Rock is the New Roll Best 100 Albums of 2020 (51-75)

075. Matt Costa – Yellow Coat

There is a pleasant David Gray vibe wafting in the air on Matt Costa’s refreshingly cool new record, Yellow Coat, his second for Dangerbird Records and sixth overall. Highlights abound, most notably on the reverb-drenched and Motown inspired Savannah and the Sam Cook inspired “Slow.” Even on the slower more thoughtful tunes such as “Last Love Song,” a song that could rightly have been a long lost Elliott Smith outtake, Costa manages to shine. With every song carrying a slightly different DNA, this is a record that rewards multiple visits to the well.

074. Elizabeth Cook – Aftermath

Make no mistake, despite her highly popular side-piece gig as a radio host for Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country, Elizabeth Cook, at her core, is pure Rock and Roll. Produced by Butch Walker, her latest effort, Aftermath, is brash, bold, and propulsive in places and lean and mean in others. The opener “Bones” announces her presence in bombastic style, and the closer, “Mary, The Submissive Years” is a talk-sing nod to the late great John Prine. Thank you, Sturgill Simpson, for breaking down the Country, Rock and Roll barriers.

073. Gasoline Lollipops – All The Misery Money Can Buy

Come for the cool band name, stay for thor ultra-cool self-glossed genre, Blending Rock and Roll. From the opener and title track “All The Misery Money Can Buy” with the driving rhythm and Muscle Shoals inspired background singers it is clear that this band is not fooling around. When a sharp turn is taken on “Dying Young” with its “Tuesday’s Gone Feel” and the diversity of the singer is on full display as frontman Clay Rose goes all Raul Malo on the song, the die is cast for us calling shotgun for the rest of the road trip. Rockabilly, Roots Rock, Americana, Jam, this Boulder, Co. based band covers all of the cool bases your ears know and love. This new Gas Pops record is already on heavy rotation here in the offices of Rock is the new Roll.

072. Cary Morin – Dockside Saints

Exploring the musical landscape on the dirty side of roots-based Americana this eclectic guitar-slinger will have you riveted from the opening bell with “Nobody Gotta Know” a voodoo blend of Cajun, Swamp Rock, with hints of Bluegrass that seemingly shares some DNA with Dr. John. With Exception to the Rule” Cory’s sensitive side comes out along with his ear-friendly voice, and on “Prisoner” and on “Tonight” we find out just how the guitar Gods have blessed this exciting new talent.

071. Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring

Much like the Dion record from last month Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest, and arguably his best record,  Co-Starring features many of his famous friends on an album that features no-holds-barred storytelling and signature rhymes that can be found nowhere else. Where else are you going to find out that a 392 scat backed Dodge Charger rhymes with a tattoo that says ‘free Sonny Barger’.

The album features Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Chris Robinson, Aaron Lee Tasjan, The Cadillac Three, Pam Tillis, Paula Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Ashley McBryde, Larkin Poe, Peter Rowan, and Ronnie Dunn.

070. Kai Danzberg: Rockshow

If you have ever pondered what sort of record Freddy Mercury might be putting out if he were alive today, the question may have been asked and answered with Kai Danberg’s Pop-fastic new album Rockshow. Sort of a magical sandbox of E.L.O, Queen, and Jellyfish with virtually every song on this record stands out as a Power Pop masterclass.

Stand-Out Song: Rockshow

069. Sonny Landreth – Blacktop Run

Besides having the best Eastbound and down the driving song of the year, this one is a swiss army knife of a record with surprises around every corner. “Love Dance With Me” is a Dire Straits worthy shuffle of an instrumental, while “Groovy Goddess” with the ’70s organ riffage driving the song takes the proceedings to the next level of slide guitar gutsy madness.”Somebody Gotta Make A Move” could have been on an early Eric Clapton record.

068. The Bobby Lees – Skin Suit

Commercial, they are not, and this is precisely why The Bobby Lees is set to take over the Garage-Rock hip band of the moment mantle. Taylor made for CBGB’s these guys virtually command you to notice them. Part Iggy Pop and a whole lot of Siouxie Sioux front-woman Sam Quartin commands the stage with a presence we have not seen or heard in quite some time. There is not much flower and a whole lot of power emanating from this band of twenty-somethings from Woodstock, N.Y.

