The latest video from Bluegrass band Mandolin Orange from their soon to be released album, Tides of a Teardrop on Yep Roc records. The song and video chronicles the suffering and healing singer Andrew Marlin and his father endured following the death of Marlin’s mother.
One of the best debut albums of the year, Foxwarren, a band of childhood friends now living in various provinces around Canada, have a loose casual sound that is part Indie Rock and part Psychedelic. There is a smoothness throughout the record that allows Andy Shauf and his bandmates space for the music to breath. “To Be” is a pastoral beauty, and “Everything Apart” is a great driving tune.
From the highly excellent blue ray/DVD Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Yola is one of the new acts that part of Dan Auerbachs group of musicians at Easy Eye Sound. Her new album, Walk Through the Fire Is due out February, 2019.
One of the best ways to discover an artist that will become one of your new favorites is to find out the record label that released an album by someone that has captured your groove. The odds are very good that there will be several other artists in the stable that will capture your fancy. Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound is a fine example of this like attracts like phenomenon. And besides, any label that has Duane Eddy as part of the house band has got to be pretty cool.
Robert Finley – Holy Wine
Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song
Shannon Shaw – Broke My Own
Dee White – Wherever You Go
Sonny Smith – Burnin’ Up
024. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Downey to Lubbock
When Americana Royalty, one a Blaster the other a Flatlander, come together to make music together the result is pure magic.
023. The Mother Hips – Chorus
Fans of the San Francisco Bay Area band The Mother Hips were over the moon ecstatic when they were treated to a new record. Newcomers to the group that flies somewhere between Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead will be even happier to discover their favorite new band that has a very rich back catalog.
022. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – Rocket
Not very far from one of the best albums in their career, this new record by Edie Brickell is fresh and bursting with energy. “Exaggerate” and “I Don’t Need a Man” are show stoppers. Anybody that can rhyme prison cell with hypno cell has got to be on top of their game.
021. Asleep at the Wheel – New Routes
Taking a bit of a break from their Bob Wills traditional mainstay tunes, the kings of Western Swing have released a true Americana record. The current line-up of Asleep at the Wheelers is a rock solid unit with one boot on the dance floor and the other in the back of a dimly lit bar having a drink with Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown.
020. Amy Helm – This Too Shall Light
Her version of Mandolin Wind is the centerpiece of a wholly satisfying album. The daughter of The Band’s Levon Helm doesn’t mess around here. “Odetta” and “The Stones I Throw” are as good as songwriting gets.
019. JP Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
While he is starting to establish himself as a bit of an Outlaw Country bad boy, JP Harris is one hell of a songwriter. “JP’a Florida Blues #1 is a scorcher, and “I Drink Alone” could have easily have been a Merle Haggard tune.
018. Amanda Shires – To The Sunset
One of two husband and wife teams to make the list with separate albums Mrs. Jason Isbell has crafted the best album of her career. The musicianship is over the top good, the songwriting is stellar, and there is even a little Rock and Roll thrown in on “Eve’s Daughter.”
017. Church of the Cosmic Skull – Science Fiction
As you would expect from a seven-piece band from Nottingham, U.K., there are a lot of sounds to come from this group. Multiple harmonies and keyboards, the vibe is Kansas meets The Alan Parsons Project by way of Yes. Sometimes different is not better, but that is not the case here. “Cold Sweat” is pound for pound one of the best songs of the year.
016. Lera Lynn – Plays Well Will Others
On her latest record, Lera Lynn enlists a stable of Falcon’s Nest favorites including Rodney Crowell, Shovels and Rope, John Paul White formerly of The Civil Wars, Nicole Atkins, and Dylan LeBlanc among others.
015. Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville
Any album that spins the hip sounds of the 60’s pretty much is guaranteed to have our ear-tention. Produced by Dan Auerbach, the vintage sound he creates on this record brings to mind Dusty Springfield at the peak of her powers.
014. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Mrs. Ruston Kelly lifts her Emmylou inspired voice to new heights with this excellent album. “Space Cowboy” is in the running for song of the year, and “Slow Burn” is not far behind.
013. Joshua Hedley – Mr. Jukebox
One of a handful of artists that are bringing the “classic” to the resurgence of classic Country to the Americana scene. The Honky Tonk album of the year, the song “Mr. Jukebox” is a timeless masterpiece that would make Faron Young blush.
012. The Devil Makes Three – Chains Are Broken
More Wet Willie than Lynyrd Skynard, these Southern rockers are putting the Country in Country Rock. With an expanded sound that now includes a drummer, Chains Are Broken is a fun set of mid-tempo rock melded with breezy ballads.
011. Cody Jinks – Lifers
Outlaw Country is alive and well and living in the very essence of Cody Jinks. There really is no logical reason, other than he does not live in Nashville, that this guy is not as big as Chris Stapleton.
010. Howlin’ Rain – The Alligator Bride
Blues Boogie Meets Classic Rock, the latest effort from Howlin’ Rain brings to mind the very early pre-Michael McDonald Doobie Brothers.
