Voted Albums of 2008
Peter Rainbird - Dust: Fragments From A Journey (own label) Of Irish-Nordic heritage and based in Canada, Rainbird recalls the very best moments of Bruce Cockburn, Peter Gabriel and Daniel Lanois in his soulful yearning vocals and songs of burnished spirituality while his covers of She Moved Through The Fair and Cohen's Waiting For A Miracle take your breath away. (Ed: available from CDBaby http://cdbaby.com/cd/rainbird2)
Teddy Thompson - A Piece Of What You Need (Blue Thumb) A bit of the Big O, some Bruce, and a pinch of his dad, this was his deserved breakthrough album and the springboard to international glory.
Reg Meuross - Dragonfly (Hatsongs) Thoughtful, historically based story songs filtered through country and folk prisms with a voice that twins Art Garfunkel, Don McLean and Martyn Joseph.
Emily Barker - Despite The Snow (Everyone Sang) Spooked Americana and backwoods folk with shades of Emmylou and Gillian Welch.
Kirsty McGee - The Kansas Sessions (Hobopop) - Departing from her previous English pastoral folk, McGee went to Kansas and returned with an album of old school American folk-country liberally dosed with New Orleans jazz and vaudeville on songs of the personal and political.
Ray - Death In Fiction (Pito) Another shift of direction album, leaving behind the Blue Nile and Aztec Camera for a big music canvas daubed with the influences of The Doors, Nick Cave and The Dream Syndicate with Five Miles Cursed sounding like Scott Walker fronting the Bad Seeds.
Hellsongs - Hymns In The Key of 666 (Despot) The Gothenburg trio take heavy metal classics and transform them into jazz-folk chill out lounge. It may sound an unlikely project, but as their jaw-dropping version of Paranoid shows, it works brilliantly.
Thea Gilmore - Liejacker (Fullfill) Exactly what does she have to do to get the commercial success she deserves? Another tremendous album, diamond tipped with her Baez duet The Lower Road.
Emmylou Harris -All I Intended To Be (Nonseuch) 61 years old and still turning out classic albums, her Dolly parton duet Gold alone ensured album of the year status.
Rose Kemp - Unholy Majesty (One Little Indian) Maddy Prior's daughter may be reared on trad folk, but here she twists it round a spine of Scandinavian Black Metal and drone rock as if June Tabor has been possessed by the spirit of Metallica. Awesome.
Jefferson Starship - Jefferson's Tree of Liberty (Evangeline),
Martha Wainwright - I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too (Drowned In Sound),
Kris Delmhorst - Shotgun Singer (Signature Sounds),
Dawn Landes - Fireproof (Fargo),
James Hunter - The Hard Way (GO Records),
Pete Greenwood - Sirens (Heavenly),
The Toy Hearts - When I Cut Loose (Woodville)
Paul Handyside - Future's Dream (Malady Music)
American Music Club - The Golden Age (Cooking Vinyl),
and, not really NetRhythms material but featuring the year's best, most glorious, anthemic pop song
Love Made Visible, The Delays with Everything's The Rush (Fiction)
Jim Moray - "Low Culture"
Felice Brothers - "Felice Brothers"
Catriona McKay - "Starfish"
Sun Kil Moon - "April"
Karine Polwart - "The Fairest Floo'er"
Paul Weller - "22 Dreams"
Aimee Mann - "@#%&*! Smilers "
Various - " People Take Warning" (Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913 - 1938)
Mascott - "Art Project"
Bon Iver - "For Emma, Forever Ago"
NAVIGATOR RECORDS / REVEAL RECORDS agency (in association with alan bearman music), publishing
TOM ROSE: 01332 552220 / 07779017236 ADDRESS: PO BOX 7535, DERBY, DE1 0NF, UK
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
I wanted to hate this record. In my pettiness and professional jealously if you like, these sorts of records come along every once in awhile, lauded to the high heavens by 'tastemakers' and hailed as the 'new thing' or 'the savoir of rock'n'roll' and understandably I tend to shy away. This time I didn't and I am still thanking my lucky stars every day. A majestic, addictive, 'so fab it makes me wish I could still do cartwheels' sort of record that makes life seem that little bit, well, bearable. Yup it sounds like CSNY, yep it echoes My Morning Jacket, and yes it's about as original as public voting talent shows, but I don't care. Originality is an overblown concept in this case. What's more important is vitality, magic, and that little dash of brilliance. Believe the hype (for once!)
Mark Erelli - Delivered (Signature Sounds)
Amongst the seemingly millions of records I listen to a year there are one or two that just never really leave the CD player. Delivered has practically become a kitchen furnishing over the last couple of months as it sits there waiting for that routine play. A record that encapsulates all that is great in roots music – strong, absorbing songwriting; gritty, un-bowed honesty; complete artistic sincerity; and a deep understanding and ability to connect with the listener on a multitude of levels. Simply magnificent!
NQ Arbuckle - XOK (Six Shooter)
My new favourite Canadian songwriter (sorry Neil you have been there a while you know) NQ is a bard of the barroom ballad, the squire of social storytelling, and, well, the king of (C)Kanada! I thought his last album was great, this one is even better. I saw NQ a year or so back playing live with Justin Rutledge and Luke Doucet, both of which are hard acts to surpass live. NQ came across like their unruly older brother –forbearing and unbending. The Ottawa Sun say's it best, "NQ Arbuckle takes the squalor of life and composes magical poetry." Spot on.
