Rock is the New Roll: The Top Ten Albums of 2019

Here it is, the long-awaited list of the best albums of 2019. It has been a really great year for music. We heard from a couple of deceased legends in Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen, were treated with new records from Texas Honky Tonk legends Jack Ingram, Corb Lund, and Dale Watson, and bright lights shone for the first time with a bevy of new artists to discover including the one name wonders Lizzo and Yola.

Rock is not dead with White Reaper, Drugdealer and Black Country Communion all inviting us to a party like it’s 1979. And of course, the singer-songwriter is back. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back and better than ever and Rock is the New Roll favorite Tom Russell gave us a history lesson in 11 songs with October in the Railroad Earth.

This year we will be releasing our top 100 list 10 tasty gems at a time, so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the ear-pleasing top 100 records of the year.

10. Yola – Walk Through The Fire

You won’t need to wander much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.

09. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars

Quite possibly the best record The Boss has delivered in the past 15 years, this expansive record covers all of the Springsteen touchstones. Fine song-craft, common man storytelling, and superb musicianship all come together for one of the more compelling releases of the year.

08. Mercury Rev – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete revisited.

This is one of those rare entities where the tribute album is better than the original. This thing is ridiculously cool. With a different female singer for each song, Mercury Rev puts their own swirling psychedelic spin on the original Country-Folk classics. “Big Boss Man” featuring Hope Sandoval is an eclectic stunner, on “Reunion” you just might find out what was thrown off of the Tallahatchie bridge, and Susanne Sudfor’s spin on “Tobacco Road” will tingle your spine. With only one song that was not on the original recording, Lucinda Williams does what Lucinda does on “Ode to Billy Joe” to polish off a sublime set of masterful songs.

07. Trigger Hippy – Full Circle

On their second incarnation of the band, Amber Woodhouse replaces Joan Osborne when a female lead singer is needed as the band lays down the best Country Soul this side of Delaney and Bonnie. This one is decidedly Laurel Canyon retro in all the best of ways.

06. The Delines – The Imperial

With every song being virtually a Raymond Carver short story, Willy Vlautin and company have come up with another masterpiece. “Eddy and Polly” is the “Jack and Diane” for the new millennium, If Jack was an abusive husband with an alcohol problem, and Diane was a cheating wife that is, and in “Holly the Hustle” as the song unfolds From drinking wine coolers at age 13, there is only one way things will end for Holly. Not well.

05. The Cactus Blossoms – Easy Way

The Cactus Blossoms make absolutely no effort to disguise the fact that they love The Everly Brothers. If you are looking to be transported back to a time when the Beatles didn’t exist, Then, this is your jam. Lead-off track “Desperado” really shows off the brotherly harmonies, and “Downtown” could have been a hit for Roy Orbison.

04. Drugdealer – Raw Honey

With a lot of very stiff completion, Raw Honey, the latest album from Drugdealer just might be the Laurel Canyon record of the Year. Fully capturing the singer-songwriter cult of the ’70s, on songs like “Honey” featuring Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood that could be a Harry Nilsson song, and “Fools”, is a tune that could be mistaken for a Steely Dan B-Side, the only thing missing is a Boz Skaggs Lido Shuffle.

03. J.S. Ondara – Tales of America

Coming in at number three and generally regarded as one of the best debut records of the year, J.S. Ondara, hailing from Nigeria and currently living in Minnesota, almost literally chases his Bob Dylan Muse on this set of songs that should very soon elevate the young songwriter to Leon Bridges status.

02. Jenny Lewis – On The Line

Working with a bundle of top-rated players including Benmont Tench, Beck, Don Was, Ringo Starr, and Jim Keltner. There is an 80’s AOR vibe throughout the record that gives it a nostalgic touch that will spin your head back in time. Lewis is in fine vocal form, and like its predecessor, Voyager, really benefits from the Ryan Adams production touch.

01. Tom Russell – October In The Railroad Earth

Another stellar master’s level course in Americana songwriting. “T-Bone Steak and Spanish Wine” is a standout as is “Highway 46”  a song where none other than the late and not so great Spade Cooley is name-checked. Where were you on the day Merle Haggard died?

Rock is the New Roll: The Top 100 Albums of 2019 (21-10)

Here it is, the long-awaited list of the best albums of 2019. It has been a really great year for music. We heard from a couple of deceased legends in Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen, were treated with new records from Texas Honky Tonk legends Jack Ingram, Corb Lund, and Dale Watson, and bright lights shone for the first time with a bevy of new artists to discover including the one name wonders Lizzo and Yola.

