Voted Albums of 2007
"Anyone who says music is no longer vibrant and exciting in the noughties just isn’t listening hard enough.
After brutally hacking at numerous possible contenders I finally got the list down to twenty and then, after
listening to them all again, just gave up being a critic and randomly picked the following ten must own items..."
amiina: Kurr (Ever): Buddies and touring compatriots Sigur Rós grabbed most of the headlines at the end of 2007 (not least due to the brilliant Heima DVD) but it was this ludicrously ambitious effort by Sólrún, Maria, Edda and Hildur which more or less stayed welded in the CD player this year
Grinderman: Grinderman (Mute): Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos took time out from their day job of scaring people in the Bad Seeds to scare people even more with this downright dirty collection of garage noise which left most of the years younger tykes languishing in their wake
Robert Wyatt: Comicopera (Domino): The closest thing the UK music scene has to a genuine national treasure (and one highly unlikely to accept a bloody knighthood we're pleased to note) returned with his best album since, well the last one really, but this one really was a belter chock feel of invention, humour and warmth
Efterklang: Parades (Leaf): One of two fine releases from this endlessly fascinating Danish band in 2007 - the other being the equally splendid Under Giant Trees mini album - who, like amiina, seemed woefully unable to just stick to using ‘standard’ pop music instruments or indeed to writing ‘standard’ pop music
Burial: Untrue (Hyperdub): Magnificent album which, marries dub, breakbeats and deconstructed R’n’B vocal samples to the sort of moody scratched up glitch-scapes beloved of Massive Attack and Portishead creating something genuinely new, edgy, tense and as bleakly beautiful as his equally fine eponymous debut
Bright Eyes: Cassadaga (Saddle Creek): Conor Oberst’s tenth album as Bright Eyes boasts a far more sophisticated approach, with very little wilful dicking around but whilst the music may have far fewer jagged edges Oberst's lyrics can still leave a nasty gash and his, still avowedly leftfield, take on alt/country/Americana just grows and grows
Bjork: Volta (One Little Indian): Her most accessible album since Debut, but this is Bjork we are talking about so wheezing clanking beats, brass bands, Atari Teenage Riot style synth violence and lush, massed strings all feature alongside that astonishing voice. Particularly beautiful is the bleak duet with Anthony (without his Johnsons) on ‘Dull Flame Of Desire’
Steve Knightley: Cruel River (Hands On): Hard to imagine Steve will be remotely interested in these end of year lists after the dreadful news about his son but this solo album really is a genuinely tremendous effort, possibly the best of his, ridiculously underrated, career. Proper grown up music with proper words properly done
Black Francis: Bluefinger (Cooking Vinyl): Reverting to his Black Francis moniker for an album, that displays a deal more Pixie style spunk and clatter (a return to form first seen on Show Me Your Tears), this tribute to Dutch musician, painter and drug hoover Herman Brood, finds him back in expressively ragged and volatile vocal country,
Forget Cassettes: Salt (Tangled Up!): Brainchild of Beth Cameron (a sort of unholy amalgam of PJ Harvey, Alanis Morissette and Kat Bjelland), Forget Cassettes are bold, fractious, inventive and noisy (although still melodic), Cameron’s pummelling riffs and throat wrenching/angelic purring vocals direct descendents of the Pixies
...and we can’t sign off without mentioning the two best tracks of this year...
Neil Young’s extraordinary ‘Ordinary People’ (pity the rest of the album’s not as good) and Richard Thompson’s ‘Guns Are the Tongues’.
Eilen Jewell - Songs From Sinners And Strangers (Rounder)
Quite simply superb rockin country twang with a hint of June Carter Cash, a great dollop of Loretta Lynn, and oodles of class. My four year old daughters fave album of year too and she has high standards (her fave band of all-time is South San Gabriel!!)
Felice Brothers - Tonight At The Arizona (Loose)
The best band in the world right now. There, said it. These ramshackle hoodlums have dragged the spirit of The Band and sixties Dylan screaming and kicking into the here and now. A debut release that ranks right up there with the best ever. Its high praise, but believe me these guys will be so big you may as well go buy that thrift shop suit and weathered trilby now to save the queuing. AWESOME. (would have been #1 but aforementioned four-year old cried when I suggested it.)
Richmond Fontaine - 13 Cities (Decor)
Few bands produce albums year after year that are all truly wonderful. Fontaine (I can call them that, Willy said) are out on their own in that department. The addition of a pedal steel, strings, and even trumpet to the recording process was a triumph. Americana in its truest form, and another masterpiece from Portlands prodigal sons.
Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined (Waterbug USA/Tin Angel UK)
A little bit country, a little bit jazz, a hell of a lot cute, sassy and utterly delightful. A record that would make you smile even if your house was burning around your ears. In which case Devon would no doubt be on hand to save your kittens, that antique hat stand in the corner, and of course those vintage earrings left to you from Auntie Maud. She is going to be one of 2008 brighter moments.
Uncle Earl - Waterloo Tennessee (Rounder)
The most glamorous stringband on the circuit today whose brand of old-time frivolity and genuine charm made them one of the years most popular live bands. The album, handled with kid gloves by John Paul Jones, is a heady mix of mountain fireworks, jaunty jigs, banjo-pickin ballads, and lush harmony.