Damien Jurado - In The Trees (Secretly Canadian)
Quite simply the Seattle man's best record to date. Well, certainly his most complete record to date. A man that can make even Leonard Cohen consider auditioning for the Chuckle Brothers, Jurado has got internal angst, social anguish, and personal despair down to an art form. Yet, no matter what dark places he finds himself in he always manages to connect with someone. Listen to Jurado you feel you are in the presence of genius. That's because you are.
A.h.a.b - A.h.a.b (White Wail)
London based country duo who certainly no how to tempt these old and curmudgeonly ears of mine. Simple, rootsified country rock that reminds me of Richard Thompson and AJ Roach in equal measure. They have class, guile, and above all, a knack of writing songs that stay in your head for months. I don't think I have had a day since I heard 'Oklahoma Girl' that I haven't at least smiled or hummed the chorus of this country pop nugget.
Ferraby Lionheart - Catch The Brass Ring (Nettwerk)
Ok, let's get it out of the way first. Yes, Ferraby, that's right. Lionheart, yes. No, it's not made up. He may have run the gauntlet in the school playground but as a songwriter he is the one flexing the muscles. It's, on first listen, airy- fairy, wistful even, but there are songs here that just creep up on you then, like a cerebral flasher whip off the overcoat to revel the goods – sweet, essential, and splendid from the first bar to the last.
Rain Perry - Cinderblock Bookshelves (Precipitous Records)
Undoubtedly one of the great lyrical records of 2008, Californian Perry takes us on an evocative autobiographical journey through the major moments of her life. She is so endearing, so poignant with her observations that the album is like sitting at home in front of the fire listening to your big sister. The title track, a wonderful and real tale of dislocation, is worth the price of a copy alone.
Todd Snider - Peace Queer (Aimless)
The undisputed satirical king of East Nashville returns with a new record that is as contentious as it is brilliant. The cover art of Snider, blindfolded with a hippy holding a gun to his head, is worthy of a medal alone. Peace Queer is the sort of record that arrives at a major point in history (Obama, world recession anyone) that not only perfectly captures the hypocrisy of the past but illuminates a probable (if not exactly promising) future. A masterpiece!
Lou Vargo - American Disaster (Self Released)
Well it's a mark of how great this five track EP is that it makes it into my 'albums' of the year list. Vargo, Tennessee based and as pure country as they come, simply writes great songs and then delivers them both convincingly and absorbingly. Been a real fave on my show, "Black Eyed Jane" being one of my most played tracks. Really can't wait for the full length album in 2009 as I am betting it will be aces. Way to go Louie!!
Thomas Denver Jonnson - The Lake Acts Like An Ocean (Kite Records)
For some strange reason the Swedes are in love with America. Not the America of Bush, bombs, and bullying, but an America of breathless beauty, tranquillity, wide-open spaces, and blue collar humility. TDJ nails it on this album, so convincingly so that you would bet your grandmother's entire Reader's Digest collection that he is from Wisconsin, breaks steers for a living, and considers plaid a way of life. A cerebral travelogue of emotions, ideas and reflective longings, or, to put simply, a truly beautiful record.
As for gigs nothing really surpassed the two visits to Brighton of Eilen Jewell and her wonderful band. Both nights were rammed, with the bar and street afterwards ringing with the sound of estatic punters and new 'country' fans alike. Hayes Carll, a few months later at same venue, was a great as I thought he would be, and, for a slightly different experience, Japanese 'Math Rock, quartet Lite were mindblowing at The Engine Rooms
Del Day's Songs From The Ark - every Friday at 6pm, streaming live at
10. Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
9. Matt Andersen - Something In Between
8. Oh Laura - A Song Inside My Head, A Demon in My Bed
7. Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
6. Kimmie Rhodes - Walls Fall Down
5. Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Western Eagle
4. Eileen Rose - At Our Tables
3. Sonny Landreth - From The Reach
2. Duffy - Rockferry
1. Eve Selis - Angels and Eagles
if I had a Top 25 or Top 40 I would've added:
Deadstring Brothers - Silver Mountain; AC/DC - Black Ice; Moby - Last Night; Emmylou Harris - All I Intended To Be; The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing; Levellers - Letters from The Underground; Otis Gibbs -Grandpa Walked The Picketline; Weezer - Weezer; Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark; Gringo Starr - All Yall; Donna The Buffalo - Silverlined; The Storys - Town Beyond The Trees; Coldplay - Viva La Vida.....
It was a good year for new albums. I am of course looking forward to 2009 and new albums by Bruce Springsteen, Deadstring Brothers, Amy MacDonald and Redlands Palomino Co.
Please note however: they’re not in any particular order.
Pamela Wyn Shannon - Courting Autumn (Girlhenge)
& Mary Hampton - My Mother’s Children (Navigator)
Two latter-day classics of wyrd-folk (or whatever you might want to call it) – each of these ladies has a literate and startlingly original voice and produces significantly compelling, strange, beautiful and sometimes disturbing music of a strongly individual character. Each throws down a challenge to the listener, certainly; and each may be an acquired taste, but one that’s most definitely worth acquiring.
Tom McConville - Tommy On Song (Tomcat)
The celebrated Newcastle Fiddler has produced arguably his best record yet, where he demonstrates his supreme skill as a singer as well as a superb fiddle player.
Brian Peters - Songs Of Trial And Triumph (Pugwash)
A significant triumph in the presentation of traditional folk ballads from the Child collection, proving beyond doubt that this repertoire can be accessible, interesting and seriously compelling. A labour of love for this versatile musician and singer, one of the folk scene’s very finest (and most infectiously enthusiastic) entertainers.
