Essential albums

Thanks to all the WMOT listeners who voted for their favorite albums played on WMOT in 2020! 

In a year bereft of most live music, recordings took on added import and resonance. I upgraded my home stereo in February, unaware that I’d be spending more hours between the speakers than ever. Given the artistic abundance of our Americana music community, that was no problem at all.


It shouldn’t take a shelter-at-home order to indulge in your hi-fi, but with the venues quiet (for now), it’s an ideal time to sit still with your best speakers or headphones, and savor the wealth of recorded music released so far in this young and troubled year. I noticed a star cluster of new albums by leading roots women whose voices and musical auras are especially serene and fortifying. They include veterans returning to the field, top acoustic artists and an anticipated newcomer.

Unlike some year-end album lists, mine shies away from ranked order or making claims on “best” because I want it to feel more like the way a music fan thinks. What made an impact? What albums had stories that amplified the trends in roots music and that might be landmarks on your journey of discovery? What’s interesting about this year’s roundup though is that if you absolutely made me rank a top ten, it would be albums made almost entirely by women. What a year.