King Wilkie - Low Country Suite (Zoe/Rounder)
A record that gently seeps into the brain from a new breed of bluegrass band. These guys keep the showboating to a minimum instead delivering a confident set of self-penned tunes that evoke the tradition without ever being copyist. "Savannah" is my favourite song of the year in any genre.
Peter Case - Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John (Yep Roc)
Minimal yet mercurial. Case is a legend whose list of fans reads like a whos who of Americana music. This is a record that is seemingly so simple - a man, guitar, blues songs - yet comes across utterly complex and so intricately constructed that you can only bow to the mans genius. Lo-fi at its best.
Charlie Parr - Jubilee (Own Label)
Charlie Parr undoubtedly comes from the same trash can as Seasick Steve. Both live on the margins of a world where their talents are criminally overlooked (although in Seasicks case his time has come). Jubilee is a record I play when cooking chillies. Weird I know but it just sounds somehow...right.
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)
Tweedy has fun. Tweedy has fun. See, its not that hard a concept to understand. A record made by a band that is at last happy with the world. At times sounds like "Abraxas" yet at other times could be Eno. I never thought I would hear a Wilco record yet that would make me dance around the room. No, this one hasnt quite done that but I have been known to tap the odd spoon against the side of my cocoa mug.
Bob Frank and John Murry - World Without End (Décor)
Here's the pitch. Two southern miscreants, one a relative of Faulkner, decide to write songs to accompany historic murder tales from the turn of the century. Here's the result. The scariest record I have ever heard, so brutal and affecting that my wife refuses to have it played in the house. Here's the scary bit. Murrys house burnt to the ground on Thanksgiving Day. Weird...
1.Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (Rounder)
On paper the teaming of the bluegrass queen and Led Zep's big-lunged bluesy vocalist seems an unlikely proposition. In practice, this is sensational as the new Lee and Nancy are born.
2. Krista Detor - Cover Their Eyes (CoraZong)
A novelist's sensibility, influences that embrace Cohen, torch jazz, gypsy music and old school America folk, and that pure voice all make Detor one of the best undiscovered talents around.
3. Perry Keyes - The Last Ghost Train Home (Laughing Outlaw)
Australia's answer to Springsteen and Warren Zevon, his second album draws on bluecollar memories of growing up in Sydney, forgotten landmarks, faded local heroes and childhood wonderment. Outstandingly good
4. Jennie Stearns - Birds Fall (own label)
Earthy Americana that sounds like a meeting between Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams, the former Donna The Buffalo singer continues her solo career in fine form with the sparsely arranged, wistful collection of confessionals of love and loss.
5. Linda Thompson -Versatile Heart (Rounder)
The belated follow-up to Fashionably Late, this finds Thompson on vintage form for an album that embraces English folk, Americana and even torch blues. The title track alone would earn it a place in the year's best ofs while a world weary Do Your Best for Rock 'n Roll and Give Me a Sad Song confirm it as arguably the best of her career.
6. Richard Hawley - Lady's Bridge (Mute)
The UK's most lushly romantic singer-songwriter, the Sheffield crooner's fourth album is a deeply personal affair about turning 40 and his father's death. Thoughts of Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen and Jim Reeves tumble together as his moistens your eyes and warms your heart.
7. Rosie Thomas - These Friends of Mine (Sing-A-Long)
Again evoking early Joni, Shawn Colvin and the young Carole King, Thomas one more proves herself one of the best singer-songwriters around on an album that explores her ambivalent love for New York alongside songs of personal experiences. A cover of REM's The One I Love with Sufjan Stevens is further icing on the cake.
8. Shady Bard - From The Ground Up (Static Caravan)
In a nutshell, Birmingham's alt-folk, eco-minded answer to Sigur Ros with added flourishes of Tim Buckley, the Incredible String Band and Sparklehorse. Not a bad combination, you'll agree.
9. Kris Drever - Black Water (Reveal)
Recalling the late Stan Rogers, young multi-instrumentalist Drever has been a name on the Scottish folk scene for a while, but is only now forging a solo career. His debut's a stunning acoustic collection ranging traditional numbers to covers of songs like Navigator and Steel & Stone. Folk debut album of the year!
10. Emily Barker - Photos. Fires. Fables (Artswa)
The limited edition solo debut of the Australian born singer for Cambridge's The-Low-Country, you'll hear the spooked Americana of the Junkies and Gillian Welch but also old school country conjuring images of winter frost and dark woods. Class songs, a vein of rich melancholia and that aching voice merely underline why she's on this list.
And a PS mention on the roll of honour for Rickie Lee Jones and The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard (New West), a comeback album of dynamic power that explores religion and spirituality in the modern world and is easily the best thing she's recorded since her acclaimed debut.
Mike Davies writes for Birmingham Post, Whats On in Birmingham (both as film writer)
and for music: Brumbeat, Birmingham101.com and, of course, NetRhythms.
