In 2013, we saw a bumper crop of music from a number of the most exciting and engaging American songwriters; musicians that circle around the label “folk artist,” but never quite stick to that term, often operating beyond easy classification. Bill Callahan, Richard Buckner, Califone, Cass McCombs, Josephine Foster, just to name a few. Brooklyn-based musician (and All Hands Electric label proprietor) Zachary Cale ranks among this list as well. Last year, he released the moody Blue Rider, a gem of a record that grows both more powerful and more elusive with each subsequent listen. It also happens to be one of my personal favorites of ’13. Blue Rider is an album obsessed with atmosphere, color, and feeling. Cale sings with a laid-back air, surrounded by a bed of droned-out guitars, reverb-drenched soundscapes, and a steady forward-moving percussive propulsion. It all conspires together to lull you into a drifting trance. Punctuation of electric guitar riffs, bits of static and distortion, and that lonesome acoustic guitar picking are sometimes the only anchors we have from floating away entirely. It’s a milkshake of rollicking country, blues, ’60s rock, and modern singer-songwriter, painted in hues perfect for enriching a late night walk in the city.