Rock is not dead with White Reaper, Drugdealer and Black Country Communion all inviting us to a party like it’s 1979. And of course, the singer-songwriter is back. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back and better than ever and Rock is the New Roll favorite Tom Russell gave us a history lesson in 11 songs with October in the Railroad Earth.

This year we will be releasing our top 100 list 10 tasty gems at a time, so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the ear-pleasing top 100 records of the year.

21. The Limboos – Baia

The Limboos are pretty much the very definition of a genre-defying band. A bit soul, retro in all the coolest of ways fusing together Soul, Rumba, Jazz, Blues, Funk, and a bunch of others we are probably skipping. On songs like “Till The End Of Town,” you would bet your last dollar this was a Stax single from the ’60s. When the sax kicks in on “Where Did She Go,” the first single from the album, there is a sense that you should be in some sort of Jetsons hipster go-go bar. The vocals are front and center and the production value is first-rate with no single instrument overpowering another. And yes, they have a female drummer, as if they needed anything else to add to their coolness.

20. Brittany Howard – Jaime

Alabama Shakes front-woman steps out with her powerful solo record. Combining Rock and Soul along with contemporary beats, her debut record goes low Nina Simone Slow one minute, James Brown Funk the next with a lot of Janelle Monáe flair thrown in for good measure. Named after her sister who passed away from retinal cancer when Brittany was 9, this album is a stunner.

19. Ryan Bingham – American Love Song

With a sound that could be coming from a backwoods juke joint in the middle of Texas, Ryan Bingham along with guitar player Charlie Sexton lay down 15 tracks of Americana and Blues Boogie that will melt your frets. The album has a lived-in feel that is perfect for multiple listens.

18. Hollis Brown – Ozone Park

Named after the character in a Bob Dylan Song, this Queens, N.Y. these guys are more U2 mixed with Tom Petty and a dash of Black Crowes than Dylan. An album that is a bit more Rock than Roll, this is an extremely accessible record that will be on your regular listening rotation very soon. There is not a bad song in this basket.

17. Tanya Tucker – While I’m Living

This record was a pleasant surprise on a couple of fronts. First, the fact that we were treated with any new music at all was a revelation since we have not heard much from Tanya since her 2009 covers album, My Turn. The second semi-surprise is that While I’m Living is so darn great. Teaming up on this one with Shooter Jennings providing knob-twirling production duties, and Brandi Carlile outright writing or co-writing on the songs, a partnership made in Americana heaven was formed. Recalling Tucker’s classic albums from the ’70s and ’80s, songs like “The Wheels of Laredo,” a song that would have been superb as a duet with Mary Robbins, and “Bring My Flowers Now” show-off a scarred voice that has not lost any of its vocal power.

16. The New Roses – Nothing But Wild

This one might be the Rock and Roll record of the year. And, if this were thirty years ago most of the songs on this scorcher of a record would be in the top 10 with a bullet. “The Bullet” would have made a perfect Night Ranger ballad, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” sounds a bit like Bon Jovi on steroids. The choruses are huge, the hooks are everywhere and with songs that extoll the virtues of a six-pack and a radio down by the river, you won’t even need throwback Thursday to bring back the good old days.

15. Rodney Crowell – Texas

Ronnie Dunn, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbens, Lyle Lovett and more celebrate all things Texas from the border to the oil patches, the strip bars honky-tonks. From the Piney Woods to the Rio Grande this record is almost as big as the state.

14. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Nick Cave pretty much writes every record that he delivers using what life is like for him at the time for inspiration. On this one that he started writing six months after his prior release, Skeleton Tree, he is starting to come out on the back end after the tragic death of his teenage son. Much like most of Nick Cave’s work, this record is not overly embraceable at first listen. But, once you sell yourself to the devil and immerse yourself in the beatific wonderment of this one as his heart is ripped from its cavity and presented to you, a believer you will become.

13. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Blending classic American Pop with contemporary touches, Lizzy Grant, aka Lana Del Rey has created one for the ages. Mostly low key, the songs carry a bit of a 70’s FM feel in particular on “The Greatest” where the vibe is Carole King by way of Karla Bonoff. Lot’s of Ladies of the Canyon imagery on this one especially on “Bartender.” The huge Pop hooks are pretty much gone on this album in favor of more lush and expansive soundscapes. “Venice Beach” is simply a stunner.

