Queer? Check. Country/Americana/Folk? Check. Five out of 50: not too damn bad.
NPR just released its storied Best Albums List for 2020, spanning every genre (including several we did not know existed), and our team was surprisingly well-represented. Forthwith: the “country” queers on this year’s list. (And here’s the full list.)
Jake Blount, “Spider Tales”
Coming in at #33 on the list is this stunner from an extraordinary talent. Check out our interview with Jake for a peek at what went into it. (Selected for NPR by Kim Ruehl.)
Here’s a live version of one of the finer tracks.
Adrianne Lenker, “songs”
Out of the rock-infused Americana Chicago scene, where she helms the band Big Thief, and into a cabin in the midst of the folky Western Massachussetts scene, Lenker put together this intimate album (and released it on the same day as another album, “instrumentals”.) It reached #29 on NPR’s list. (Selected for NPR by Bob Boilen.)
Here’s a cut from “songs” she did for their “Tiny Desk” concerts.
Katie Pruitt, “Expectations”
NPR has this album at #16. Pruitt also earned several nominations in our All-Star Poll , and you can read an interview with her here (it’s excerpted from Episode 3 of our podcast, Country Queer Spotlight.) Needless to say, we’re big fans. (Selected for NPR by Cyrena Touros.)
Here’s a lovely cut from the album.
Waylon Payne, “Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me”
NPR puts this, perhaps the countriest album in this list, at #10. Besides garnering an Album of the Year nom in our All-Star Poll, an early review we ran remains one of our most-read articles. (Selected for NPR by Jewly Hight.)
Here’s an acoustic version of the final, devastating cut from this years-in-the-making revelation.
Phoebe Bridgers, “Punisher”
Can we claim her? Maybe it’s a stretch, but I’m hearing plenty of guitars up in here. NPR pegs this album at #4 and that’s no surprise; Bridgers is adored by critics. (Selected for NPR by Stephen Thompson.)
Here’s a sweet Tiny Desk Concert track, live from the Oval Office.
Cover Illustration: Rae Pozdro for NPR