067. Charlie Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times

With this, his 8th album since his 2015 debut,  and his second already this year, to say that Charlie Crockett is on a bit of a roll would be like saying Eric Clapton is good at that guitar thing. Of course, captain obvious. And what a stellar album it is. Expertly walking the tightrope between Classic Country and Americana-Roots music, there is nothing about this old soul crooner that seems past its born-on date. Sure there is a bit of good old countrypolitan in many of the tunes presented here, most notably with the aptly named “The Man That Time Forgot,” but it is on the take me to the honky numbers “Run Horse Run” and “Paint it Blue” where this record really earns it spurs.

066. Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death

A Heros Death, the sophomore album from Fontaines D.C. may not be as spot-on dangerous as Dogrel, it is still, none the less, an inspiring record that deserves to be in your record collection. Starting from the opener “I Don’t Belong,” a mid-tempo anthem that highlights the gritty vocal of Grian Chatten, the stage is set for this Dublin Band, sort of a Post-Punk U2, to opine on their world view over 11 tracks of intermittent rage and corresponding thoughtfulness.

“You Said” has a bit of a Velvet Underground feel to it, while the title track certainly shares some DNA with Iggy Pop and the Stooges and might just be the most important song to be released this year.

065. Mojo Buford – Mojo Workin’

The classic Chicago blues is bleeding from every ounce of Mojo Buford’s fine new record, Mojo Workin’. Having the distinction of being the only harmonica player to have played with Muddy Waters in the 1950s, ’60s,’70s, and ’80s Mojo Buford was a Blues staple from Memphis to Chicago before his death in 2011. Originally recorded in 1969 this reissue courtesy of Sundazed records features many of his songs included in his live repertoire including “Got My Mojo Working,”  the song that delivered his nickname when every night he would get requests to play the famous Muddy Waters tune.

The sound quality on this release is excellent and Mojo’s self-penned songs stand equally as tall beside Otis Spann’s “Blues Is Botheration” and Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Help Me.

If harmonica-blues is your jam, you can’t get much better than this one.

064. Ted Russell Kamp – Down In The Den

Despite being one of the more prolific artists on the Americana scene with 12 records in the last 15 years, Ted Russell Kamp is largely an unknown entity in the music scene unless you are a hardcore fan. And, that is really a shame. Having played bass for many of the top artists including Shooter Jennings, Whitey Morgan, Jessi Colter as well as many others, with the release of his latest, Down in the Den, he may have just altered his history from sideman to top of the marquis.

Alternating country-rockers as displayed on the opener, “Home Sweet Hollywood,” a duet with Shooter Jennings, Dixieland on “Hobo Nickel,” and downright balladry as he fights life on the road while trying to keep a relationship going like he does on “Stick With Me” there are no miss-steps on this record.  With a voice that is honest and open with a timbre that as ear-pleasing as it can get, the inherent songcraft and general spirit of this album will bring to mind the last couple of Chris Stapelton records.

063. Liza Anne – Bad Vacation

Bad Vacation is an interesting moniker for an album during these times when pretty much any vacation is a good vacation, but in this case, in the capable hands of Liza Anne, it seems appropriate. On her previous record, Fine But Dying, and in periodicals and various interviews she has given her battle with mental illness has been bravely chronicled in her art. And here she certainly makes no exception especially so on “I Shouldn’t Ghost My Therapist” and “This Chaos, That Feeling” where the loss of a relationship seems to have her spinning in her own mind. Stylistically veering down the track with stops at Power Pop, Indie Rock, Art Rock, and Emo stations, this is a diverse and powerful record that will have you considering your own place in the world.