Eliza Carthy - Dreams Of Breathing Underwater (Topic)
A supremely confident, heady and headstrong sequence of culture-clashing and genre-defying new songs from Eliza.
Grace Notes - Northern Tide (Fellside)
Sheer magic from West Yorkshire’s most harmonious female trio (Maggie Boyle, Lynda Hardcastle and Helen Hockenhull) – three sublime voices and an unerringly brilliant choice of songs.
Abigail Washburn - Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet (Nettwerk)
An enterprising and highly original record: the fruits of an intimate and innovative collaboration between this strikingly unusual singer and songwriter and cutting-edge bluegrass/newgrass musicians Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee. Like nothing you ever heard before!
Jo Freya - Female Smuggler (NoMasters Cooperative)
A delightful, feisty and sensitive collection of plundered booty from the underrated Jo, told from the female perspective yet inspiring and satisfying for all of us.
Crooked Jades - Shining Darkness (Jade Note Music)
Follow-up to the primordially atmospheric goth-Americana of last year’s World’s On Fire: equally strangely strange but oddly normal, and equally compulsive listening.
Bellowhead - Matachin (Navigator)
The mighty elftet strikes again - on even more dambusting, stompboxing, bold-strutting form than Burlesque.
And OK I've cheated a bit - there's an 11th, but this is not really technically a new album, so it edges onto the bottom of the list just in case:Fotheringay - Fotheringay 2 (Fledg’ling)
My top ten albums of the year so far have been:
Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes - as I don't think nowadays you will find a group with such fantastic harmonies, as Fleet Foxes. When you see them live they are guaranteed to put a shiver up your spine! However one still wonders why they chose not to include "Mykonos" on the album, and just include it on the EP
Pete Molinari - A Virtual Landslide - Pete has another unique voice, which has been described as Patsy Cline meets Bob Dylan, which I feel is extremely fitting.
Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof - The latest of their studio albums, with great catchy songs, personal favorites "A Guy Like Me" with that great bass intro and "Don't Say Goodbye" - something very Steve Earle about this song.
Steve Earle - Washington Serenade - I love Steve's ability to experiment with music in this album, combining country music with "hip hop" beats .
Ryan Bingham - Mescalito - This is one of the best albums to come from Lost Highway for a while. Ryan who is only in his 20's has a voice like someone far beyond his years. He sounds like he has been smoking a packet of Marlboro Reds everyday for the last 30 years, but that's why his voice is so charming, especially to the female listener! His lyrics are well written and tell stories about everyday hardships and working life, as one would expect from an Texas based Country/Rock artist.
Tift Merritt - Another Country. Tift Merritt is someone who will appeal to fans of Emmylou Harris. In particular the track "Broken" drew me in, as it has great commercial catchy hook.
Hayes Carll - Trouble In Mind - another emerging Texas star is Hayes Carll, who has an unmistakably gritty voice, which is unique to him. This album is a great piece of Country Rock, taking drawing us in with cool banjo grooves in the song "I Got A Gig" Talking about every musicians struggle to earn a living, and the thrill of getting gigs. It then also switches to his more emotional side with lyrics about loss of love such as "It's A Shame". This is another fantastic "Lost Highway " release.
Oh Laura - A Song Inside My Head, A Demon In My Bed - The song which shot Oh Laura to fame was "Release Me" used in the Saab car advert. Frida has unmistakable vocals, which have been described by Bob Harris as sounding like "a whole life has been lived through them". This is a great Country/ Pop album with not one bad song throughout.
The Storys - Town Beyond The Trees - Welsh band the Storys latest album, is a pure example of heart-felt ballads. The Storys are the Welsh version of Th Eagles, and when digesting the album you can almost imagine them based in laurel Canyon in the 70's. They have clearly engaged the whole 70's Country/ Folk scene. "Long Hard Road" is a particular favourite, it should be a theme tune to a movie.
Teddy Thompson- A Piece Of What You Need - A well crafted album, with colourful guitar playing and songs incorporating piano and horns. The songs are well written, and in Teddy's typical self-loathing style quite bittersweet.
Another year of great new music, the record industry may be in decline - well the big boys and girls anyway - but if you can be bothered to dig around you can still find vibrant exciting music being release via the web or on indie labels run by people who still remember the hot, sweaty expectation which preceded the arrival at their local record emporium of the new Little Feat, Tom Waits, David Bowie or Sex Pistols album. Pity the poor youngsters who will never experience such delicious anticipation.
Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City): One of the lo-fi, alt-country scenes major unsung talents, David Berman’s Silver Jews have always been a vehicle for his reflective brand of sardonic humour and abstract, reflective lyrics. He attempted suicide in 2003, let’s hope this, generally upbeat, album means he will not now be leaving us anytime soon.
The Bug: London Zoo (Ninja Tune): Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin’s latest in a long line of projects - including Techno Animal and God - meshing grimey urban bass’n’beats with digital reggae, roots chatting and some inspired blasts of hardcore noise, this rocks to a completely different beat to anything around it. Astonishing.
Vessels: White Fields And Open Devices (Cuckundoo Records): Welcome to the world of Leeds five piece Vessels, where rhythms twist and turn tortuously, thunderous post-rock racket meets electronic glitch and where huge great walloping walls of guitar noise regularly come tumbling around the listeners ears before the collective foot is removed from the go-faster-and-louder pedal to goose bumping effect.