12. Walker Lukens – Adult

With Adult, Walker Lukens has released his most fully-formed record to date. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, the album has an underlying contemporary feel to it while still maintaining its singer-songwriter soul. Secret weapon and member of his band The Sidearms, Mckenzie Griffin, really shines on several tracks, most notably on “Frankie & Bella” and “Black Matter.” Vocally, Walker can go from a Harry Nilsson croon to honeyed voice Marvin Gaye at the turn of a tonsil, and he does so often here with the ease of a seasoned professional. The production value on Adult is first-rate and there is a lot of nuance and texture for your ears to enjoy as they travel from song to song. There is a lot discover with repeated listens of this record.

11. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

This guy keeps getting better and better with each subsequent album. Here, on his latest album following up the highly excellent 2016 release, Love & Hate, Michael Kiwanuka lays down a pate of Afro-Rhythms, Soul, and Funk along win an Indie-Pop sensibility. This Danger Mouse co-produced gem should land towards the front of many year-end best-of lists. including ours.

10. Yola – Walk Through The Fire

You won’t need to wander much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.

 

Rock is the New Roll: The Top 100 Albums of 2019 (30-21)

Here it is, the long-awaited list of the best albums of 2019. It has been a really great year for music. We heard from a couple of deceased legends in Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen, were treated with new records from Texas Honky Tonk legends Jack Ingram, Corb Lund, and Dale Watson, and bright lights shone for the first time with a bevy of new artists to discover including the one name wonders Lizzo and Yola.

Rock is not dead with White Reaper, Drugdealer and Black Country Communion all inviting us to a party like it’s 1979. And of course, the singer-songwriter is back. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back and better than ever and Rock is the New Roll favorite Tom Russell gave us a history lesson in 11 songs with October in the Railroad Earth.

This year we will be releasing our top 100 list 10 tasty gems at a time, so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy the ear-pleasing top 100 records of the year.

21. The Limboos – Baia

The Limboos are pretty much the very definition of a genre-defying band. A bit soul, retro in all the coolest of ways fusing together Soul, Rumba, Jazz, Blues, Funk, and a bunch of others we are probably skipping. On songs like “Till The End Of Town,” you would bet your last dollar this was a Stax single from the ’60s. When the sax kicks in on “Where Did She Go,” the first single from the album, there is a sense that you should be in some sort of Jetsons hipster go-go bar. The vocals are front and center and the production value is first-rate with no single instrument overpowering another. And yes, they have a female drummer, as if they needed anything else to add to their coolness.

20. Brittany Howard – Jaime

Alabama Shakes front-woman steps out with her powerful solo record. Combining Rock and Soul along with contemporary beats, her debut record goes low Nina Simone Slow one minute, James Brown Funk the next with a lot of Janelle Monáe flair thrown in for good measure. Named after her sister who passed away from retinal cancer when Brittany was 9, this album is a stunner.

19. Ryan Bingham – American Love Song

With a sound that could be coming from a backwoods juke joint in the middle of Texas, Ryan Bingham along with guitar player Charlie Sexton lay down 15 tracks of Americana and Blues Boogie that will melt your frets. The album has a lived-in feel that is perfect for multiple listens.

18. Hollis Brown – Ozone Park

Named after the character in a Bob Dylan Song, this Queens, N.Y. these guys are more U2 mixed with Tom Petty and a dash of Black Crowes than Dylan. An album that is a bit more Rock than Roll, this is an extremely accessible record that will be on your regular listening rotation very soon. There is not a bad song in this basket.

17. Tanya Tucker – While I’m Living

This record was a pleasant surprise on a couple of fronts. First, the fact that we were treated with any new music at all was a revelation since we have not heard much from Tanya since her 2009 covers album, My Turn. The second semi-surprise is that While I’m Living is so darn great. Teaming up on this one with Shooter Jennings providing knob-twirling production duties, and Brandi Carlile outright writing or co-writing on the songs, a partnership made in Americana heaven was formed. Recalling Tucker’s classic albums from the ’70s and ’80s, songs like “The Wheels of Laredo,” a song that would have been superb as a duet with Mary Robbins, and “Bring My Flowers Now” show-off a scarred voice that has not lost any of its vocal power.

16. The New Roses – Nothing But Wild

This one might be the Rock and Roll record of the year. And, if this were thirty years ago most of the songs on this scorcher of a record would be in the top 10 with a bullet. “The Bullet” would have made a perfect Night Ranger ballad, “Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” sounds a bit like Bon Jovi on steroids. The choruses are huge, the hooks are everywhere and with songs that extoll the virtues of a six-pack and a radio down by the river, you won’t even need throwback Thursday to bring back the good old days.

