Americana is such a great wide fraternity that I am seldom satisfied with the majority of year end “Best of” picks. The tree grows broad and wide over American roots music. How then can I assume you, dear reader, care to read my own opinion on the subject? Perhaps only the triumph of hope over experience.
However you made your way here—if you’re a long time reader (long-time being internet slang for more than a couple months) you’ve seen a few of my commentaries on Americana, roots music, and the fall and decline of western civilization. If you just googled in thanks for visiting. This isn’t much better than a plain old ‘Best of 2009’ list but I tried.
Full disclosure: I’m also trying out some new widget on the Amazon.com site. Click to buy and such if I did it right. Feel free to click thru, if you are so inclined. or not.
1. We Are All Alone In This Together by Graham Lindsey
Technically, this album was released the year before, but Amazon’s list date of January 2009 (when it went into wider distribution) is enough for me to keep this release on my list. Graham Lindsey’s “We Are All Alone In This Together” claims the top spot on the strength of the album alone. As I said:
What is it in a simple progression of notes that can bring a person close to tears? Even before adding in a well-crafted lyric. How a few notes strung together in a very specific manner evoke a primal reaction, a blood lust of the ear.
My review from last winter is here.
2. Alright Dynamite by Kendel Carson
Chip Taylor’s latest discovery is growing on me. Upbeat and fun, without the bimbo factor. Promising young artist.
3. Losin’ Lately Gambler by Corb Lund
You’ll be long gone to Saskatchewan before you regret getting into Corb Lund or his Hurtin’ Albertans’ Canadian Americana.
4. Wishful Thinking by Hot Club of Cowtown
Bob Wills would be proud of this hot young trio for taking a solid foundation in western swing and cranking it up with some HOT hot jazz. They came to visit my home town in October and left me yearning for more.
5. Blood and Candle Smoke by Tom Russell
Released right after September cutoff for Grammy nominations, this album (like many of Tom’s recent efforts) didn’t get the buzz I thought it deserved. I asked one reviewer why this album didn’t make the cut on her 2009 list. She said it did, just not the list that got published.
6. Song Up in Her Head by Sarah Jarosz
Sarah did get a Grammy nod. I’m still trying to get my head around this Sugar Hill album. It just keeps on coming back, like a good friend you just haven’t met yet. “Mansinneedof” gets a Grammy nomination for best country instrumental performance. I’d call her more Americana than pop country, but she’s certainly versatile.
7. Secret, Profane and Sugarcane by Elvis Costello
Elvis get a Grammy nomination for the album and T.Bone gets a nod for production. It’s a 2-for-1 deal!
8. Natural Forces by Lyle Lovett
It’s not great, but Lyle’s good is better than anything you’ll hear on pop country radio. Worth it just for his cover of Townes’ fine ‘Loretta’.
9. Townes by Steve Earle
Normally I agree that I’d rather listen to the original artist than covers, but Townes Van Zandt is no longer making original music. A fitting tribute to the world’s best songwriter, and a fitting Grammy nomination.
10. Midnight at the Movies by Justin Townes Earle
As I wrote last summer, this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. With a good nature grafted from the spirit of Townes Van Zandt, J.T. builds on his old man’s fundamentals with a brighter (and less political) outlook on life.
New to Me in 2009
11. Between the Whiskey and the Wine by Miss Leslie
Third Coast Music’s FAR DJ list Album of the year for 2008. Good old fashioned honky tonk’n. Miss Leslie is a gem of Texas and real country, with or without her her Juke Jointers. She’ll have you with a tear in your beer on the very first track.
There’s a few other albums noticeable in their absence. I actually heard very few tracks that could be called ‘Americana’ that were bad. There’s a few I didn’t hear that should be here (think Steve Martin’s The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo). There’s just alot that are just ‘OK’. Or far enough out on a limb of the genre that I care not to climb. Neko, Lucinda, or Wilco for instance. The guys in Cadillac Sky. Even my old friends in Son Volt left me wondering what roots they were digging.
I expect some of those limbs to grow quickly. I wish them the best. But I will be here quietly spreading fertilizer on my favored genre and sharpening my pruning shears in 2010.