Best of 2012
Welcome to the Best of 2012! Since 2003 I’ve put together a two cd best of the year and it has loosely evolved into CD1 being rock & soul and CD2 being folk, singer/songwriter, country and bluegrass. This was a great year for new and old artists and tough to pick only enough songs for two CDs. This year the discs are mostly rock & singer/songwriter. I love jazz, blues and world music but they seem harder to sequence into these mixes. At the end of this I’ll add my choices for best new soul and blues. As usual, these lists aren’t ranked, just sequenced to play as a great collection.
Meanwhile, onward to the best of 2012!
Track 1: Bruce Springsteen “Land of Hope and Dreams” from Wrecking Ball
One perennial I did include was Brooce. This is basically a rewrite of the Rosetta Tharpe song “This Train” but instead of excluding the sinners, everyone is welcome. I think Bruce was dwelling on the state of the nation and I was glad to see him out stumping for Obama up until the very end.
Track 2: Chuck Prophet “Museum of Broken Hearts” from Temple Beautiful
Chuck is from San Francisco and this album is mostly about the city in the late 70’s, when I first moved here. Temple Beautiful was an old synagogue turned into a punk venue situated in between the Fillmore West and Jim Jones’ People Temple. It was a great place for music and I saw the Clash do a surprise show there in 79. Chuck was great this year at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
Track 3: Alejandro Escovedo “Man of the World” from Big Station
Alejandro started his career in SF with the punk Nuns who also played the Temple Beautiful. Now living in Austin, he is a prolific singer/songwriter who still maintains his punk edge. In 1998 No Depression magazine named him artist of the decade. This song was probably co-written with Chuck Prophet.
Track 4: Leonard Cohen “Darkness” from Old Ideas
Like an old blues sage, Leonard has aged well. This song ranks with his best, including Tower of Song and Everybody Knows. Those I know who have seen him live recently say his show is amazing.
Track 5: Jack White “Love Interruption” from Blunderbuss
The leader of the White Stripes sounds like he’s channeling Leonard Cohen here on this bitter track from an album mostly about his divorce.
Track 6: Bonnie Raitt “Right Down the Line” from Slipstream
A welcome return for Bonnie and a nice version of this Gerry Rafferty song, who passed away last year.
Track 7: Best Coast “The Only Place” from The Only Place
This love letter to California is pure breezy power pop. I think I heard this in a JC Penney ad, but don’t hold it against me.
Track 8: The Shins “Simple Song” from Port of Morrow
An indie pop band out of Portland, Oregon who have made a career out of introverted angst.
Track 9: Ben Kweller “Mean to Me” from Go Fly a Kite
I left before his set at HSB and now I wished I hadn’t. A great album of power pop in the NRBQ vein.
Track 10: The Walkmen “Heaven” from Heaven
A NY indie pop band with a very 80’s sound. I mean that in a good way.
Track 11: Garbage “Automatic Systematic Habit” from Not Your Kind of People
I saw Joan Jett this year on the fourth of July and I realized what a guilty pleasure this type of rock and roll is.
Track 12: Cow “Black Harvest” from Dedicated to the Mighty Drum
Modern English country folk sounding a lot like the Moody Blues, another forgotten band from the sixties.
Track 13: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros “Man On Fire” from Here
I loved their first album and this one is good too. Supposedly a rock band, I think they are really an alien hippie religious cult hiding out in the Joshua Tree Monument park.
Track 14: Beechwood Sparks “Sparks Fly Again” from The Tarnished Gold
Reunited after 10 years, this cosmic cowboy band played a disappointing set at HSB. However, this Byrds sound- alike track captures them at their best.
Track 15: The Jim Jones Revue “7 Times Around the Sun” from The Savage Heart
A garage band from the UK, their sound has been described as “sonic viscera”. This song is less distortion and some great Jerry Lee Lewis style piano.
Track 16: Janiva Magness “I’m Alive” from Stronger For It
This Canadian blues singer has been around for 30 years but she is new to me. This song is written by my favorite Dusty Springfield impersonator, Shelby Lynne.
Track 17: The Mountain Goats “Harlem Roulette” from Transcendental Youth
I saw this band on the Colbert Report and you could tell Stephen was a big fan.
Track 18: Calexico “Splitter” from Algiers
This spaghetti western rock group records for the first time in New Orleans, but keeps the mariachi horns.
Track 19: Giant Giant Sand “Forever And A Day” from Tucson
This Arizona band has been around for 30 years, and shares a similar sound to Calexico.
Track 1: Dave Alvin “Beautiful City ‘Cross the River” from Eleven Eleven
It was a tossup to put this track on or something from Dylan’s Tempest. This song reminds me of his incredible cover of Dylan’s Highway 61. Dave has been doing some great solo albums since leaving the Blasters and is always great in concert.
Track 2: Neil Young & Crazy Horse “Oh Susannah” from Americana
Neil and the band get funky with this soul classic.