Adem: Takes (Domino): Usually the last resort of the artistically bereft, covers albums occasionally throw up moments of genius but seldom make for a satisfying whole until Fridge man and nu-folk strummer Adem delivered twelve stripped down efforts including, lord help us, a cover of Aphex Twin’s ‘To Cure A Weakling Child/Boy Girl Song’.
Half Man Half Biscuit: CSI Ambleside (Probe Plus): They may sound like a more ramshackle version of The Fall (especially on album closer and highlight ‘National Shite Day’) - indeed Nigel Blackwell himself admits on ‘Lord Herefords Knob’, ‘all of our songs sound the same’ – but that’s because what matters here are the acerbic, observant, scathingly intelligent lyrics.
Pama International: Love Filled Dub Band (Rockers Revolt): Exceptionally fine ska fuelled set which will appeal to anyone who loves their reggae rootsy and like their lyrics to actually mean something, this could easily have been passed off as newly discovered ‘70s era tapes found covered with dust in King Tubby’s garden shed Yup it’s that good.
Elbow: Seldom Seen Kid (Polydor): It’s been a long time coming but Elbow have finally arrived, after four, increasingly fine, albums their slowly gestating career has blossomed. But don’t just take the Mercury Prize panels word for it, this is the album they have been promising to make for years…
Max Richter: Confidence Tricks (Probe Plus): Having worked with artists as diverse as FSOL and Vashti Bunyan, German pianist/composer Max Richter's palette is a broad one, and this utilisation of an orchestra of nine, a string quintet, solo piano, electronica, found sound samples and acoustic guitars, to explore the ringtone as musical performances is really rather beautiful.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (Mute): Having categorically kicked out the jams on their Grinderman outing Cave and Co. return, clearly still in thrall to making a bit of a racket, still crackling and sparking like live wires flapping around pools of water and with Cave in probably the finest voice of his life
Skyphone: Avellaneda (Rune Grammofon): A chilled, but angular, mix of traditional instruments, glitchy electronica, cyclical classical passages and folk, ambient music’s reputation may have taken a battering over the last decade, but it’s great to see bands like Skyphone reclaiming this much maligned genre and giving it a much needed shot in the arm.
Here's a quickly compiled top 10 (in rough order)
1. Heidi Talbot 'In Love and Light'
2. Chris Wood 'Trespasser'
3. Jim Moray 'Low Culture'
4. Eliza Gilkyson 'Beautiful World'
5. Tim O'Brien 'Chameleon'
6. Fleet Foxes 'Fleet Foxes'
7. Karine Polwart 'This Earthly Spell'
8. Emily Smith 'Too Long Away'
9. Emmylou Harris 'All I Intended To Be'
10. Megson 'Take Yourself A Wife'
Best complilation album I heard was 'Endless Skyway, Ribbon of Highway', a live Woody Guthrie tribute. In many ways listening to this over the last two or three weeks has brought me as much pleasure as any of the albums in the list above.
Here's ten of my favourite new songs from 2009 (ok....nine original and one trad)
Eliza Gilkyson 'The Great Correction',
Fleet Foxes 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song'
Eliza Gilkyson 'Beautiful World'
Randy Newman 'Feels Like Home'
Chris Wood 'Come Down Jehovah'
Heidi Talbot & Kris Drever 'The Blackest Crow' (Trad)
Emily Smith 'Caledonia'
Tim O'Brien 'Phantom Phone Call'
Mark Erelli 'Volunteers'
Heidi Talbot 'Cathedrals' (written by Boo Hewerdine')
and three excellent new covers of older songs
Time Time Time (Tom Waits) by 'Heidi Talbot'
The Fiddle and the Drum (Joni Mitchell) by 'Karan Casey
Gettin Over You (Stephen Bruton) by Katy Moffatt
After a lot of deliberation, here are my top 10 albums & gigs
1. Justin Rutledge - Man Descending
At the end of the day, this album received the most 5 stars ratings on my ipod. Consistently good with some gorgeous songs. Can't really fault it.
2. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicolson - Rattling Bones
Best thing Kasey's done and definitely the most rootsy. Very reminiscent of Buddy and Julie.
3. Belleville Outfit - Wanderin'
I love everything about this young band, they are talented, knowledgeable about the music and obviously love what they do. Would I have liked it so much if I hadn't seen them live? I don't know, but it’s a varied and fun album full of catchy songs.
4. Rod & Amanda - Sew Your Heart With Wires
I like the unfinished feel of this album. Good strong songs, nice harmonies.
5. A.H.A.B - self titled
Debut from this duo. Very strong, catchy songs. Keep coming back to it.
6. Yarn - Empty Pockets
Another strong CD, know little about them. Remind me in some ways of Tandy.
7. Fleet Foxes
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Harmonies to die for.
8. Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World
Maybe not her absolute best CD, but some very strong songs as usual and a fairly eclectic mix this time around.
9. Caroline Herring - Lantana
As good as her debut, if not better.
10. Jim Lauderdale & The Dream Players - Honey Songs
To be honest my most played & favourite CD of 08 is actually Jim's "Whisper" CD from the 90s - it's been in the Car CD Changer for about 2 years now and I never get sick of hearing it. This one isn't as good as that and lyrically I think it's a little weak, but it sounds great thanks to strong production and the fantastic band (James Burton, Glen D Hardin, Al Perkins amongst others). "I'm Almost Back" with Emmylou is my song of the year.
So that's the top 10, very close contenders were:
Meg Hutchinson - Come Up Full
Kathy Mattea - Coal
The Lost Brothers - Trails of the Lonely
Mando Saenz - Bucket
Malcolm Holcombe - Gamblin' House
Jeff Finlin - Ballad of a Plain Man
Otis Gibbs - Grandpa Walked The Picket Line
1. Fleet Foxes – Austin City Limits - lying in the sun, with my eyes close listening to their harmonies was sublime.
2. Carlene Carter – Grand Ole Opry Shop, Nashville & Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco
3. Three Women & Their Buddy – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco
4. Mike Farris – Austin City Limits
5. Belleville Outfit – Threadgills, Austin SXSW
6. Kathy Mattea – Coal album launch gig, Station Inn, Nashville, March 08
7. Transatlantic Sessions (featuring Mindy Smith, Joan Osbourne, Karen Matheson, Darrell Scott, Jerry Douglas & many more) – Glasgow, Jan 08
8. Sarah Borges – Opal Divine’s Playing Fields, Austin SXSW
9. Wailin’ Jennys – St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow, May 08
10. Glen Campbell Tribute (feat. Raul Malo, Jason Ringenberg, Jim Lauderdale & Glen Campbell), AMAs, Nashville Oct 08
The Miller Tells Her Tale
80 minute weekly internet show featuring independent americana musicians
Here are my faves of 2008
I. BEAL TUINNE: Live at St James Church, Dingle,
Shaun Davey moves to Kerry, starts to interact with local musicians is introduced to the village poet and composes a suite of songs using poets lyrics, stages them in local arts centre where they are recorded, sung by Rita Connolly, Eilis Kennedy and Seamus Begley. This will be a friend for life.
2.STREETS: Everything is Borrowed.
3. BOB DYLAN: Tell Tale Signs
4. CHRIS WOOD: Trespasser
5. FOTHERINGAY 2 - Thank you Mr Suff.
6. RANDY NEWMAN: Harps & Angels
7. LEVON HELM: Dirt Farmer
8. BRIAN WILSON.That Lucky Old Sun
9. MARY McPARTLAN: Sanctuary
10. BOB FOX & STU LUCKLEY: 30 Years On
If Levon was released in 07 (Ed: it was!)
LITTLE FEAT: Join The Band
My top 10s for this year follow the same format as previous years insomuch as I have restricted them to albums that I have reviewed. It has been a marvellous year for blues and alt.country and I have found it extremely difficult to narrow it down to two lists of 10. However, here goes:
Blues Top 10:
Joe Bonamassa – From Nowhere In Particular (Provogue)
John-Alex Mason – Town And Country (Naked Jaybird Music)
Monte Montgomery – Live – At Workplay (Provogue)
Eric Bibb – Get Onboard (Telarc)
BB King – Live At The BBC (Universal)
Samuel James – Songs Famed For Sorrow And Joy (NorthernBlues Music)
BB & The Blues Shacks – Unique Taste (Crosscut Records)
Eric Gales – The Story Of My Life (Provogue)
Rainer – The Westwood Sessions Volume 1 (OWOM Records)
Anthony Gomes – Music Is The Medicine (Ruf)
'Other' Top 10:
Last Train Home – Last Good Kiss (CoraZong Records)
IAMX – The Alternative (No Carbon Records)
Velvetone – Yip Yip (Crosscut Records)
John Power – Stormbringer (Tanuki Tanuki)
Paul Haig – Go Out Tonight (Rhythm Of Life)
The Believers – Lucky You (CoraZong Records)
Harper – Day By Day (Blind Pig)
Jon Cleary – Mo Hippa Live (FHQ)
Matt Andersen – Something In Between (Own Label)
Peter Cooper – Cautionary Tales (CoraZong Records)
I hope that everyone from artists to reviewers and everyone in between have a successful 2009.
It's been a really good year and I ended up with a shortlist of 17 discs, I would have loved to include the albums from Dar Williams and Solas somewhere in the list, but as it's a top ten they missed out..............here's the list.
Findlay Napier & the Bar Room Mountaineers - Out All Night
Megson - Take Yourself a Wife
Chuck Brodsky - Two Sets
Mark Erelli - Delivered
Jim Moray - Low Culture
Karine Polwart - This Earthly Spell
Crooked Still - Still Crooked
Nels Andrews - Off Track Betting
Chris Wood - Trespasser
Emily Smith - Too Long Away
Suppliers of singer/songwriter, folk & acoustic music
Now the albums....
Hank Williams - The Unreleased recordings Carolyn Wonderland - Miss UnderstoodAlejandro Escovedo - real animal
James McMurtry-childish things
Hank Williams III - Damn Right, Rebel proud
Damien Dempsey-The rocky Road
Ely 'Paperboy' Reed - Stake Your Claim
Chatham County line -IV
Hayes Carll - Trouble In Mind
Justin Townes Earl - The good Life
Larry Jon Wilson - Larry Jon Wilson
Ryan Adams - cardinology
Waylon Jennings - Waylon Forever
....and lets all hope that the best honky tonker in the world James Hand gets his new album out in 09 and gets over here to play a show.
311 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR
London Venue of The Year 2008, NetRhythms!
UK Venue of The Year 2007, Music Week
London Venue of The Year 2006, Time Out
(1)James McMurtry - Just Us Kids
McMurtry covers all bases here with the war in Iraq, big business corruption, child abuse, the rock'n'roll dream and the old lost Empires of the world. He mixes it all up in his veritable musical gumbo and what comes out is the years hottest release.
