Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Country, Folk & Blues Albums

1. Daniel Romano
Come Cry With Me

It's not very often that country music challenges the nature of art, but that's precisely what Daniel Romano did with this album. His third solo effort was an unabashed tribute to country music's pre-1965 golden era, filtered through his own experience as a Southern Ontario kid raised on punk rock. In songs such as "Middle Child" and "Two Pillow Sleeper," he cast his bucket deep into the well of emotion from which George Jones and the Louvin Brothers drew as well, paying full attention to the undeniable craftsmanship that went into making those records.

While many derided Romano for being a mere copyist, the point of Come Cry With Me was that this is music very few people — and no one else in Canada — are willing or able to make anymore. Much like director Guy Maddin's work in silent film, Romano's choice to expressive himself through a seemingly restrictive mode forced listeners to confront the ghosts of country music, what their lives stood for, and what their legacies mean today.

Current Nashville stars may still drop Hank Williams's name as a token of respect, but his spirit is more prevalent in the ex-punks like Romano who have always sought the most direct possible route to the heart. Come Cry With Me transcended what many today think they know about country music, presenting a collection of songs as heartbreaking, humourous, and above all, timeless as those that inspired them. (Jason Schneider)