Monday, December 27, 2010

Favorite Songs of 2010

"Fallin' For You" - Dierks Bentley - Great melody, lyrics, and a fantastic beat that chugs right along with a quiet intensity.  If you don't like the fiddle, this could be the song to change your mind.

"Hangman" - Cadillac Sky - An inspiring song with defiant lyrics that vow not to let people, life, the devil, etc. get you down.  Essentially a song about following and doing what you're passionate about, doubts be damned.   "Ain't no hangman gonna get a rope around me"

"Missing You Is More Than I Can Do" - Randy Rogers Band - Fantastic melody, fun take on a classic country theme.  "Don't take this wrong because I know you belong out there on that stage / But I swear if my life was an open book it would be missing a page"

"Coffee and Cigarettes" - Jimmy Eat World - This song makes me think of college for some reason.  Not sure I could have survived without either one.  Anthemic, like most of their tunes.  "Been a lot of places since / but nothing else compares / To easy times and easy eyes / to meet you in a stare"

"Macon" - Jamey Johnson - Was released as a single but failed to do much on the charts.  Just a fun song 'bout gettin' back home to yo' woman.  "Gotta get back to Macon / love all night"

"Roll With It" - Easton Corbin - This song hit number one on the country singles chart.  It's a great feel-good summer song.  And it's actually country.  Good stuff.

"Eyes Wide Open" - Jars of Clay (featuring Derek Webb and Mac Powell) - Catchy tune with a great message and handclap percussion, with which you can never go wrong.  "So God bruise these heels we've dug in the ground / that we might move closer to love / Pull out the roots we've dug in so deep / Finish what you've started / Help us to believe"

"She Won't Be Lonely Long" - Clay Walker - Hit Top 5 on the charts.  Walker's had some classics, but this may have eclipsed them all as my favorite.  It's just a great song and Walker sings the hell out of it.  "Heaven help the fool who did her wrong"

"For the Summer" - Ray Lamontagne & the Pariah Dogs - Certainly one of the best voices in any genre of music.  This is a beautiful song about coming home after being on the road, and it has spot-on production (dig the country-soul vibe).  "Can I come home for the summer? / I could slow down for a little while"

"After the Scene Dies" - Drive-By Truckers - A haunting ode to bars and venues that are getting shut down for lack of support or corporate/government greed, but more generally about doing and working hard at what you enjoy.  "When the frontman turns to Jesus and the drummer moves away / I'll still be doing what pleases me / After the scene dies"

"Pretty Good At Drinking Beer"  - Billy Currington - Fun song about the glories (or in-glories?) of imbibing.  Currington's getting pretty good at laid-back songs like this, and I, for one, enjoy them quite a bit. 

"Knee Deep" - Zac Brown Band (featuring Jimmy Bufett) - The most talented band played on country radio (their Pass the Jar DVD shows all members to be impeccable musicians).  This one has some nice guitar picking and follows in that age-old American tradition of escapism.  I wore this one out in Maui.  "I'm knee deep in the water somewhere / Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair / Only worry in the world / Is the tide gonna reach my chair"

"Little Lion Man" - Mumford & Sons - This song has nearly 15 million views on Youtube and a good number of them are from me.  I stumbled on it out of the blue one day and was immediately taken by the banjo lick throughout and the great chorus.  Certainly one of the best of the year.

"If I Die Young" - The Band Perry - It wouldn't surprise if the rest of the songs on this band's album are terrible country-pop, but it also wouldn't surprise me of there were more songs like this.  It's got a pleasant melody, fairly poetic lyrics by country radio standards, and fantastic production that includes a mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and steel guitar. 

"F**k You" - Cee Lo Green - There's just no denying this song.  It sounds like Al Green singing a love-gone-wrong movie written by Quentin Tarantino.  Hilarious, and actually pretty easy to relate to.

