The 40 Best Folk Albums of the 2010s

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The 40 Best Folk Albums of the 2010s

The funny thing about folk music in the 2010s is that none of it really sounded alike. Modern technology has afforded acoustic-minded artists the ability to embellish their lyrics with production flourishes and pop gizmos, but just because a song features drum loops or synth doesn’t mean it can’t count as a folk piece. Fleet Foxes arguably incorporate more textures than your everyday pop or rock act, and Bon Iver has been punching up folk sounds for a new generation of music fans since the first notes of “Flume” lit up our ears in 2008. Meanwhile, some of Justin Vernon’s and Robin Pecknold’s contemporaries are still capitalizing on the minimalist methods popularized by Dylan, Baez, Mitchell and the whole lot of string-slinging troubadours who found themselves in the midst of the mid-20th century’s American folk revival. The Tallest Man on Earth rarely steps beyond a guitar; Julie Byrne isn’t one to decorate her albums save for the spare layer of ambient noise. Crossover is inevitable, and a few of these albums even appear on our best country and indie rock album decade lists. Genre has become increasingly obsolete, but this is all folk music, at least by this decade’s loose standards. And these albums in particular are the ones we’ve loved and shared over the past 10 years here at Paste. Read on for our 40 favorite folk albums of the 2010s.

Listen to our Best Folk Albums of the 2010s playlist on Spotify right here.

nothing-wrong.jpg 40. Dawes: Nothing Is Wrong (2011)
Two years after releasing their debut, North Hills, the men of Dawes hit the road for a long tour. Forced to write in the free time they were afforded, the songs on Nothing Is Wrong are marked by the qualities of a band in motion. “These days my friends don’t seem to know me / Without my suitcase in my hand,” Taylor Goldsmith sings in the opening track, “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” But despite the uncertainty and bouts of solitude that often come with life on the road, Goldsmith seems to find freedom in his travels. “Maybe cause I come from such an empty-hearted town / Or maybe cause some love of mine had really let me down,” he says on “If I Wanted Someone.” “But the only time I am lonely is when others are around / I just never end up knowing what to say.” Musically, on the other hand, there’s no worry that Dawes has lost its way. The songwriting and emotion are just as impressive on Nothing is Wrong as they were on North Hills. The influence of the North Hills and Laurel Canyon music scenes are still present as well, right down to Jackson Browne’s supporting vocals on “Fire Away.” Two years of fine-tuning their live sound made all the members of Dawes master musicians not only individually, but as a collective. Alex Casnoff’s work on the keys shines on nearly every track; Wylie Gelber maybe one of the most tasteful bassists ever, and young Griffin Goldsmith’s percussion is rock steady and incredibly impressive. But it is the sum of all these parts that makes Nothing is Wrong something truly special. —Wyndham Wyath

break-it.jpg 39. Andrew Bird: Break It Yourself (2012)
Andrew Bird follows the same definition of “quirky” that people use for Wes Anderson movies —his interests are certainly idiosyncratic, but somehow the definition feels too overreaching, like using Instagram and “hipster” in the same breath. But his seventh solo album, Break It Yourself, fits those dreaded descriptors, from the titles onward. There are references to Greek mythology, to horrible international tragedies. There’s a fake palindrome (how meta!). There is, per usual, quite a bit of whistling. It is, however, a bit more reserved than the earlier Birds. Gone are the rapturous flourishes of “Fake Palindromes” and even further the weird but awesome swing revival phase in which he participated as a Squirrel Nut Zipper. What we’re left with is a guy with a violin, an embouchure of pure steel, and a set of sweet, gentle jams that will come to you with good intentions. Break It Yourself greets its listener like a friend-turned-lover making the first move: sitting on opposite ends of the couch, inching closer and putting its arm around you. By the end, you’re curled up together. —Lindsaey Eanet

