Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best of 2010

So here it is the last week of the year and coincidentally also time for my obligatory best-of-the-year list.  I'll keep it short because I don't like pretending that there were fifty albums released this year that you should spend your dough on.  But be assured that if I've listed them here, they are good.  Some of the links to previous posts will still have active mp3s in case you missed them the first time.

1) State Champion - Stale Champagne
Being that it was released way back in January, I had all year to possibly forget about this one.  But now, a year later, I still listen to it a couple times a week.  The band calls their music garage-country, and I can't think of a better description.   Here is what I wrote about it when I first heard it. 

2) Truckstop Darlin' - Truckstop Darlin'
 These guys from Portland, Oregon have put out a genre-defining alt-country album with their self-titled debut.  See what I had to say about it here.

3) Andrew Combs - Tennessee Time EP
By far the best pure country album of the year, regardless of the fact it's an EP.  Andrew has a great young-man-with-an-old-worn-voice thing going, but the ace up his sleeve is his songwriting.  "Tennessee Time" and "Too Stoned to Cry" should set the standard for country radio if things were right with the world.  My post from this past summer.

4) Reno Bo - Happenings and Other Things
This album might stick out like a sore thumb in this list.  It's rock and roll with a strong pop tilt.  Don't let my description discourage you though, because I'd describe Tom Petty in the same fashionRead my review here.

5) Elizabeth Cook - Welder
Confession:  This was my first exposure to Elizabeth and now I'm a fan.  My goal for 2011 is to see if her previous releases are as good as this one is.

6) Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me
Would've made my best of list based only on "Jackson, Don't You Worry,"  but the rest of the album is great typical Two Cow and that will make my best of any year.

7) American Aquarium - Small Town Hymns
Another band carrying the alt-country torch and holding it high.  They had a really good album last year and have followed it up with another one full of great songwriting and ragged vocals.  You need this one in your collection.

8) Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song
I like good country music and Jamey is doing it better than any other mainstream artist out there.  These songs aren't cookbook Nashville arrangements either.  A lot of different chord progressions and tempos and a couple classic covers keep it interesting across both discs.

9) The Black Keys - Brothers
 I like some of their earlier stuff.  My wife bought this album.  I borrowed  snatched it.  I like it.  A lot.


10) The Famous - Come Home to Me
Solid alt-country outing from the San Francisco gang.  Lots of great guitar work on this one.  Here's what I had to say about it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Free Music: Joe Pug - Nation of Heat EP

From now until Christmas you can download Joe Pug's EP Nation of Heat from WXRT radio.  Also be sure to check out Joe's full length Messenger from last year, available from Lightning Rod Records.  I'm downloading the free EP now, so go do the same.

Download Nation of Heat for free!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Scott Miller - Christmas Gift

I generally fall in the category of No-Thank-You when it comes to Christmas music, with only a handful of exceptions.  So when I heard of Scott Miller's new EP, Christmas Gift, I raised an eyebrow and then forgot about the album completely until a few days ago.  I'm a big fan of Scott's, but I wasn't sure if he could pull off a Christmas album that I would actually enjoy.  However, I've since given it a few complete listens and it is actually a pretty good little experience.  And since I don't have a favorite Christmas album I guess it wins that title by default.  Scott wrote two of the seven tracks on the album.  "Yes, Virginia" relates  memories of Christmas with the family, but with a more sincere and appreciative sentiment than Robert Earl Keen's take.  The other original, "The Kingdom Has Come",  is a bit of a mashup of Miller's lyrics and a T.S. Eliot poem, but it turns out much better than that sounds.  Scott picked some great covers to complete the disc, including Prine's "Christmas in Prison," Neil Young's "Star of Bethlehem," and a bluegrass instrumental of the hymn "Joyful, Joyful."  "Christmas in Prison" is just as good as the original and should have been included on the John Prine tribute album.  Check it out below (right-click, save-as) and pick it up if you like.  Look, it even has the sticker on the front is you want to give one as a gift.

Scott Miller - Kingdom Has Come  (from Christmas Gift) (Buy)

Scott Miller - Yes, Virginia  (from Christmas Gift) (Buy)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Free Show: Bodeco at Ear X-tacy - Saturday December 18th

Just a quick note to let you know that local favorite's Bodeco will be playing a free in store show at Ear X-tacy this Saturday, December 18th.  Show starts at 8 pm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Free Music: Kent Goolsby's Wide Eyed Son

Kent Goolsby, singer/writer/guitar player for The Only Sons, has made his first solo album Wide Eyed Son available for free download from the TOS websiteWide Eyed Son was recorded by Glossary's Joey Kneiser and will get you through the winter until The Only Sons release their next LP American Stranger in February 2011 on Sophomore Lounge Records.  While you are on the download page, be sure you pick up their 2008 release Steel Hearts while it is free too.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ronnie Fauss - Mulligan

Ronnie Fauss is an alt-country artist based in Dallas that has put out three EP's to date on FTG Records.  His latest, Mulligan, carries on a streak of simple arrangements paired with observant lyrics that are memorable but manage to avoid cliches, similar to John Prine's approach.  My favorite number off of Mulligan is the honky tonk "It's a Long, Long Way," which I've posted below (click the link to download).  New Songs for the Old Frontier Vol. 1, Ronnie's previous release, had Slobberbone's fingerprints all over it with Brent Best producing and Jess Barr doing the banjo work.  So for your enjoyment (and because I don't want to post two songs off of a six song EP) I've posted a good track off of that EP as well.  Look for New Songs for the Old Frontier Vol. 2 in the near future.
Also, if you go to Ronnie's Noisetrade page you can download his other EP, I Can't Make You Happy for free.

