Favorite Albums from 2009


24 déc. 2009, 20h41m

10 .
Sara Watkins - Sara Watkins
You had to figure that with all the talent bubbling over in Nickel Creek, that each member would go on to make some pretty special music after it disbanded. Sara Watkins was the last one to come to the table with new music, but it was well worth the wait. From the choice of covers, to the instrumentals, to the original songs... this is the stuff we only started to see at the tail end of Nickel Creek's time.
Favorite songs: "Long Hot Summer Days," "Same Mistakes," "Give Me Jesus"

Steve Martin - The Crow: New Songs For the Five-String Banjo
The thing I like most about this album is that it doesn't seem like an "event" record. It's a special occasion, sure enough, as it's Martin's first album of pure music. It's not a Hollywood big-shot's vanity project; it's a talented musician and a group of friends making a good bluegrass record. Martin spends as much time in the spotlight as he does turning it over to the other singers and musicians, resulting in a very enjoyable and cohesive whole.
Favorite songs: "Late For School," "Pretty Flowers," "Saga Of The Old West"

Ryan Bingham - Roadhouse Sun
I'm not sure how a guy younger than me ends up with the voice of a hard-core 70-year-old smoker and drinker, but the songs that he writes fit the voice. Gritty, dark, songs that pretty much require a thorough reading of the lyrics to know what the hell he's singing about. I'm probably in the minority who prefers this album to his debut, Mescalito, but this batch of songs stand out more to me instead of blending into one long drone. Incidentally, Bingham may very well pick up an Oscar nomination for best original song, so remember the name.
Favorite songs: "Day Is Done," "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So," "Hey Hey Hurray"

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
With every new album, I think that Collin Meloy has finally done it. He's put together an album so overly ambitious that it collapses under the weight of its own pretentiousness. Surprisingly, he writes a convoluted story about nature queens, star-crossed lovers, shape-shifting creatures and killers and pulls it off. Some fine playing by Decemberists Chris Funk (anything with a string) and Jenny Conlee (anything with keys) and some great guest vocals help make this project work. And kudos to Meloy for writing the catchiest song about a triple infanticide that you're ever going to hear.
Favorite songs: "The Rake's Song," "The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid," "Isn't It A Lovely Night?"

Miranda Lambert - Revolution
I hate what's happened to mainstream country, where any artist who's the least bit interesting gets watered down or shoved off into Americana World, but there are some bright spots. Lambert has developed into a solid songwriter with a real idea of what it means to be an artist and not just a singer. There's a few ass-kicking songs here, which is what she's most known for, but the quieter ones are where she really shines. "The House That Built Me" is one of the best songs you'll hear all year. Plus, she covers Fred Eaglesmith and John Prine, which shows she's got great taste in songwriters.
Favorite songs: "The House That Built Me," "White Liar," "Makin' Plans"

Corb Lund - Losin' Lately Gambler
This was technically Lund's U.S. debut, though he's been recording in Canada for years and making inroads in Texas and elsewhere. It's a fine introduction to Lund and hopefully sent many Americans to look for the rest of his catalog. Lund is one of the few songwriters who can write humorous songs that can still put a smile on your face after hearing it for the fourth or fifth time. The light-hearted songs about veterinarians and the province of Saskatchewan make the serious songs like "Alberta Says Hello" and "This Is My Prairie" even more jarring.
Favorite songs: "Horse Doctor, Come Quick," "This Is My Prairie," "Devil's Best Dress"

Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies
I don't know what's scarier about Earle: that he can take on multiple genres and do them so well, or that he probably hasn't hit his artistic stride yet. Maybe some hard-living early years have matured him faster than most, but he's come farther with two solo albums than most people do with five or six. Sometimes he sounds like a throwback from the 1930s or '40s, sometimes he's very contemporary with a voice that sounds a bit like his dad, but it all fits together well and makes you wonder what he'll be capable of five or 10 years down the road.
Favorite songs: "Mama's Eyes," "Poor Fool," "Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This"

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
She's been teetering on the edge for a while, but this is the album that knocked her our of the Americana genre and solidly into rock. Or indie rock, however you want to define that. She's got one of the best and strongest voice sin music today, so she can pretty much do whatever she wants, in my book. I miss some of the countrier touches on this album, but songs like "People Got A Lotta Nerve" are great no matter the genre. As an added bonus, there's the Neko Case drinking game: take a shot ever time she mentions an animal. You'll be passed out before the album's half-way done.
Favorite songs: "People Got a Lotta Nerve," "Don't Forget Me," "This Tornado Loves You"

Radney Foster - Revival
With all he's done in his solo career and in Foster & Lloyd, I think Foster's put together the best album of his career here. He tackles some pretty serious subjects here -- spirituality, death, relationships, etc. -- but he does so with an incredible knack for melody and lyric. There's no faking anything here. He's singing with his heart on his sleeve, and he's struggling for answers just like everybody else. "Angel Flight," about soldiers whose job is take their fallen comrades to their final resting places, and "I Know You Can Hear Me," a song Foster wrote about his late father, are beautiful. Heartbreaking and tear-inducing, but beautiful.
Favorite Songs: "A Little Revival," "I Know You Can Hear Me," "Angel Flight"

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Other albums on this list have moved up and down, depending on my mood, the time of day, etc. This one, however, has been a solid #1 ever since I first heard it. The mix of bluegrass, folk and hard rock, sometimes within the space of a single song, just works for me, as does the simple-but-effective lyrics of Scott & Seth Avett. The title track is my favorite song from the year, and if we'd waited a few months, "January Wedding" would have been a perfect wedding song. There's a modern folk movement at work with bands like the Avetts, Fleet Foxes, Chathem County Line, Iron & Wine, etc. leading the way with some tremendous music. With the rest of the music world stagnating pretty badly, it could very well be that these acoustic-leaning, banjo-loving bands give the industry the kick in the butt that it desperately needs.
Favorite songs: "I And Love And You," "The Perfect Space," "Kick Drum Heart"


  • jcshepard

    My picks are looking different, but I could be happy with this list. I'm thinking I made a mistake not moving beyond the freebie Title Track and acquiring the rest of the Avett Album.

    28 déc. 2009, 14h43m
  • RandyB1961

    We matched on nearly half of our Top Ten! Corb Lund was actually my #11 pick and I loved the Steve Martin and Decemberists albums as well. Haven't heard the Sara Watkins album but will definitely be giving it a try.

    29 déc. 2009, 19h59m
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