In his words, "Ageing follicly-challenged Birmingham based music and movies pundit and
erstwhile David Crosby lookalike with a worrying disposition to be found playing the odd
Girls Aloud record alongside My Chemical Romance, Michael Nyman and Kate Rusby!"
"Happy Christmas! Here's mine"
Fish Records - Suppliers of singer/songwriter, folk & acoustic music
"We announce the line-up for Shrewsbury 2008 on Jan 1st - a couple of artists
have already listed the gig on their website, including Richard Thompson,
Eilen Jewell and a few others - the full line-up is fantastic! "
"My Top Ten 2007 releases, listed alphabetically."
Beoga - Mischief
One of the best young Irish bands I've heard in a long time, and I loved their Steely Dan cover.
Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners and Strangers
Her songwriting skills have finally caught up with her wonderful voice and classic American roots sound.
Lucy Kaplansky - Over the Hills
Mostly songs about a loving family, current and remembered, from one of my favorite American writers.
The Kennedys - Songs of the Open Road
An affectionate, harmonious tribute to classic folk and country rock of the 1960s through the 1990s.
Jez Lowe - Jack Common's Anthem
No British writer since Ewan McColl has told the stories of working people as well as Jez.
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Who could have thought that such an unlikely collaboration would work out so well?
Poor Man's Fortune - In Good Time
A trio from Austin, Texas, that performs Irish, Scottish, and Breton music with a rich and highly melodic sound.
Martin Simpson - Prodigal Son
A splendid return to form for one of England's best acoustic guitarists.
Uncle Earl - Waterloo, Tennessee
Fun, lively neo-old-time mountain music from an all-female quartet.
Women In Docs - Red Wine and Postcards
Energetic folk/pop with catch choruses from two delightful Australians.
(And as a bonus disk, Annie Gallup's Half of My Crime would have been on my 2007 favorites list too
except that it came out in 2006 and I was a little late. Like all of her work it's vivid, intelligent, complex, and downright sexy.)
"Here are my top 10 albums"
Best Live Shows
"Here are my top 10 albums"
"Here's a list of Top 10 albums. The top two were miles clear of the pack (and I haven't seen either in any other lists!).
Both contain at least five of my favourite songs of the year. Both are beautifully conceived, written, performed, arranged, produced...
the whole deal with no tracks I'm inclined to skip (which is increasingly rare these days)."
"Also enjoyed albums by LAU, Devon Sproule, Richard Shindell, Tracy Grammer, Eliza Gilkyson, Levon Helm, John Fogerty, Steve Earle, Megson, Mary Gauthier. Good songs from disappointing albums. Marc Cohn 'Listening to Levon', Eagles 'How Long'. "
Top 10 Songs
Some memorable gigs (apart from all those at the Cabbage Patch....naturally!)
Top 10 - ordered alphabetically
Arctic Monkeys: Favourite Worst Nightmare (Warner Bros)
Are the Artic Monkeys the hype success of the last two years, or do they have genuine talent and deserve their instant success? Based on just one listen of this, their second album, then it’s clear the Artics have emerged as a major force in a very short time. My Favourite Nightmare’s 12 songs blast past in a refreshing 40 minutes with a fuller sound, and with Alex Turner’s canny lyrics intact. There are a few slower, more reflective songs thrown into the mix as well, and on balance it’s difficult to fault this fantastic album.
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: Pour L’Amour Des Chiens (Storming)
Imagine. It’s early 2005 and you are writing a list of bands least likely to reform. Near to the top of the list, along with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, would be The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. The Bonzos last album at that point was over 30 years gone, and lead-Bonzo Viv Stanshall died in a house fire in 1995. And yet, here we are, with a new Bonzos album and with live dates completed in 2006 and projected in 2008. Stanshall’s gap is admirably filled by Stephen Fry, Phill Jupitus and Ade Edmondson and the inspired lunacy that fuelled the Bonzo universe in their 60s heyday is not only intact but heartily vigorous.
Bob Dylan: Dylan (Sony)
Does the world need another Bob Dylan compliation? Hell, yes. Kicking off with 10 key acoustic performances from 1962-1965, and taking us right up to date with songs from his latest album Modern Times, this 51-song, 3-CD collection is perfect. Everything that is essential is here, along with many highlights from Dylan 45-year career. And there’s Blind Willie McTell, surely the greatest song by anyone ever? The word genius should be used with caution, but when judgement day comes, Bob Dylan will be at the head of the queue as the key artist of our times.
Eagles: Long Road Out Of Eden (Polydor)
The Eagles always struck me as a bunch of pricks … embodying the worst of the smug commercialism of 70s LA. And yet, amid this, they managed to perform some of the great songs of the era. And while I’m not sure I could listen to any of their 70s albums without pushing the skip button more than once, there are lots of individual tracks that are genuinely great. And, so, in 2007 and 5 years in the making, we have a new Eagles studio album – the first for 28 years. Long Road To Eden is an ambitious double album and, like all double albums, there are some tracks that will have your fingers twitching to move the CD on. But, there are enough highlights here to merit close attention, especially the 10-minute title track, possibly the best Eagles song so far.