Ronnie Fauss - It's a Long, Long Way  (from Mulligan) (Buy)

Ronnie Fauss - The Last  (from New Songs for the Old Frontier Vol. 1) (Buy)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Truckstop Darlin'

I may be late to the party stumbling across this band, but I'm damn glad I did. From the first verse of the album opener, "Tired Old Prom Queens," I could tell Truckstop Darlin's self-titled debut album was going to be a good one. But it wasn't until I'd let all twelve tracks play through that I realized I had an instant classic in my hands. I've always considered Wilco's - A.M. and the Drive-By Truckers' - Decoration Day the best examples of what alt-country is, but Truckstop Darlin' defines the genre just as well. The songwriting covers the essential dark country topics, but in a way that is unique but still familiar. Guitar hammer-ons give a nod to classic southern rock and the pedal steel mixed up front sets the mood on most tracks (see "Grandpa" below), with the bass and drums locking in to fill out the sound behind the gravelly lead vocals. The band [John Phelan (vocals/guitar), Eric Kotila (drums), Nick Foltz (bass/vocals), Michael Winter (pedal steel)] is based in Portland, Oregon so it may be a while before they make it to Louisville, so the best thing you can do for yourself is go buy their album until they do come through town. This is definitely one of the best albums I've heard in a long while and I am already looking forward to their next one.  Check out a couple tracks below.

Truckstop Darlin' - Grandpa  (from Truckstop Darlin')(Buy)

Truckstop Darlin' - King of the Highway  (from Truckstop Darlin')

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chris Knight: An IMBR Primer

This is the first in what will be a series of In My Basement Room Primer posts: a handful of my favorite tracks from what an artist that I consider absolutely essential. The idea is that those of you not familiar with a Primer artist will have the chance to hear some of their better tracks and ultimately become a fan.

To start off the series, I could think of no artist better suited than Chris Knight. With seven albums released to date, Chris has not recorded a single bad song, where most artists with that size back catalog will have at least one complete dud of an album. Chris is consistent: he may make you wait two or three years between albums, but it is worth it. He's the best songwriter I've heard, with only Prine, Springsteen, and Dylan giving him a run for his money. But Chris's songs resonate more with me than those more prominent writers. His songs are about regular folks, usually down on their luck or in the wrong place at the wrong time. Card cheats, truck drivers, and pool hall townies (you get the idea) mixed in with murders, affairs, and child abuse.

I've selected six tracks for this first Primer. If you like Chris Knight (and if you are reading this blog chances are you will), go see him when he comes through your town and pick up his albums here.

Here it is -- Chris Knight: An IMBR Primer.

"William" (from Chris Knight)
"Hard Edges" (from The Trailer Tapes)
"A Train Not Running" (from The Jealous Kind)
"Down the River" (from A Pretty Good Guy)
"Run From Your Memory" (from Chris Knight)
"It Ain't Easy Being Me" (from Trailer II)

This is a really good read on Chris from about ten years ago courtesy of No Depression.

And here is a great video from the folks of Chris doing "North Dakota."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kelsey Waldon - Anchor in the Valley

Anchor in the Valley is the first album from west Kentuckian Kelsey Waldon. On the whole it is definitely a country album, but there is something thankfully unique in the combination of Kelsey's songwriting (she wrote all ten tracks), the beautiful vocals, and the steel guitar driven instrumentation. You can pick up the album for $5 on bandcamp or Amazon and Itunes if you prefer. Kelsey is finishing up a new EP to be released this coming spring and will feature another outstanding backing band.
First, here is one of my favorite songs from Anchor in the Valley.

Kelsey Waldon - The Light (from Anchor in the Valley) (Buy)

Next, here is a really nice video of "Mississippi Ride", another great song on the album.

"Ballad for Modern Times Pt 2" another good one from the album.

This last one is an audio Youtube of a Neil Young cover, "Don't Let it Bring You Down." Maybe this is the Neil Young cover that will be on the upcoming EP. No video, but be sure you check it out; it's good.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jason Isbell covers Patterson Hood

This one came up on the shuffle today.  "The Assassin" is, in my opinion, Patterson Hood's best song and also my favorite of the select covers Jason does.  Patterson put the song on his his 2004 acoustic solo release, Killers and Stars, but Jason and the 400 Unit make it a top shelf rock song, slide guitar and all.  I've heard there is a studio version from Jason's Sirens of the Ditch sessions floating around, but I don't have it and I can't imagine it lives up to the raw live versions.

I've posted a couple audio tracks and good quality video version to check out.