062. MisterWives – SUPERBLOOM

Once you are hit with the sonic U2 on steroids opening blast, “The End,” curiously placed at the beginning of the record, and Mandy Lee’s vocal kicks in with her Chrissie Hynde meets Stevie Nicks vibe, all bets are off and you will be hooked and ready to listen to the rest of the record. Next up, “Ghost” raises the stakes with another anthemic festival-worthy gem, and things only get better from there. “whywhywhy” slows the tempo down, but only just slightly, until mid-song when a chorus kicks in that would make ABBA rethink their career choice.

Mid-record the soaring pace slows a bit with a couple of ballads thrown on top of the fire but by the time “over the rainbow” rolls around the dancing fiesta is back and in full force. Once you get down to the end of the record, the title track is presented in all its Gospel glory and the glorious ride is about to come to an end. If soulful horns, gorgeous melodies,  gospel-harmonies, catchy hooks, and soulful festival-ready anthems are your jams, then this record will have you fully ensconced in your happy place.

061. Seasick Steve – Love & Peace

It has been a minute now that Seasick Steve has been on the scene entertaining us with his raw and powerful performances, and we as humans are all the better for it. Self-produced, Love & Peace delivers a confident set of Howlin’ Wolf by the way of White Stripes gnarly blues for the common man. The opener “Love & Peace” is a tour-de-force call to arms where Seasick practically commands the rest of us to stop the hatred and get back to love and peace. “Regular Man” is a solid blues stomper where Steve touches around the fringes of the mystery of his backstory, and Carni Days is an outright ballad describing the not so glamourous life of a traveling carnival worker.

Seasick Steve is one of us. Just a regular guy with an unusual gift to be able to touch our hearts and cleanse our soul.

060. S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling

The first thing that hits you between the ears is the raw emotion emanating from S.G. Goodman, one of the fresh new voices on the Americana scene. Second up, front and center, is the depth of the songwriting, most definitely trending into Jason Isbell territory. And finally, with a fully formed picture painted with assistance from My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on production duties, there is the realization that this sonic blend of dusty Kentucky back roads Americana is one of the best records we have heard all year. Just listen to the swamp-noir of “The Way I Talk” and the honesty dripping pathos of “Burn Down the City” and tell us we’re wrong.

059. Texas Gentlemen – Floor It!!!

It should come as no surprise that the Texas Gentlemen are one cracker-jack of a band since the group was formed by a bunch of session guys who combined probably have played on every Americana record you have listened to over the last five years including in support for George Strait, Paul Cauthen, Kris Kristofferson, Nikki Lane, and Leon Bridges just to name a few. With their musical chops on full display from jump street as it almost seems like they are just warming up on the first two cuts that are pure instrumentals that have sort of a Dixie Land Jazz vibe in places and Broadway show tune dusting in others. A head-scratching way to get things underway, but it works quite well.

Recorded in part at the FAME studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, each track seems to take you on a different musical journey. “Easy Street” will float the mind into Grateful Dead territory, “Hard Road” sounds like vintage Harry Nilsson, while “Skyway Streetcar” has a Burrito Brothers essence wafting in the air. Throw in “Charlie’s House” that could have been written by Bernie Taupin, produced by Gus Dudgeon, and performed by Loggins and Messina and you have a record of eclectic subtle surprises around every corner that very much rewards the listener with each subsequent listen.

058. Pretenders – Hate For Sale

The Pretenders are back, they actually never left, and are better than ever with their first proper record since 2016’s Alone. It takes only one song, Chrissie Hynde has a few things to get off her chest right out of the blocks on the title track, until we are treated on song number two with “The Buzz,” a song that could have been the centerpiece on any of The Pretenders early records. “Lighting Sound” carries the trademark Ska-Influenced rhythms to updated levels, and the rambunctious “I Don’t Want To Stop” is pure CBGB vintage fun.

057. The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

Aukland, New Zealand based The Beths generate dynamic, propulsive four-part chorus anthems that are tailor-made for the summer festival circuit, if we can ever get back to summer festivals being a thing, that is. Leader and sole Beth in the band Elizabeth Stokes is a twice-nominee for the Taite Prize, New Zealand’s most prestigious music award. This, their sophomore record with its harmony-driven sparkling gems that bring to mind The Pixies, The Breeders with a touch of Go Go’s thrown in for ear-measure should be high up there in your summer listening library.