"In God's Country" - Infamous Stringdusters - An absolutely killer version of a well-known U2 song.  I like this one better than Dierks and Co.'s cover of "Pride."  Of course, there would be no song without U2's source material, but I'll go as far as to say I like this even better than their original.  The Stringdusters truly make it their own.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

Disclaimer:  I don't get to listen to everything that comes out, just stuff I know I want to buy/can afford.  I will confess a love (some would say bias) for anything country-tinged or that contains a banjo.  If I were a music critic and got tons of CDs for free this list could be a lot larger and much different.  Then again, I love these albums so much it wouldn't surprise me if it stayed exactly the same.  
Top 4:

4) Letters in the Deep - Cadillac Sky
Produced by Dan Auerbach, guitarist of The Black Keys, I liked this album so much simply because it introduced me to a great modern bluegrass band with some solid music already under their belt. After listening to their previous two albums, Blind Man Walking and Gravity Is Our Enemy, which are filled with great songs, it's easy to see Letters is a step in a different, though not all that different, direction. The production is much more gritty and raw, which is to be expected with Auerbach, and lends itself to an almost old school Avett Brothers sound. The harmonies are reminiscent of the best in bluegrass but also of Fleet Foxes on a couple tunes, especially "Trash Bag."  Coming off the heels of a tour opening for Mumford & Sons and with the recent departure of lead singer Bryan Simpson, it'll be interesting to see what this band does next.

 3) Burning the Day - Randy Rogers Band
The first song I heard by this band was "In My Arms Instead" from their self-titled album and I've been hooked ever since.  If there's another band that can mix country and rock that appeals to the mainstream music fan while maintaining artistic integrity better than this, I don't know of it.  Rogers' gravelly voice stands out, and he's able to wrap it around the emotional truth of any song, whether it be heartbreak or humor.  He also turns some of the best and most unexpected vocal phrases I've heard.  What this band does best, however, is write damn good songs.  I'll be listening to this one in the car, windows down, for many summers to come.

2) The Big To-Do - Drive-By Truckers
DBT is probably my favorite band right now.  Crunchy guitars, catchy riffs, great songwriting, dark stories about the South; what more could a guy ask for?  This album had to grow on me, as I was a huge fan of their previous album, the epic 19-song Brighter Than Creation's Dark, which I'd discovered not more than a few months before this was released.  Whereas Creation's contained Mike Cooley's best songs, I believe To-Do contains Patterson Hood's best: "Daddy Learned To Fly," "Drag the Lake Charlie," (try getting that riff out of your head) and "After the Scene Dies" to name three.  Let There Be Rock.

1) Up On The Ridge - Dierks Bentley
I've worn the hell out of this recording.  It's a well-crafted, excellently produced, blast of an album.  You've got everything from straight up bluegrass (the rollicking "Rovin' Gambler" featuring Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers) to unexpected covers (a reverent take on "Pride" by U2 featuring the wail of Del McCoury) to songs about miners, a profession deeply interconnected with country and bluegrass music (the beautiful "Down in the Mine").  It's a shame that country radio won't (or at least hasn't yet) played any of the singles enough to climb into the top 20.  It says a lot about the powers that be at country radio when they won't play one of their consistent chart-toppers simply because he's decided to do things a little different.  Regardless, it's comforting to know that at least there are some artists who've tasted massive mainstream success who are willing to be true to themselves and not constantly cater to the money-grubbing that has become the status quo around them.  As a side note, this album contains what is probably my favorite lyric of the year in "Fallin' For You": "Well your blood is red but your soul is black / don't believe I'm a-comin' back / And now I know why the willows weep / the tide is high and the water's deep."

Albums I like from the last year that I didn't really listen to enough to call "favorites":

Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons (love most of the songs and heart-on-your sleeve lyrics, but some of the songs start running together)
The Guitar Song - Jamey Johnson (25 song long double album - damn, that's a lot)
Invented - Jimmy Eat World (every album this band produces is sonically brilliant)
Things That Fly - Infamous Stringdusters (bluegrass is going in exciting directions if these guys have any say about it)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2nd Welcome

I'm not very good at this blogging thing.  I deleted my first "Welcome" blog that I September.  Here's hoping that I can start being at least a little consistent.

I mostly want to start a blog so I'll have an excuse to write.  An English major, I haven't written much of anything at all since I graduated in May of 2009, which is truly sad.  I think school just burned me out.  And I am lazy.  "Write.  Just sit down at do it."  That's the how-to advice good writers give to would-be writers.  It's advice I often fail to heed.

I'll write mostly about things that interest me.  (Novel idea, right?)   Music, movies, books, religion;  I've got opinions about them all.  I may also share a little of my fiction and poetry (old and, God willing, new).

In the spirit of another year gone by, my next post will be music-related:  favorite albums, songs, and singles of 2010.  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.