CP “Best” Albums of 2020

During the week Dec 26 2020 – Jan 02 2021 I’ll feature a playlist generated by Colorado Playlist listeners and fans who voted for their favorite songs and videos from 2020. You have until December 20th to vote.  Today I’m reflecting on a handful of albums (well, two handfuls).

The Colorado Playlist, Expressly & Explicitly Colorado from the 60s to Today: the biggest hits from the biggest hitmakers and award winners to some of the freshest new talent emerging from around the Centennial state.

Following that dictate, here are my picks for “Best” albums (LP/EP) of 2020.  Each album link goes to the full length album on YouTube.

We can dispense with the suspense of counting down from #10 to #1.  The first album off my lips when someone asks me what’s the best Colorado album of 2020 is Nathaniel RateliffAnd It’s Still Alright.  It’s been #1 for me since the day I first heard it.

Nathaniel writes and sings through the prism of his pain; whether from the pain of his personal struggles with alcohol, or his divorce, or the death of his friend and record producer Richard Swift who passed away from alcoholism. This record is about “…acknowledging the heaviness of all of that and moving forward and still finding joy,” according to Rateliff.

And It’s Still Alright as well as the title track were nominated for “Album of the Year” and “Song of the Year” at the 2020 Americana Awards in September.


The biggest hits from the biggest hitmakers and award winners to some of the freshest new talent emerging from the Centennial State – in no particular order.

Superstars and hitmakers are sometimes from right next door and we don’t find out until they’re in the hitmaker / major award discussion.  It seems like every year we have at least one Colorado entry in the Grammy Awards and other major music award programs.

Highlands Ranch native / Rock Canyon High School graduate Ingrid Andress is this year’s entry with several major award nominations, including Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Best Country Song (More Hearts Than Mine) and Best Country Album for her debut, Lady Like.

2020 Nominations: 

      • Academy of Country Music AwardsNew Female Vocalist of the Year.
      • Country Music Association AwardsNew Artist of the Year
      • Country Music Association Awards – Song of the Year – “More Hearts Than Mine”
      • CMT Music Awards – Breakthrough Video of the Year“More Hearts Than Mine”

The music scene in Colorado may be focused on Denver/Boulder and Fort Collins areas, but Paonia and Cedaredge artists produced two of the “best” Americana singer-songwriter albums of 2020, The Unending Alteration of the Human Heart from Gabrielle Louise and David Starr‘s Beauty and Ruin respectively.

A graduate of the Berklee School of Music, like Ingrid Andress, Gabrielle’s 9th album since 2006 further solidifies her quiet folk credentials. The album, best suited for quiet snowy nights by a fire, easily falls into the hallowed ground furrowed by fellow Colorado native female songwriters like Jill Sobule, Laura Veirs and Sera Cahoone. *This record was serviced to Colorado radio stations and djs by Rocky Mountain Music Network, LLC which I own and operate*

Thirty-three miles further west,  Cedaredge multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter David Starr, (Starr’s Guitars) once again enlisted part-time Colorado resident musician and friend John Oates to arrange and produce his 8th album, a collection of songs inspired by Of What Was, Nothing Is Left, a novel written by his grandfather in 1972. The album features guest appearances by John Oates and award winning Americana singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

Heading east back into the metro, Americana-country fans will find plenty to love on the rough hewn twang of Same Shirt, Different Day, the sophomore effort from Littleton resident Rodney RiceSame Shirt got enough national airplay to hit top-forty on the Americana Music Association radio airplay charts and #1 on the RootsMusicReport Colorado album chart. *This record was serviced to Colorado radio stations and djs by Rocky Mountain Music Network, LLC which I own and operate*


If you listen to my show (and you do, right?) you know I close out nearly every (99%) hour with an instrumental jazz track.  My jazz album of the year nod goes to Ron Miles‘ Blue Note debut, Rainbow Sign.  The album features fellow Colorado native musician, guitarist Bill Frisell, who was directly responsible for introducing the original recordings for this album to Blue Note Records President Don Was.


My dj roots, spinning dance music in clubs and on TOP 40 radio in NoCO from the 1970s through the early 90s, informs my long lasting love and appreciation for modern EDM and R&B albums like the epic Brain Chemistry, the Right Brain, Left Brain dual EP release from pop singer-songwriter Kayla Marque, and the more R&B/Soul oriented EDM release Free Your Mind from Big Gigantic, their first studio album in over three years.

