Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Country, Folk & Blues Albums

8. Doug Paisley
Strong Feelings
(Cameron House)

Strong Feelings has been called Doug Paisley's country album. Seeing as the Toronto songwriter moonlights in a band called Golden Country Classics, that designation seems a little silly: every Doug Paisley release is likely to be a variation on his expression of country music.

His third album is Paisley's most diverse. His warm, old-fashioned drawl and fluent guitar picking carry the album through mildly surprising twists and turns: a little jazz balladry on Mary Margaret O'Hara duet "What's Up Is Down" with Colin Stetson on horns; flashes of psychedelic gospel on "Growing Souls"; spacey keyboard solo interjections on "Where The Light Takes You"; and a bit of Crazy Horse-style roots rock on "To & Fro" and the disarming spontaneity of one-take, one-mic acoustic closer "Because I Love You" (also with M20H).

Recorded to tape with as impressive cast of recurring and new collaborators (including Bazil Donovan and Garth Hudson, along with guitarist Emmett Kelly and others), Paisley's calling card is his exceptional songcraft, though his guitar playing is top notch as well. "It's Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye)" — with tambourine by co-producer Stew Crookes and backup vocals from the Weather Station's Tamara Lindeman — has become my favourite song of the year. (Sarah Greene)