Best Albums of 2013: Teja Gerken and Dan Gabel, Contributing Editors

Teja Gerken

Martin Simpson
Vagrant Stanzas
Beautiful interpretations of traditional tunes, some of Simpson’s best songwriting yet, and stunning guitar work. Virtuoso folk music simply doesn’t get any better than this. (Topic)

Tev Stevig
Jeni Jol: Music of The Balkans, Greece, and Turkey
Played on clawhammer-style fretless nylon-string guitar, Jeni Jol is an album full of odd meters, beautiful melodies, and gorgeous tone. (tevstevig.com)

Dakota Dave Hull
Under the North Star
Ragtime and blues-based fingerpicking at its finest. Played on a wide selection of instruments, ranging from piccolo to baritone guitar, and featuring solo performances as well as band arrangements. (dakotadavehull.com)

Jacques Stotzem
Catch the Spirit II
Clever covers of pop and rock classics played with great groove on solo fingerstyle guitar in standard tuning. (Acoustic Music)

Tony McManus
Mysterious Boundaries
Proof that a repertoire of Bach, Couperin, Montiverdi, and Satie shouldn’t be a stranger to the solo steel-string guitar. (Compass)

Dan Gabel

Jason Isbell
Southeastern
Much has been made of his new sobriety, but on this mostly quiet, acoustic-guitar driven album, Isbell masterfully wraps his experiences in powerful, cinematic songs about broken, sick, and recovering souls instead of laying bare all of his personal struggles. (Southeastern)

Ruth Moody
These Wilder Things
On her second full-length solo album, this veteran of the roots trio the Wailin’ Jennys is in typically fine writing form, whether on sparsely accompanied, haunting songs like “Trees For Skies” or upbeat, full-band songs like “One and Only.” Her voice is achingly beautiful throughout.

John Reischman
Walk Along John
The mandolin duet with Chris Thile on “Itzbin Reel” is a highlight on this great album of Reischman’s instrumental originals in the old-time vein (plus two traditional tunes). Other stellar guest turns come from Kenny Smith, Bruce Molsky, Eli West, and Tony Trischka. (Corvus)

Martin Simpson
Vagrant Stanzas
This album of solo performances of traditional and original songs mixed with instrumentals show Simpson at the top of his incredibly impressive and deep game. The accompaniment ranges from melodic fingerstyle to moaning slide to clawhammer banjo, perfectly suiting Simpson’s natural, comfortable vocals. (Topic)

Milk Carton Kids
The Ash and Clay
Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan stick to seamless vocal harmonies and weaving acoustic guitar interplay on their outstanding third album of original songs. The atmospheric cuts are balanced with the up-tempo “Heaven” and “Honey Honey,” and the result is great material to help listeners develop some serious guitar-accompaniment envy. (Anti-)

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