Editors: An End Has A Start (Kitchenware)
Sweeping and moody indie rock from Birmingham: combining the best bits of Talking Heads, U2, Muse, REM and Joy Division with the dynamism of Radiohead and Nirvana. Tom Smith’s wonderful warm, rich baritone lays the foundations for a series of brooding songs that are spiky, insistent and, yes, epic. “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” was an unexpected top ten hit this last June, and The End Has A Start spent a week at the top of the album charts in July: a triumph of content over commercialism.
Proclaimers: Life With You (Universal)
Somehow, Craig and Charlie Reid have forged a 20-year career on the strength of two hit songs. Life Without You, their 7th album, shows there is much more depth to these Scottish twins than “500 Miles” and “Letter To America”: they have developed a sturdy catalogue of intelligent songs, performed with a combination of heartfelt emotion and a keen wit. As long as their signature songs allow the Reids to keep making albums then we’ll keep buying them. Lovely.
Bruce Springsteen: Magic (Sony)
When did Bruce Springsteen last release an album that wasn’t less than excellent? The answer is never, of course. Blending 12 great songs, the world’s best backing band and a sympathetic producer (Brendan O’Brian), Magic takes Springsteen deeper into the melancholic themes of disillusionment that have coloured his long career. Even the breezy arrangement of “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” suggests foreboding. This could be the best Springsteen album yet, as though the previous 14 (count’ em) were trial runs for this work of almost-genius. And another thing. Bruce is singing better than ever before as well.
The Twang: Love It When I Feel Like This (B-Unique)
The Twang are the sound of 2007, allied to the sound of baggy Madchester: think Happy Mondays with a rocket up their arse. For once, here is a band who has built up their reputation this year through electrifying live dates and tight songwriting, not through kowtowing to media luvvies looking for the next big thing. The Twang are a refreshing antidote to the oft-dreary indie guitar bands of recent years. Listen to this and hear what all the fuss is about.
Various Artists: Rubber Folk (Gott Discs)
As a Beatles collector and huge fan of roots and acoustic music, what could be better than 14 of the current folk royalty re-creating the Beatles’ folkiest album? Spiers & Boden turn “Run For Your Life” into a murder ballad, Ralph McTell knocks off a lovely “Michelle”, guitar-maestro Johnny Dickinson refashions “The Word” as a mean blues, and Cara Dillon recreates “Wait” in the most dramatic and beautiful fashion. Unfortunately, Waterson:Carthy’s staid “Norwegian Wood” is a let-down. But, on the whole, inventive, enjoyable and worthwhile
Neil Young: Chrome Dreams II (Reprise)
Chrome Dreams is a legendary unreleased Neil Young album from 1977. Thirty years down the line, here’s the sequel, ranging from country-rock, to grungy guitar work-outs to a horn-driven 18-minute outtake from 1988. The extreme mix of styles here are unified by Young’s great singing, wry lyrical touch and defiant fuck-you attitude. Three great albums on the trot from Young … there’s life in the old goat yet.
"Today’s version of the list would be:"
I just couldn’t bring myself to include Joni (I really wanted to love it) & Martin Simpson would have been for that one incredible song alone….. (almost good enough to qualify just for that). Haven’t heard Devon Sproule but she’s on the list. Any Trouble was lurking just under the 10.
Other news... The 2008 AcoustiCity line up is coming together, see www.acousticity.co.uk/live.htm
The Search- Son Volt The 22 track vinyl version ( On Chant & Strum ) is close to perfection to my ears. How can one person write so many great songs ? It was a masterstroke on Jay Farrar’s part to add keyboards to Son Volt with all the added textures and sounds they bring to the party. In my world, Jay Farrar is the heir apparent to Neil Youngs throne.
What Is Love For- Justin Currie. A brave album to release in 2007, the first track is just his voice over acoustic guitar, cello and harp and the album slowly builds to track four when the drums hit you in the face and you remember this guy used to be in a band ( Del Amitri). Dylan circa 65 would be proud of No, Surrender. A melancholy singer/ songwriter album of the highest quality.
Magic- Bruce Springsteen. Aptly named, ten pure pop nuggets, every one a gem. Life affirming, has anybody produced so many memorably glorious pop/ rock melodies on one album since the Fab Four's Revolver. Shame about the production.
Operation Motorcide EP- Centro-matic. These were leftovers from Fort Recovery. Most songwriters would die to write seven songs of this quality.
Thirteen Cities- Richmond Fontaine. My favourite gig of the year was at Tingewick village hall on lovely Summers evening when their set relied heavily on this record. A slow burning but highly rewarding trip through Willy Vlaulins desolate world.
The Devil On A Bench In Stanley Park- Justin Rutledge. Just beautiful low key laid- back country rock with fabulous pedal steel courtesy of Burke Carroll.
Freedoms Rd- John Mellencamp. Mellencamps attempt at a jangly mid 60s folk/ rock album, it’s the Byrds meets Barry McGuire. Like Springsteens Magic, its another 60s jukebox with slightly more derivative tunes. I could do without so much flag waving but it contains my song of the year, Jim Crow- a collaboration with Joan Baez.
Easy Tiger- Ryan Adams. If Cold Roses was the high water mark of Adams’ solo work, then this sits just below. A minor disappointment at first, the songs took hold on repeated plays.
Ghost Dance- Dumb Angel. Shaun Mason aka Dumb Angel is another very talented Canadian, this home recording sits comfortably in early Iron & Wine and Great Lake Swimmers territory with its sparse production and Shauns soft multi- tracked voice.
You Cant Win- Dolorean. A big step up for Al James with his strongest set of songs yet. Lyrically depressing, a big break- up always brings out the best in a songwriter.
Gigs Of the Year
Richmond Fontaine- Tingewick village hall
The Strawbs- Cropredy festival
Fairport Convention (doing Liege and Leif)- Cropredy festival
Richard Shindell- Cabbage Patch, Twickenham
Will Johnson- Water Rats London
Tracks of the year
Jim Crow- John Mellencamp
Mr. Bellamy- Paul McCartney
Me and You- Dumb Angel
Something In That Mess- Justin Currie
Where Did I Go- Justin Currie
Circadian Rhythm- Son Volt
Methamphetamine- Son Volt
Magic- Bruce Springsteen
Last To Die- Bruce Springsteen
A Celebration Grime- Centromatic
Beachcomber Blues- Dolorean
"Here are my best of the year in no particular order"
"My 10 best of 2007, as I feel today (in no particular order):-"Steve Tilston - Reaching back (box-set) (Free Reed)
Runners-up (I know, some’ll have probably been listed by other reviewers already)Hex - Sleep when you’re dead (Own label)
"Several others came close too tho’- so hard to make the final choice/s,
and I’ll probably be dithering each time I think about it again! Aagh!"
"I never seem to get round to buying CDs in the year they are produced and am usually a year or two behind.
Currently on my 'wish list' are albums by Levon Helm, Steve Earle, R Plant/A Krauss, Jimmy LaFave, Patti Scialfa,
etc and many more. Had I purchased those, this list may well have been different.
However, in no particular order it is currently:"
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Sam Baker - Pretty World
Deadstring Brothers - Silver Mountain
Dolly Varden - The Panic Bell
Chuck Prophet - Soap and Water
Redland Palomino Co - Take Me Home
Southern Tenant Folk Union
Will Kimbrough - Americanitis/EP
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Richmond Fontaine - 13 Cities
"Unsurprisingly a number of these folks feature in my best gigs of the year,
excluding my own promotions (bar one).
Blackie & Rodeo Kings - Borderline
Joe Ely - Dingwalls
Loomer - Ent Shed, Bedford
Sunny Sweeney, Holmes Bros, Ruthie Foster & Ray Wylie Hubbard - The Parish, Austin (during SXSW)
Guy Clark - Old Town Hall, Buckingham
Chuck Prophet - Luminaire
Arcade Fire - Alexandra Palace
Deadstring Brothers - Red Eyed Fly, Austin, (during SXSW)
Sam Baker - Luminaire
Southern Tenant Folk Union - Green Note
My Best of 2007 - Great albums, with a little "extra"!
In no particular order!
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Well, actually, this is a particular order. Top of the list because my review elsewhere was not totally ecstatic and it should have been. Wooooh…...what a cracker! Grows on you, by the way!
Sam Baker - Pretty World
There’s some saying that this, his second release, is just like his first record. Mind blowing that’ll be, then!
Jesse DeNatale - Soul Parade
I’ve championed him in the reviews section. Van Morrison meets Tom Waits. I’m hoping 2008 will be the year that me, Tom and Nick Hornby are proved right by being joined by more fans of Jesse’s music.
Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
I’m joining the chorus that says that this is his best CD ever. Don’t need to say more.
Martin Simpson - Prodigal Son
But did everyone spot that this was Martin’s best ever? Hope to see him score at the 2008 Folk Awards.
King Creosote - Bombshell
King Kenny has it nailed down. Major label distribution, an indie approach with the Fence Collective fed by some great songs. This was his big release for 2007.
Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined
I fight shy of ‘next big things’ but a showcase performance at a conference for festival organisers won me over and this studio recording doesn’t let you down - bound to be bigger by this time next year.
Uncle Earl - Waterloo
Enough talent to have successful solo careers, this bundle of G’Early bluegrass is a total delight produced by John Paul Jones of those newcomers, Led Zeppelin. Had to book them twice for live shows - come back, G’Earls!
Jim White - Transnormal Skiperoo
Always a favourite around these parts and this doesn’t disappoint. Just when everyone else will wake up to his talent, I’m not so sure. Keep it up, Jim!
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
I loved the Seeger Session stuff and was lucky enough to be three rows from the front in Manchester but this collection of catchy E-Street Band material will please the masses too.
'off the top of head' list!
Barn D'Or Music at the Anchor Inn, Sussex - venue for the very best Americana, folk
and singer-songwriters promoted by Mike Lance. Touring USA acts a speciality!
1. Joe Jackson -Rain (Rykodisc)
This is actually an advance copy of a Jan 08 release, and it's a cracker. Joe is in stripped down trio mode comprising just piano, bass, and drums for some elemental down to the wire material. He slips from tightly structured jazzy arrangements and minimalist melancholy to sweeping melodies and heartfelt ballads and occasionally slips into falsetto mode to wring out every last nuance of an album destined to be a career highlight.
2.Joe Bonamassa - Sloe Gin (Provogue)
Joe finally delivers the album that fulfils his potential. No longer the up and coming blues rock guitarist, Joe has improved his vocals, gathered together a mix of acoustic and electric material, and added producer Kevin Shirley's Eastern sounding post-Zeppelin brush strokes to his searing guitar.
3. Sparks - Dee Vee Dee (Liberation Entertainment)I'm actually cheating by switching formats to DVD for a glorious set that showcases all of 2006's 'Hello Young Lovers' CD and a 'best of' second set. Unlike most of their contemporaries Sparks have produced their very best material 33 years after their initial success in the UK. A totally unique audio visual experience with stunning songs from Ron Mael, and impossible vocals from Russell Mael, this is simply breathtaking.
4. Hans Theessink - Slow Train (Blues Groove)
Exquisite gospel blues from the Austrian based Dutchman who out Cooder's Ry Cooder. And while Hans beautifully emotes in the company of African gospel accompaniment, he delivers some hard hitting political lyrics concerning 9/11, Iraq and contemporary Zimbabwe without ever compromising his wonderful music.
5. Ian Parker - Where I Belong (Ruf)
A genuine British white boy soul singer with the younger Peter Green's touch on guitar, and a hatful of relationship songs that would give Robert Cray a real run for his money. A major talent working within but not trapped by the blues idiom, Ian Parker's lyrics gloriously match his licks.
6. Roger Chapman - One More Time For Peace (Mystic)
Here's a real turn up for the book as the former Family/Streetwalkers and long time successful Euro solo artist, re invents himself as an introspective Dylan disciple. The voice may be weathered but the songs are superb, most notably 'All Too Soon' and a plaintive reworking of 'Jerusalem'
7. Devon Allman's Honeytribe - Torch (Provogue)
Yes he's got the name and undoubtedly he is influenced by the family dynasty, but Honeytribe are very good band in their own right. Mixing some surprisingly rootsy material with bluesy and Latino influences. Devon himself has a rich baritone voice, plays sole sublime licks over Jack Kirkner's' intuitive keyboards, trades licks with guest Joe Bonamassa and effortlessly switches to acoustic when required.
8. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge)
The much lauded Canadian indie band really had it all to do after such an impressive debut album 'Funeral'. But on 'Neon Bible' they have managed to infuse their new songs with the equal amounts of raw intensity, emotional drive and spell binding playing within a successful restrained self produced album. Win Butler's angst ridden vocals are simply perfect as on the majestic 'No Cars Go' and the Springsteen infused 'Keep The Car Running'
9. Man - Diamonds & Coal (Point)
40 years old, the enduring Welsh guitar band have successfully passed the baton between generations with sole survivor Martin Ace being joined by the twin guitars of his son Josh and George Jones (Micky's son) and Bob Richards on drums. The title track sets the standard for an album full of compelling riffs, dark ironic lyrics and an enduring west coast feel, albeit from Swansea!
10. Stackridge - Something For The Weekend (Angel Air)
2007 saw the return to the boards of this much loved whimsical and archetypal English band complete with key members James Warren, Andy Davis and Mutter Slater as part of an octet. The album continues Warren's fascination with Beatles as he eschews the keyboard led aspects of the Korgis and refocuses on his roots, as evidenced by the George Harrison influenced 'Fascinating World' and the self explanatory 'Something About the Beatles'
"I seem to have acquired very few 2007 releases but here are some I've
been enjoying. I suppose inevitably it looks remarkably similar to the
2007/8 Rugby Roots giglist, but with a couple of surprises:-"
1. Oysterband - Meet You There. Their best to date in my humble opinion
and my favourite album of 2007 by a long way.
2. Steve Knightley - Cruel River. Some really strong material here and a
good contrast the to the big production job on Show of Hands excellent
3. Show of Hands - Roots, The best of compilation - Much more than an
intro to SoH music for "newbies", a must for all fans, superbly
packaged, all tracks remastered and some re-recorded. An excellent
selection of tracks from a the huge back catalogue.
4. June Tabor - Apples. Simply stunning. Great material, perfect vocals
and great contributions from Andy Cutting. I don't understand why some
people still don't get June.
5. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand. Not surprisingly
cropping up in a lot of people's selections. Excellent choice of
material and their voices just work so well together
6. Martyn Joseph - Vegas. Not taking anything away from previous
releases but this one somehow seems more "complete".
7. Megson - Smoke of Home. Their very strong debut album was a hard act
to follow but they rose to the challenge and pulled it off. Great vocals
8. Joan Armatrading - Into the blues. My first Joan album for years
bought on the strength of her performance on "Later with Jools". A
couple of weak tracks but generally a good one.
9. Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior. Inexplicably I overlooked this one
until very recently so playing catch-up now. Got a feeling it will move
up the list.
