Monday, December 29, 2008

The Best of 2008

What follows are my favorite CDs of 2008. Are these the best? I suppose it is all subjective. I know that in the top group, these were the CDs I couldn't get enough of throughout the year. If you have been enjoying The Promise this year, these are the best of the best, and I'm sure you will enjoy owning your own copies of these excellent CDs. Truthfully though, all of the CDs on this page are worth owning.

So, we start with the very best, in alphabetical order...

The Very Best CDs of 2008

Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
On the list because, like the others, I just couldn't put it down. A fun CD that has no real weaknesses.
Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
On many "Best of" lists, this CD started out as a favorite and just kept growing and growing on me. If the world were fair, Alejandro would be a mega star by now. The best rockin' CD by just about anyone in years.
Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything
Yes, I'm sure I'm not the most objective reviewer here, but this is a superb CD and I played it more than any other this year. A nice move forward for Sam.
Teddy Thompson - A Piece of What You Need
This is just a pop rock classic. Again, very heavy airplay on my CD players and IPODs.
Carolyn Wonderland - Miss Understood
There is just too much talent here to ignore. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.

The Very Best CDs 2008 Part 2

Eliza Gilkyson - Beautiful World (2008)
My favorite of hers so far. Beautiful songs. Beautiful lyrics. Beautiful World.
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (2008)
I was hooked from the opening notes. Wish I had had more time with it this year.
James McMurtry - Just Us Kids (2008)
I just find myself wanting to hear more and more of James McMurtry. I have started buying the old stuff because I can't believe he just suddenly got this good. The rock poet for those of us who are watching the world age.
Randy Newman - harps and angels (2008)
The lyrics alone put this near the top. One of America's great songwriters with an excellent CD.
Kym Tuvim - Nothing Sweet Nothing (2008)
A mix of jazz, blues and folk, I guarantee you will be hooked within 2 minutes into the first song of this excellent CD. She sings in a lower register not unlike Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading and it just sounds so good in front of her solid backing band.
Natalia Zuckerman - Brand New Frame (2008)
I really enjoy folk meets, well, just about anything. With Natalia, it is folk with jazzy vocals. There is a smoky sound to her vocals that can make most any song thrilling.

Other Excellent Releases this year
Peter Bradley Adams - Leavetaking
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology
Shauna Burns - The Moon and The Fire Circle
Calexico - Carried To Dust
Elvis Costello and the Imposters - MomoFuku
Sean Costello - We Can Get Together
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Tina Dico - Count to Ten
Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
Kathleen Edwards - Asking for Flowers
Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning
Collin Herring - Past Life Crashing
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Anne Mccue - East of Electric
Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
Shawn Mullins - Honeydew
Luke Powers - Texasee
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Paul Thorn - A Long Way From Tupelo
Martha Wainwright - I know you're married but I've got feelings too
The Watson Twins - Fire Songs
Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Best Vinyl Issue
Harold and Maude Soundtrack (Finally!) Those of us who own this limited edition disc, should get down on our knees and thank Cameron Crow for making this happen. It only took 35 or so years.

Best Guitar Solo
This was the easiest call this year. Tom Morello stepped out onto the Honda Center stage in Anaheim, CA and proceeded to blow Bruce Springsteen's fans away with his guitar solo at the end of Ghost of Tom Joad. All nicely documented and available on ITunes (audio and video).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More New Music for December 2008