009. The Essex Green – Hardly Electronic
Take a listen to “Sloane Ranger” by The Essex Greene and you might be listening to the song of the year. The entire album simply sparkles with happy organ riffs and perfectly produced male-female vocal interplay. “Don’t Leave It In Our Hands” would have been a perfect duet vehicle for Billy Idol, and “Waikiki” would have played quite nicely with any of those early ABBA hits.
008. First Aid Kit – Ruins
First Aid Kit jumped on the scene singing new songs that sound old and this trend continues on Ruins, their fourth L.P. “Fireworks” has a girl group Phil Spector quality about it and on “Rebel Heart” the vocal harmonies freelance a bit which is a good countermeasure to the otherwise pristine production.
007. Nicki Bluhm – To Rise You Gotta Fall
At first listen, with titles like “I Hate You,” “You Stopped Loving Me,” and “Last to Know,” Nicki Bluhm’s break up record seems to somewhat of a Debby Downer listen. But with more careful reflection there is a lot of depth to be absorbed. The title track is one of the songs of the year and “Battlechain Rose” is as good a piece of songwriting as you will have heard in a long while.
005. Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Nightsweats – Tearing at the seams
This one has to have been one of the most anticipated records of the year. Having scorched the festival scene with their unique brand of Rock and Soul. “Hey Mama” might be the song of the year.
004. Lucero – Among the Ghosts
Thankfully these road dogs took time our from a 200 dates a year touring schedule to lay down a record this year. A lot more tight and concese that we are used to from Lucero, the band seems to be in lock step laying down their Bruce Sprogsteen by way of the Drive-by Truckers of Rock and Roll direct from America’s heartland.
003. The Struts – Young and Dangerous
With all due respect to Greta Van Fleet, if any band is, The Struts are the saviors of Rock and Roll. Rock is not dead it has just inhabited the body of lead singer Luke Spiller, Freddie Mercury on steroids. Anthems abound on this one. “Bulletproof Baby” and “Body Talks” would have worked well at Live Aid and ‘Somebody New” is a bit more nuanced than the rest of the tunes and might be the best song on the record.
002. Sarah Shook and the Disarmers – Years
A great set of ragged Honky Tonk song, Sarah Shook sets the stage on fire standing tall with Lydia Loveless, Nicki Lane, and Margo Price. The opener “Good as Gold” is a perfect introduction to a talent that should be much more famous.
001. Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue
The title track might be the best song of 2018. Elvis, Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers all wrapped up into one deliciously retro listen. “Walk Like a Man” should have been a Sun Records single.
049. Jesse Dayton – The Outsider
One of the best session guys in the business today, Jesse Dayton steps out on his own to deliver a fine set of where did I go wrong vignettes. “Killer on the Lamb” is a “Long Black Veil” worthy murder ballad, and “Charlottesville” is one of a couple of political statement songs.
048. Richard Swift – Hex
Known mostly as a producer for Foxygen, The Shins, Kevin Morby, Damian Jurado, and many others, Swift delivers an intense set of songs that dive right into the heart of the soul. With lyrics like “My name will go missing but my name will be still there,” it’s almost as if he had a premonition that he would die due to complications from alcohol abuse shortly after this record was completed.
047. Sonny Smith – Rod For Your Love
Shades of Matthew Sweet and late-era Beach Boys, Sonny Smith, the head honcho for Sunny & The Sunsets, steps out on his own for a Power Pop spectacular album. Produced by Dan Auerbach in his Nashville studio the guitars have a fifties Sun Records flavor to them.
046. Whitey Morgan & The 78’s – Hard Times and White Lines
With Waylon gone, there are only a handful of real bonafide Outlaws left to carry the torch. This record is full of Honky Tonk gems, “Honky Tonk Hell,” “Hard to Get High,” and “Bourbon and the Blues” just to name three.
045. Horse Feathers – Appreciation
The mostly Americana band has turned a bit towards Stax-era Country Soul on their sixth album. There are flashes of John Fogerty and Sturgill Simpson swirling around everywhere.
044. Brent Cobb – Providence Canyon
Stepping out of his super producer brother Dave’s shadow, Brent Cobb has his moment in the Laurel Canyon sun with this laid-back set that features hints of Jackson Browne, Drive-By Truckers and 70’s Outlaw Country
043. Caroline Rose – Loner
Caroline Rose is a woman that is wholly comfortable in her own skin. Her latest record is full of observational vignettes centered around making a go of things in a complicated world. “I got a bicycle I’m cruising down the street, I like to keep it loose and freaky in the sheets.” On “Soul No. 5” she really shines full of soul and swagger.
042. Doc Robinson – Ring of Love
Think Crosby Stills and Nash without the Young for the best description of this record that will take you back to your Pure Prairie league days.
041. Sam Phillips – World On Sticks
Hard to believe this is her first proper release in five years, but it was very much worth the wait. From the Spanish guitar on “Different Shades of light” to the almost Western feel of “Roll ’em,” every song is a textured gem that stands out on its own.
040. Frank Turner – Be More Kind
The light-hearted touch to this album is a refreshing antedote to an otherwise turbulent world. “Don’t Worry?” tells us not to let our hearts turn into stone and not to give up if we just can’t get our way, and the title track should be a mantra for us all.
039. The English Beat- Here We Go Love
Not quite the English Beat as you might remember, and probably should, love, front-man Dave Wakeling has assembled a new band that carries the torch in quite fine fashion. The Pop, R&B and Jamaican rhythms lay down an infectious groove that would make Elvis Costello and Marshall Crenshaw proud.
038. Low Cut Connie – Dirty Pictures (Part 2)
Not quite as bombastic as its prequel Dirty Pictures (Part 1), this set of Jerry Lee-style piano warblers is a fitting example of what one of the best live acts on the planet can deliver to your ears now playing in a venue near you.
037. The Wilde – Gunning For You
Another living and breathing example why Rock and Roll is not dead and never will be. There are echoes of early Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, and Guns ‘n’, Roses rocking everywhere on this one.
036. Anderson East – Encore
A much more than a suitable follow-up to his 2015’s Delilah, on his latest record East lays down some cool Muscle Shoals sound courtesy of super producer Dave Cobb who brings out the vintage Soul from a timeless singer.
035. The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
The Dirty Nil plays pure uncompromising Rock and Roll. Master Volume, their latest record, is a more mature album than what we are used to from these guys, but there are still hooks galore to sink your ears into. Part Oasis, part James Gang. and part Clash, it is songs like “Pain of Infinity” that will steal your Rock and Roll heart.
034. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Poor Until Payday
If there is an album that will debunk the rumors that Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is just a kick-ass live band that doesn’t translate well to vinyl, Poor Until Payday should be the one. Sort of Mississippi John Hurt by way of ZZ Top and Bukka White is probably the best way to describe this band of warriors that play close to 300 shows per year.
033. Ruston Kelly – Dying Star
As good as Dying Star, the debut album from Ruston Kelly is, he may not have released the best album in his own household. That honor would go to wife Kacey Musgraves, but more on that later. Dying Star is a terrific record. Within the Country Folk skeleton presented here, there is a certain vulnerability that comes through in his fine gritty voice. Early Ryan Adams comes to mind. “Paratroopers Battlecry” and the mournful “Blackout” would have fit in just perfectly on any Whiskeytown record.
032. Jimmy LaFave – Peace Town
Peace Town, the latest and last record released by Jimmy LaFave is a 20 song set that includes two reinterpretations of previously released songs along with covers from a variety of influences ranging from Chuck Berry to Pete Townshend, to Bob Dylan.
031. Luke Winslow-King – Blue Mesa
On his fourth L.P. for Bloodshot records, Luke Winslow King seems to have found his stride. From the John Lee Hooker inspired Blues Boogie of “Thought I Heard You” to the hauntingly beautiful title track, everything about this album is inspiring. “After the Rain” has a real Mark Knopfler vibe going for it and “You Got Mine” will remind you of later day Eric Clapton.
030. Robbie Fulks and Gail Lewis – Wild! Wild! Wild!
At first listen, the pairing of Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis may seem a bit odd. But stay with this one and what you get is one barnstormer of a record. From honky-tonk piano to Sun Records guitar licks this is a fun record. The opener “Round Too Long” sets the rock-a-billy stage and “I Just Lived a Country Song” bridges the gap between Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Garth Brooks all in the span of one song.
029. Marianne Faithfull – Negative Capability
Playing forward a life well lived, Marianne Faithfull’s latest, and hopefully not last, album is a carefully curated road trip from the early days with beautiful new versions of “As Tears Go By” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” all the way to her nod to her own mortality on “Misunderstanding.” Nick Cave even pops in for a cameo on “The Gypsy Faerie Queen.”
028. Aaron Lee Tasdan – Karma For Cheap
Every song on this solid set of Psychedelic Pop could have easily been included on either a solo John Lennon album or a Travelling Wilbury’s record.
027. Dawn Landes – Meet Me at the River
There is a vintage 80’s country feel to this record that comes across as genuine and is very appealing. Dawn Landes has a delivery that can be compared to K.T. Oslin with a side order of Dolly. “Southern Girl” and “Travelling” are two of the best country songs you will hear all year.
026. Muscle Shoals: Small Town, Big Town
Our covers album of the year, Muscle Shoals: Small Town Big Town celebrates the music recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. From the Country tinged Alan Jackson cover of “Wild Horses” to Aloe Blacc’s stunning spot-on rendition of “I’ll Take You There,” everything about this record is great. Steven Tyler’s “Brown Sugar” is Aerosmith worthy and Keb Mo’s “Road of Love” is about as fitting a tribute as you can get.
025. Black Coffee – Take One
To some, a band that goes all in with their love for 70’s good old-fashioned retro-tinged Rock and Roll should be a one and done listen. In the case of Black Coffee when it is done so well and without a hint of irony, your ear-tention is not only warranted, it is demanded.