(2)Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
A great listen as her band rip it up and the original (2003) version of "Jailhouse Tears" (bonus track on the UK release), along with "If Wishes Were Horses" stand alongside anything she has done in the past.
(3)Sonny Landreth - From The Reach
A 'duet' album with a difference, as most of his partners are guitar players. The guests and Sonny rip it up here for a simply joyous listen. Sheer exhileration.
(4)Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Debut of the year and actually the best debut for many a long year. Simply beautiful.
(5)Justin Rutledge - Man Descending
An album that simply draws you in and makes you listen from start to finish. His best yet.
(6)Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World
Continues a run of work that began about 8 years ago with 'Hard Times In Babylon' and has shown no sign of slowing down. A masterclass in writing.
(7)Kathy Mattea - Coal
Comments: A concept about what coal did to the workers, their communities and their environment and what a cold, stark, hard world it was. Beautifully brought to life by a rather under-estimated artist.
(8)Rod Picott & Amanda Shires - Sew Your Heart With Wires
Their first duo album and what a start. Stark songs beautifully played and sung.
(9)Jeff Finlin - Ballad Of A Plain Man
One of the finest writers around, just listen to 'My Rosy Crucifixion By The Sea'. He has zero profile yet he knocks the over-profiled and under-talented Ray LaMontagne and Bon Iver into the proverbial cocked hat for masterful writing and story telling. Few do it better.
(10)Kate Campbell - Save The Day
Her best in 10 years since the career high 'Rosaryville'. Fabulous songs, beautifully sung, covering everyday life and failed projects of the past as on "Fordlandia". John Prine guets on the superb "Looking For Jesus".
Ever year brings more and more options and different formats but there are still a handful of albums and DVD's that stand out from the pile. I make no apologies for my selection being a little more left of centre than usual. I think it probably reflects an aging art form!!
In fact there are plenty of fantastic young up and coming talents on the live circuit, who have to struggle with the fact that the UK probably provides the poorest media music coverage in all of the G8 countries!
2). Ian Parker - Official Bootleg (MT)
This rather predictably titled album masks one of the best 'warts and all' live albums of the year. Recorded on his Winter tour of 2008, this album was issued barely 2 months later and stands and falls on the back of some heart rendering songs, an evocative vocal performance and inevitably some sterling guitar work.
Produced by drummer Wane Proctor, Ian Parker's brand of white boy soul works so well because he's fronting a road tested band who bring full expression to such highlights as the corner stone blues outing, 'Love So Cold', the warm acoustic groove of 'Don't Hold Back' - a song wracked full of emotion - and the gospel tinged show stopper 'If It Must Be'. In short Parker is a heavyweight song writer and leading white boy soul singer of our time.
2). Walter Trout - The Outsider (Provogue)
'The Outsider' might loosely be interpreted as a concept album full of characters who as Walter himself sings on the title track are 'standin' on the outside lookin' in'. The album's sequencing is excellent and the production is everything that you imagine Walter wanted. And in the company of new set of musicians and an intuitive producer in the shape of John Porter, he plays to his optimum. Walter may see himself as an 'outsider' but this album offers further evidence that he is very much at the centre of everything that's good about contemporary blues rock.
Walter himself who provides the first person narrative on the barnstorming opening track 'Welcome to the Human Race' and extends the list of outsiders on one of the album's best tracks the riff driven 'Child of Another Day'
At times the lyrics may seem a little bleak but they are delivered with such passion and intense musicality by Trout that it all fits perfectly. Put simply 'The Outsider' does the trick because it is full of heartfelt emotion and scintillating playing by a guitarist at the height of his game.
3). Brian Wilson - Lucky Old Sun (Capital)
Described as 'a musical love letter from Southern California', 'That Lucky Old Sun' is a lyrically impressive 17 strong suite that combines emotionally charged nostalgia with wistful paeans to Southern California.
At 66 Brian Wilson is back producing some of the best work of his last three decades. Perhaps as he himself sings, he's just realised 'Now it don't matter what your age is, Don't you know it's just a state of mind'.
4). Tim Grimm - Holding Up The World (CoraZong)
If you were to approach Tim Grimm's 'Holding up the World' with no prior knowledge of either artist or his work, there are two big clues as to what to expect. Firstly there is the excellent Dutch label CoraZong which deals with American influenced roots music and secondly a studious exploration of the art work gives you the clue as to the nature of Tim Grimm's ruminations on his mid west background. Except of course that he's disguised any autobiographical connections by outlining a series of character sketches that take in a variety of people from the returning Iraqi soldier in 'This Hole' to the jilted Mid West farmer on 'So It Goes'. The imagery is lucid, the vocal phrasing pregnant with emotion, the phrasing frequently world weary and the narratives are realistic enough in a Dylan meets Springsteen kind of way to gather widespread appeal.
5). The Les Paul Story DVD ( Eagle Vision)
'Chasing Sound': The Les Paul Story' is an absolute gem of a documentary profiling Les Paul the godfather of the electric guitar. But unlike countless other such well crafted documentary DVD's, it is the subject's own sparkling personality that overrides all those that come to pay homage to him as a real guitar master. 'Chasing Sound' is an apt title for a man whose commercial success was but one facet of a career that led him to become an inventor, innovator and ultimately a unique figure in the world of contemporary music. For as this biog pic superbly outlines, Les Paul was responsible for the solid-bodied electric guitar, and he was the pioneer of important recording techniques ranging from overdubbing to multi tracking and echo reverb. Indeed right near the end of the film guitarist Eddie Van Halen accurately summarises that 'we can never have made the records we do if you hadn't invented multi tracking'.