Randy Newman - harps and angels (2008)
One of America's greatest songwriters is back after a long layoff with a CD that belongs on every one's best of list. Randy is a master of sarcasm, great political insight and the sweet and sentimental. And sometimes, they happen all in the same song. Killer songs like "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country", "Potholes" and the title track, "Harps and Angels" represent the best of Randy Newman. Don't let this one get away.
Susannah Blinkoff - Let's Pretend (2008)
As you start to listen to this excellent CD, it seems to be a hot piece of pop music. But the farther into the CD you go, the more interesting it becomes. Susannah's very pop voice can move toward emotional and even sultry sounds. Every song is a surprise in waiting. All of the songs were co-written by Rich Jacques, so he must get a lot of credit for sound of this CD. They make a great team and I hope they continue to work together in the future. .
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain - Live at Canterbury House 1968 (2008)
Hearing the very young Neil Young chat on stage is worth the price of admission here. And to hear these wonderful songs with just Neil's guitar is a special treat. My favorite of the live releases from Neil, so far. 
Future Clouds and Radar - Peoria (2008)
Robert Harrison, who is Future Clouds and Radar, has a lot of nerve. His first release was a 2 CD set and now his latest has only 8 songs on it. But Robert is a serious artist who follows few rules. This new CD, which is very much about our mortality, isn't a downer of a CD at all. There are only a few hints at the Beatles like sound that he is so capable of, but you can't help but be drawn to this unusual CD. "Eighteen Months" is the big rocker on this one and it's chorus is "Eighteen months, buried alive". You don't suppose he is talking about Peoria, do you? 
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain (2008)
What a turn around from last year's slow and depressing CD. He opens with a horn section signally a change of sound and mood. His voice is as sexy as ever and the mood change has lead to a powerfully beautiful CD. Whether using a Stax like horn section or leading a soulfully driven love song, Ray seems to have all of the musical answers. This is one of the best of the year. 
Tom Bolton - When I Cross the River (2007)
I have to stop myself from using the word "Americana" here. How about Australiacana? This CD of folk like sounds is too exciting to just call folk. But we can't call it Americana (which is where all the folk/country like songs end up) because he is Australian. The basis is acoustic folk, but it moves out in many directions and leads to some very original songs. There are also some very powerful lyrics here. You can find out more at Tom's site:  

Stocking Stuffers
These low priced EPs are just what you need for those little gifts to give your music friends. 
Todd Snider - Peace Queer (2008)
This probably belongs with the rest of the CDs, but at only 8 songs with one an instrumental and the other a reading of one of the songs, it is more an EP than a full CD. But what an EP! These six songs will make you laugh, they'll make you cry and most important, they will make you think. "Is this thing on" is a bully song with the best ending twist I've ever heard. His mellow approach to John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" adds to the poignancy. "Mission Accomplished..." is, well, you just gotta hear to. Go to Todd's web site and pick this one up. You will love it.  
Alejandro Escovedo - Live Animal (2008)
If Alejandro's "Real Animal" didn't rock enough for you, or if you just can't get enough of one of the best CDs of the year, pick this hot 5 song EP up.
Shark and Co. with Cindy Wasserman - Don't Give Up (2008)
Peter Gabriel's great "Don't Give Up" is taken for a nice spin by the guitarist for the Wild Colonials and the sister of Grammy winner Bob Wasserman (and she is currently in the band Dead Rock West). It is all for a good cause, Farm Aid and the Red Cross.
Mudcrutch - Live! (2008)
Tom Petty leads his old band through a rockin' set of 4 songs; but of course. The "Crystal River" solo/jam is probably all you need to know when considering buying this.
Dave Boutette - Boomtown & Candidate (2008)
I usually don't mention singles, but these two songs are really really good. Dave's last CD was no fluke. I"m not sure if these are for sale, but check them out at  . I can't wait for his next CD!
Liam Finn - Live at the Wiltern (2008)
Neil's son toured with Eddie Vedder earlier this year and this CD came from one (or maybe 2) of the shows. Watch out for this guy. With his first CD a solid release and the pedigree of being in the Finn family, there is sure greatness to come. Meanwhile, if you buy Liam's CD from you get this live EP free. 

