Best of 2012 Americana part 1 features #28 – #14
#28 Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios – Various Artists
Back in 1964, before the word “indie” had even been coined American Studios in Memphis opened it’s doors. It was one of the few recording studios that wasn’t affiliated with a major label so it was available to independent bands and artists who wanted to record their songs and shape their sound the way they wanted it to sound, completely independent of the labels’ influence. It was founded by Chips Moman, who had previously worked at Stax. It’s never been as famous as the Stax studio or the Sun studios. But it American Studios produced quite a few major hits and helped shape that southern soul sound. Earlier this year Roben Jones published a book about the history ot American Studios and, of course, they had to release a companion album to go with it. It’s go hits from Dusty Springfield, Elvis Presley, Solomon Burke, James Carr, Bobby Womack, and Wilson Picket. And how could you blame them? They want to establish themselves as part of America’s music history. But it’s the lesser known gems that are really appealing on this one. The Mark James version of “Suspicious Minds,” Merilee Rush’s version of “Angel In The Morning,” and Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” will give you a fresh look at these classics.
#27 Thankful N’ Thoughtful – Bettye LaVette
Bettye LaVette’s Thankful N’ Thoughtful is kind of a self-contradiction. On the one hand, she’s covering material from all over the place, Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken,” The Black Key’s “I’m Not The One,” Tom Waits’ “Yesterday Is Here” (my favorite), and bunches of others. But no matter what genre she’s pulling from, she delivers it with the gritty R&B vibe that she’s known for. This album would make a great gateway album to rhythm and blues for people who think it’s not their kind of music. You’ll be sinign the blues right along with her by the time you get to the end of this album.
#26 The Far West
Lee Briante and Robert Black write songs for The Far West Band that have a smooth lyrical rhythm laid over a country sound that has a little bit of a Bakersfield influence in them. Even though they are based in LA, the sound has a heartland feel to it, probably because they play gigs at American Legion Halls and other down home venues in the area. “Bound To Lose” is the track that first caught my attention, the lyrics have a troubadour feel to them and reminds me of a young Paul Simon. Other highlights for me are “Bitter, Drunk, and Cold,” and “I’ll Never Drink Again.”
#25 Cabin Fever – Corb Lund
Yeah, I suppose technically you gotta say that Corb Lund is a country-ish singer. I mean he’s got a western swing-ish song called “Cows Around,” which could only be written by someone who was very familiar with raising cattle. The the big radio hit is song he did with Hayes Carll called “Bible On The Dash.” But Cabin Fever is really more like a rock and roll album with punk-like social commentary telling it like it is. “Getting’ Down On The Mountain” is a slap in the face of the anti-oil crowd. “Dig Gravedigger Dig,” sounds like it could be an old blues tune, but it’s got that creepy call and response that can make your skin crawl. “The Gothiest Girl I Can” borrows a 50’s guitar vibe, but fits right into today’s hookup culture.
#24 Cheap Cigar – Maynard and the Musties
Imagine a band that has had a little too much to drink and has listened to a little too much Felice Brothers and you’d come pretty close to Maynard and the Musties. The music on Maynard and the Musties’ Cheap Cigar is loose and worn and boozy. Every note is a surprise. Every line is sad but true. This is highly recommended as good hanging out and drinking music. My favorite tracks are the title track, “Pretty and Cryin’,” and “Marfa.”
#23 Indestructible Machine – Lydia Loveless
How such a soft-spoken, mild-mannered woman can walk on stage and transform into one of the angriest punk rocker’s working today is going to be one of the great unsolved mysteries of 2012. If you want some cathartic, gut-clenching, ear-bleeding cow punk, and honestly, who doesn’t?, this is the album for you. Highlights are “Bad Way To Go,” and “Can’t Change Me.” But my favorite is “More Like Them,” which gives you a little insight into Loveless’ psyche.
#22 Not The One… – DL Marble
DL Marble and the Amazing Hippies play blue collar rock that’s surprisingly catchy and upbeat. Yeah, there are songs about the usual drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll. But the band gives you a sense of guys who are making it work, who are getting through the day. And the songs are full of characters you’d like to have at your back in a bar fight. My favorites are “Good Sign,” “Two Lane Highway,” and the every country boy’s fantasy, “Lucky Tonight.”
#21 Sunday Run Me Over – Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs
Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dave, collectively known as Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs dig deep into southern music styles and mix them up into a concoction that wanders between lo-fi blues, experimental garage rock, and Pentecostal fevers. My favorites are “Godamn Holy Roll,” “Tank,” “I Forgot More,” and “Turn Around.”
