The Best Music Of The Year: The Best Albums Of 2018

The Best Music Of The Year: The Best Albums Of 2018

We’ve polled our writers and editorial staff and have gathered 50 of our most recommended albums of the year. We didn’t include reissues and only included releases reviewed in 2018. Some titles released in December 2018 will be considered in the 2019 “Best of” list.

Two of our Top 10 choices are being considered for a GRAMMY, Cha Wa and Sean Ardoin, and both are performing at the Best of the Beat Awards on January 31. The GRAMMYs will be held a few days later on February 10, 2019.

We understand the difficulties in ranking and we only rank the Top 10. We hope that the readers use this list merely as a guide to the best music that Louisiana has to offer: there’s a lot of great music out there!

Jon Cleary


(FHQ Records)

Like the explosive Jon Cleary himself, Dyna-Mite is simply a blast.

—reviewed September 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Cha Wa



The increased confidence in J’Wan Boudeaux’s singing is clear from the get-go, and the music is more expansive as well.

—reviewed July 2018 by Brett Milano

Johnny Sansone



This is the swamp rockin’–est band sound Sansone has ever come up with and he brings the material to match.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by John Swenson

Jon Batiste

Hollywood Africans


The quietude of many of the tunes allows one to really appreciate the richness of Batiste’s voice.

—reviewed October 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

The Revivalists

Take Good Care

(Loma Vista)

The album manages a cohesive sound by reining in the jam-band tendencies and focusing on the guitar/keyboard instrumental core.

—reviewed December 2018 by Brett Milano

The Radiators

Welcome to the Monkey House

(Radz Records)

Nothing comes as close to capturing this band’s spirit as its latest recording.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by John Swenson

Dr. Michael White

Tricentennial Rag

(Basin Street Records)

Dr. Michael White has put together an album of originals that draws inspiration from various eras and styles of the city’s most treasured art form.

—reviewed June 2018 by Stacey Leigh Bridewell

Michot’s Melody Makers

Blood Moon

(Sinking City Records)

They have taken Cajun waltzes and two-steps into the worlds of hip-hop, electronic dance music, and others without losing the essence of what make them unique.

—reviewed November 2018 by David Kunian

Walter “Wolfman” Washington

My Future is My Past


Washington enriches with his unique falsetto… he thoughtfully takes his time with every note, every word.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Sean Ardoin

Kreole Rock and Soul

(Louisiana Red Hot Records)

Surprising, amazing and provocative—a risk-taking endeavor resulting in a home run.

—reviewed September 2018 by Dan Willging

NEXT 40 (in alphabetical order)

Gregory Agid Quartet: Jamz (Bubble Bath)

Agid’s playing is light and lilting as he creates a laid back relaxed feel that envelops you in warmth.

—reviewed August 2018 by Christopher Weddle

Shamarr Allen: True Orleans (P.O.M.E.)

Overall it’s the strongest R&B album to come out of the city this year.

—reviewed January 2019 by Brett Milano

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk, Volume 1 (Independent)

Big Sam’s Funky Nation takes it next level and reaches higher heights with this brand-new release.

—reviewed May 2018 by Frank Etheridge

Blake Miller & the Old Fashioned Aces: Quelle Belle Journée (Independent)

Blake Miller & the Old Fashioned Aces’ sonic concoction is comparably potent since Miller covers the vibrant breadth of Cajun music on this bountiful 16-track affair.

—reviewed December 2018 by Dan Willging

Terence Blanchard: Live (Blue Note)

Live shares a strong resemblance to a suite of music, as did Breathless. They stand together in purpose and passion.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Spencer Bohren: Makin’ It Home to You (Valve Records)

Makin’ It Home to You is both a meditation on his lengthy career and a showcase for his latest band, the Whippersnappers, an all-star collection of next-generation players.

—reviewed January 2019 by John Swenson

Brother Dege: Farmer’s Almanac (Psyouthern Records)

Brother Dege delivers another emotionally powerful and charged recording that is filled with Legg’s beautiful and impassioned guitar playing.

—reviewed September 2018 by Christopher Weddle

Mark Braud: Living the Tradition (Independent)

This is traditional jazz in the hands of masterful modern purveyors of the idiom.

—reviewed August 2018 by Christopher Weddle

Buddy Guy: The Blues is Alive and Well (Silvertone / RCA)

Guy, the Pointe Coupee Parish native who boarded a train in Baton Rouge for Chicago in 1957, delivers an album that shows him at peak blues power.

—reviewed October 2018 by John Wirt

Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band: Black Pot (Swampadelic Records)

“Dancing with a Feeling” is novel when you realize both Carrier’s triple and Jackson’s single-row accordions are on the same track, which is practically unheard of.

—reviewed September 2018 by Dan Willging

Ever More Nest: The Place That You Call Home (Parish Road Records)

The natural beauty of Wilburn’s voice is pushed forward, and most of these songs have a surface appeal that would fit comfortably into NPR playlists.

—reviewed November 2018 by Brett Milano

Derrick Freeman and James Martin: Soul (Independent)

The album begins strongly with an original number, “Something’s Gotta Give,” penned by Martin, who is also featured on vocals. It’s a soul groove of a tune with smartly written, catchy and memorable lyrics.

—reviewed June 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Future Cowboys: Going Kamikaze (Pantherburn)

Going Kamikaze expands Bernstein’s Americana songwriting through hip-hop and electronic music techniques.

—reviewed December 2018 by John Wirt

Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out (Ruf Records)

Ghalia Vauthier’s vocals remained front and center. She can be haunting, a tempest and entertaining, as evidenced by the John Lee Hooker–styled “Hiccup Boogie.”

