Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 The Year in Review - Music

Don’t let anybody tell you it wasn’t a good year for music. I know there were plenty of highlights for me...

Amy Correia started the year off with one of the best independently financed CDs of the year. “You go your way” is a long way from “The Bike” her classic song from 2000. Her voice is gutsier and more mature. Her band and producer were top notch. And her songwriting is still wonderful. I also got to see her live this year and without the band her songs were even more compelling.

This was also the year for the bulk of Sam Phillips “Long Play” project. “Magic for Everybody”, “Old Tin Pan” and “Days of One Night Stands” combined are among the best work she has done. I know that on this list next year I will be talking about the final installment of the project. It isn’t too late to grab all of the music. Just go to http://samphillips.com .

Maybe my favorite song of the year is “Where Are We Now” from the debut CD, “The Burned” from The Burned. Technically, it was released in December of ‘09, but that’s close enough for me. This dark song, with minor chord hooks just gets inside you and won’t let go. Think Pink Floyd or a darker Moody Blues with great guitar work. Or maybe my favorite is Richard Thompson's "If Love Whispers Your Name". Sad, moving and a blistering guitar solo to end this live song that ends the live CD, “Dream Attic”.

I had a couple of favorite concerts this year. On the serious side, The Swell Season played the 120 seat McCabe’s in Santa Monica. It was just the two of them and it doesn’t get any more personal than that. They both told stories and we got even more insight into these lovely people. And the music... As intense as when the whole band is there. On the crazy side, Steve Poltz turned 50 and celebrated with a new CD and a show at The Belly Up in Solana Beach. Everyone from A.J. Croce (Jim’s son and an amazing keyboard player) to Mojo Nixon (they don’t get much more crazy or obscene) showed up to wish Steve a happy birthday and perform. Even the Rugburns (Steve’s old band) reunited for the evening.

If there is a theme to this year, it would be "return to form". A whole bunch of artists have put out there best CD's in years. And a few of them are...

2010 saw the return of Katell Keineg. After two amazing CDs back in the 90’s, support from everyone from Natalie Merchant to Vonda Shepard, she pretty much disappeared. She had released a few CDs (or EPs) but they were lucky to have a single song that was interesting. “At The Mermaid Parade” was a wonderful return to form. It is great to have such a unique artist back, bringing us music.

Allison Moorer's "Crows" was also a return to form. Although she hasn't had a bad CD, this CD is the type of work we expect from such a talented artist.

Maybe I was the only one that didn't like John Hiatt's last CD, but I'm in his corner with this years "The Open Road". Great lyrics, great tunes, great artist.

Joan Armatrading returned to form last year with her excellent blues based CD. This year she brought back her pop side with, “This Charming Life”. Her live show was as good as any of hers since the late 80's.

Any year there is a Kenny White CD, it is a good year. “Comfort in the Static” is another jem.

Alejandro Escovedo teamed up again with Chuck Prophet and Tony Visconti and hit another home run with “Street Songs of Life”; maybe his best CD ever.

2010 I will remember as the year I gave up on Austin's ACL Festival. We did see some good shows (Gogol Bordello was one of my favorites), but even the clubs seemed out of sync this year. When you can only find one good show to see in Austin on a given night, there's something wrong. 2011 will be the year I remember as my first visit to SXSW. Can't wait for March.

In the category of young new bands, Mumford & Sons' rookie release, “Sigh No More”, was one of my favorites as was Angus and Julia Stone’s second domestic release, “Down The Way”. Both featured unique but very accessible music.

Under the category of “They haven’t changed... but who cares”, The latest from The Innocence Mission, “My Room in the Trees” was beautiful and even though we’ve heard it all before, they always make it sound fresh.

And last but not least, there is no competition for the best box set. Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise”, was just amazing from every angle: A good remastering of “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, packaging that will take weeks for me to browse through, some great concert videos and some great unreleased material from that era. One of the rare times when Bruce gave us so much more than we asked for.

