Delta Spirit - The Flood
Gillian Welch - The Way It Goes
Justin Townes Earle - Black Eyed Suzy
Brown Bird - Bottom Of The Bottle
Trampled By Turtles - Wait So Long
The Decemberists - Of Angels And Angels
David Wax Museum - That's Not True
River City Extension - Today, I Feel Like I'm Evolving
M. Ward (featuring Zooey Deschanel - Rave On
Elvis Costello (featuring Emmylou Harris) - Scarlet Tide
Freelance Whales - The Great Estates
The Head And The Heart - Rivers And Roads
Entries in Justin Townes Earle (5)
Delta Spirit - The Flood
17. Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
Justin Townes Earle had a bit of a rough 2010. First a freak injury caused a last-minute cancellation of his set at Newport Folk, then Earle found himself in the headlines when he was arrested after an alleged outburst in Indianapolis. However, 2010 also saw the release of the country-folk troubadour's third album, Harlem River Blues. Earle's music has always reflected a gritty, urban take on traditional country, but Harlem River Blues takes it right to the streets of New York. A variety of influences from rockabilly to honky tonk to folk and blue-eyed soul keeps things fresh. Harlem River Blues is mature album from a man that is starting to make a name for himself beyond the shadow of his father.
18. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone
Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy may sound like an odd pairing on the surface - the legendary gospel-soul singer and the indie-folk-noise troubadour don't really have all that much in common, right? Well, while stylistic and age differences may separate them, the love of song and story unites them. Tweedy contributed two new compositions, including the instant-classic that gives the record its name, and lovingly curated and produced the rest of the album. Staples, still a dynamic liver performer, continues her late career renaissance with a gorgeous, invigorating album of spirituality and hope.
19. Pepper Rabbit - Beauregard
Pepper Rabbit's Shakes/Clicks EPs were some of my favorite discoveries of the early part of 2010 (originally self-released in 2009). The work primarily of multinstrumentalist Xander Singh and percussionist Luc Laurent, the songs feature eclectic instrumentation - vibraphone, banjo and woodwinds to name a few. Each song feels like a precious, perfectly-realized indie-pop vignette. Beauregard, the band's debut LP was released in late-October, recycling the tracks that I already knew and loved, while adding two (excellent) new songs. The release was a bit anticlimactic for me, given that I knew most of the songs already, but I can't ignore this as one of my favorite releases of the year - pure indie-folk-pop bliss.
20. Peter Wolf Crier - Inter-Be
When I first heard Peter Wolf Crier's debut Inter-Be I assumed they were a standard 3 or 4 piece band. Then, when I found out they were a duo, I skeptically assumed that their sound was the result of overdubs and studio trickery. Then I saw them live and was amazed to see two guys alone on stage, faithfully reproducing the complex sounds from the record with nothing more than electric guitar, drums and a variety of pedals. The songs themselves are simple folk tunes, often featuring falsetto vocals and Brian Moen's deceptively complex percussion. The result is something like a more percussive Bon Iver. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys, but until then, Inter-Be will be spinning often.
21. The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
Wondering why I chose to include 21 albums in my list? Irony? Indecision? An unhealthy obsession with Blackjack? None of the above. It was because I just had to include one album that was officially released in 2009, but I did not discover until 2010. The truth is, this album would have been in my top 5 had it been released this year. Think of this as a top 20 list plus "the one that got away". The Toronto-based band writes folk songs that are accented by electric guitars, keyboards, percussion. There are moments that are downright bombastic, others whisper-soft. Like the best of Josh Ritter and Delta Spirit all in one - plus, they put on a fantastic live show. It boggles my mind that these guys are not huge yet.