—reviewed April 2018 by Dan Willging

Helen Gillet: Helkiase (Independent)

Helkiase is an intimate solo performance that to these ears at least represents Helen Gillet at the peak of her powers in their distilled essence.

—reviewed September 2018 by Michael Dominici

Eric Johanson: Burn it Down (Whiskey Bayou Records)

What is evident from the very beginning of Burn It Down is that not only does Johanson have exceptional talent and skill, but his tone is really developed beyond his years.

—reviewed February 2018 by Christopher Weddle

Yvette Landry & the Jukes: Louisiana Lovin’ (Soko Music)

Louisiana Lovin’ is simultaneously a classic and contemporary affair recalling the golden era of Louisiana’s dancehalls and juke joints.

—reviewed July 2018 by Dan Willging

Eric Lindell: Revolution in your Heart (Alligator Records)

Everything Lindell and drummer Willie McMains bring to Revolution In Your Heart sounds good.

—reviewed October 2018 by John Wirt

Jonathon Long: Jonathon Long (Wild Heart)

Throughout Long gives his vocals justice especially when Samantha Fish and Long sing a duet of Kenny Tudrick’s “The River.”

—reviewed October 2018 by John Wirt

Darcy Malone & the Tangle: Pure as Gold (Independent)

Darcy Malone found a tougher singing voice, more steeped in classic Southern soul.

—reviewed July 2018 by Brett Milano

Jason Marsalis and the 21st Century Trad Band: Melody Reimagined book 1 (Basin Street Records)

Jason Marsalis wisely looks back while simultaneously looking forward on the intriguing Melody Reimagined.

—reviewed January 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Sasha Masakowski: Art Market (Ropeadope)

Her voice is joyful throughout; the sound isn’t two cultures colliding but easily strutting


—reviewed June 2018 by Brett Milano

Nolatet: No Revenge Necessary (Royal Potato Family)

Music that is conversational, eclectic, sometimes whimsical—and always intriguing.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by Ken Franckling

Zachary Richard: Gombo (RZ Records)

Richard has surrounded himself with an excellent cast of musicians, including Roddie Romero, Shane Theriot and Helen Gillet—he shows no signs of slowing down.

—reviewed March 2018 by Christopher Weddle

Jamison Ross: All for One (Concord Jazz)

Ross’ All For One features his soulful vocal prowess on a disc of many flavors.

—reviewed January 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Paul Sanchez: One More Trip Around the Sun (Independent)

It’s a full-out rock album with a hard-edged Louisiana band including Sanchez’s old friend and co-writer Vance DeGeneres on bass and guitar.

—reviewed July 2018 by John Swenson

Joel Savoy, Kelli Jones, Caleb Klauder and Reeb Willms: Farewell, Alligator Man (Valcour Records)

Savoy’s crack studio band nails the essence of early ’50s country music: celestial fiddles, clip-cloppy rhythms and steel guitar loaded with quick pull-offs and glistening chiming notes.

—reviewed February 2018 by Dan Willging

Keith Stone with Red Gravy: Blues with a Taste of New Orleans (Independent)

The guitarist has finally found his secret sauce with talented pianist/producer/arranger Tom Worrell and Crescent City favorite son drummer Eddie Christmas.

—reviewed October 2018 by Dan Willging

Jourdan Thibodeaux et les Rôdailleurs: Boue, Boucane, et Bouteilles (Valcour Records)

His debut album is loaded with a dozen diverse originals, no covers, all sung in Cajun French. It’s all very honest and real, nothing is fabricated.

—reviewed April 2018 by Dan Willging

The Tin Men: Sing With Me (Independent)

It’s a joyous album that is sure to be a new favorite for New Orleans music fans.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by Stacey Leigh Bridewell

Horace Trahan: Until the End (Independent)

Trahan specializes in attention-grabbing songs like the cranking zydeco number “Legalize It,” an obvious pro-weed nod that has been a live staple for years.

—reviewed May 2018 by Dan Willging

Tuba Skinny: Nigel’s Dream (Independent)

Here we have a delightful new album by Tuba Skinny. The rhythm section is dead on, relaxed yet still driving.

—reviewed Jazz Fest Bible 2018 by Stacey Leigh Bridewell

Various Artists: Live at Little Gem Saloon Basin Street Records Celebrates 20 Years (Basin Street Records)

Live at Little Gem celebrates 20 impressive years of Basin Street Records while reveling in New Orleans itself.

—reviewed December 2018 by Geraldine Wyckoff

Various Artists: Travailler, C’est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent (Swallow Records)

On this two-disc tribute, 20 of Vincent’s songs spring to life with astounding new interpretations done by approximately 60 Acadiana musicians.

—reviewed December 2018 by Dan Willging

Jamie Lynn Vessels: Storm Coming (Independent)

Her songwriting is deceptively good—she begins with the massive title track, stacks up a series of really sharp relationship songs, then twists the drama deeper and deeper as the album progresses.

—reviewed October 2018 by John Swenson

The Wanting: Dark Road (Planetary Magnetics)

This seven-track collection fits loosely into the Southern Gothic genre, although it’s really more haunting than it is harrowing.

—reviewed December 2018 by Bill Forman

Water Seed: Say Yeah! Live at the Blue Nile (Louisiana Red Hot Records)

If this album doesn’t make you want to go to one of their live shows, then you must not like to dance.

—reviewed August 2018 by Stacey Leigh Bridewell

Jasen Weaver: The Voscoville (Independent)

Cerebral but never mathematic, this is the long-time-coming debut from one of the most talented bassists NOCCA, and New Orleans helped produce.

—reviewed April 2018 by Nick Benoit


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