Best Albums of 2013: Celine Keating and Dave McCarty, Contributors

Posted by Celine Keating

Celine Keating

The Andreas Kapsalis & Goran Ivanovic Guitar Duo
With blazing passages and intricate grooves, their inventive, complex music takes place on the cutting edge of contemporary guitar where improvisational jazz meets the odd meters of Balkan folk tunes, the rhythms of Latin American music, and the lyricism of classical guitar. (

Steve Baughman
Farewell to Orkney
Baughman explores the essence of Celtic music, stretching its boundaries into contemporary terrain with technical innovation, virtuosity, and intensity. (

Sarah Jarosz
Build Me Up From Bones
On this 22-year-old wunderkind’s 3rd album, acoustic traditional and old-time country take a bit of a back seat to quirky originals and arresting renditions of Bob Dylan and Joanna Newsome. (Sugar Hill)

The Lone Bellow
The Lone Bellow
Riveting three-part harmonies backed by gorgeous guitar and mandolin create a distinctive “country-soul” sound. (Descendant)

Tommy Emmanuel & Martin Taylor
The Colonel & The Governor
The virtuosity level and innovation is off the charts on these guitar duets of jazz classics and original compositions from two masters. (Self-released, distributed by MesaBluemoon)

Dave McCarty

Jason Isbell
Already one of the country’s best roots artists, former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell emerges from a self-imposed exile in rehab with a sobered-up perspective on everything from drinking buddies dying of cancer, serial killers searching for love and escaping alive from a post-show OD in a cheap motel. With a novelist’s eye for detail and a playwright’s sense of story and pacing, Southeastern easily makes Isbell the best Americana songwriter since Rodney Crowell. (Southeastern)

Reinier Voet & Pigalle 44
My Room
Like its American counterpart, bluegrass, the high-energy, edgy virtuoso string band music called gypsy jazz often runs the risk of sounding too hidebound and traditional, trapped in its own respect and reverence for the past. But Reinier Voet and friends excel here at exterminating musical clichés and reimagining even the most overplayed Hot Club standards like "Minor Swing" with élan and a 21st century sense of style and panache. 

Adam Steffey
New Primitive
No modern mandolinist has defined a clearer style in contemporary bluegrass than Adam Steffey. Here, the 5-time IBMA award winner dares to blend his thoroughly original style into the cloistered confines of traditional old-time music and emerges as an innovator of the first order. His duets with the brilliant new acoustic flatpicker Zeb Snyder on tunes like Chinquapin Hunting take mandolin/guitar duets to a thrilling new plateau. 

Della Mae
The World Oft Can Be
Take five supremely gifted acoustic musicians, add a brilliant blend of original and traditional material, give them supergroup stage presence and charisma, and you have the breakout acoustic band of 2013. Della Mae stampedes through the dozen tunes on this CD with artistry, emotion, uncanny musicianship and a sense of band identify many groups never achieve. Guitarist Courtney Hartman shows a refreshing lack of concern for sounding like anyone but herself, and mandolinist Jenny Lynn Gardner is an absolute showstopper. 

Don Stiernberg
When you grew up studying jazz mandolin with the legendary Jethro Burns like Don Stiernberg did, knowing how to play the right chords and notes and putting them together into interesting solos is the least of what you learn. As Jethro’s protégé, Big Stern learned to put music ahead of hot licks, and the joy of life ahead of just earning a living playing gigs. Mandoboppin’ shows all those skills and more as Stiernberg romps through this set of jazz standards and originals. 

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