Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Of 2009

Well, here it is … the end of another year, and as I check out all the blogs, magazines and radio shows, everyone is putting out their “Best Of 2009” – and hey … why should I be any different. So, here it is, my list of some of the best music that kept me smiling throughout 2009.

As you’ll notice, there are a few great bands that are missing from the list; Wilco, Justin Townes Earle … not to mention Justin’s Dad, The Avett Brothers, Slaid Cleaves, The Bottle Rockets and so many others who put out really great music this year. But, for whatever reasons, the following tracks are the ones that stuck with me.

CD Of The Year
Lucero: 1372 Overton Park

Hands down, my favorite record of the year. I was late to the party when it comes to Lucero, but – since the first night I saw them perform in Brooklyn a few years back – I have been riding on the bandwagon of the Memphis gang of believers. With this album, Lucero augmented their line up with a killer horn section (horn arrangements by Jim Spake - who has worked with Al Green, John Hiatt, Solomon Burke, Cat Power) – taking their runaway train style of rock and roll and blowing the roof off the joint. I’ve told folks that these guys sound like what the Replacements would have sounded like had they come from Memphis. But, the more I got into the band, the more I realized that Ben Nichol’s style of writing is more R&B/country, whereas Paul Westerburg was more pop. Live, I haven’t seen anyone outside of the E Street Band even come close to touching the power and emotion of their performance. Maybe that’s why in a list where everyone get’s one song … these guys get two.

Best Songs of 2009

“The Devil And Maggie Chascarrillo” – Lucero
Remember the first time you listened to rock and roll? I do. OK … maybe not the exact first moment … but I do remember the rush of Fogerty’s guitar blasting out of the speakers as that opening riff to “Up Around Then Bend” kicked my ass. Well, that’s how I feel when this tracks blows by. I defy you to listen to this track and not; 1) Turn Up The Volume & 2) Dance.

“Know Your Enemy” – Green Day
Bless these guys. They kept the flag from falling. There needs to be a band out there that knows how to mix pop sensibility, punk spirit, being pissed off at the government and still having fun. These guys accomplish it all with the added bonus of HUGE hooks.

“Gonna See My Friend” – Pearl Jam
I’ll admit it – I am not a big Pearl Jam fan. It seems that I love the “idea” of Pearl Jam more than I do the music. And with each new CD, I give them the benefit of the doubt. With this new record – I’ve found a great collection of songs that will keep be coming back.

“Country Roads” – Ryan Bingham
I have no idea how well this guy is doing with the Americana crowd … or the record buying public in general … but regardless of how good it is … it should be better. This CD is great (and I loved the first one as well). This track has such a great production, hook and vibe … aint that what we’re here for?

“I Need To Know Where I Stand” – Rhett Miller
Great lyrics, sing along hook, and a wide open production – I’m not sure why this needed to be a solo CD as opposed to an Old 97s – either way – this song works.

“Sulphur To Sugarcane” – Elvis Costello
T-Bone Burnett delivered a perfect setting for Mr. Costello’s lyrics. And, with the laid back approach to the backing tracks, the vocals have room to soar. Added bonus: listening to man sound like he’s having so much fun.

“Coal Wars” – Joshua James
In a year when so many acts got props for ‘great vocals’ – this song is the cream of the crop. On no other track this years did I hear such harmonies (and thankfully they kept them out of the most overused production toy: the echo-chamber). The vocals pull you in, the lyrics grab you – and by the time the band kicks in all bets are off.

“Water Spider” – The Duke And The King
I have such a soft spot in my heart for artists like this. There have been so many comparisons by critics trying to explain Simone Felice’s voice – that they’ve become useless. So I’ll just say that the vocals will make you believe … believe what you ask? You’ll believe that Jesus walked on water … and so did Marvin Gaye.

“To Ohio” - The Low Anthem
This CD caught me completely by surprise. When I first popped it in the player, I had no idea who these folks were. By the time I’d gone through it for the 15th time – they were destined for my Best of 2009.

“Joey’s Arm” – Sons Of Bill
“The South aint gonna rise again – but we’re holding out for Jesus – or so they say on AM radio.” Could be one of the best lines of 2009. If you are a fan of alt/country, this group will literally give you all the best parts of that genre.

“Girl From The Office” – Ian Hunter
To start; I loved Mott The Hoople. I loved Ian Hunters solo stuff. Now, he’s back with an introspective, low-key, solo CD. Start to finish - this CD is solid. Had it not been for Lucero; this most likely would have been my pick for CD of the year. The toughest decision was only picking one track.

“When Will I Be Loved” – John Fogerty & Bruce Springsteen
What can I say? Two of my faves having fun with one of the all time classic rocking/country tracks. No need to think about it … just sit back and enjoy the ride.

“To Find My Love” – Cross Canadian Ragweed
These guys deliver musically on every track they record. The songwriting comes and goes – but when it hits the mark, the results are amazing. On this track, it not only hits the mark – it’s a direct bulls-eye.

“That’s The Way The World Goes Around” – Miranda Lambert
CD#3 – and I still can’t get over how much I enjoy this artist. If there has ever been a person who I consider to have their “heart in the right place” – here she is. Her band smokes, her originals are pretty damn good, she wears her influences on her sleeve – and here, she’s having fun with an old John Prine track – I am on board for this trip.

“Sounds Of The City” – Lucero
Sweet Lord … this song kicks ass. The B3, the horns, the killer rhythm section … this kind of track is the reason I’ve spent the last 35 plus years loving rock and roll. Thanks, fellas!