6) Mick Hucknall - Tribute To Bobby (MSA)
In recording this timely tribute to Bobby Bland, the music becomes the conduit that somehow draws together the likes of Hucknall, BB King (Bobby and BB recorded and toured together), Van Morrison (Bland was recently special guest on Van's shows), Simply Red's producer Andy Wright (who went back to the source to help Mick tackle the music) and even the late Roger Eagle (owner of the famed Eric's nightclub in Liverpool who gave Mick his first break).
But above all the 17 minute documentary also features Bobby himself with Mick paying homage to one of the great interpreters of song in the blues genre.
7). Albert Collins - Live at Montreux 1992 DVD (Eagle Vision)
There can be few blues guitarists who have been more underrepresented in their time than Albert Collins and this DVD makes up lost ground.
Featuring two Montreux festival appearances which are separated by 13 years, both appearances show just how influential Collin's use of sustain, tone and thumb picking was in the blues and rock field. The best comes last and after playing double lines with sax player AC Reed, Albert goes into overdrive on 'Frosty' and his astonishing playing is all but momentarily wrecked by guest Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown's amp problems. As it is Albert remains completely unfazed and soldiers on and finally the two guitarists coalesce briefly before 'Gatemouth' picks out some clean notes and acts as the perfect foil for Albert's frosty notes, Breath taking stuff!
8). Edgar Winter - Rebel Road (Evangeline)
'Rebel Road' shows Edgar still has a great voice and he has been smart enough to surround himself with a hard core of creative talents based round co producer/song writer vocalist Curt Cuomo and fellow song writer and guitarist James Zora Baker. And while 'Rebel Road' isn't quite the 'outsiders' concept album that Edgar himself alludes to, it's certainly a classy slice of rocking blues tempered by the occasional catchy AOR chorus and delicate ballad.
'Rebel Road' might be a concept closer to say the Willy Nelson generation than today's rockers but that shouldn't detract from a classy rock blues album that has enough frisson to holds its own on any FM rock station.
9). Derrin Nauendorf - Skin of the Earth (Ruf)
Second album from the blues Dylan inflected Australian roots rocker. What separates Derrin from many of his contemporaries is his imaginative guitar lines and subtle tonal colours. On the excellent 'Not Alone' for example, he achieves an eastern sounding flavour to his acoustic before saving a heavy duty electric tone for the solo. On 'The Round Up', Derrin musically achieves an unlikely cross between a Western film theme and a Bowie derivative riff, all topped by a quirky wah wah style guitar sound.
If there's one thing holding this excellent song writer back its his voice, which although expressive and certainly more impressive than the majority of singer song writers, doesn't quite have a trademark style that would set his songs apart from other contenders. Be that as it may, Derrin's words and intense guitar playing do enough to draw you in.
10). Warren Zevon - Collectors Edition (Asylum/Rhino)
Produced by archetypal Southern Californian singer song writer Jackson Brown, this re-mastered and expanded collectors version of 'Warren Zevon' is a timely reminder of a troubled soul who all too often lived a wild life full of self imposed suffering for his art.
Perhaps the most telling title on the album is 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead'. Warren Zevon undoubtedly lived life in the fast lane and he is sadly is no longer with us, but this major debut album (albeit, 'Wanted Dead or Alive' was actually his first album) is a splendid reprise - with 15 alternative takes and demos - of one of the most significant singer song writers of the era
Pete Feenstra is an independent music promoter at 4 London clubs and several other venues - and is features editor for www.getreadytorock.com
Hey - I've tried to put a bit of everything in here. Them you'd expect, them you wouldn't and 'oooh er, missus' what's this one?. Have a good 2009!
ELIZA CARTHY - DREAMS OF BREATHING UNDER WATER
What I like about Eliza is that there's always something different going on. Anyone who assumes Carthy=Tradition=Dull is rudely awaked here.
CHATHAM COUNTY LINE - IV
For me, one of the finds for 2008. Great bunch of bluegrass boys with fine harmonies and songs.
ANNABELLE CHVOSTEK - RESILIENCE
Has gone effortlessly from The Wailin Jennys to an excellent solo album. Watch out - she's on the way up.
DREVER McCUSKER WOOMBLE - BEFORE THE RUIN
Tom Rose was quite shy about pushing acts on his label - so, let me do it for him! This album sneaked up on me - always a good sign - and looks set to being a long time favourite for me though Roddy does seem to have sent a few of the ladies around me into some sort of gaga state.
FRED EAGLESMITH - TINDERBOX
Eaglesmith keeps on moving and deserves a bigger audience. Tinderbox sees him add lashings of Tom Waits to his Canadian country style
FOTHERINGAY - FOTHERINGAY 2
Gets my vote as the best re-issue of the year
DENIS JONES - HUMDRUM VIRTUE
Ooooh er - who's he? Denis is what John Martyn would sound like if he stuck a few beats and loops in with the jazz and folk. Great album.
JAMES McMURTRY - JUST US KIDS
My most anticipated gig for 2009 - see you at The Brudenell in Leeds. This one keeps the standards high.