38. Cat Power: Wanderer (2018)
Chan Marshall, who records under the alias Cat Power, boasts more musical prowess than many singer-songwriters would even know what to do with. In fact, after nine gleaming LPs, she almost stopped doing anything with it—she told The New York Times that after getting pregnant in 2014, she thought about abandoning her music career to move to Australia and change her name to Beth. Instead of fulfilling those outback fantasies, Marshall went back to work. The result was her 10th LP, Wanderer, a marvelously minimalist, generously arranged and smartly written glance into one woman’s mind. Raw and trusting, Cat Power opens up on Wanderer in ways only a practiced and weathered musician could. “Horizon” is nestled at Wanderer’s burning core, a warmly composed, barely tweaked familial love song. Here, Marshall lovingly bakes in some AutoTune, an unexpected but welcome treat. Marshall allows Wanderer to be about lots of things at once: such life-altering instances as motherhood and death as well as plentifully covered topics like love and relationships. Cat Power has stumbled at times during her lengthy and storied career, but on Wanderer, she gracefully lands on all four feet. —Ellen Johnson

anais-hadestown.jpg 37. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown (2010)
Before its Broadway debut, Hadestown was a musical for way, way off Broadway. Anais Mitchell’s stunning folk opera succeeds on many levels. It’s a brilliant recasting of the Orpheus and Euridice myth. It’s a pointed political commentary on what may be the downtrodden, cash-strapped America of 1933, or the downtrodden, cash-strapped America of 2010—or now. And it features some wondrous ensemble singing, from Mitchell as Euridice, from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as a seductive Orpheus, from Ani DiFranco as Persephone, and, most notably, from gruff-voiced folkie Greg Brown, who imbues the lord of the underworld with both maniacal glee and Dick Cheney’s calculus of pragmatic deathdealing. —Andy Whitman

36. Joan Shelley: Like The River Loves The Sea (2019)
Joan Shelley was kind enough to include a thesis statement with her new album Like The River Loves The Sea. It’s the first track, “Haven,” and its only verse goes like this: “A haven woven with warm colors / A woolen place to rest your head / And a light comes in / Forms and binds you / To mold and carry you this long way to go.” Shelley isn’t just the singer of the song. She is that light. This was already established back in 2017 by Paste’s review of the Louisville-based folk-singer’s previous (self-titled) full-length: “Shelley’s light is absolutely irrepressible.” In fact, it glows even brighter on Like The River Loves The Sea, her sixth LP. Where Joan Shelley and 2015’s Over And Even occasionally dimmed Shelley’s songs with shadowy production or dusky arrangements, the new album’s dozen tracks feel more confident and out in the open. Take, for example, “Coming Down For You,” a spirited song of devotion driven by a repeated guitar riff that seems to flicker like a flame in a steady breeze, featuring the world-class backing vocal work of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, aka Shelley’s fellow Louisvillian, Will Oldham. He shows up later, too, on “The Fading,” a delightfully lilting ode to the natural world: Springtime light, a muddy river, winding vines and rising seas dot the track, which is not only the best on the album, it’s also a centerpiece of sorts. “Oh Kentucky stays on my mind / It’s sweet to be five years behind,” Shelley sings, poetically capturing the alluring, unhurried pace of life in her home state. —Ben Salmon

veirs-july.jpg 35. Laura Veirs: July Flame (2010)
Laura Veirs’ seventh album, released in the blustery throes of January 2010, takes its name from a kind of peach that finds its way into farmer’s-market bins in the hottest weeks of the year—a peach, the story goes, that cured her of a nasty bout with writer’s block one steamy Portland afternoon a few summers back. Still, it’s hard to imagine a better soundtrack to the chilly months of wood smoke, crackling leaves, deep Vs of geese honking overhead and squash simmering on kitchen stovetops than this collection of heady, steady, pensive songs. It’s a feel-good record of the oddest sort, a melancholy meditation on happiness and its delicate transience—warmer and rootsier than her earlier work, which boasted a kind of cautious experimentalism. July Flame is carefully composed, ever-deepening, glinting and glowing in new ways each time it’s played; there’s an inkling of something greater coming just around the bend, but for now it’s Veirs’ finest work. And so let us curl up in our burrows with these songs and our own flickering July flames ’til the green shoots return and the rivers run full again. “It’s gonna take a long, long time,” Veirs sings on her resolute final track. “But we’re gonna make something so fine.” —Rachael Maddux