There was plenty of good music this year and I tried to bring as much of it as possible to The Promise. A big thank you to all of my listeners. And for those of you who have written or told me in person how much you like my station... I do it all for you. Have a happy New Years everyone!

Final List of Muisc for 2010

Okay, I have a shot at getting through all of the 2010 CDs that I have to review. This is a doable list. :-) It may take a few weeks to get them all loaded on my station, but now I’ll actually have a shot at listing some of my favorites of the year... As soon as I get through the following:

Robert Plant - Band of Joy (2010)
I really liked this CD. Whereas the Raising Sand CD was split between the two of them, this CD is really Robert exploring Americana with some excellent help from people like Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. It is a rougher album and more exciting.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (2010)
They continue to put out strong CDs with a message and a beat. Better than the last one. And if you have Chrome on your computer, you must check out this web site, http://thewildernessdowntown.com/ , that uses a song from the CD. Really amazing.
Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle (2010)
This is such a fun band. Imagine Flogging Molly, but with a Russian gypsy sound. This new CD adds some Spanish influence with a message about immigration as seen from the side of the poor.
Los Lobos - Tin Can Trust (2010)
They just keep coming out with good CDs. Add this one to your collection.
Pete Yorn - Pete Yorn (2010)
I’ve always loved Pete’s music. It’s the lyrics that have been problematic for me. If you’re a fan, you will love this hard rockin’ CD. I enjoyed it... But it could be so much better.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - III / IV (2010)
If you love the rockin’ Ryan Adams, you should like this double CD. But for me, there is something missing. I’m not sure exactly what it is though. In time I’ll figure it out. Still, the Ryan Adams with something missing is better than most CDs out there.
Elvis Costello - National Ransom (2010)
All over the musical map, this CD sounds good and works on some levels. In his heyday, Elvis had some great hooks, both musically and lyrically. This is no where near that, but it is enjoyable.
Paul Thorn - So Far So Good Live (2010)
Good live music from someone who deserves more attention. Check out any of my reviews from his previous CDs.
Richard Barone - Glow (2010)
This was so much better than I imagined. To me, on this CD he is the American version of Robyn Hitchcock; strange music with lethal hooks. It isn’t really strange, just slightly twisted. I highly recommend this.
Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues (2010)
Steve’s son gives us solid dose of Americana. Worth checking out.
KGSR Broadcasts Vol. 18 (2010)
Probably not the best in the series, but this is always a highlight of the fall season for me. Get one while you still can at http://www.waterloorecords.com .
Paul Vens & Friend - Words in Time (2010)
Mellow. Beautiful. New Age. These all describe Paul’s music. A very acoustic folk sound from Holland, Paul Vens’ music is hard to label, but very enjoyable. http://www.paulvens.com
Ben Folds/Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue (2010)
What an interesting combination. Nick’s lyrics take Ben’s music on an unusual journey, but it feels like it is missing its soul. With each listen though, the songs seemed to grab me a bit more. It may be worth the effort to keep listening.
JP Chrissie & The Fairground Boys - Fidelity (2010)
What can I say that I haven’t already said about this band. The CD is an interesting concept about a couple who got together, broke up and then formed a band. The highlights happen whenever Chrissie Hynde opens her mouth and sings. The low lights are whenever she doesn’t. There is some good music here. If you can get it cheap...

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 End of year Rap Up - Part 2

I’ve been sitting on a pile of music from 2010 and it is probably impossible to get it all out by the end of the year, but I’m going to keep on trying.

