Sound Grammar: the 25 Best Recordings of 2020

Dean and Britta (with Luna) playing Portland in February, a few weeks before going into quarantine. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Susan Alcorn Quintet
(Relative Pitch)

Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple

Pursuance: the Coltranes
Lakecia Benjamin

Quarantine Tapes
Dean & Britta

The Unraveling
Drive-By Truckers

Ghosts of West Virginia
Steve Earle & The Dukes
(New West) 

The Lost Berlin Tapes 
Ella Fitzgerald

America at War
Joel Harrison

Budapest Concert
Keith Jarrett

Blacktop Run
Sonny Landreth

Mabern Plays Mabern
Harold Mabern
(Smoke Sessions)

We’re New Again: a Reimagining
Makaya McCraven / Gil Scott-Heron


Palo Alto
Thelonious Monk

No Tears Suite (For the Little Rock Nine)
Christopher Parker and Kelley Hurt

All Rise
Gregory Porter
(Blue Note)

That’s How Rumors Get Started
Margo Price
(Loma Vista)

Rawer Than Raw
Bobby Rush
(Deep Rush Records)

We Are Sent Here by History
Shabaka and the Ancestors

Blonde on the Tracks
Emma Swift

It is What It is

José Martí en Nueva York
Manuel Valera & the New Cuban Express Big Band

Old Played New
Christina Vane
(Blue Tip Records)

Keepin’ It Real
Bobby Watson and the Horizon Band
(Smoke Sessions)

Mind Hive
(Pink Flag)


Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3