Listen to Kayla’s Right Brain first if you want to listen in the order each EP came out. Right Brain is “…the lighter half of Brain Chemistry. This is my dreamy side.” Marque explainsLeft Brain showcases Kayla’s “…darker space…”

If you preconceive what you think you’ll hear, Brain Chemistry should dispel your preconceptions of what a modern R&B based pop album can sound like.  Kayla’s got mad musical DNA.  Her uncle is Denver native and EWF alum Larry Dunn.

Big Gigantic‘s R&B/soul oriented Free Your Mind succeeds due to the steady EDM, funk, soul and jazz arrangements by founders Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken with emotionally uplifting soul vocals from artists like Pell, Felly, TOBi, Jennifer Hartswick, Louis Futon and The Funk Hunters.

Had they been able to tour there’s no telling just how popular this album would have become.  The album has amassed over 20MILLION plays on Spotify (as of Dec 10, 2020). #roadtripmusic


Over 160,000 plays on Spotify, along with favorable reviews and online debuts from Billboard, American Songwriter, Glide Magazine and other national and local publications set up Whitacre‘s debut album Seasons for national success.

Produced by Denver’s Joe Richmond (Tennis, Churchill), four of the album’s first five songs are radio friendly anthems that fit comfortably alongside contemporaries like the Lumineers and Avett Brothers.

Speaking of Tennis.  Patrick and Alaina formed their own label, Mutually Detrimental, in 2018, and their Five-Points Denver based recording studio where they  produced three outstanding female voiced albums for 2020, including their latest, Swimmer.

Instead of relying on outside producers for their 5th release, they self-produced, moving their retro sixties influenced pop into richer and more expansive production elements and arrangements and moving the duo forward as credible national level producers in their own right.


That’s it … I could of course pick more than 10 to share with you, but these are the ones that rose to the top of the list.  I hope you enjoy each one of these exceptional “Best Of” Colorado albums from 2020.

Happy HOLLYDAZE.
Chris “K” Kresge
aka goat
Founder/President
Rocky Mountain Music Network, LLC
The Colorado Playlist

CP 2020 – THE BEST LPs SO FAR

We are just about halfway through the 2020 release year that runs December-November.  This has been a pretty interesting release year.  Overall, I’ve seen a lot more EPs and singles released that I have in prior years.  You can thank Spotify and YouTube for that I think.  Check out what I’ve been playing this year.  And please – like, follow and subscribe.  In the meantime, here are the …

…TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2020 – SO FAR (vote for your favorite below)

There’s got to be no doubt that future Colorado Music Hall of Fame member Nathaniel Rateliff‘s solo album And It’s Still Alright is the presumptive #1 album of 2020 – in every way imaginable.  It’s certainly worthy of Grammy consideration for 2021.

Boulder natives The Wood Brothers return from their Grammy nominated One Drop of Truth with Kingdom In My Mind, once again demonstrating the depth of their Americana dust-bowl sounding roots.  It’s hard enough to get one album nominated for a Grammy.  It’s like winning a Super Bowl, or World Series.  Can the Boulder brothers get there again?

Denver newcomer Andy Frasco brought with him a very nicely produced summertime album, Keep On Keeping On, that captures a bit of the rowdy R&B feel of a Nightsweats album, but doesn’t put the full weight of his considerable songwriting and arranging skills there.  Andy likes venturing off into more pop directions.

This is modern music.  On their first release in three years, Free Your Mind, Boulder’s EDM sensation Big Gigantic turns the page on what it sounds like to fuse jazz, soul, funk, EDM, house and a myriad of other  sonic colors and textures.

Reverend Freakchild is one seriously enigmatic bluesman – no doubt due to his association with Naropa University where he’s studying for a graduate degree.  The Rev’s latest, the Bodhisattva Blues, has been sparring with Nathaniel Rateliff‘s latest for the #1 position in the Colorado titles chart at RootsMusicReport.com.  Oh, and it’s all covers.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR  FAVORITE SO FAR?

CP S14 EP16 2020

Monday April 27, 2020 – Some of you will will be telling your yet to be born children and grandchildren about how a virus shut down live in person public music shows and events in most parts of the world in the year 2020. The most recent major events to postpone until 2021 = Greeley Blues Jam and Greeley Stampede.

