Top Songs of 2012 by Region

Charleston's Shovels & Rope topped the gcb Songs of the Southeast list.
Charleston’s Shovels & Rope topped the gcb Songs of the Southeast list.

The year of Carly Rae Jepsen and Psy…the year of Frankenstorm…the year of the 47 percent…and even the year of Pennsylvania’s purple squirrel is now drawing to a close.

While the fine folks at American Songwriter, Paste, NPR Music and WFUV tend to pick the top 50 songs or albums overall, I like the idea of ranking top songs of the year by region (without forcing the list down to any particular number). Is it really any better to do it this way? Probably not. However, it’s an interesting way to look at what comes out of the Americana, bluegrass and singer-songwriter circles in each region. That said, some communities are more linked than others.

So here it is. I’m not going to explain all of it, beyond saying that these are my picks, these songs were all released this year and they represent what impressed me the most (regardless of the attention it received elsewhere). A few observations…

  • Brooklyn, Nashville and Portland remain the epicenters of the grass clippings sound.
  • Andrew Bird is the only artist with two songs on the list and if I did the best albums of the year, Break It Yourself / Hands of Glory would be at the top. His Riverside Church concert was the best show I went to all year.
  • Women singer songwriters kicked male singer songwriters asses this year.
  • When you look at the lists from other folks, the Pacific Northwest was largely and wrongly overlooked.

If the rest doesn’t make sense, email me or just read the blog more in 2013. Also, feel free to be brutally honest in the comments.

CHECK IT: Here’s a Spotify list with all of the songs (at least those on Spotify).

Happy New Year, y’all.

Justin Townes Earle - Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins
Justin Townes Earle – Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

The Southeast

  1. Shovels & Rope – “Birmingham”
  2. Justin Townes Earle –“Am I That Lonely Tonight?”
  3. Darrell Scott – “Must Be Sunday”
  4. Angel Snow – “These Days”
  5. Andrew Combs – “Take it From Me”
  6. Rayland Baxter – “The Mtn Song”
  7. The Avett Brothers – “The Once and Future Carpenter”
  8. Old Crow Medicine Show – “Levi”
  9. The Honeycutters – “For Elenora”
  10. Hurray for the Riff Raff – “Little Black Star”
  11. Jerry Douglas – “The Boxer” featuring Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon
  12. Hope for Agoldensummer – “Strange Skies”
  13. Mindy Smith – “When You’re Walking on My Grave”
Tift Merritt - Photo by Parker Fitzgerald
Tift Merritt – Photo by Parker Fitzgerald

The Northeast

  1. Tift Merritt – “Sweet Spot”
  2. Mike + Ruthy – “My New York City”
  3. Spirit Family Reunion – “No Separation”
  4. Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons – “Say What You Will”
  5. Punch Brothers – “Soon or Never”
  6. Sharon Van Etten – “We Are Fine”
  7. Kat Edmonson – “Lucky”
  8. Jus Post Bellum – “Old Pine Box”
  9. Plume Giant – “November”
  10. Christopher Paul Stelling – “Mourning Train to Memphis”
  11. Kelley McRae – “When the Evening Comes”
Langhorne Slim - Photo by Douglas Seymour
Langhorne Slim – Photo by Douglas Seymour

The Northwest

  1. Langhorne Slim – “On The Attack”
  2. Black Prairie – “Rock of Ages”
  3. Blind Pilot – “Just One”
  4. Brandi Carlile – “That Wasn’t Me”
  5. Horse Feathers – “Bird on a Leash”
  6. Jonah Tolchin – “Rocks & Nails”
  7. The Parson Red Heads – “Another Chance”
John Fullbright - Photo by Vicki Farmer
John Fullbright – Photo by Vicki Farmer

The Midwest

  1. John Fullbright – “Jericho”
  2. Andrew Bird – “Orpheo Looks Back”
  3. Trampled by Turtles – “Widower’s Heart”
  4. Andrew Bird – “Three White Horses”
  5. Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons – “Never Meant to Love You”
  6. Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys – “The Power”
Iris DeMent - Photo by Pieta Brown
Iris DeMent – Photo by Pieta Brown

The West

  1. Iris Dement – “Sing the Delta”
  2. Sara Watkins – “When It Pleases You”
  3. Bonnie Raitt – “You Can’t Fail Me Now”
  4. Lord Huron – “Time to Run”
  5. Edward Sharpe – “Fiya Wata”
  6. Terraplane Sun – “Get Me Golden”
  7. The Lumineers – “Stubborn Love”
  8. Milo Greene – “Don’t You Give Up on Me”
Calexico - Photo by Jairo Zavala
Calexico – Photo by Jairo Zavala

The Southwest

  1. Calexico – “Splitter”
  2. Lyle Lovett – “Night’s Lullaby”
  3. Willie Nelson – “Just Breathe”
  4. Dwight Yoakam – “Long Way to Go”
First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit at the Newport Folk Festival – Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings


  1. First Aid Kit (Sweden) – “Emmylou”
  2. Mumford & Sons (UK) – “I Will Wait”
  3. The Tallest Man on Earth (Sweden)  – “To Just Grow Away”
  4. Great Lake Swimmers (Canada) – “On the Water”
  5. Whitehorse (Canada) – “Mismatched Eyes”
  6. Of Monsters & Men (Iceland) – “Little Talks”
  7. Evening Hymns (Canada) – “Asleep In The Pews”