#20 Kin – Michael Rank and Stag
Michael Rank assembled a who’s who of music talent from the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area to help him recreate a classic rock and roll sound and help him spill his guts. There is an album full of bloody fingernails, regurgitated poison pills, and swallowed tears, and yet you can’t turn it off or even look away. It’s an album that reminds you music is an expression, not a product. Highlights for me are “tenderhook,” “on the bleed,” “goat,” and “arrowheads.”
#19 Working Girl’s Guitar – Rosie Flores
Rosie Flores’ Working Girl’s Guitar is filled with guitar work that draws from the 50’s era rockabilly and 60’s era surf/garage rock and combines it with a Patti Smith toughness. My favorites are “Little But I’m Loud,” “Surf Demon #5,” “Drug Store Rock and Roll,” and the cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
#18 Pick Me Up – Ryan Purcell and the Last Round
Ryan Purcell and the Last Round play loud, high energy rock and roll that deserves to be played in sports stadiums, desert canyons, and the wide open plains. Their sound is huge. It will make you drive fast. My favorite tracks are “Cover Your Tracks,” “Good Looking SOB,” and “Get It Right.”
#17 Drop In On My Dream – The Cornell Hurd Band
Cornell Hurd can trace is musical career all the way back to the days of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman. So when he plays music that sounds like the early days of cosmic americana it’s because, well, that’s his music. And in those days, among the folk influenced country rock cross over songs, there was also a healthy dose of Western Swing. Cornell Hurd’s bands have covered every facet of that vein of music. But they are massters of the western swing and Corn Hurd has been inducted into the Cow Town Society of Western Music’s Hall of Fame. This album is a collection of mostly new songs which highlight the best of western swing and it will make everyone want to get on the dancefloor. I like “The Bad Girl I Keep In My Heart,” “Whiskey Drinking Women,” and “Our Future (Isn’t What It Used To Be).”
#16 Mighty Lonesome Man – James Hand
Finally set free to do what he wants to do with his music, James Hand hooked up with Hillgrass Bluebilly records and created an album of country music so pure it you’d think he is the reincarnation of Hank Williams. James Hand traces his roots back to that era. He’s played the Grand Old Opry and he’s lived on the road touring. He’s paid his dues and these songs, like all great country music, are simple, wise, and dance worthy. My favorites are the title track, “Wish You Would Kiss Me,” and his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm.”
#15 Makin’ Our House A Honkytonk – Rachel Harrington and the Knockouts
After exploring folk and some of the softer side our country music on her previous album, Rachel Harrington decided she was going to jump in with both feet and create a full-on country album in the classic country tradition. Makin’ Our House A Honky Tonk is a first class success she nails the sound on the opening track and has written an classic country style duet called “I’ll Show You Mine.” But she’s gone way beyond just mimicking the sounds of yesteryear. Her band, the Knock Outs keep the sound fresh with a classic rock edge in all the music, which will appeal to hipsters and old-timers alike. My favorites are the title track, “I’ll Show You Mine,” and “Hippie In My House.”
#14 The Shovel vs. The Howling Bones – Lincoln Durham
Under the tutelage (or corrupting influence?) of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Lincoln Durham has honed a knack for creating music that is unmistakably blues, but it’s creepy scary deep woods blues. The kind of blues that gives you bad dreams and goose flesh. But it’s oh so good. I like “Clementine,” “Mud Puddles,” and “How Does A Crow Fly.” But the stand out track by far is “Reckoning Lament.”
- #28 Memphis Soul Stew / King Curtis / Memphis Boys: The Story Of American Studios / 3:00
- #27 Yesterday Is Here / Bettye LaVette / Thankful N’ Thoughtful / 3:38
- #26 Bound to Lose / The Far West / The Far West / 2:41
- #25 Bible On The Dash / Corb Lund / Cabin Fever / 4:30
- #24 Cheap Cigar / Maynard and the Musties / Cheap Cigar / 4:00
- #23 Bad Way To Go / Lydia Loveless / Indestructible Machine / 2:59
- #22 Lucky Tonight / D.L. Marble / Not The One… / 2:38
- #21 Goddamn Holy Roll / Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs / Sunday Run Me Over / 2:56
- #20 on the bleed / Michael Rank and Stag / Kin [Disc 1] / 4:52 local
- #19 Little But I’m Loud / Rosie Flores / Working Girl’s Guitar / 3:36
- #18 Cover Your Tracks / Ryan Purcell And The Last Round / Pick Me Up / 4:21
- #17 Whiskey Drinkin’ Women / The Cornell Hurd Band / Drop In On My Dream / 2:32
- #16 Mighty Lonesome Man / James Hand / Mighty Lonesome Man / 2:32
- #15 I’ll Show You Mine / Rachel Harrington & The Knock Outs / Makin’ Our House a Honkytonk / 4:06
- #14 Reckoning Lament / Lincoln Durham / The Shovel Vs. The Howling Bones / 3:11
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