15. Rodney Crowell – Texas

Ronnie Dunn, Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbens, Lyle Lovett and more celebrate all things Texas from the border to the oil patches, the strip bars honky-tonks. From the Piney Woods to the Rio Grande this record is almost as big as the state.

14. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Nick Cave pretty much writes every record that he delivers using what life is like for him at the time for inspiration. On this one that he started writing six months after his prior release, Skeleton Tree, he is starting to come out on the back end after the tragic death of his teenage son. Much like most of Nick Cave’s work, this record is not overly embraceable at first listen. But, once you sell yourself to the devil and immerse yourself in the beatific wonderment of this one as his heart is ripped from its cavity and presented to you, a believer you will become.

13. Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Blending classic American Pop with contemporary touches, Lizzy Grant, aka Lana Del Rey has created one for the ages. Mostly low key, the songs carry a bit of a 70’s FM feel in particular on “The Greatest” where the vibe is Carole King by way of Karla Bonoff. Lot’s of Ladies of the Canyon imagery on this one especially on “Bartender.” The huge Pop hooks are pretty much gone on this album in favor of more lush and expansive soundscapes. “Venice Beach” is simply a stunner.

12. Walker Lukens – Adult

With Adult, Walker Lukens has released his most fully-formed record to date. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, the album has an underlying contemporary feel to it while still maintaining its singer-songwriter soul. Secret weapon and member of his band The Sidearms, Mckenzie Griffin, really shines on several tracks, most notably on “Frankie & Bella” and “Black Matter.” Vocally, Walker can go from a Harry Nilsson croon to honeyed voice Marvin Gaye at the turn of a tonsil, and he does so often here with the ease of a seasoned professional. The production value on Adult is first-rate and there is a lot of nuance and texture for your ears to enjoy as they travel from song to song. There is a lot discover with repeated listens of this record.

11. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

This guy keeps getting better and better with each subsequent album. Here, on his latest album following up the highly excellent 2016 release, Love & Hate, Michael Kiwanuka lays down a pate of Afro-Rhythms, Soul, and Funk along win an Indie-Pop sensibility. This Danger Mouse co-produced gem should land towards the front of many year-end best-of lists. including ours.

10. Yola – Walk Through The Fire

You won’t need to wander much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.

 

What We’re Listening To Wednesday (September 18, 2019)

King Corduroy – All Right

Deep in the recesses of Rock is the New Roll H.Q. we have been going down more than a few Southern Rock rabbit holes. He calls his music Cosmic Southern Soul Music, but we just call it cool. There is more than a little 70’s Leon Russell swagger bandied about with this guy.

Raphael Saadiq – This World is Drunk

His new record, Jimmy Lee, is dedicated to his deceased brother. This triumphant return by an artist that consistently delivers thought provoking music that never fails to sooth the soul.

Yola – It Ain’t Easier

Most followers of Rock is the New Roll already know we are HUGE fans of pretty much any record that comes out of Easy Eye Sound. Yola’s new album, Walk Through The Fire, is a strong contender for song of the year.

Conway Twitty – Southern Comfort

With the current trend of contemporary Roots Americana artists reaching back to the classic outlaw artists of the day for their influences it is always good to go back to the barrooms in search of the originals. Here is a later day Conway Twitty gem that sounds like it could be a Chris Stapleton song.

The Wild – Playing With Fire

Canadian rockers, The Wild, throw it down like a more melodic Motörhead.

Lee Aaron – Watcha Do To My Body

And, speaking of Rock Chicks, the 30th anniversary of Lee Aaron’s Bodyrock is upon us.

New Music Friday (August 2, 2019)

Yola – Shady Grove

The latest video from Yola’s debut record, Walk Through Fire.” A top 20 record for sure.

Starcrawler – Bet My Brains

Starcrawler, one of our favorite over the edge Rock Chick bands are back witba new single and video.

Trigger Hippy – Don’t Wanna Bring You Down

In 2014 Trigger Hippy, a supergroup consisting of Nashville session musicians released a self-titled album that was one of the best of the year. Here they pop up out of nowhere with a scorching new single.

Midland – Cheatin’ Songs

Normally, we would cry fowl on a band that travels the 80’s Country landscape, but for Midland all bets are off. We are all in. Here is their latest Garth Meets George gem.

The Allman Betts Band – Shinin’

Formed by the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts the Southern Rock torch has Ben duly passed. Close your eyes and you will think it is 1975 all over again.

Demob Happy – Autoportrait

This Psych Rock trio turns up the burners on this one to deliver the headbanger of the week.

Moon City Masters – The Price You Pay

A strong 70’s filter on this one picture Blind Faith jamming on stage with The Allman Brothers and you will pretty much get the idea.

Goodbye June – Universal Mega Love

These guys already have the chops to Greta Van Fleet and Rival Sons. A Rock band on the rise look for their new record Community Inn to come out in October.

Elles Bailey – Deeper

A vibrant Blues/Soul singer Elles Bailey could be the younger sister of Beth Hart.

The Top 10 Albums of 2019 (so far)

There has been a truck load of great records out this year and before the new Bruce Springsteen comes out this Friday, everything else is just a placeholder, here are our top ten favorites.

10. J.S. Ondara – Tales of America

This Minnesota by way of Kenya Americana Folk singer is this years Leon Bridges. An inspiring new find , Ondara fully absorbs himself in any song he sings.

09. Austin Meade – Waves

This denizen of the Texas hill country lays down a template of 70’s outlaw inspired country influenced songwriting with more of than a touch of Rock as well as Roll.

08. Yola – Walk Through The Fire

You won’t need to to much past the first song on this record, “Faraway Look”, for this one to grab you. With pipes that would make Dusty Springfield blush along with the production fairy dust from Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye team, this is one could have been released in 1968.

07. Guida E.V.A

An extremely rambunctious listen, E.V.A., the latest from Italian Glam Rock titans Guida combines Glam, 70’s Rock, and a tinge of disco that will mood-set your day at first listen.

06. Jack Ingram – Ridin’ High … Again

Ingram’s tribute in spirit to Jerry Jeff Walker and the rest of the hill country troubadours. Another record that could have been made in 70’s era Nashville. His take on “Desperados Waiting on a Train” is worth the price of admission alone.

05. Nightbeats – Myth of a Man

There is a real and pronounced outlaw-groove Tarantino-Noir vibe that permeates every pore of this album.

04. Kenny Wayne Sheppard – The Traveller

Kenny Wayne Sheppard with each release seems to be more and more comfortable with his place in the pantheon of guitar slingers. His latest, a Classic Rock concoction of Blues, Boogie, and Rock is a powerhouse. Singer Noah Hunt is in fine grizzled form still sounding like Warren Zevon’s less drug addled brother, and Stevie Ray’s old stick man Chris Layton pushes the band down the rails like a runaway train. Including eight originals and two covers, the best of the lot being a scorched earth version of Neil’s Mr. Soul, this one might be the bands best record to date.

03. Jenny Lewis – On the Line

Firmly entrenched in Laurel Canyon California Lounge-Rock of the 70’s. Any record that features Benmont Tench, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Beck, and Don Was has to be the coolest. And this one is.

02. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

This one came out of nowhere, also way back in January. A collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, both site favorites, this one is a tight Folk- Rock record that brings out the best in both artists.

01. The Delines – The Imperial

Brooding and vulnerable Country Soul from the side-piece band for Richmond Fontaine head honcho. Every song is a Raymond Carver short story.

Five Cool Ones: Five Cool Albums released this week (February 22, 2019)

The music scene is starting to crank up quite nicely. Karla Bonoff has a new record out as does John Mayall. Conor Oberst has a new side piece band and Julia Jacklin released a gem of an album this week. The music scene is very much alive and well!

Yola – Walk Through The Fire

This, her debut album, just might make Yola the reigning queen of Country Soul. Walk Through The Fire is a genre- bending sonic masterpiece brought to you courtesy of Dan Auerbach and the good folks at Easy Eye Sound.

Ray Charles – Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music Vol. 1&2

Under normal circumstances we do not cover reissues as part of our weekly release countdown. But if that release is this ear buster of an album we are all over it. “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the best cover version of “Careless Love” you ever will hear. Damn straight!!

Susto – Ever Since I Lost My Mind

This Charleston, Sc band is a bit of a throwback to the early 2000’s. Led by Justin Osborn, this six-piece band should bring to mind Band of Horses, or from a more recent vintage, The Lumineers. Justin Osborne is the singer and the star of this show. “Last Century” will Be in our top 100 songs of 2019 List.

Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

Rock is the New Roll as well as The Falcon’s Nest are huge fans of Conor Oberst. We don’t care if he is recording as Bright Eyes, under his own name, or with his new band that features Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers on set that is a tight-knit folk-rock tour de force.

Attic Lights – Love In The Time of Sharks

This 70’s Power Pop influenced band never fails to expand the mind and impress the soul. Their latest, Love In The Time of Sharks, somehow, without pretense, combines Power Pop, Americana, and Rock and Roll all in one musical gumbo. The Raspberries by way of Big Star on this one.