Kim Richey - Wreck Your Wheels (2010)
I just love Kim’s sound and this CD does not disappoint. If you haven’t heard her before, do check her out (especially “Glimmer”). Otherwise, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here.
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Junky Star (2010)
It’s not Country and it’s not really folk and it certainly isn’t Crazy Heart. This Americana artist sings way beyond his years and is worth checking out.
Raul Malo - Sinners & Saints (2010)
Continuing to mix his musical influences, Raul creates another fine CD with one Spanish ballad, a few Country styled songs and some rockin’ Tex-Mex. I love the path he continues to follow since ending the Mavericks.
Richard Thompson - Dream Attic (2010)
This is a live album. That is, it is recorded live. Otherwise, it is unlike most other live albums. The songs are all new and there are no interactions with the audience. The idea was to capture the new songs in mid tour, while they are still alive and maybe not even fully matured. Although there are some out there who don’t think the songwriting is up to his best work, I loved the entire CD and highly recommend it; especially the closer, “If Love Whispers Your Name”, with its blistering guitar solos.
Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs - God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise (2010)
Okay, maybe I’m the last station to play this CD: It is only because I got behind. This is another strong one from Ray.
Black Dub - Black Dub (2010)
I was real excited when I heard the first single from this CD, but after two excellent songs, the CD turns south with some noodling from Daniel Lanois and then it moves off into a Gospel style and it just lost me. Still, the first two songs are really good.

2010 Year End Rap Up

It is hard to believe 2010 is almost over. There is so much to say and so little time. Let’s see how much I can get in here:

We’ll start with a concert from a few weeks ago. Raul Malo played the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano for the second time this year. With each performance Raul seems to get better and better and it seems (at least in the OC) fewer and fewer people are wondering about a return of the Mavericks. With just a quartet behind him (the keyboardist played horns and vibes)
Raul and his band rocked the house with more then enough energy.










Opening for Raul was Austin blues/singer/songwriter Seth Walker. When I saw him in Austin earlier this year, he had bass and drums behind him, allowing him to play lots of acoustic leads on his guitar. This night he was alone (except for one song when he brought up Raul’s drummer). As a soloist, you really get a better feel for his songs and it is a much more intimate performance. I really enjoyed him this way. In the end, he had most of the audience singing along to “Days Like This”, which is a classic. At the end of the Raul’s show, Raul brought Seth back on stage and made the crowd sing “Days Like This” all over again. It was very funny and telling as to the respect that Raul has for Seth.









On to the music. Here are the lastest CDs being added to The Promise:
Seth Walker - Leap of Faith (2009)
I loved his show in Austin with two pieces behind him. Loved him even more in the OC as a solo show. And... Love him even more with a full band and Seth singing a light friendly but soulful blues. If you like Jack Johnson or Ray LaMontagne, you should check Seth out. http://sethwalker.com
Elton John/Leon Russell - The Union (2010)
If you love the early Elton and early Leon, you can’t help but like this CD. There are no big “hits” on it, but The Union is still a very enjoyable.
Amy Cook - Let The Light In (2010)
Produced by Alejandro Escovedo, Amy sounds a lot like a rougher Brandi Carlile. She’s got that big voice and some big music behind her in her latest release. http://amycook.com
Poul Finn Pedersen - Coveralls (2010)
The leader of local favorite Missiles of October, Poul leads us through a batch of covers (get it, Cover alls?) with a couple of self written songs just for good measure. These are wonderful interpretations and its a pretty interesting group featuring Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Anders Osborne songs. I’m not sure how to get hold of this CD other than at concerts, but you can start at http://missilesofoctober.com .
Spottiswoode & His Enemies - Wild Goosechase Expedition (2010)
This is maybe the least strange and most accessible CD from Spottiswoode. That’s not to say it is commercial. Some of the songs are from a solo CD he released earlier and they all sound even better with the full arrangements. http://www.spottiswoode.com
Neil Young - Le Noise (2010)
By the end of my first listen to Neil’s latest, I wasn’t real excited about writing this review, let alone which songs I was going to pick to put on the stream. Now, as I listen to each one again and try to do the thumbs up and down, I can’t seem to pull the thumb down. One song at a time I really like this CD.
Elizabeth and the Catapult - The Other Side of Zero (2010)
More poppy than their previous efforts there is still a unique sound here that separates them from the rest of the pack. Zero is smart and a lot of fun.

There is so much more. But here is the first batch. Some how I need to get this done in the next few days.

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen