Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Albums of 2011

I guess I lose what little blogger cred that I have if I don't post an end-of-the-year "Best Of" list before 2012. I'm getting it in just under the wire. These are my favorite albums on this day, the 31st of December, in the year of our lord 2011, and it is subject to change whenever I feel like it. Seriously, it's been a great year for music, and it was really difficult for me to make this list. Feel free to heap praise on me or call me a pretentious overbearing wretch.

1. Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO (and Other American Stories)
Such a solid country/alt country album. I saw Carll live twice this year which possibly (probably) biased this decision, but this was also the album I listen to the most in 2011. Country rockers, ballads, duets, trios, humor, slobber-into-your-beer heart-breakers, and even a Christmas song. This album has it all. See my review of his Boston show on April 23 for a song-by-song rundown. You were fallin' like the Alamo, drinkin' fast and talkin' slow, lookin' like it's time to go home.

Buy: KMAG YOYO (& other American stories)

2. Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones
Franky T. and his band put on my favorite show of 2011, which I never got around to reviewing (sorry). Asides from that killer show, this album was a huge leap in songwriting from a guy who was already pretty damn good at it. Lots of proud references to his homeland of England on this record, including a gorgeous a capella anthem, which he totally nailed at the Boston gig. Now who’d've thought, after all, something as simple as rock n’ roll would save us all?

I Am Disappeared.mp3
Buy: England Keep My Bones

3. Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
Gillian Welch doesn't make a lot of records, but when she does they are stellar recordings. This album can be described as a neo-traditional country with elements of bluegrass and lots and lots of killer guitar playing from Welch and her co-writer/partner-in-crime Dave Rawlings. Check out this video from their appearance on Conan. That's the way that it ends, though there was a time when you and I were friends.

Scarlet Town.mp3
Buy: The Harrow & The Harvest

4. Deer Tick - Divine Providence
Loud, fun, drunken rock and roll. It's seems so easy, yet so many bands fuck it up. Then there's Deer Tick, the miscreants out of Providence, Rhode Island. I saw these juvenile delinquents at the Daytrotter Barnstormer tour in Maine, just before hurricane Irene, in a small, hot and sweaty hall. So fun, just like this album. We're full grown men, we act like kids. We'll face the music next time we roll in.

Let's All go to the Bar.mp3
Buy: Divine Providence

5. Chuck Ragan - Covering Ground
This is an album of folk music that only someone with the intensity of Chuck Ragan can deliver. The instrumentation is mostly acoustic guitar with backing fiddle and occasional harmonica. The loose theme throughout the record is Ragan's experience as a touring musician on the road. Some may say I'm a nomad by fate,
tempered from the road right after being forged in flames.
"Meet You in the Middle" is a standout track which features Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem on vocals.

Nothing Left to Prove.mp3
Buy: Covering Ground

6. Austin Lucas - A New Home In the Old World
Lucas does it again with a stellar country/alt country album with elements of bluegrass, rock, and even some hints of classic gospel music, with diverse instrumentation from fiddle to pedal-steel. The musicianship shines on this album, which is not a surprise when you learn that members of Lucero and Magnolia Electric Co. severed as the backing band during recording. The lyrics are just as good, with this former punk rocker finding his songwriting groove. More than mere highways rest between you and I, and that lonesome Nevada county line.

Run Around.mp3
Buy: A New Home In The Old World

7. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Here We Rest
Here We Rest is a slight departure from his previous two solo albums in that it is more of a singer/songwriter type of album as opposed to the blues-based country rock that permeates his previous releases. For example, "Alabama Pines" is an homage or even a love song to his home state, which really shows Isbell's growth as a songwriter. Check out their Letterman appearance from November 4 with the song Codeine. If there's two things that I hate, it's having to cook and trying to date.

Go It Alone.mp3
Buy: Here We Rest

8. Robyn Ludwick - Out of These Blues
My colleague over at A Truer Sound introduced me to this album early in 2011, and I kept coming back to it. Robyn Ludwick's voice and music slightly resembles Lucinda Williams, only a little softer and sweeter with a Texas drawl. Ludwick sings about being down and out, broken hearted, and homesick. This album was produced by Gurf Morlix, one of the best in the business. Don't be hard on yourself, son, I knew you were leavin'. You always wanted to climb to the top of the world.

Fight Song.mp3
Buy: Out of These Blues

9. J. Mascis - Several Shades of Why
Raise your hand if you have ever had hearing damage after J. Mascis's band Dinosaur Jr. blasted you into next week at one of their live shows. (Aimz raises hand.) So you would think that a solo acoustic album by the god of the Jazzmaster may not be so good. You would be WRONG! It all comes down to songwriting, and Mascis excels at it. This record showcases Mascic's unique voice and stellar lyrics make this one of the sleeper albums of 2011. And I know in my mind, I know I should be grateful. But it's hard for me, I'm done so easily.

Is It Done.mp3
Buy: Several Shades of Why

10. Todd Snider - Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller
If you own zero Todd Snider albums you should get this one. If you own every Todd Snider album you should get this one. Here Snider captures his live show on a two disc set, where he plays most of his classics and tells stories behind some of the songs. It's almost a greatest hits style of album, only live and with intermittent story breaks. His live show in Boston in February played out like the record. Snider is the best in the business at this brand of hippie folk rock and storytelling. This record highlights Snider's wacky sense of humor, but even the serious, poignant songs will make you play the album again and again. That last song was such a touching little number about athleticism and hallucinogenic drugs. You don't really hear enough of that in folk music anymore. I'm just doing what I can.

KK Rider Story.mp3
Don't it Make You Wanna Dance.mp3
Buy: Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller

Friday, December 23, 2011

X-mas Mash-ups Yo!

I had a bunch of Christmas music posts planned, but here I am at my folk's place playing Ms. Computer Repairer, for both my parent's PC and my crappy netbook. Argh. It's not putting me in the holiday spirit, I tell you what. But anyhoo, who loves mash-ups? Me! Who really loves mash-ups with good (bad) Christmas tunes? MEEEEE!!!

The first three are a few of my favorites from the fantastic Santastic collection, which is a group of DJ's that have been putting out a disc worth of Christmas mash-ups and remixes since 2006. You can download all of the albums/tracks for free, and, if you are able, please make a donation to several charities that they support.

mojochronic - Yuletide Zeppelin.mp3 (various Led Zeppelin vs. various Christmas)
From (free download): Santastic III: In 3-D (2008)

mojochronic - Rudolph (You Don't Have To Put On The Red Light).mp3 (The Police vs. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
From (free download): Santastic V: Snow, Man! (2010)
Video: Rudolph (You Don't Have To Put On The Red Light)

Divide and Kreate - Santatage.mp3 (Beastie Boys vs. Otis Redding vs. Run DMC)
From (free download): Santastic Six: 100% Holiday Mash-ups and Remixes (2011)

I first found the below track from an article in the Toronto Star in 2007. It takes the worst Christmas song, and makes it into one of the best. Unfortunately, it's no longer posted on the website where I originally found it (

MP3J - Christmastime Firestarter.mp3 (Paul McCartney vs. The Prodigy)

Years ago when I was living in St. Louis I bought this comp by a bunch of local musicians put together as a charity project for a local food bank. While this isn't actually a mash-up, it's still one of the funniest things that I have ever heard.

Rocket Park - Rudolph the Redneck Reindeer.mp3 (Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
From: Better Than Fruitcake (2000, out of print)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Country Christmas Y'all

Christmas and country music go together like peas and carrots. It's that time of year where Santa corrals up his steeds, puts on his spurs, and delivers presents to all of the good little cowpokes who have never heard of, much less seen, snow. Don't mind that flask of shine that Santa has stashed in his leather vest. It's hard work delivering present all over the world! And if you are an extra good little rocker, Santa may bring you a new steel gee-tar for Christmas. Yeee-Haw!

