Music I Enjoyed In 2010
The following is my personal list of music I listened to and enjoyed for the year 2010. My selections were made at random and not meant to be in any particular order. It’s not a best of the rest endeavor for I feel that while useful to some, these type of lists dilute the efforts of many artists that don’t make the list. What it does reflect is my personal taste and recommendations for some what I listened to this year.
Alejandro Escovedo and his band, the three piece Sensitive Boys, deliver a unique mix of garage band, new wave, and roots rock blended together. Atour-de-force of unrelenting rock and roll power. Ian Hunter provides guest vocals on Down in the Bowery and Bruce Springsteen shares vocals on the song Faith. On top of that, most of the material here is co-written with Chuck Prophet, there’s no filler, musically or lyrically.
His seventh solo album, “Midnight Souvenirs” picks right up where “Sleepless” leaves off, a continuation of that maturation process that began in 1996 with “Long Line”. Peter opens himself up even more here by working with Shelby Lynne, Neko Case and Merle Haggard. This time mining an alt-country, blues, soul vibe, and he does this extremely well. The album as a whole is greater than its individual parts. There are no stand alone tracks here, instead they all work together to make a solid recording.
Needless to say, this was a much-anticipated release by many folks, myself included. And it does not disappoint. Clocking in at just under 32 minutes, its brevity is made up for by the fact that there is simply not a bad song in the bunch. Earle easily interprets American musical styles of the last hundred years or so, incorporating them seamlessly into his own inimitable style. From folk, rockabilly, country, bluegrass and more, Justin Townes Earle proves himself to be capable of deftly blending words and music into one powerful and entertaining song after another.
4. The Black Keys – Brothers
This is pure hook laden blues/garage rock combined with killer funk/pop rhythm attacks and a big dose of old-school soul. Excellent songwriting by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, together they create music that is simultaneously raw & smooth, vital & immediate that always looks back in order to move forward.
5. Widespread Panic – Dirty Side Down
Dirty Side Down finds the band reuniting with longtime friend and Athens-based producer John Keane and in many ways, returning to form. The result is not only a reminder of Panic’s breadth of influences, but also its range of talents: all of the band members share songwriting duties and that unity shows—the band sounds more like Widespread Panic than anything it has released since founding guitarist Michael Houser’s passing in 2002. Two of the Panic’s longtime collaborators also leave their marks on the album. Jerry Joseph’s “North” appears for the first time on a proper record and the band nods to fallen friend Vic Chesnutt with his solemn, bittersweet—and previously unreleased—“This Cruel Thing.”
6. The Sadies – Darker Circles
This release comfortably sits aside the rest of the band’s Americana infused Psychedelic Rock. Darker Circles is a fitting title for this album, with dark subject matter and haunting melodies. The music is driving and energetic while the harmonies are uplifting with mind-melting twin guitar interplay from Dallas and Travis Good. It has everything you’d expect from Spaghetti Western instrumentals to the strange Americana ballads that only The Sadie’s could pull-off.
7. Dylan LeBlanc – Paupers Field
LeBlanc’s songwriting contemplates life, death, love, and the more subtle details of daily existence. This young “old soul” is blessed with a voice that’s a hybrid of Jim James and Ryan Adams and it shines on country western ballads like “If The Creek Don’t Rise,” “Death Of Outlaw Billy John,” and “Emma Hartley.” After listening to this album one might ask, are these songs really written by a kid at age eighteen or nineteen? The album was also self-produced and recorded live, which makes his vocals and the musicianship even more astounding.
8. First Aid Kit – The Big Black & The Blue
I am impressed at how mature the songwriting and performances are for individuals that are so young. The emphasis is on narrative lyrics accompanying playful melodies with intense, dense harmonies.” The whole album consists of great musicianship and songwriting. The harmonies are tight and well put together. These Swedish girls have a bright future ahead of them.
9. Smoke Fairies – Through Low Light And Trees
The songs have a vintage feel with healthy lashings of classic folk, and a twist of the blues. Otherworldly harmonies, rhythmic instrumentation and percussion adds another level to their dreamy, often mesmerizing delivery.