056. Matt Berry – Phantom Birds

There is a bit of a cosmic cowboy Americana vibe thrown heavily into the mix of Matt Berry’s highly likable new record, Phantom Birds. There are more than a few nods to Gram Parsons, most notably on “Where’s My Love” with a subtle lap steel whispering in the background, and, “You Danced All Night” carries the day. If he keeps putting out material like this Matt Berry may be less known as an actor currently starring in the television series What We Do In The Shadows and become more widely recognized as the great singer-songwriter that he actually is.

055. Babylon Circus – State of Emergency

There is nothing like a French Alternative Rock band to perk the ears and move the feet. Hailing from Lyon, France these polymaths cite their influences as The Clash, Toots & The Maytals, Madness, and The Specials, and it shows on every eclectic track. Singing in both French and English, singer David Baruchel leads his group through the exotic landscapes of Ska, Django Jazz, and Gypsy Swing with enough coolness to cleanse the musical palate and send your ears on a journey to the center of your mind. “Monster” is a special foot moving epic that refers to a monster on the dance floor, and “Les Oiseaux de Passage” will have you almost literally strolling walking down the alleyways of Paris in the ’30s. This is mind-escaping stuff.

054. Kurt Baker – After Party

If Power Pop is your jam, and if it’s not you don’t have enough fun in your life, then the new Kurt Baker opus, After Party, needs to be your new weekend guilty pleasure. Taking a break from the more Garage/Nuggets intensity of his Kurt Baker Combo, a Little Steven’s Underground Garage perennial favorite, for a more Jangle Pop sound that brings to mind Elvis Costello of the current vintage and the later day fare of Greg Kihn, The Raspberries, and maybe even Marshall Crenshaw. “Wandering Eyes” is pure EC “Watching The Detectives” energy, “She Don’t Really Love You” is a little ramshackle in the Replacements mode, and the Closer “Outta Site” even has a unique “Jessie’s Girl” vibe to it. Play this one twice and all of the COVID wax will be blown out of your ears and you will be in a better headspace.

053. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

If ever there was a record perfectly suited to spinning with your feet up, a fire roaring with a tumbler of fine whiskey firmly in hand, this would be that record in a perfect place at exactly the right time. Recorded at his studio loft in Chicago and written over a span of 14 days in what became one song everyday writing sessions, this Tweedy solo album started out as a Country record that eventually ended up to be a universal balm to help to heal whatever might be troubling you. “Even I Can See” sounds like a long lost Townes Van Zant anthem, “Save It For Me” has a Dylan by way of Bright Eyes pallor to it, and the title track “Love Is King” pretty much says it all. You may not know it just yet, but you really need this record right now in your life.

052. Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern

This one is going to be a candidate for the end of the year best-of lists, for sure. From the opening salvo “We Were Alright” where the song “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” is namechecked, it is clear why this was the last artist that John Prine signed to his Oh Boy record label.

A hard-worn semi-overnight success McKinley was discovered by Oh Boy record major-domo Jody Whelan after seeing him play the High Watt in Nashville where he was subsequently introduced to John Prine. When you combine his Appalachian drawl of a voice, his age-weary experience at age 40 along with his detailed minds-eye songwriting talent, it is clear that the torch is well passed.

051. The Killers – Imploding The Mirage

Much like Vampire Weekend Las Vegas’ own The Killers seem to go away and return just at the time that we really need them most. Bright, bouncy, anthemic, it’s all here “Mr. Brightside” style. The synths are absolutely soaring and on the Springsteen worthy “My Own Soul’s Warning” you know immediately that the boys are back in town. There is not a dud to be found here, and the collaborations with k.d. Lang on “Lightning Fields” and with Weyes Blood on “My God” come out of left field and are both utterly brilliant. Good, bordering on great and just maybe the album of the year so far.

Author: falconi5

A place for musically minded folk to get together and share ideas, reviews, and basically spread the word.

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