Brenda Lee - I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus.mp3
From: Hillbilly Holiday (1990, out of print, song orig. 1956)

Hayes Carll - Grateful for Christmas.mp3
Buy: KMAG YO YO (2011)

Country Mike - Country Christmas.mp3
From: Country Mike's Greatest Hits (2000, out of print)

Asleep at the Wheel - Merry Texas Christmas Y'all.mp3
Buy: Merry Texas Christmas Y'all (1997)

Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper.mp3
Buy: Pretty Paper (1979)

Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison - Oklahoma Christmas.mp3
Buy: Happy Holidays (2006)

Loretta Lynn - Country Christmas.mp3
Buy: Christmas Collection: 20th Century Masters (2005)

Red Sovine - Santa is a Texas Cowboy.mp3
From: Christmas With Red Sovine (1978, out of print)

Oh man, I have tons of other Country Christmas music. Next year I'll make a comp, I promise.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Geriatric Rock

Twitter was abuzz today with a video of Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco, channeling his inner Al Roker by announcing the weather report for Chicago's WGN television on Thursday morning. First, who gets up that early to watch the morning weather report (especially if you are in the rock and roll business)? Second, who cares that much about the weather? The answer to both of these questions: my dad. 65-year-old father of two, grandfather of one, ice fisherman extraordinaire, not quite the Grumpy Old Men curmudgeon, but getting close.

Another piece of Jeff Tweedy/Wilco news filtered under the twitter radar last night/this morning. As my colleague Cowbelle first pointed out to me, Wilco's latest album The Whole Love was named to the American Association of Retired People's 2011 Top 10 Albums for Grownups, along with albums from Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, and Paul Simon. I've been saying since 2004's A Ghost is Born that Wilco is "Dad Rock," i.e. something that dads listen to in order to try to convince their kids that they are cool. Thanks to AARP for validating this theory! Now I know what to get my dad for Christmas.

AARP's 2011 Top 10 Albums for Grownups
• Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What
• Adele, 21
• Jill Scott, The Light Of The Sun
• Tom Waits, Bad As Me
• Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin'
• Tony Bennett, Duets II
• Barbra Streisand, What Matters Most
• Alison Krauss and Union Station, Paper Airplane
• Wilco, The Whole Love
• Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile, The Goat Rodeo Sessions

Somewhere Jay Farrar and Jay Bennett are giggling.

Born Alone.mp3
Buy: The Whole Love

I know I bust on Wilco a lot, but let's face it: they are low hanging fruit. Catch their show sometime. They are a tremendous live act. No joke.

December Feel Bad For You

The monthly Feel Bad for You comp from various bloggers, tweeters, members of the forum, and other jokers. And this one is spiked with X-mas tunes. Yay!!!


1. The Duke Spirit - This Ship Was Built To Last
Neptune (2008)
Submitted By: Shooter
Comments: Why don't you go over there and blow me and come back over here and fuck you.

2. Leonard Cohen - The Stranger Song
Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968)
Submitted By: Adam Sheets

3. Yo Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Stuart Duncan - Quarter Chicken Dark
The Goat Rodeo Sessions (2011)
Submitted By: Phil Norman
Comments: You should need no comment after seeing the names of the four masters making this music.

4. Sidewinders - Solitary Man.mp3
From: Witchdoctor (1989, out of print)
Submitted By: BoogieStudio22
Comments: Who can resist a great Neil Diamond cover?

5. Mudlow - Zane Merite
Zane Merite (2006)
Submitted By: April @ Now This Sound Is Brave
Comments: I knew what Mudlow looked like (thanks to this photo set on Flickr) a few years before I knew what they sounded like (which seems fair enough since Mudlow takes their time between albums). And what they sound like is the noir soundtrack of my (rougher, dustier) dreams. This song will make a reappearance on their next, just-finished album, so think of it as an early preview.

6. Billy Joe Shaver - Presents From The Past.mp3
Buy: Victory (1989)
Submitted By: Truersound
Comments: It’s a Billy Joe xmas.

