Why Producer Dave Cobb Is The Real Winner of 2013

December 13, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  19 Comments

dave-cobb-producerAbout this time of year virtually every magazine, website, and blog is bombarding their readership with end-of-year lists of which artists they feel are worthy of the highest praise for their 2013 effort. The whole practice has become a little nauseating for the consumer as the redundancy on many lists and the sheer number of them being pushed through social media erode the underlying concept of the lists: to help listeners break through the din of an overpopulated music landscape to discover the best stuff. Then there’s the ethics questions if music should be approached as competition at all. Ultimately the reason there are so many lists is because they are effective and appealing in helping listeners determine what to listen to.

Included on many, if not virtually all of those 2013 lists, especially in the independent country and Americana realms is the latest effort by former Drive By Trucker turned solo artist Jason Isbell called Southeastern. Seen as the current watermark of his career and a captivating songwriting effort capturing a clear-eyed, post-rehab Isbell at his apex, Southeastern is one of those rare consensus builders amongst critics as one of the year’s best.

Nipping at the heels on some lists, and overtaking Southeastern on others is the debut album High Top Mountain from former Sunday Valley frontman, Kentucky’s Sturgill Simpson. A much more country effort compared to Isbell, but just as bold of a songwriting project, Simpson has many people labeling him as a country music savior, and the artist they have been waiting years for to emerge in the independent country scene.

And not to be outdone is the dark Canadian singing-songwriting vixen Lindi Ortega, and her tantalizing album Tin Star that has also found its way at or near the top of many 2013 lists; an album highlighting her rising voice and remarkable gift for story and composition.

Though the sound of these three respective albums is fairly disparate, their influences are certainly not the same, the artists are from different locales, and the genres they represent are varied shades of the country music theme, they all have one thing in common: a virtually unnoticed and rarely heralded behind-the-scenes producer named Dave Cobb.

dave-cobbJust as the prevalence of year-end lists has grown in recent years, so too it seems has the trend of performing artists getting into the producer game, and big, franchise name producers like T Bone Burnett being heralded more and more for their producer services. Not that someone like Jack White or even Justin Townes Earle can’t make a great producer, or that T Bone Burnett is some kind of slouch. But for some projects, it becomes more about the name on the back of the album in the fine print instead of the name on the front. A producer’s name can be used as a marketing tool, and to create interest from fans and media venues. “The new album produced by the same producer of The Civil Wars!” “The T Bone Burnett-produced debut album, produced by T Bone Burnett!”

The best producers are usually the ones who prefer to remain subordinate to the artists they work with. Similarly, the best producers don’t come in and mold an album to their sound, but help the artists they work with develop their own. Producers aren’t supposed to be noticed. Critics may sometimes mention a producer’s name and how they may have influenced a certain project, but everyday fans just know when they like an album or not. Noticing the production of an album is like noticing an offensive lineman in a football game. It’s rarely a good thing. The focus should be on the music itself.

But that doesn’t mean producers shouldn’t be heralded or receive credit, especially when they’ve had a banner year like Dave Cobb’s 2013. Cobb has enjoyed some other successful albums, and good years in the past too. Similar to how Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Lindi Ortega have become critical darlings in 2013, Jamey Johnson’s last two original albums that graced the top of many end-of-year lists, That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song, both featured Dave Cobb at the helm. The Secret Sisters’ self-titled breakout album was also produced by Cobb, and so were Shooter Jennings’ first four records. And his list of producer credits goes on and on from there.

But you would never know all of this unless you went poking around, looking for producer credits and connecting the dots. Dave Cobb is not out to perpetuate his cult of personality through his producership role. He’s just looking to make good music. And in 2013, he certainly did.

19 Comments to “Why Producer Dave Cobb Is The Real Winner of 2013”

  • Sure, this guy’s pretty good, but is he as good as that Joey Moi guy?



  • Mr. cobb obviously played the producers role on some stellar projects this year. My hats off to him. However, looking over a long period of time and a wide variety of musical styles Lloyd Maines stands out to me as one of the best producers of the last 15 years.


    • your a jackass…you miss the point. All trigger is saying is that theres a common thread here and to start paying attention to it.. not that Dave C is getting an award for whatever.. just that it seems this more real side of music is catching wind and he seems to be putting some of the realest music out there.


  • Great to read about the producer behind these awesome albums. Love what Dave is doing for Americana.

    Another producer worthy of mentioning is Tucker Martine. The sound he helped create on Aoife O’Donovan’s “Fossils” is amazing.


  • A Great article about a man that I love & respect in this industry of music. Well deserved. In response to the comments singing praises of my dear friend for many years, Lloyd & others, let me say that Yes, there are other great producers (me being one of the many), but the headline of THIS article didn’t read, “Please tell us Every Producer you might think is better & more deserving than this Dave Cobb dude”. No, I think it was an article about three great projects & the one element that tied those together……or maybe I read the headlines wrong (I’ll check into that). In the meanwhile, Congrats Dave, you deserve this & more! BTW, Saving Country Music Rocks 24/7.


    • EXACTLY… everyone Come and see how true this statement above is


  • Amazing accomplishments for one year’s work. Those are three of my 5 favorite albums for this year.


  • Cobb is good but you need Martin and Shellbeck, said some guy on (pop) music row.


  • A very well written article. And very well deserved praise to Dave Cobb. It says something about a producer when his first gig is producing some of Shooter Jennings best stuff. The other cool thing about Dave is that even though he can produce such honest Country, he range is vast. He has also produced blues rockers Rival Sons and upcoming rockers Kings of Spade. He can do this because his musicality is impeccable and his cultivation of the artist’s sound is paramount. Congrats Dave, way to go brother.


  • Very happy to see this posted. I was just telling someone the other day about Cobb and raving about the incredible music he’s produced this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing where the future takes him…


  • He also did work on his nephew Brent Cobb’s first album, which was amazing.


  • Another blogger who confuses Americana with country music. Sorry, nice try.


    • I am VERY aware of what country music is, and I am VERY aware of what Americana is, and I am also VERY aware of the differences between the two. And if you are judging that I am not aware of these things based off of this particular article, without the weight of the thousands of other articles I have written under the Saving Country Music banner over the last 7 years, then good day to you sir!

      P.S., If Sturgill Simpson isn’t country, I’ll eat my hat.


      • Give ‘em hell, Trigger!


      • If that Aint country Ill Kiss your ass. BAM BAM… hey trigger where do you dig these guys up. why cant people read and comprehend.. LOL


    • How would you define the line between country and Americana? Isn’t Americana fundamentally based on country to begin with?


    • Thanks to Trigger for the Dave Cobb shout out and George JonesGosdin if Sturgill Simpson isn’t country, you can (and I mean this with respect) kiss my ass.


  • Indeed I have been a jackass a time or two. I was not intending to be disrespectful of Mr. Cobb’s accomplishments whatsoever. Frankly, I ‘m impressed with the work he did on albums like southeastern and others. Just pointing out and maybe this was not the right forum to do so, that Lloyd Maines accomplishments are many and span a long period of time and fly very much under the radar. However, no disrespect was intended to Dave Cobb.


  • California Breed … Brilliant – guy is a complete legend in my book!


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