Track 3: Tim Gearan “Get a Gun” from Riverboat
NY Slide guitarist who plays around Boston these days. Played with blues singer Toni Lynn Washington for 10 years.
Track 4: Alabama Shakes “Hold On” from Boys and Girls
One of the best debuts of the year with lead singer Brittany Howard sounding like the next Janis Joplin. Great analog sound, especially that amp buzz.
Track 5: Chris Robinson Brotherhood “Rosalee” from Big Moon Ritual
Former Black Crowes frontman has been wood shedding this band here in Northern California for the last couple years and popped up at Phil Lesh’s restaurant Terrapin Crossing last week. Sounding a lot like the 70’s Dead, they seem to be finding the same audience too.
Track 6: Justin Townes Earle “Look the Other Way” from Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me
I’m more likely to buy an album by Steve Earle’s son these days than the father.
Track 7: John Fullbright “Jericho” from From the Ground Up
My favorite debut of the year, I saw him on a streaming concert from Bob Weir’s TRI Studios website. This singer/songwriter from Woody Guthrie’s hometown in Oklahoma will be heard from in the future.
Track 8: Jimmy LaFave “Missing You” from Depending on the Distance
Austin Country Soul superstar is also one of the best Dylan interpreters.
Track 9: Norah Jones “If the Law Don’t Want You” from KIN – Songs by Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell
This is an unusual collaboration between country songwriter Crowell and Southern poet Karr (who teaches English at Syracuse University). Their songs are interpreted by other singers including Lucinda Williams.
Track 10: Gretchen Peters “Woman On the Wheel” from Hello Cruel World
Although not a debut (she has recorded a lot with Tom Russell), this is some great writing. Never metaphor I didn’t like.
Take 11: Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires “Choctaw Summer” There is a Bomb in Gilead
Classic southern rock with intelligent lyrics and great energy.
Track 12: Race Horses “Nobody’s Son” from Furniture
Another band from the UK that sounds a little like the best of Bowie and Roxy Music.
Track 13: Kathleen Edwards “Empty Threat” from Voyageur
Supreme Canadian singer/songwriter would never leave her hockey skates for the USA. Great back catalog.
Track 14: Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers “Walking the Line” from Old Gold
Just a great country groove that feels like a jukebox in a lonesome truckstop.
Track 15: Corb Lund (with Hayes Carll) “Bible On the Dash” from Cabin Fever
Corb makes me feel country music is safe from all those hats in Nashville. I saw Hayes Carll this year at the new Freight and Salvage with Amanda Shires and he is a gas. The Texas John Prine.
Track 16: Kevin Gordon “Don’t Stop Me This Time” from Gloryland
Stellar singer/songwriter from Lousiana just singing about his life.
Track 17: Heartless Bastards “Parted Ways” from Arrow
Saw this band at HSB and was haunted by Erica Wennerstrom’s vocal style. Not a bad guitarist either.
Track 18: Bill Fay “This World” from Life Is People
Bill Fay’s last album came out 40 years ago. Rediscovered by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, this recording sounds like we missed out on some major talent.
Best New Soul and Blues
Luke James “I Want You” from the Single Sharon Jones “Inspiration Information” from Soul Now
Mayer Hawthorne “Love In Motion“ from the iTunes Session Ruthie Foster “This Time” from Let It Burn Bettye LaVette “Time Will Do the Talking” from Thankful n’ Thoughtful (Deluxe Edition) Bobby Womack “Nothin’ Can Save Ya (feat. Fatoumata Diawara)” from The Bravest Man in the Universe Cody Chesnutt “Scroll Call” from Landing On a Hundred Escort “Caméleon Chameleon” from Escort Joss Stone “While You’re Out Looking for Sugar” from The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 (Deluxe Edition) Leela James “Something’s Got a Hold On Me” from the Single Angie Stone “Backup Plan” from the Single Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics “My Dear” from It’s About Time Gary Clark “Please Come Home” from Black and Blue Frank Ocean “Channel Orange”
Bob Dylan “Tempest”; Esperanza Spalding “Radio Music Society”; Chris Smither “Hundred Dollar Valentine”; Royal Southern Brotherhood “Royal Southern Brotherhood”; Little Feat “Rooster Rag”; Loudon Wainwright III “Older than My Old Man”; Various Artists “Quiet About It – A Tribute to Jesse Winchester”; Dierks Bentley “Home”; Todd Snider “Agnostic Hymns and Fables; Patti Smith “Nine”; Various Artists “Chimes of Freedom – Songs of Bob Dylan; Tedeschi Trucks Band “Everybody’s Talking; The Vespers “The Fourth Wall”; Amadou and Mariam “Folila”; Carolina Chocolate Drops “Leaving Eden”; Dr. John “Locked Down”; Chip Taylor “Son of a Golf Pro”; Jerry Douglas “Traveler”; Ry Cooder “Election Special”; John Hiatt “Mystic Pinball”; I See Hawks In LA “New Kind of Lonely”
Sorry for those I missed! See ya next year!