7. Peter Himmelman - Impermanent Things
Mission Of My Soul: The Best of Peter Himmelman (2005)
Submitted By: toomuchcountry
Comments: My knee-jerk reaction was to offer Ray LaMontagne’s "Beg, Steal or Borrow" as a Dirty Santa submission for this month's compilation. However, I'm a sucker for Christmas. I want to believe – I have to believe – that there is still a shred of relevance to it. Even if the time and events surrounding it have been bastardized by black days, cyber weeks, thoughtless gift cards, hair-graying stress over time at "your folks or mine this year?", apathetic efforts in helping the truly needy, gluttony, etc., there is still something magical about The Day. Being Jewish, Himmelman clearly didn't write this song about Christmas. Nonetheless, I think its a good kick-in-the-gut reminder where my priorities need to be - and where they shouldn't. Thus endeth the soapbox. Enjoy the track. And thanks to those who sampled, listened, downloaded, commented, and ignored my submissions this year – and to FBFY overall. See ya in 12.

8. Chris Difford - Up the Junction
Uncut Magazine Playlist (Sept 2006)
Submitted By: Simon
Comments: Had this track stuck in my head for a few days now, like this version with a little bit of steel.

9. Don Ryan - This Town.mp3
Buy (bandcamp): Tangle Town (2011)
Submitted By: popa2unes
Comments: Staying in my own backyard again this month, Don Ryan is from Hawthorne, NJ. The 18 song album is available on his bandcamp page, name your price. fantastic witty dark lyrics and multi influenced music mixed together by a mad scientist. "As defeat licks the jaws of victory, The rotten teeth of injury and insult gnaw at me, The local stigmatic handsome gentleman detonates, incinerates the town he’s living in”

10. Joe Pug - Speak Plainly Diana
Live at Lincoln Hall (2011)
Submitted By: Autopsy IV
Comments: A live album with no new songs on it a Top 10 of the year? Better fucking believe it.

11. Ronnie Lane & Steve Marriott - Ruby Jack
The Legendary Majik Mijits (1980)
Submitted By: Erschen

12. The High Score - Merry Christmas To You.mp3
Free Download: Christmas Split (2009)
Submitted By: annieTUFF
Comments: I know this wasn't technically a Christmas themed mix, but I’ve been listening to this song a bunch today…so you should too. AND it talks about New Years Eve too…soooo really it's fitting for the entire month of December (yay). This is actually one half a free split that Mic Harrison and The High Score put out for download on their website last year (it's still up, you can download both songs @ By the way, I kept going back and forth between this song, and the Dwarves "Drinkin’ Up Christmas" and the Vandals "My first X-mas As a Woman" so, go find those (slightly offensive) Christmas songs too.

13. Darby O’Gill and the Little People - Whiskey Christmas
Christmas Songs For Drunken Atheists (2007)
Submitted By: Rockstar Aimz
Comments: Christmas brings psychotic family, massive consumerism, loneliness, huge expectations, and getting stuck overnight in an airport somewhere during a goddamn snowstorm. But at least there's booze!

14. The Decemberists - Foregone
Long Live the King (2011)
Submitted By: Verbow
Comments: I never thought I would like anything by the Decemberists, but The King is Dead is my favorite album of 2011. The follow up EP Long Live the King is a pretty good addendum, with "Foregone" being the best of the bunch. Cannot believe this song didn’t make the album proper – listen to that pedal steel!

15. Riviera - Destiny
Watching Western Skies EP (2011)
Submitted By: Cowbelle
Comments: Riviera were an group in Chicago, now re-located and re-grouped in Portland, OR.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Cheer

This blog has seen better days. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, but I could use a little help. Maybe some Holiday Cheer from Old St. Nick? In other words, BOOZE!

Better Off Dead - All I Got For Christmas Was Drunk.mp3
Buy (CD Baby): A King Family Christmas (2006)

Darby O'Gill and the Little People - Christmas Whiskey.mp3
Buy: Christmas Songs for Drunken Atheists (2007)

Robert Earl Keen - Merry Christmas From the Family.mp3
Buy: Live at the Ryman (2006)

Clyde Lasley and the Cadillac Baby Specials - Santa Came Home Drunk.mp3
From: Bummed Out Christmas! (1989, out of print)