Honorable mentions - some other albums we loved this year
Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy
Beach House - Teen Dream
Futurebirds - Hampton's Lullaby
Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Crusaders of Love - Never Grow Up
Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
The Head and The Heart - Self-titled
Reigning Sound - Love & Curses
Anais Mitchell - Hadestown
Chief - Modern Rituals
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Harlem - Hippies
Today is one of the bigger new music Tuesdays in recent memory, with lots of new stuff to fill your ipods and turntables. From legends (Mavis Staples, Superchunk) to relative newcomers (Justin Townes Earle) and those in-between (The Walkmen, Of Montreal) there is a lot to look forward to. Here's a preview of three of the releases I'm most excited about:
The established NYC indie rockers return with another solid collection of lilting, slurred tunes that were made for late nights. Time spent in Portugal may have lent the band a bit of inspiration and an album name, but don't expect much of a departure; this still sounds like The Walkmen you know and love.
Harlem River Blues is Justin Townes Earle's third album in as many years. With so many releases to serve as benchmarks, it's easy to see the maturity and confidence grow over time. Harlem River Blues picks up where Midnight At The Movies left off - with traditional country and folk delivered with both reverence and a slight urban/punk-rock edge.
The last time Superchunk released an LP I was in high school, but unfortunately back then I wasn't listening to indie rock... With the release of Majesty Shredding, Superchunk is back - and unlike some of their peers that are just cashing-in, they are making some great new music. Digging For Nothing is a killer track that sounds like vintage Superchunk.
First up in the series of artist spotlights is Justin Townes Earle. The son of Newport veteran Steve Earle mixes traditional country, bluegrass, blues and folk and the result are songs that are steeped in tradition, but somehow completely original. And while the records are great, the live show is utterly captivating as Earle leads his band through energetic renditions of his songs, and engages the audience with his amusing anecdotes and Southern coloquialisms. Check out a few songs recorded live at Great Scott back in March as well as a fantastic HD video of JTE covering Buck Owens' Close Up The Honky Tonks from the same show:
Full recording of the show can be downloaded here
Justin Townes Earle closes Newport's new Quad Stage on Sunday and provides the perfect segue into Levon Helm's festival-closing set.
Watch visible voice each day leading up to the festival for more artist spotlights!
Justin Townes Earle is the kind of songwriter and performer that reminds me how important real country music is. With the utter shit that passes for "country" music these days, it seems that real country music is getting increasingly lost behind the redneck pop that is marketed as country music. Sure, plenty of people can reference Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams or Gram Parsons in conversation -- but when you think of country music, for most people, the first image that comes to mind is Garth Brooks or Taylor Swift.
I don't get the impression that Justin Townes Earle is on a mission to change that, but I think his music has the power to. His background and musical influences are obvious (um, Justin Townes Earle) -- but this dude clearly loves and appreciates the history of the music he plays. During his set at Great Scott he took us all on a tour of southern roots music -- folk, honky tonk, blues, -- covering Woody Guthrie, Lightnin' Hopkins and The Replacements (!?). His originals vary from traditional rave ups to country inflected folk ballads. Live, the songs come to life even more than on record thanks to a fantastic band (fiddle and upright bass) and captivating stage presence and showmanship. The full set is offered for stream or download below in excellent sound quality - enjoy!
They Killed John Henry
Halfway to Jackson
I Don't Care (Woody Guthrie)
What Do You Do When You're Lonesome
Boy Keep Movin'
So Different Blues (Mance Lipscom)
Starter Wont' Start (Lightnin' Hopkins)
What I Mean to You
Someday I'll Be Forgiven For This
Ain't Glad I'm Leavin'
Workin' For The MTA
Mama I'm Coming Home
Midnight at the Movies
South Georgia Sugar Babe
Can't Hardly Wait (The Replacements)
Close Up The Honky Tonks (Buck Owens)
Check out State of Mind for fantastic photos from the show here
Wanted to share this video of Joe Pug and Justin Townes Earle covering Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen from their show in Carrboro NC. Love the quote "If you don't like Springsteen, then you don't like Woody Guthrie, which means you don't like songs"