you leave the stage.

That's good advice...

I appreciate very much your devotion to Gram by the way....I know Gram polarizes some of the folks out here on ND, but for what its worth I'm with you on that...

I just checked out the Carmonas...sibling harmony...good playing...what's not to like...

As for Mac Lephart, I think you can download his entire first album (Line, Rope, Etc.) plus a couple of newer tracks for free from his website...a person I know who had a well known Charleston SC band (Crowfield) mentioned how good Mac was back when he was based there...I highly recommend him...he's Americana, and he rocks too..."Confederate Roses" is a great song, an amazing narrative. 

On to Ben de la Cour...






Thanks, I'll never get that "polarizing" thing... I'm not saying Mac and Ben are going to break through like Sturgill and Lydia, just solid songwriters who can perhaps go big with that. Sturgill and Lydia leave it all on the stage and that's what it takes, together with killer material. Frankly I like Lydia's stuff from back then better, before she was "corraled" and still underage (I think when she played my gig, dad on the kit, which he shared all night), but I need to get her latest. I don't see a lot of difference from Sturgill at my show 2011, except he's not playing tele as much (on which he kills), and throwing cosmic turtles into the mix. 



Jeez I think Lydia sings good - old ("Back on the Bottle'') and from what I can tell, new. Don't quite get  Sturgill, like Ed and some of the others have said, but maybe it's something that just needs more listening or a live performance to get the feeling/experience.  From what I've heard, the part that's missing for me is the kind of soul Will Hoge (who I know did not put out an album in 2014) brings to the party. But hey, that's show business. 

I saw Lydia and her band open for Old 97's a few months ago.  I was somewhat looking forward to it because I thought the album was not too bad (though I wouldn't have ranked it anywhere close to the top of 2014).  They were just awful.   They played way too loud, every song sounded the same, and the bass player, who I think is her husband, constantly flipped his hair around like an 80s hair band and acted like every note he played on his guitar was a separate orgasmic event. (Hey, dude, nobody cares about the bass player!)  At the end somebody brought out a bottle of Jack Daniels and all the band members, including Lydia, took turns taking shots at which point things got even worse.    I was a little embarrassed because I told the friends I took that she was pretty good.

I had a feeling she was better at my show four years ago before being signed, and I liked the songs better (although in fairness, just hear online stuff). I'd LOVE to put up one she sent me in 2010 called "Girls Suck," but I'd probably get sued by someone. It's really good. (Actually I think you can still find it on my ReverbNation page.)

Love the Sturgil Simpson album but what about these unbelievable albums that somehow missed the list?

1. Monica Heldal - Boy From The North

2. Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

3. Robert Plant - Lullaby and The Ceaseless Roar

4. Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

5. Owl John - Owl John

Damien Rice & Robert Plant are there.

I meant they're not in the top fifty list. I know there were a lot of good albums this year but those five albums are so good especially the Monica Heldal album that most folks missed. Her song "Swan" is unfairly good.  Can't wait for the new Ron Sexsmith album due out in March. 

The Damien Rice is terrific, but it appeared fairly late...I just bought it...that may have hurt it's chances...I'm a long way from poor, and I can't buy even close to everything I want to, there's so much out there...he hadn't done a record in so long I wasn't even looking for him...

It's impossible to create any "Best of" list without hurting someone's feelings but on one thing we can all agree, they're all good.  I heard Chris Smither say that once he was asked by a stranger sitting next to him on a plane "What kind of music do you play?" to which he replied "Good music".  That's the definition I apply to No Depression music.  It's all good.

I'd like to see some statistical information with the list.

How many mentions did an album have. (How many list was it on.) and how many total points did each album have. An album could have many more mentions, but be lower on the list due to where it was ranked on the individual lists

I like the weighed system, but would like the ability to weigh it myself, like the Village Voice poll. You get 100 points. The maximum an album can get is 35, the minimum is 5. If your list is unranked each album gets 10 points. If you feel your number one is much better than the others on your list you can give it a 35, but the other nine on your lists would have to divide up the other 65 points.

Statistics? Bill, what are you some kind of nerd?  Oh, and I was thinking the same thing by the way!   I assume Sturgill was a runaway but was there any significant difference between 7 and 17 and 27? (I'm not asking for a P value just to be clear that I'm not that much of a geek).

More than that. If we submitted our age and gender we could know that  Grandpas and Grandmas  favored "Beck" and women put Sturgill on top. Not that it would actually mean anything.

I have to respectfully disagree (or maybe there were a lot of bearded ball-capped woman at the Sturgill show I attended)!  And I don't think Beck has done much of note since "Wired" and "Blow by Blow"!

Love end of the year lists and in no particular order and I loved DBT album and The Glory Fires but i also loved Willie Watson and Jeff tweedy and his sons abum, and I loved Doug Seegers album along with lucinda and LL!!, also willy vlautin delines !!! Most off all love NP, and on that I loved the legacy edition of Uncle Tupelo No Depression alot and the complete basement tapes
Doug Seegers Nashville: Glad to see his album on here

Strand of Oaks - HEAL, belongs on any "Best of..." 2014 list.

"Goshen '97" is certainly on my short list of favorite songs of the year.

Happens to me every year, and then I sleep fitfully (if at all) until I remedy the situation. And this comment string seems to be the best place to do it. With the clock ticking toward deadline, I managed to leave two records off my top 10 that definitely should have been there based on the amount of airplay and word-of-mouth love I gave them: Matthew Ryan's Boxers and Phil Cody's Cody Sings Zevon.  Love 'em both. Thankfully, at this point I don't have to decide which two other releases to remove from the list....

As for favorite song of 2014, it's a tie between the Old 97's' "Let's Get Drunk & Get It On" and Drive-By Truckers' "Shit Shots Count." Those two never failed to make me sit up straight, listen intently, and sing along loudly regardless of how many times I heard them. Chuck Prophet's "Wish Me Luck" is up there for me too, but I don't want Hal to think I'm copying him.

Finally, belated thanks to those who invested their time and talents in to compiling the list. Much appreciated.


A lot like Will James, we have booked a lot of these artists for Kilkenny Roots Festival before they became well known. It’s even a bit more difficult doing it from Ireland!

Names in the Top 50 that have played the festival in recent years include: Sturgill Simpson, Ryan Adams, DBTs, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Chuck Prophet, Mary Gauthier, Hiss Golden Messenger.

Oh, and Lee Bains 111 & The Glory Fires are booked for next year, 1st to 4th May!

Saw Mary Gauthier a number of years ago in Kilkenny for the first time,now never miss a show when she plays here-what a lady!

No place for Ronnie Fauss!

I missed the cut off for my Top 10, and had Sturgill at #2, but I don't even see my #1 and #3 on the top 50. 

I had "Live at the Exit Inn by The Delta Saints at #1, and Savannah Road by Brigitte DeMeyer at #3, and I stand by my picks.  Just not my diligence.  LOL