Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Five Folk Albums from Minimalist to Maximalist

Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Five Folk Albums from Minimalist to  Maximalist
Neither the 12-member supergroup nor barebones simplicity took hold as a prevalent theme in 2014 — like the very definition of folk/country/blues itself, twas a spectrum from stripped-down to fleshed-out, from sparse to sparing nothing.

Look below to find five albums (in order from most minimalist to maximalist) found on folk music's sonic spectrum in 2014, and don't forget to visit our 2014 in Lists section to see more of our Year-End coverage.

Five Folk Albums from Minimalist to Maximalist:

5. Steph Cameron
Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady

BC's Steph Cameron made a splash with old-fashioned simplicity: every note on her lively debut was laid down by her voice, fingers on her guitar and her mouth on the harmonica. As the Be Good Tanyas said, "keep it light enough to travel."

4. Bry Webb
Free Will

Constantine frontman Webb's second solo album is mild and meditative; his subtle ballads are perfect for the morning. Yet the album's sparseness finds room for two lap steel/pedal steel players, a hurdy gurdy and guitar feedback care of Cons compatriot Will Kidman.

3. Doug Paisley
Strong Feelings

Doug Paisley's excellent third album has a foot in both camps. Branching off from the lovely (yet more homogeneously intimate) Constant Companion, Strong Feelings balances mid-tempo tambourine-shaking country rockers like "Radio Girl" and "It's Not Too Late (To Say Goodbye)" with quieter Mary Margaret O'Hara duets like the jazzy "What's Up Is Down" and one mic, one take wonder "Because I Love You."

2. The Barr Brothers
Sleeping Operator

This gem of a progressive folk rock record proves sophomore efforts sometimes surpass debuts. The Montreal band offer gentle yet complex textures, care of Sarah Pagé's harp, Andrew Barr's inventive drumming, Andrés Vial's vibraphone, marimba, bass and organ, plus backup from various Montrealers and ngoni player Abou Sissoko on the delightful "Little Lover."

1. Lucinda Williams
Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Lu has always had the blues, but this year's sprawling double LP saw the queen of Americana get looser, wickeder and happier, penning more country soul and swamp rock tunes and enlisting guitarist Tony Joe White, Jakob Dylan and Elvis Costello's rhythm section (bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Pete Thomas) to keep things grooving.