Running out of time... Some short quick reviews.
Thea Gilmore - LieJacker (2008)
Another solid CD from Thea. Not as good as the last couple, but maybe I just need more time with it. 
The Watson Twins - Fire Songs (2008)
The sisters seem to have found their sound with their first full length CD ("Southern Manners" was only 8 songs). Landing somewhere between Jenny Lewis and Natalie Merchant, they weave together a near dozen songs that show off their wonderful harmonies and solid songwriting abilities. 
Bruce Hughes - Shorty - An Album of Momentary Songs (2008)
Listening to this CD you can see where he's been. Time spent with Poi Dog and Bob Schneider have given this artist a quirky, funky, pop sound. 
Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things (2008)
Not a bad CD, but I don't think he is the right person for the Rick Rubin stripped down approach. 
KFOG - Live From the Archives 15 (2008)
A decent selection of new live music. Maybe the second or third best live compilation on the market. You can find out more by going to
Radiohead - In Rainbows (2008)
I've never been a huge fan. I thought they were too derivative of some of the great prog rock of the 70's. But I love the mix of styles in this CD. I may have to go back and check out the older stuff. 
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology (2008)
Lyrically this may be his weakest CD. I did enjoy the move back to mid tempo rock and roll and like it better than the last couple. 
Joe Bonamassa - Live from nowhere in particular (2008)
Can't believe there are guitar fans who still don't know this guitar God. As with most guitar wizards, it's the live stuff that really stands out. This two CD set is a bargain.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela (2008)
Uhmmm, Spanish flamenco acoustic rock. What else do you need to know. Pretty impressive playing and lots of fun. 
Shawn Mullins - Honeydew (2008)
Shawn has really become a great storyteller. Add to that a good sense of melody and you have a wonderful CD. 
Tristan Prettyman Hello...X (2008)
She is right up there with the other female heavyweights of singer/songwriter/pop/rock. There are some real hits here and several seriously good songs. If you like Missy or Alanis, you should check Tristan out. 
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
In the pure rock genre, there aren't many who really can compete with just about anything that Jack White does. I love the feel of "no rules" that seem to permeate these CD's. You are never quite sure where they are going next. Not all that typical in rock and roll these days. 
Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers (2008)
Classic Aimee Mann and maybe my second favorite CD packaging this year. This is her best CD in years with really not a bad song on it. Some nice orchestrations flesh out some of the songs, but it is, as always, all Aimee. 

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New Music December 2008

Lots of music coming to The Promise this month. Here are the first few...

The Ditty Bops - Summer Rains (2008)
I've been telling friends for some time that the new Ditty Bops CD, "Summer Rains", is worth buying just for the packaging. Well, apparently some folks agreed and the CD is now up for a Grammy for packaging. Congratulations ladies! Their eclectic mix of modern folksy swing is just so much fun to listen to. And you can play with the cover for hours (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit). Check it out here:
KGSR Broadcasts vol. 16 (2008)
Every year it is the best live CD compilation. Makes you want to just pack up and move to Austin. This years double CD contains music by Pete Yorn, Andrew Bird, Lyle Lovett, Iron & Wine, The Swell Season, Jimmy LaFave, Daniel Lanois, R.E.M.,James McMurtry, Shelby Lynne,Tiff Merritt, John Hiatt, Cowboy Junkies, Indigo Girls, Aimee Mann, Alejandro Escovedo, Carolyn Wonderland, Bob Schneider and many more. You can purchase this limited addition CD at . 
Peter Himmelman - Pen and Ink (2008)
To really get Peter, you need to see him live. Or, get on his mailing list and download this CD for free (while you can). He is a great writer, a great entertainer, and funnier than most comedians on the circuit today. So, go to today and well, maybe beg him to let you download this very special CD. 
The Baseball Project - Vol 1 Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. (2008)
This collaboration between Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon and Scott Mccoughey is a baseball lover's dream. These are real songs about real people who so many of us grew up with. If you knew that Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings and lost the game and the record books do not show it as a perfect game, this CD is for you. If you knew who Satchel Paige was and understood how Curt Flood changed modern baseball while ruining his own career, then this CD is for you. If you grew up loving baseball, you will love this CD. And even if you aren't a baseball fan, these are good songs with interesting stories. My only complaint? Other than "Fernando", all the stories are east of the Rockies. Still, this was a fun CD to listen to. 
Luke Powers - Texasee (2008)
The title tells it all. Even though Luke is from Tennessee, his music follows in the footsteps of great Texas artists like Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen. Luke, I think you need to use your middle name. The stories in this CD are witty and wonderful. He continues to have a fascination with those who came before us, this time taking aim with "Paul is Dead". After 2 of Luke's Cd's, I am now looking forward to what comes next. This CD should rank near the top of the indie Cd's I've listened to this year. Check out more about Luke Powers at  . 

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen