40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Hurray for the Riff Raff, 'Small Town Heroes'
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4. Hurray for the Riff Raff, 'Small Town Heroes'

Growing up in the Bronx, Hurray for the Riff Raff founder Alynda Lee Segarra used to ride the subway train for hours to see live punk shows in Manhattan, so perhaps it's not surprising that, at 17, she hopped the rails and ended up in New Orleans — where she soaked up all the dirty jazz, blues and zydeco the region had to offer. Elements of those musical touchstones can be heard on Small Town Heroes, from the traditional, old-timey ring of "Blue Ridge Mountain"; to the jazzy "No One Else"; to the stark, bluesy gem "St. Roch Blues." Whereas contemporary country music can lean on dance music sparkles and hip-hop drum loops for diversity of sound, Hurray for the Riff Raff got there the long way via a traditional, less-is-more approach. Fiddle, washboard and banjo are the backbone of a sound that's as rootsy as it unconventional. L.R.

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