Dear Santa: Please Bring Me a Gift Card for These Great Roots Albums I Missed in 2013
This was the year I came home to the Front Range music scene. I went out—as much as my new job and my middle age preference for napping permitted—to see live music. I went out to see Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams in LaPorte and Bearfoot and Jalan Crossland and others in Fort Collins. I went out to see Alan Jackson (and should have seen Dwight Yoakam) at Frontier Days here in Cheyenne. And I meant to go the the first (and sadly may be the only) Rutsfest between the two burgs.
The trade-off was I cut back on my physical music purchases away from the shows. I brought home some good swag, but I resisted the many good new releases this year. Such is life.
Some might blame the growing availability of “free” streaming media. I did fall in like with Spotify this year, after a decade of on-and-off streaming at Last.fm. And then there’s the Wild Wild West of YouTube. Maybe the youngsters see streaming as a substitute for owning. Maybe. I treat it like radio. Radio I can program myself. Maybe a mix-tape. Usually background noise.
I also feel like streaming media—like good radio—gets bands noticed, gets them on our radar. I feel like I’m much more likely to fall in love with music narrowcasting online than I was in the “good old days” of Album Oriented Radio. And I want to fall in love with music before I go and buy it.
But that’s me. Don’t go and build a business around “me”. As Kacey Musgraves so fabulously sang on TV this year, go follow YOUR arrow, wherever it leads. If you want the opinion of somebody’s who got paid to listen to this stuff, check out the Entertainment Weekly list here. In no particular order:
Jason Isbell – Southeastern
While I’m a long-time Drive-by Truckers fan, I’ve been slow to warm up to Jason Isbell as a solo artist. While not cut for radio, this album is worth the buy on the strength of the emotional Elephant alone. Just wow. This is grown-up stuff. I expect good things forthcoming, especially with his new bride Amanda Shires.
Holly Williams – The Highway
My sister suggested I check out Holly Williams a couple releases ago. Hank, of course, defines Country Music. Hank Jr defines the 2nd generation muddling thru between brilliance and bogus. Hank III defines what could have been. Where does that leave Ms Audrey’s granddaughter and Mr Isbell’s current tour-mate? Maybe what Country Music ought to be. If Holly Williams could be the future we would all live in a better sonic place.
Son Volt – Honky Tonk
Where Mr Isbell and Ms Williams make me feel my age, Jay Farrar is (along with Alison Krauss) more of a contemporary reminder of what I missed out on during college days back in Central Illinois. Oh, if I had only kept practicing my guitar instead of going to class… Whether solo or ensemble with Son Volt, I know I’m going to like what he does. Honky Tonk is a trippy take on Buck’s Bakersfield sound and the love shines through.
Audrey Auld – Tonk
Mrs. Mezera takes a more straight-forward assault on Bakersfield, with her usual dose of Carter Family and Texas-Tasmania enthusiasm in the enterprise. Audrey’s music is music you can two-step to, dammit, and even as a Nashvillian now she’s not afraid to talk truth to Music Row.
Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams – Rocky Mountain Honky Tonk
Do you see a pattern here? 2013 IS the year of the Honky Tonk. I almost got to another Halden Wofford show after their new album came out, but alas it has not yet been. From what I have heard it is their usual alt.country gold. This IS an album I will be picking up next time my truck points south across that Colorado line.
Vince Gill – Bakersfield
And if your tastes lie less alt.country and more classic country, AM-radio that could be Buck Owens’ ghost, or Merle Haggard in his prime, Vince Gill delivers. Again, from what I’ve heard, its a fun little album, well worth your time.
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon
Two of my favorite artists, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell never fail to deliver. I wish I had spent some time with this album this year. I didn’t. My bad. Maybe the Americana Grammy in 2014 will actually go to Americana artists.
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park
Its nice to see one of our own make the big time and Kacey Musgraves done that in spades this year. I want to get all bent out of shape about her more libertarian, I’m-OK-you’re-OK message, but you know what? I never let it bother me with good old rock ‘n roll and I’ll get over it again. Good writing. Good singing.
Good gracious there’s some good music out there if I would get off my duff and go buy it this year. These are just the tip of the Americana iceberg and there’s plenty more where they came from. And that, my friends, is something to celebrate with a Happy New Year.
(cross-posted from JCShepard.com)