The historical references the virtuosic instrumental work, and the stunning close harmonies all took intelligence and skill to master, but that doesn't mean that Time (The Revelator) should be beyond critique.
This year's top artists are a diverse lot represented by two of the world's biggest pop divas, a plethora of critically adored indie faves, some new talents emerging from the hip-hop underground, a couple of veteran Americana acts, and a few alt-rock legends among many more.
If you ask a critic or music fan to define Americana, be prepared for an avalanche of diverse responses of opinion. Still, there remain some constant benchmarks, such as pedal steel, fiddle, acoustic guitars -- and good songwriting.
Abigail Washburn is a bluegrass artist with a global focus, and on City of Refuge, she collaborates with indie rock artists, including the Decemberists' producer Tucker Martine and guitarist Chris Funk.
They might kick me out of the feminist club for this, but I love murder ballads, even the ones in which women get killed—though, to be fair, I am an equal opportunity advocate when it comes to a good killing narrative.