34. Punch Brothers: The Phosphorescent Blues (2015)
Americans are sick, the Punch Brothers tell us on their fourth studio album. But our mutual affliction isn’t the viral kind—at least not in the traditional sense. “Your trouble vibrates the table,” sings mandolinist Chris Thile, backed by a sprightly churn of banjo, fiddle and upright bass. “There’s nothin’ to say / that couldn’t just as well be sent / I’ve got an American share / of 21st century stress.” Throughout the nine years leading up to this release, Punch Brothers helped popularize “prog-grass”—a forward-thinking movement that utilizes traditional bluegrass instrumentation while weaving in elements of classical, alternative rock, jazz and even mainstream pop. Essentially, the quintet (Thile, violinist Gabe Witcher, banjoist Noam Pikelny, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert) are modernizing the bluegrass format for the 21st century. The Phosphorescent Blues adds emotional resonance to that approach, underpinning the band’s tasteful virtuoso playing with a lyrical concept about artificial connection—namely, our culture’s addiction to smartphones. Like every Punch Brothers album, The Phosphorescent Blues is defined by technical chops. But its lyrical focus offers a vibrant edge over its predecessors. Thile’s words are both deeply sad and quietly hopeful, meditating on the way pieces of vibrating plastic drive us both together and apart. “How long, oh Lord, can we keep the whole world spinning under our thumbs?” the band warmly harmonizes on “My Oh My,” their voices rising and falling. The answer’s there—not in their words, but in the way they ask. —Ryan Reed

33. Bedouine: Bird Songs of a Killjoy (2019)
Isolation can be both enjoyable and insufferable. Azniv Korkejian (aka Bedouine) explores both kinds of confinement in these Bird Songs, first the frustrating loneliness of “two people never getting together” on swirling album opener “Under the Night,” then the startling freedom of separation on “One More Time,” where she basks “on an island with no one else around.” On “Bird,” she warns “that it’s you against the rain” and dotes on some sweet, flightless creature before leaving it alone to “sing.” Early in the record she mournfully quips, “You love how much I love you / when you’re gone.” All these verses point to a complicated, ever-changing relationship with space and separation. While many of these songs are concerned with flying solo, Korkejian is still an expert on “Matters of the Heart,” a sly and jazzy tune that uplifts side B of this record. When she sings, “Call me like a phone / Just ring to me, baby” Korkejian sounds like the same woman who said, “I like watching people make out to my songs so I encourage consensual… anything, really,” at a Bedouine show earlier this year. She who values alone time can still yearn for company. I treasure both, and I would like to curl up inside Bird Songs of a Killjoy and live there forever. —Ellen Johnson

middle-brother.jpg 32. Middle Brother: Middle Brother (2011)
Very rarely does a supergroup manage to come up with something as good as the sum of its parts. Just like a movie starring a crowd of A-listers doesn’t necessarily equal anything Oscar-worthy (we’re looking at you, Ocean’s 12), it isn’t a given that a band with three frontmen will be able to effectively pool its talents. But the men of Middle Brother sound as if they’ve been playing together for years. John McCauley (Deer Tick), Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) take turns singing lead, and from the first harmonies on “Daydreaming” it’s clear that we’ve got a true collaboration on our hands. At times they sound so in tune with one another that Middle Brother starts to feel like a concept album, like a time capsule crafted by the trio of rock troubadours to document their rise to fame. We get the sense that in addition to their shared influences, the members of Middle Brother have plenty of common experiences in their pasts. —Bonnie Stiernberg

31. Florist: Emily Alone (2019)
There is transformative power coursing through the 12 songs on Emily Alone, the new album from indie-folk project Florist. It’s not loud or showy or self-serving or generous. It’s just there, simple and plainspoken, waiting to be engaged and willing to move through anyone who needs it. Presumably, that’s what happened to Emily Sprague, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter named in the album’s title. Last winter, she wrote and recorded Emily Alone during a period of isolation and personal reflection spurred by the unexpected death of her mother and a move across the country, away from her collaborators in Florist (the band’s home base is still listed as New York on their Bandcamp). On Emily Alone, Sprague strips down her songs to their barest elements, leaving only her voice, words and plucked acoustic guitar (plus an occasional exception) to carry the message. What’s left is not just bedroom-recorded confessional music, but pure introspection, confusion, revelation and emotion rubbed raw and exposed to the world. These songs are not sad so much as they channel the ebbs and flows of life lived inside a human brain with startling accuracy. Perhaps you have to be in the right place—emotionally, spiritually, spatially or whatever—for Emily Alone to impact you fully. But if you’re there, you’ll feel it. And if you’re not there, that’s okay. When you’re ready, Florist will be there waiting for you. —Ben Salmon