JIM MORAY - LOW CULTURE
Jim got a bit of a pasting from some narrow minded folkies for his early recordings. This seems to have won them back over and I'm not surprised
RANDY NEWMAN - HARPS AND ANGELS
It's just good to have a real album rather than a soundtrack from one of the greatest
TIM O'BRIEN - CHAMELEON
Something of a musician's musician, Tim can pluck or strum anything and make it sound great. That's what he does here.
TOM RUSSELL - ANTHOLOGY
I know it's a compilation but, for those not familiar with the old Texas tornado, worth checking out a master songwriter.
TODD SNIDER - PEACE QUEER
Determined to plough his own crooked furrow. I reckon this album captures his essence with songs, spoken word, CCR covers and a shameless rip from George Michael's 'Faith' (who'd shamelessly ripped most of the hook from Bo Diddley anyway)
CHRIS WOOD - TRESSPASSER
Martin Carthy suggested to me that Chris has found his voice with this album and its predecessor. I agree and am also pleased to advise that he found the strides that seemed to disappear at one of my gigs. You wouldn't like to lose them at this time of year, would you?
WRECKLESS ERIC AND AMY RIGBY - WRECKLESS ERIC AND AMY RIGBY
Give or take Carbon Silicon, I reckon Eric is the only punk period artist cutting it and not recycling hits with a dodgy line up.....and now it's hard to resist with the added Rigby whose always been a delight
I am currently working up some notes to go with my choices for 2008. My favourite dozen (in no special order) are as follows –
Beth Rowley – Little Dreamer (Blue Thumb Records)
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)
Seal – Soul (Warner Bros)
Al Stewart - Sparks Of Ancient Light (Appleseed)
Teddy Thompson – Piece Of What You Need (Verve/Universal)
Brenda Boykin- Chocolate & Chili (Chinchin Records)
Wineskin - The Great American Album (Own Label)
Emiliana Torrini - Me And Armini (Rough Trade)
Mark Pickerel And His Praying Hands - Cody's Dream (Bloodshot Records)
Dan Zanes and Friends – ¡Nueva York! (Festival Five Records)
Dr. Dog – Fate (Park the Van)
Steve Winwood – Nine Lives (Sony/BMG)
1. Joe Bonamassa Sloe Gin which was nominated for a Classic Rock Award
2. Levon Helm "Poor Old Dirt Farmer"
3. Tab Benoit "Power Of The Ponchartrain" nominated for a Grammy
4. Danny Bryant "Black & White"
and others that I am working on
5. Eleanor McEvoy "Love Must Be Tough"
6. Katy Lied "Late Arrival"
7. Matt Andersen "Something In Between"
8. Ruthie Foster "The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster"
9. Eric Bibb "Get Onboard"
10. Esther O'Connor "Right Here"
11. Genticorum "Malins Plaisirs" just award Traditional Album of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music
12. Ben Glover & The Earls "The Week The Clocks Changed"
13. Walter Trout "The Outsider"
14. Imelda May "Love Tattoo"
gosh I think I could have a Top Twenty this year - so many great releases
Dual Hawks- South San Gabriel
Will Johnson is the great unsung songwriter of the 21st century, producing one gem after another consistently over the past decade. While the Centro- Matic album hits the right spot most of the time, the South San Gabriel record finds a band at the peak of their creative powers producing beautifully, sad, reflective music. If you like your alt.country with cellos and pedal steel, this is for you.
April- Sun Kil Moon
The Neil Young influence still weighs heavily on Mark Kozeleks music and theres no better example than this album’s, Tonight The Sky, the twin sister of Young’s Ohio. Twelve perfectly crafted mini works of art. Sun Kil Moons intensive electric show at the Scala in London was as good as it gets.
Narrow Stairs- Death Cab For Cutie
For me, Ben Gibbard and Joe Pernice are the best pure pop/rock writers around today. Literate writing coupled with stunning hooks makes DCFC a big fave here.
Life Death Love & Freedom- John Mellencamp
A real slow burner this one, the lack of energy initially left me a bit cold but over the months the songs took root. Fourteen tracks with not a duffer in sight and good to hear Mellencamp trying something new.
Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
Everybodys fave new band, what a breath of fresh air to hear a young band writing intricate arrangements and topping them with stunning harmonies. My moneys on the next album, recorded in a decent studio being a killer.
Low Culture- Jim Moray
Young folkies third album, Morays taking English traditional music all over the place from hip- hop to early 70s Albion Band; the results are captivating.
Vs The Silver State- Matthew Ryan
More upbeat than his recent I-output, there’s a strong Irish 80s vibe to this record with hints of the Fishermans Blues era Waterboys and Joshua Tree era U2 in the arrangements. Don’t let that put you off though, this is arguably a career high.
Caught In The Trees- Damien Jurado
The upbeat tracks at the start of this are not everybodys cup of tea but I love this album of two halves. There aren’t many who can touch DJ for consistency.
Man Descending- Justin Rutledge
Gentle well written, melancholy country beautifully played. Canadas best kept secret.
Déjà Vu Live- CSNY
I guess this shouldn’t be in anybodys top 10 but its Neil Young’s project and you ignore Neil at your peril. That trumpet is just stunning and several of the LWW songs sound superior to the studio versions to my ears.
This is my personal seasonal favourite. There's a wealth of talent on this wonderful double album which I found earlier in the year as an import, but too late for last Christmas. Fortunately for us it's been re-pressed and made available to the UK. 37 tracks from East Nashville artists including Kevin Gordon, Elizabeth Cook, Phil Lee, Korby Lenker, Diana Jones and Last Train Home. Available from both the below
and CD Baby