In the absence of the mass gatherings at festivals and concerts, and as a result of inadequate technology, 2020 will be most remembered for personal Facebook Live “festivals” and concerts with multi-act lineups; each act streaming from their respective “stay-at-home” space.   

NoCO Live from Home Show is based out of Fort Collins, mostly. Former Edison band leader Sarah Slaton is the gale force energy behind this weekly event, now heading into episode 7.   Sponsored by Scene Magazine, School of Rock (Fort Collins) and O’Dells Brewing, the show has so far featured Cary Morin, Liz Barnez, Clay Rose (Gasoline Lollipops), and Brian Johanson (Sugar Britches) to name just a few.  Lineups are announced on Tuesdays.  Shows are Saturdays 12pm-8pm.

TOP OF THE CHARTS:  Reverend Freakchild‘s new album The Bodhisattva Blues slipped into the #1 slot replacing what I was sure would be the sole #1 album of 2020,  And It’s Still Alright by Nathaniel RateliffMark Oblinger‘s High Water Line runs up the chart from 46-12.  Gabrielle Louise debuts at 17 with her latest, The Unending Alteration of the Human Heart.

The Colorado Playlist is fully dependent on financial support from its sponsors as well as donations from listeners.   A huge thank you to Denver DrumZ.  Located on Colfax Ave, owner JB Running Bear Maroncelli is currently offering live streaming lessons for students of all ages and experience level.

If you’re a small local business, I am currently offering special COVID-19 rates during the duration of this crisis.  Email me at coloradoplaylist@gmail.com


VIDEO PICK OF THE WEEK

At Bohemian Foundation, our focus is on building community …by coming together to create and enjoy music.

MONDAY MORNING MUSIC MEETING (MMMM)

You make a big difference in what gets played on the show.  Every week I share some or all of the new music played on the show with you, here in the MMMM.  Your rating gets factored into my decision in what to maintain in the show’s “for airplay” library.

A REMINDER:  Please listen to ALL of the songs and rate them.  Thanks 🙂

(D) = debut LP/EP or single
(N) = new track from previously debuted LP/EP
(P) = Colorado Playlist premier / not available online

Let me know if there’s something you think I should play. Email coloradoplaylist@gmail.com

HOUR 1

Freddi Henchi & The Soulsetters – Fire – Crown Princes Of Funk: The Last Set (2013/1972)
Poco – Crazy Love – Legend (1978)
(D) Hunter James & the Titantic – Where We Land (2020)

Gregory Alan Isakov – Dark, Dark, Dark – Evening Machines (2018)
Petals of Spain – Daydream – Daydream (2016)
(D) Reverend Freakchild – I know You Rider – The Bodhisattva Blues (2020)

Chimney Choir – An Alternate Life – (light shadow) (2020)
Carolyn’s Mother – Trouble – Joy (2000)
These United States – I Want You To Keep Everything – Everything Touches Everything (2009)
(D) Jessica Sonner – I Want You – Still (2020)

Mark Oblinger – Little Bird – High Water Line (2019)
The Still Tide – High Wire – Run Out (2017)
Gumbo Le Funque – Maceo – #PowerLoveFreedom (2016)

HOUR 2

Gerard – Hello Operator – Gerard (1976)
Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids – Good Times Rock & Roll – Sons of the Beaches (1975)
(D) Andy Frasco & the U.N. – None of Those Things – Keep On Keepin On (2020)

The Reminders – Foundation – Unstoppable (2019)
Big Gigantic – Got The Love – Brighter Future (2016)
(D) Lola Rising – More Music – Moving Forward (2020)

Gabrielle Louise – House Of Cards – The Unending Alteration Of The Human Heart (2020)
Otis Taylor – Ten Million Slaves – Recapturing The Banjo (2008)
Drew Emmitt – Long Road – Long Road (2008)
(P) The Beeves – Playing Bingo (with people who are angry and somewhat dangerous) – Beauty and The Beeves (2020)
Covenhoven – Sirens Of The Sea – A Kind Of Revelation (2018)
Katie Herzig – Feel Alive – Feel Alive (2017)
Sunsquabi – Fisher Cat – Instinct (2019)

THIS WEEK ON YOUTUBE

Rocky Mountain Music Relief Inc – a Colorado 501C3 non-profit with a mission to provide financial and in-kind support to those individuals, groups and organizations within our Colorado music industry that have been impacted physically, financially and/or emotionally due to the occurrence of natural disasters or unforeseen tragedies within their communities.