see-you-around.jpg 30. I’m With Her: See You Around (2018)
Their band name may remind you of a particularly turbulent election season, but their music, which is punctuated with warm harmonies and bare-bones acoustics, recalls a relaxed hootenanny rather than a televised debate. Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins, Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan and folk songstress Sarah Jarosz began collaborating as I’m With Her back in 2015—prior to the launch of Hillary Clinton’s identically named presidential campaign slogan—but See You Around is the bluegrass supertrio’s full-length debut. Their fortified voices, plus Watkins’ fiddle, O’Donovan’s guitar, and Jarosz’s mandolin, mesh in a familial way—it’s a wonder they aren’t sisters. Plucky and purposeful, See You Around is at once soothing and sweeping, a testament to practiced musicianship and the power of collaboration, a chief value in bluegrass/acoustic scenes. During performances, the three women gather around a single microphone, like a family sitting down for supper. On the record, similes and other clever lyrical nuggets are woven into a hearty 40 minutes. See You Around creeps to start with a gentle crescendo and resounds to a close with the hymn-like “Hundred Miles.” Though still in their infancy as a group, I’m With Her are pros, and their ability to effortlessly freshen bluegrass sounds while maintaining musical mastery marks them as one of the best working supergroups, in Americana and beyond. —Ellen Johnson

rhiannon.jpg 29. Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi: there is no Other (2019)
On her newest endeavor, the album there is no Other (out now on Nonesuch), former Carolina Chocolate Drops frontwoman and banjo whiz Rhiannon Giddens, along with the Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, tracks the movement of people—and their music—across cultures and centuries, particularly in regards to their respective areas of expertise: Giddens knows inside and out the African American influence on roots, acoustic and old time music; for Turrisi, it’s a deep knowledge of Arabic music and its imprint on Europe and beyond. The album is grounds for a smaller world, a beautiful narrative convincing us of our similarities, not our differences. The stories in these songs can act as hymns, folktales or dispatches from some lost time or place, but it’s really in the instrumentation where the album’s deepest messages—a condemnation of “othering,” the social practice of ostracizing those considered outsiders, and a campaign for the similitude of human experiences—come to light. If instruments from different parts of the world can work together so seamlessly, why can’t people? —Ellen Johnson

lori-m-tree.jpg 28. Lori McKenna: The Tree (2018)
Every Lori McKenna album has at least one song that will make you cry—and depending on who you are, and where you are in life, it could be any of them that gets you choked up. It’s not that McKenna is trying to put a lump in your throat. The Massachusetts songwriter is just singing the truth as she knows it, which is well enough: she’s a mother of five who has been married to the same man for 30 years and still lives in the town where she was born. She has a well-informed perspective, then, on growing up and growing older and watching the world change around you. Like most of her work, McKenna’s latest is a family-centered collection of rootsy folk songs, and as usual, she finds profundity in the ordinary moments of everyday life. McKenna’s attention to detail, and the way she makes universal sentiments suddenly, and piercingly, specific, are why her songs are special enough to have earned the deep respect of her fellow folk singers, and to have caught the ear of the big-ticket country stars who have recorded them, including Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Little Big Town. Wistful songs about love and family would be deeply uncool in the wrong hands, but McKenna seems more interested in being honest than hip. Her voice is warm and frank, and her understated, mostly acoustic musical arrangements never overshadow lyrics in which she almost always manages to say the right thing. —Eric R. Danton

lilliemae.jpg 27. Lillie Mae: Forever and Then Some (2017)
After pulling out from the orbit of tastemaker Jack White, for whom she provided fiddle, mandolin and vocal contributions on 2014’s Lazaretto, Lillie Mae Rische set out to accomplish that not-at-all-daunting task: Condense an entire musical adolescence and young adulthood into a debut album that reflected everything from the joys of traveling with a family band to the bizarre experience of backing up one of the most famous guitarists in the world. That album, Forever and Then Some, plants a flag of absolute confidence and independence, showcasing both Rische’s lilting voice and skill as a tender lyricist and the sheer talent of the group of musicians she’s surrounded herself with. Musical breakdowns on tunes like “Honest and True” or “To Go Wrong” display an effortless mastery of violin from one Rische (Lillie) and guitar from another (brother Frank Rische), with a complexity of arrangement that is rarely called for in modern folk/country albums that are eyeing any kind of crossover potential. There’s an undeniable passion for good old fashioned musicianship on display here, and a sense of true team effort that pays off in immensely satisfying fashion. —Jim Vorel