10. Glen Hansard and Market Irglova - The Swell Season. Came completely
out of the blue this one, bought on the strength of seeing the movie
"Once" on a transatlantic flight and being somewhat impressed by Glen
and rather taken by Marketa. Still not quite sure what to make of it or
how long it will stay in my best of selection but when the mood's right
The next one doesn't count because it's number 11 and it's a 2006
release but I was a bit slow on the uptake. Definately my most played
album in 2007 (especially on the road) is:-
11. J J Cale & Eric Clapton - The Road To Escondido. Sublime!
Buy it, go straight to "Ride the River" and wind the volume up LOUD!
Albums of the year 2007
"As usual I can't make up my mind and, as such, have listed my albums
of the year under blues and non-blues categories. I only include those
that I have reviewed within the year. I hope that you all have a great 2008
and I know that I can't wait to hear what comes up this time around."
Blues Top 10:
Non-Blues Top 10:
Lau - Lightweights and Gentlemen (of all the albums rooted in Celtic music, this has to be the most brilliant and vital, probably since the heyday of the Bothy Band)
Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - The Bairns (as producer and manager, this is an outrage!.. My allegiance robs me of an impartial view, but it would be a lie to omit it from my favourite albums of the year, because I believe it to be truely great)
Ian MacMillan Orchestra - Sharp Stories (Warm, funny and gently profound, Ian MacMillan deserves a medal for his bravery alone, in making an album of poetry set to music. Could have been a disaster! What a joy that it isn't.)
Sam Baker - Pretty World
Robert Wyatt - Comicopera
Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined
Martin Simpson - Prodigal Son
Field Music - Tone of Town
Radiohead - In Rainbows
(1)Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Simply a lovely record with one of THE songs of the year in "Please Read The Letter". Stellar!!
(2)Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Calling
Possibly the best album of her career. "Houston" was the best post-Katrina song I have heard. So moving, so heartfelt.
(3)Jimmy LaFave - Cimarron Manifesto
A wonderful work from the Austinite. Another contender for song of the year in "Hideaway Girl". As always he covers Dylan and his version of "Not Dark Yet" hits the mark, but it's the moving version of "Catch the Wind" that really calls for attention.
(4)Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara
My find of the year, having read a good deal about them and I wasn't let down. Some fine songs, and was anything more insistent than "I Am Part Of A Large Family"?
(5)Vince Gill - These Days
Not released here in the UK until January 07 this stellar 4 cd release proved what a mercurial writer, singer and player Gill really is. The playing is consumate on all 4 discs, the songs hit the mark and his singing like a 'songbird'. What more could one ask?
(6)Eric Taylor - Hollywood Pocketknife
Released here in the U.K. to tie in with his recent tour this proves once again that Eric Taylor is the consumate wordsmith. There are few sharper observers of life and his melodies make the whole experience simply irresistable. If only Steve Earle were this good.
(7)John Mellencamp - Freedom's Road
His best effort in years. From the stomping "Americans" to the duet with Joan Baez "Jim Crow", this ran the gamut of American music with aplomb.
(8)Patty Griffin - Children Running Through
Her most mature offering, and a slight change of style. The songs were good, the singing awesome. Result? A gem and the most varied work she has come up with.
(9)Kane, Welch, Kaplin - Kane, Welch, Kaplin
Songs from the American highway, shot through with a wealth of realism.
(10)Rod Picott - Summerbirds
Picott shook off the sombre love lost songs, added the jangling guitars of Pat Buchanan and came up with a great summer pop record. Quite a move from one of the most under rated writers around.
THREE THAT SHOULD BE ON EVERYONE’S LIST:Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer (Vanguard) - Levon Helm is 67 years old and Dirt Farmer is his first solo album in 25 years. He's gone back to his Arkansas routes to honour his Mother and Father - singing a mix of traditional family favourites and eloquent modern covers. It's dusty and gritty and honest and beautiful. And, it's been nominated for a Grammy.
Jan Bell & the Cheap Dates - Songs for Love Drunk Sinners (Little Red Hen) - Jan Bell comes from South Yorkshire and lives in Brooklyn, NY but she writes and sings like she has just ran away from some poverty stricken southern farm. The album is produced by Samantha Parton of the Be Good Tanyas. Favourite song: "Miners" adapted from a poem by Wilfred Owen.
The Barker Band - The Night Ain’t Over (Self) - Bluegrass music that doesn't allow the extremely efficient musicianship to overshadow the emotions in the lyrics. The music is old and new at the same time with beautiful harmonies from brothers Jake and Sam (twins). And, they've been invited to SxSW this year!
