Saturday, December 19, 2009

10 CDs I won't trade in soon

Have you been spending any time looking at the "best of 2009" lists? It's crazy. There are hundreds of them for music alone. Thousands. Millions. Chillions. Or so it seems.

And most of them follow a flawed structure and theme. There are no "best" songs or albums. Who can possibly make such an outlandish claim? It also seems like a lot of reviewers are looking over each other's shoulders, because the same music shows up on list after list. And that defies the odds. There is so much music out there and we are each wired a different way so it's very unlikely everybody is drawing the same conclusions. Even if you break music down by genre there should be greater diversity in choices.

The following list makes only one claim: These are 10 CDS that spent the most time in my player this year. I won't even say they are my 10 favorites, because it's very likely I've forgotten a few by now. There are several others that I planned to track down and never got around to it.

I will arrange these numerically, just to creat some minor suspense.

10. Guy Clark, Some Days the Song Writes You
Listening to these songs by one of Americana's great storytellers is like cuddling up with a great book. It's a lazy, quiet spin, so I recommend a double shot of something very stiff, drizzled over the rocks.

9. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
She's been a favorite since The Virginian days, and now apparently everybody else has discovered her. This one made many best of lists.

8. Wilco, The Album
I'd probably enjoy Wilco more if everybody else wasn't fawning over Jeff Tweedy and Co., but this album held up very well despite the hype.

7. Chris Knight, Trailer II
It sounds a lot like early Steve Earle, maybe because it's a young Chris Knight, and these stripped down songs showcase a comparable singer and songwriter.

6. Rosanne Cash, The List
A latecomer that proved a delight. She picks her spots now and everything she does is quite polished. The song choices here would have made her daddy very proud indeed.

5. Steve Earle, Townes
It's a potent combination, Earle doing the songs of beloved mentor Townes Van Zant. As good as this is, I think Earle is at his absolute best doing his own music. In other words, let's have a new one.

4. Eilen Jewell, Sea of Tears
If she put a little more uptempo honky tonkin' into her albums she might become a household name. The girl has a terrific set of pipes.

3. Avett Brothers, I and Love and You
Will major-label success spoil the boys from the North Carolina hills? The cat's been out of the bag for some time and they show no signs of letting up on this one.

2. Blue Mother Tupelo, Heaven and Earth
If you like Buddy and Julie Miller you'll quickly warm up to Ricky and Micol Davis' rich harmonies. There's also some foot-stomping blues to keep things interesting.

1. Cracker, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey
No doubt this choice has something to do with seeing the band live (at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa). What better way to evaluate a band's new music and witness its loyal fan base. It's going back in the player right now.

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