26. Justin Townes Earle: Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (2012)
If you still haven’t listened to Harlem River Blues, Nashville heir-to-the-Americana throne Justin Townes Earle’s 2010 album, go do that first, before you get into Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. It was one of the best albums released that year, and it got the critical attention it deserves, but three days after its release, Earle found himself in trouble with the law, arrested for battery, public drunkenness and resisting arrest after an altercation with venue staff at Radio Radio in Indianapolis. Personal struggles with addiction and troubles with the law, not to mention the connection of his folk-royalty father, Steve Earle, have meant that Earle the Younger, gifted as he is, has always had a specific narrative attached to him and his music. That was where we were at with Justin Townes Earle when he opened his 2012 album with the line, “Hear my father on the radio, singin’ ‘Take Me Home Again,’” following up with “Sometimes I wish that I could get away / sometimes I wish that he’d just call” and a sighed “I thought I’d be a better man.” That self-awareness comes into play again, and Earle lays it all down for us less than a minute into the album, and beautifully, amid gentle, echo-y electric picking and mournful horns that wind around his words like the Carolina coast he references. Nothing’s Gonna Change… is ultimately the kind of album you can curl up into, let the warm tones surround you and rest easy—not in a The King of Limbs, “this-album-made-me-fall-asleep” way like but in a way that makes you feel like, “damn, everything feels right about now.” At the risk of sounding like a jerk, Earle’s album title is true. Nothing will change the way we feel about him: he will forever be tied to his father, his mythos, his demons, but above all, his ability to make really wonderful music. Nothing will change how we feel about him, and in his case, that’s a good thing. —Lindsay Eanet

rsz_rosanen-cash-the-river-the-thread.jpg 25. Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread (2014)
With a voice like good claret or damp moss, Rosanne Cash’s singing is something to sink into. Surrender to the tones, mostly dark, but marked by the occasional glimmer of light, and let the emotions they contain seep inside. For Cash, the emotions on The River & The Thread are complex and tangled, especially the Grammy-winner’s own difficult relationship with the South, her roots and her own musical journey. What emerges, beyond a woman grappling with a legacy as much in the rich bottom land as her father Johnny’s iconic presence as the voice of America, is a knowing embrace of the conflicts in the things we love. The 11-song cycle is mostly a meditation on the textures and musical forms that emerged South of the Mason Dixon. Finding not just resolve, but acceptance is a gift. Cash, who’s sidestepped her heritage, and eschewed a career as a country star with 11 Number Ones, a marriage to a country writer/producer/artist Rodney Crowell and the city/industry where she found prominence, savored her wandering and the Manhattan life she built. With The River & The Thread, she comes home with the warmth reserved for knowing where we’re from. As powerful a witness for the region—Memphis, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas—as it is a lovely quilt of musicality, braiding blues, folk, Appalachia, rock and old-timey country, this is balm for lost souls, alienated creatures seeking their core truths and intellectuals who love the cool mist of vespers in the hearts of people they may never encounter. —Holly Gleason