AND THE BEST OF THE REST:
Male Artist (in no particular order)
Sam Baker - Pretty World (Self)
Ron Block - Doorway (Rounder)
Porter Wagoner - Wagonmaster (Anti)
Alan Jackson - Like Red on a Rose (Arista)
Ryan Bingham - Mescalito (Lost Highway)
Female Artist (in no particular order)
Patty Griffin - Children Running Through (ATO)
Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart (Rounder)
Kathleen Haskard - Don't Tell (Howlin' Hound)
Corinne West - Second Sight (Self)
Elizabeth Cook - Balls (31 Tigers Records)
Band or Duo (in no particular order)
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (Rounder/Decca)
Deadstring Brothers - Silver Mountain (Bloodshot)
Redlands Palomino Company - Take Me Home (Laughing Outlaw)
John Prine & Mac Wiseman - Standard Songs for Average People (OhBoy)
The Kennedys - Songs of the Open Road (Appleseed)
Debut of the Year (in no particular order)
Rachel Harrington - The Bootlegger’s Daughter (Skinny Dennis) - She's a gifted storyteller with a lovely voice and a warmth about her that shines through her music. It's bluegrass, folk, gospel and Americana all wrapped up in one - intense at times but always beautiful.
Justin Currie - What is Love For (Rykodisc) - He was the frontman for the Scottish band Del Amitri but, to be honest, I don't know anything about Del Amitri. What I do know is that this album is made up of beautiful songs that break my heart every time I play them. So, of course, I play them a lot. Listen for the hidden track 12 - a tiny perfect love poem.
Simon Alpin - On The Wire (Ravine) - He's been helping other people sound good for years, both as a musician and as a producer. Now it's his turn to shine. The album was recorded over two days and all the songs are first or second take. Simon likes simplicity. On first listen the songs sound soft and almost easy but it does not take long before the harder edges and darker centre start to show. Jess Klein and Caitlin Cary singing backup add to the beauty.
Christopher Denny - Age Old Hunger (02.59 Records) - He's 22 years old but sounds like he comes from another place in time. The songs are good and the voice is wonderful - a bit like Jimmy Dale Gilmore and a bit like Roy Orbison, but not really like either of them or anybody else either.
Sunny Sweeney - Heartbreakers Hall of Fame (Big Machine Records) - She has a great voice. She's enthusiastic. And she always sounds like she's having a wonderful time. It's an album to make you smile - even during the heartbreakers.
Various Artists/Tributes (in no particular order)
The Gift, A Tribute to Ian Tyson (Stony Plain)
Just One More, a Musical Tribute to Larry Brown (Bloodshot)
Wounded Heart of America: Tom Russell Songs (HighTone)
There's a Hole in Heaven Where Some Sin Slips Through: Townes van Zandt Tribute (Glitterhouse)
The Other Side: Music from East Nashville (Red Beet) - this is a fundraiser for the Martha O'Bryan Centre in Nashville that offers employment and education services to people in need in East Nashville
Tandy - Did You Think I Was Gone/To A Friend (True Skyline Songs)
The Cowboy Junkies - Trinity Revisited (Cooking Vinyl)
Gigs of the Year (in no particular order)
Lynn Miles and Alana Levandoski - Green Note
Wes McGhee - Green Note
Katy Moffatt - Twickenham Folk Club
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - Borderline
Sam Baker - Luminaire
House of Mercy radio Records of the Year 2007
Album of the year 2007
'Dirt Farmer' Levon Helm - Vanguard Records
Band album of the year
'Tonight At The Arizona' The Felice Brothers - Loose Records
Roots album of the year
'Dona Got Ramblin' On My Mind' Carolina Chocolate Drops - Music Maker Records
Duet album of the year
'Holdin' Your Own' Jesse Dayton & Brennan Leigh - Stag Records
Female artist record of the year
'My Rememberence Of You' Diana Jones - New Song Records
Male artist record of the year
'Mescolito' Ryan Bingham - Lost Highway Records
Best live shows of the year we attended...........
Special mention recordings of 2007.....
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Iron & Wine, Corb Lund, The Barker Band, Alan Tyler, Joe Bonamassa, John Plantania, Trevor Manear, The Pines, Uncle Earle, Peter Rowan, Romantica, Chuck Prophet, Grand Drive, UK States, Simon J Alpin, Loomer, Steve Earle, The Mother Truckers, Luke Doucet, John Doe, Ruth Minikin, Darrell Scot, Billy Joe Shaver, Peter Case, J J Cale, Kane Welch Kaplin, Alistair Mook, Reed Foehl, Patty Griffin, Ted Russeel Kamp, Porter Wagner, Ryan Adams, Emil Friis, Richmond Fontaine, Furnace Mountain, Stephen Simmons, Old Man Luedecke, Hannah Elton-Wall, Tom Roznowski, Chris Whitley & Jeff Lang, Devon Sproule, Eileen Jewell, Folk Uke, Mary Gauthier, Saha Borges, Wailin' Jennys, Shooter Jennings, Guy Davis.....
House of Mercy music in many forums radio, a label, a touring agency, marketing.
House of Mercy radio presented by Barry Marshall-Everitt every Saturday night midnight - 3am
John reviews for NetRhythms. He writes," ... we have a wind power system here ( we're off grid ) and I've been wrestling with numerous problems in the last month trying to keep some fire in our wires; anyway, reading other people's lists, it's clear I don't get hold of nearly enough albums - must try harder, I think. I can manage a top five for what it's worth:"
Scoraig is home to a small (and hardy) community (John comments: "community" in the sense of people stuck in the same place than in the sense of "commune") in the far north of Scotland just south of Ullapool