The Lists: Top 20 Albums of 2009 (11-20)

Posted by Payton | Posted in best of 2009, lists | Posted on 12-16-2009

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Here it is folks! Expanded for 2009, my
Top 20 Albums of the Year – Part I.


20. Wye Oak – The Knot

Merge, 7.21.2009
It’s a loud, alt-rock album kept country with a heavy dose of steel guitar. Wye Oak is Jenn Wasner (guitar, vocals) and Andy Stack (drums, vocals). If being signed to Merge Records isn’t enough, the beauty of The Knot, their sophomore album, should help bring some attention going into the next decade.

Wye Oak – For Prayer
[Direct][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

19. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Nonesuch, 6.26.2009
The boldly titled seventh album from alt-country mainstay Wilco did not disappoint. Jeff Tweedy continues to provide welcoming melodies and infectious guitar licks overlain with his unmistakably heavyhearted vocals. Each time I listen, I find a new favorite track. In fact, as I write this, I already wish I would have placed it higher in this list.

Wilco – I’ll Fight
[Direct][Vinyl][CD][MP3][iTunes]

18. Slaid Cleaves - Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away

Music Road, 4.21.2009
Folk storyman Slaid Cleaves may not pump out albums, but for our patience we get carefully crafted song showcases that continually impress. While Everything You Love doesn’t have a ‘Broke Down,’ there remain 11 songs filled with first-person experience that only Slaid could recount with such ease and grace.

Slaid Cleaves – Black T-Shirt
[Direct][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

17. Stephanie Briggs – Birds Barely Know Us

Smith Entertainment, 3.31.2009
It’s strange that out of all the Texas acts I used to follow, a female, Stephanie Briggs, would bring an album that follows the general direction to which my musical tastes have shifted. What’s not so strange is that running around with the likes of Cody Canada, Stephanie learned how to use a guitar the right way. Calling New Braunfels, TX home, Stephanie (guitar, vocals) and husband Matthew (percussion, vocals) offer a freshly energetic album with an indie-edge.

Stephanie Briggs – Private Parts
[Direct][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

16. The Felice Brothers – Yonder Is The Clock

Team Love, 4.7.2009
Since 2007’s Tonight At The Arizona, each of The Felice Brothers‘ albums have become slightly less enjoyable – mainly due to too much album-filler. But just as I passed through Yonder Is The Clock to check inventory, I remembered just how good the good ones are. Ian Felice can strike my fancy just as easily with a raucous barn-burner as he can with a plaintive dirge. Read my original review.

The Felice Brothers – Boy From Lawrence County
[Direct][Vinyl][CD][iTunes]

15. Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses – Roadhouse Sun
Lost Highway, 6.2.2009
Another product of the Texas Music scene, Ryan Bingham emerged with the basics only to build upon them to gain national success. I’ll admit, if I hadn’t found this album for $3.99 on Amazon, I most-likely wouldn’t have given it a shot this year. Sure glad I did – Roadhouse Sun is a dustblown disc expertly arranged with the fullest sound to come from Ryan yet.

Ryan Bingham – Change Is
[Direct][Vinyl][CD][MP3][iTunes]

14. Great Bloomers - Speak of Trouble
Maple Music Recordings, 4.21.2009
The Great Bloomers came out of nowhere (actually Canada) and brought us an easy choice for a top 20 list. Lowell Sostomi and crew offer piano-fueled, guitar-aided, harmony-highlighted folk-pop that oozes optimism. Listed first in their ‘influence’ column are The Beach Boys, and nowhere does that ‘influence’ ring truer than when they institute deft 4-part harmonies. Speak of Trouble jauntily guides you though 11 tracks of unique arrangements and sticky melodies.

Great Bloomers – Admit Defeat
[Direct][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

13. Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend
ATO, 8.18.2009
This is Brendan Benson’s fourth solo album, but remains the only one I’ve heard. I was first introduced to Brendan when he joined forces with Jack White in The Raconteurs. When I heard My Old, Familiar Friend, it was quickly evident how much of Consolers was influenced by Brendan. If you like the pop melodies and smooth vocals from The Raconteurs, Brendan Benson comes highly recommended. First order of business for 2010: check out Benson’s back catalog.