10. Luke Doucet – Steel City Trawler
Doucet returns to the basics of rock and roll, where simple parts make for complex and memorable wholes. The riffs are thick and excellent, with chunky reverb and crashing hi-hats that complement them well. The album’s best moment arrives with the folky “Hey Now,” a serene acoustic song with soothing backing melodies from Doucet’s wife and bandmate Melissa McClelland.
11. Jim Lauderdale – Patchwork River
This album is the second collaboration between Lauderdale and Robert Hunter. Musically, Lauderdale has created an album that sounds like it could have been recorded in Muscle Shoals or Memphis. Lyrically, Hunter has a unique way sculpting words. In Patchwork River, he creates a world peopled by southern folkloric figures and extraordinary places. I hope that these two masters continue to work together on future endeavors.
12. Robert Plant – Band Of Joy
Band of Joy, is a provocative and stripped down roots music escapade that continues Robert Plant’s fascination with acoustic blues that has never waned since his days with Led Zeppelin. His voice is unmistakable as it is powerful in the most understated of ways. Plant has delved into the vault and brought back a selection of songs that range from foot-stomping to dark and brooding. Buddy Miller as co-producer should be given just as much credit as T-Bone Burnet. “Band of Joy” is not as pristine as “Raising Sand.” It’s grittier, messier, more exuberant.
13. Bobby Bare Jr. – A Storm, A Tree, My Mothers Head
Leave it to Bobby Bare, Jr. to sneak in and make one of the best albums of 2010. Recorded in only two days, the vibe is clearly alt-country but with heavy doses of rock with close to straight up country tracks. For most of the album, Mr. Bare’s band is made up of chiefly producer David Vandervelde and a trio of members from My Morning Jacket – guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Carl Broemel, drummer Patrick Hallahan, and bassist Tom Blankenship. Together they proceed to tear the roof off in a guitar-infused rock and roll romp that has me turning the volume up and every time I listen.
14. Ray LaMontagne – God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise
In my opinion, this is the best album Ray has ever released. From the opening song, “Repo Man” through the closing of “Devil’s In The Jukebox” LaMontagne takes the listener on a genuinely haunting and hypnotic journey. The lyrics tell stories of loss, desire and heartbreak and are perfectly matched to Ray’s unique voice and subtle instruments.
15. Various Artists – Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall
For this project, a wide variety of diverse musicians (Tom Watts, Yim Yames, Del McCoury, Ani DiFranco, Pete Seeger & Tao Rodriquez-Seeger, Jason Isabell, Richie Havens, Merle Haggard, Dr.John, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, just to name a few) traveled to The Preservation Hall in New Orleans to collaborate, and record with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, performing “Classic” New Orleans Jazz & related songs. The result of all of this, is an incredible compilation that celebrates the wonderful music of the city of New Orleans.
The Tweedy-Staples pairing does not seem that likely a partnership but a shared love for Chicago blues, gospel and R&B provides the unifying force that works well. Jeff Tweedy’s production is complimentary and sympathetic, never overshadowing Staples’ vocal talent with the understanding that the most the powerful instrument should take center stage.
Le Noise is a very good album; perhaps not a classic, but a worthy addition to the Neil Young cannon. Young’s guitar playing is rock solid, as is the sonic landscapes produced by Daniel Lanois. Perhaps many of the songs would have benefitted from some additional players, or possibly a single drummer. Personally, I don’t miss these elements, for me this album is meditative, sung with Neil Young’s tenor, and one I would place among my favorites.
This is one of the best sounding albums the group have ever released. The band makes good use of acoustic guitars and a pumping, yet sympathetic rhythm section to create a foundation for Robinson’s voice. The use of electric guitars (and occasionally pedal steel, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle) in the mix add depth and emotion to the arrangements. The band demonstrates that they can deliver a collection of heartfelt songs. From good time, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll, to delicately arranged ballads, to pumping gospel-its all here.
19. Joe Pug – Messenger
Messenger marks Pug’s full-length debut, a little more than a year after the solo acoustic songs on Nation of Heat. For this recording Pug uses full-band arrangements or extra instrumentation on several songs. There is a distinct country lope, and nice touches of pedal steel and harmonica that add flavor across the disc. I believe the best tracks are the acoustic songs as they are some of Pug’s strongest yet.