Instead of joining the barrage of critics’ best albums of 2013 lists, this year we went straight to the source. Check out five favorite 2013 albums as recommended by some of the region’s best musicians.

Josh Daniels, The New Familiars

Tedeschi Trucks Band
Made Up Mind 

Guitar hero Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers Band) and his wife, blues songstress Susan Tedeschi, continue their soul journey with this third studio album. Backed by a sprawling eight-piece band that includes a full horn section, the couple revives old school R&B through the scope of experimental rock.

“I just love what they are doing by incorporating their own personalities,” says Daniels. “[They’re bringing back] a kind of Stax 1970s soul vibe. The band’s live show is incredible with horns and multiple singers. It’s wonderful.”

James Wilson, Sons of Bill

Jason Isbell
Southeastern

The former member of the Drive-By Truckers delivered a stunning redemption record after quitting the bottle and getting married to fellow songwriter Amanda Shires.

“When I hear most self-proclaimed ‘Southern’ artists these days, I can’t help but feel like part of our inheritance is being prostituted,” says Wilson. “But Jason has always exemplified the region honestly. It’s pride and humility, virtues and failures—an emphasis on the story and simple language rather than ideas. But some of his songs also have that vicious other-worldliness of a true artist. Like Faulkner, there’s a part of him that wants to be the only one. He’s one of the best writers of my generation and I’m glad he’s finally getting recognized as such with Southeastern.”

Patterson Hood, Drive-By Truckers

T. Hardy Morris
Audition Tapes

The front man for Dead Confederate toned down his band’s usual psych rock on this country grunge solo effort. Morris sings with a haunting weariness, reminiscent of the late Vic Chesnutt, delivering dark themes with universal resonance, often accented by the perfect dash of pedal steel. “I can’t get his songs out of my head and I also love the playing and production,” says Hood. “Hardy is the real deal.”

Travis Book, Infamous Stringdusters

Leagues
You Belong Here

This Nashville power pop trio delivers a hard-driving rock sound with infectious melodies and big hooks. On this album, standout tracks like “Spotlight” become instant sing-alongs after first listen.

“I’ve been a big fan of Thad Cockrell since my wife (singer-songwriter Sarah Siskind) and I landed a brilliant holiday record of his a few years ago,” says Book. “I hadn’t heard Thad in a few years before Sarah played me the Leagues debut album, but his voice immediately brought me the same sense of joy I had when I first discovered his music several years before. I’m a sucker for badass pop/rock music, and this record is as good as it gets.”

Dan Lotti, Dangermuffin

The Wood Brothers
The Muse 

Brothers Oliver and Chris Wood (Medeski, Martin, and Wood) continue to crank out gritty front-porch folk rock. Oliver Wood’s antique storyteller vocals and gritty guitar work meshes with Chris’ virtuosic bass runs to create a combination that includes high-energy acoustic funk and heartfelt blues balladry. The title track is a particularly poignant ode to family inspiration.

“This album is fantastic,” says Lotti. “Oliver Wood is my hero. [He proves] that awesome songwriting is what it’s all about.”

Compiled by Dave Stallard and Jedd Ferris.