24. Sarah Jarosz: Follow Me Down (2011)
With a descending circular flourish of acoustic guitar notes, the bluegrass influence on Follow Me Down is evident, but the almost weightlessness suggests something else, something perhaps more. By the time the husky alto voice comes in, inviting us to “Follow me down through the cotton fields/ Moon shadow shine by the well/ Lead us down a road, where no one goes, we can run away…,” the bewitchment is complete. A 17-year-old Sarah Jarosz made quite a mark in 2009 with Song Up In Her Head, but rather than hone the traditional Appalachian discipline, the sensualist singer explores the possibilities of acoustic/roots music—conjuring songscapes, erotic tableau and enough tension to hold listeners transfixed throughout Follow Me Down. From Wimberly, Texas, where the countryside rolls endlessly and vastness invites a certain dreaminess, as well as a need to be present, Jarosz has synthesized opposing realities into a textured whole. She matches a reeling instrumental like “Old Smitty” with the classic singer/songwriter stylings of “My Muse,” an etherlike intoxication that draws the listener by the ear, then the heart and finally the brain. Somewhere in between those aesthetics is the folk/Appalachian “Here Nor There,” a dobro-defined examination of elusiveness heightened by Darrell Scott’s back-holler harmonies pressing against her feathery alto. With so much ground covered without the usual jarring disconnect, Jarosz closes Follow Me Down with an instrumental meditation of mandolin, cello, wood flute and violin called “Peace.” A settling coda for the journey, it suggests quiet places to consider all that has been revealed—and offered her fans a sense that the dream has only just begun. —Holly Gleason

angeloooooo.jpg 23. Angelo De Augustine: Swim Inside the Moon (2017)
You’ve heard of bedroom records, but what about a bathroom record? Swim Inside the Moon, L.A.-based Angelo De Augustine’s second album and first for Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty Records, was recorded in a bathtub with just one microphone. That’s why Swim Inside the Moon feels so intimate: It’s recorded in the closest of quarters, so every whisper, every guitar strum seems as if its being performed right in front of you. And it’s no wonder Sufjan wanted to be involved in this project—Angelo De Augustine sounds like a protégé of the legendary singer/songwriter. The two have a very similar falsetto croon, after all. But Swim Inside the Moon is no copycat record: It’s the culmination of every similarly-minded folk artist, from Nick Drake and Jackson C. Frank through Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver, and Angelo De Augustine stands on his own. Tender songs like “Haze,” “Truly Gone” and “Crazy, Stoned, and Gone” are as sweet and strong as anything in the aforementioned musicians’ back catalog. Swim Inside the Moon is as beautiful of an album as you’ll ever hear, loving, warm and stunning at every turn. —Steven Edelstone

julieeee.jpg 22. Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness (2017)
Julie Byrne is from New York City. And Seattle. And Chicago. And Buffalo. And probably other places, too. Either she has moved around a lot, or she’s from everywhere and nowhere all at once. Her second widely distributed album, Not Even Happiness, makes a strong case for the latter. Built mostly out of expertly fingerpicked guitar and Byrne’s entrancing alto, the nine mystic folk songs wander the physical world: passing clouds and restless stargazing, hellish cities and endless roads, blue skies, bright moons and quiet back porches. Along the way, Byrne uses earthly concerns as a backdrop for explorations of love, loneliness, fear, forgiveness, spirituality and the eternal search for life’s center. With a quiver full of memorable melodies and reverb that stretches to the horizon, this album is at once engaging, enigmatic and irresistible. “I have dragged my lives across the country,” she sings on “I Live Now as a Singer,” the luminous final track, “and wondered if travel led me anywhere.” That’s for Byrne to decide, of course. But Not Even Happiness is a beautiful and rewarding journey. —Ben Salmon

muchacho.jpg 21. Phosphorescent: Muchacho (2013)
Muchacho aims big. Like the lacerating kiss-offs in Blood on the Tracks, Muchacho’s lyrics map continents of separation and wandering to represent the distance between ex-lovers. Like the panoramic scope of Joshua Tree, the album’s sonic textures capture wonder and immensity while keeping both bootheels on the ground. Like the benders and busts of Grievous Angel, Muchacho pursues both sin and absolution and offers apology for neither. And like Robbie Robertson in his solo debut, Matthew Houck—Phosphorescent’s sole proprietor—adapts contemporary tools and technology to blend troubadour folk, Nashville country and Southern rock into a sound that’s fully his own. Muchacho recapitulates the moment of love’s collapse and catapults out into the companionable lonesome that waits. The contours of the physical and emotional landscape are set by the monumental “Song For Zula”—windswept by the arid atmospherics of solo Daniel Lanois and solidifying around adamantine strings, the track cycles the storm-gathering grandeur of “With or Without You” through the defiant heart of Dixie. Houck works with elements of sand and soil and gold and steam to cast love in some comprehensible form of relief. —Nathan Huffstutter

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