Top Ten Albums of 2023


1. Andrew Bryant – Prodigal

This is a deep, artistic statement from an artist who needs to explore his roots and we are privileged enough to be invited along for the journey.  Andrew resurrects characters from his past, visions from his mind and hope for a future in a beautiful and vulnerable record.  With the finest Memphis studio musicians backing him up, Andrew swung for the fences and hit a home run.  Highlights are “Gravy”, “Tongues”, and, aw heck, this whole record is highlights.  No filler aboard this work of art.

2. The Band of Heathens – Simple Things

This is a great rock record in the vein of Little Feat or the Faces or any of those great acts that just flat out knew how to rock back in the day.  The album opens with a pair of songs that feel like the official goodbye to the Covid years.  The rest of the record runs with the vibe.  The Heathens have been around for a long time and this is the best record of their career.  Highlights are “Don’t Let the Darkness”, “Heartless Year” and “I Got the Time”.

3. Nathan Graham – Saint of Second Chances

This is the debut record by Chicago musician, Nathan Graham, and wow what a debut.  It’s a record that shines on many levels.  Nathan comes out of the gates with the powerhouse single “Pride”.  The album weaves and bobs into soul, blues, rock, and ballad.  There is something fresh around every corner.  It even takes five songs in to learn not only is Nathan an amazing singer and songwriter, he’s a virtuoso guitar player too.  Highlights include, “Pride”, “Somebody Else” and “We Already Won”.

4. Say Zuzu – No Time To Lose

Say Zuzu took a long break.  It wound up being about two decades.  In that time, they put together a set of songs that made it all worth the wait.  Songs of hope.  Songs of introspection.  Songs that point to something great around the corner.  This album is full of life and joy to be alive and made it this far in the journey.  I’m glad they’re back.  Highlights include “As Much Love”, “No Time to Lose”, and “Big Horizons”.  In fact, the first time I listened to “As Much Love”, I thought to myself, ‘this song is so good, I wish that I wrote it.’  That’s how much this wonderful collection of songs resonates..

5. JD Clayton – Long Way From Home

“Long Way From Home” has a grizzled intimacy.  It’s like sitting on the porch with JD while he shares hopes, dreams and toasts the good things of life.  There is a life and energy to this collection of songs that puts a smile on one’s face.  Sometimes he’s looking back on things he misses singing about “being home by suppertime” or where he’s at on the title track.  Sometimes he’s just happy to be alive.  Either way I was happy to take the journey with him.  Highlights include “Beauty Queen”, “American Millionaire” and “Long Way From Home”.  I love the line in “Beauty Queen”, “Someday I’ll ask God how he thought up your design”.  There’s a lot to love on this record.

6. Jon Danforth – Repetitions

Jon Danforth’s sophomore album effort shows him expanding in new directions.  Last year’s debut put him on my radar and this year’s work keeps him there.  These songs move in a more energetic, electric direction where he takes on life with eye for the poetic.  He celebrates life, philosophizes about the nature of social media, and takes on the myriad of experiences that can go one way or another based upon how we choose to see things.  There is a poppy hopeful energy to the music that brings joyful life.  Highlights include “Novelty”, “Can’t Stay Here” and “Nothing at All”

7. Peter Gabriel – i/o

After his lengthy hiatus, it’s just good to have Peter Gabriel back.  His voice still sounds young.  He has the dynamic rhythm section of Tony Levin and Manu Katche with him that can create the bed for any song to sound good.  This album has a little wacky take of each song presented twice in the form of a different mix.  It makes playback clunky at times, but Peter is always experimenting and making things interesting. These songs may not have the hooks of the old days, but they are uplifting, warm and worth repeated listening.

8. Matt Charette & The Truer Sound – Lo Fi High Hopes

This is gritty rock and roll.  It’s high energy and fun, but underneath it all is a sincerity that brings the authenticity that makes it all connect.  Matt gets in your face with his drive, but ultimately he’s inviting us along on the journey as brothers in arms.  Bonus points for rhyming ‘hi fi stereo’ with ‘girl from Ontario’. The world needs more rhymes that take more risks.  Highlights include “4×4”, “Anywhere” and “Wrecking Ball”.

9. The Teskey Brothers – The Winding Way

The Teskey brothers bring that 60’s soul feel into the 2020’s with their third album, “The Winding Way”.  When I hear Josh Teskey sing, I can picture Otis Clay resurrected from the dead and brother Sam Teskey plays guitar like he’s right out of the Motown house band.  The album navigates songs of love, loss and perseverance with a deft intimacy. Highlights include “Take My Heart”, “Ocean’s of Emotion” and “This Will Be Our Year”..

10. Pierce Crask – Rising River

Pierce Crask is a virtuoso fingerpicker who brings his talents to this solid collection.  These are soulful songs that evoke The Big Pink in the easy interplay of instrumentation.  The touch of flugelhorn interspersed float over the atmosphere nicely.  The piano is driving.  The snare has a charming rickety-ness that infuses the proceedings with warmth.  Highlights include “Anybody Out There”, “Sparkle and Shine” and “Rising River


Well, there you have it, my favorites of 2023. What a great year for music! Check out the playlist below.

Great Songs From the Best Albums of 2023 Playlist

Leave a Reply