Brendan Benson – Garbage Day
[Vinyl][CD][eMusic][iTunes]

12. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
Sony/American, 9.29.2009
Just two short years after The Avett Brothers topped my list of albums, it seems they are already the clichéd choice. Good news for them, but as you’ll remember from my original review, (sorta) bad news for me. Their meteoric rise from obscurity landed them in the studio with Rick Rubin for 2009’s I And Love And You. His polished touch on the album created a different sound that initially rubbed some of us the wrong way. From the small sampling of reviews I found that weren’t fawning over the disc, one common theme emerged: This album will grow on you. While in its second listening round, the album hit me in a different way. Once I got over the production choices, all that was left were the songs. And they were good.

The Avett Brothers – And It Spread
[Direct][Vinyl][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

11. These United States – Everything Touches Everything
United Interests, 9.1.2009
Reigning Best Album champs These United States released their third disc in just two years. Last year’s Crimes was my choice for Best Album last year, but interestingly enough, I couldn’t find a song from it to include in my Best Songs list. The same approach was taken with 2009’s Everything Touches Everything, in which Jesse Elliot crafted a cohesive album. None of the songs were written with a single in mind, but rather each was written as an equally important element to the disc. Maybe it’s not quite as good as Crimes (due mainly to the fact that its opener was a stellar, thematic lead-in), but still an immense joy to listen to – and that’s all that matters.

These United States – I’m Gonna Assemble A City
[Direct][CD][MP3][eMusic][iTunes]

———————————-
Continue to Part II (Albums 1-10)….
2009’s Top 5 EP’s
2009’s Best Videos

———————————-
Refresh your memory with last year’s lists:
Top EPs
Top Songs
Top Albums, pt 1
Top Albums, pt 2

In The Toolbox: Double Feature….

Posted by Payton | Posted in toolbox | Posted on 10-01-2009

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You could say this about all my feature posts, but it’s been way too long since I’ve done an In The Toolbox. This is the recurring post theme that explores an ‘essential’ album chosen from my handy toolbox full of CD’s. I’ve extended this privilege to any of my vinyls that I keep in my sturdy Eurolite carrying case (both seen above).

To get things going again with this feature, I’m offering up two gems today. These discs come from a couple of Texas’ best songwriters and both were the album that turned me on to the artist. Also linking these albums together is the fact that they both feature a cut of the namesake song for this blog. This Mornin’ I Am Born Again was originally a Woody Guthrie poem that Slaid Cleaves got his hands on put to music. Slaid included his version on his career-making album Broke Down. A few years later, Ray Wylie Hubbard recorded a cut of the song for my favorite album of his, Delirium Tremolos.

Slaid Cleaves – Broke Down
Philo (2000)

One of my first orders of business back when I started this blog was to get Slaid’s name out into the blogosphere. My first post following the introductory Best of 2007 lists was an Artist Spotlight on Slaid. There, I expressed my admiration for Broke Down, his 5th album, but only the 2nd originally released on CD. The disc contains 10 tracks, not one of which can be considered weak.

‘Broke Down’ leads off, introducing the listener to Slaid’s unmatched ability to tell a story. If this album had a hand in jump-starting Slaid’s career, then the title track gets most of the credit. He continues this trend with ‘Breakfast in Hell,’ a John Henry-esque story of the tragic death of a Canadian logger. The most powerful track on the album is a well-chosen Karen Poston cover, ‘Lydia’ - a captivating story of a weathered widow twice-scarred by coal mine tragedy. The tune fits Slaid and the album so well, you would never guess it wasn’t his. While his narratives are generally of the brokenhearted and last-leggers, there is an air of optimism in Slaid’s voice that hints at a happy ending – even if it may not occur during the span of the song.

Continue Reading

New Digs………

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, new digs | Posted on 04-26-2009

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Wha?

I know, remember these? The feature that was supposed to be a weekly update on music new to my inbox has been shelved for quite some time now. Through much of the winter, I simply wasn’t finding anything new – at least nothing post-worthy. But now, I have way too many new jams to choose from – so lets get right to it.

Slaid Cleaves – Beautiful Thing

Slaid’s first set of original material in 5 years was quite the anticipated release for me. Don’t expect Slaid to surprise you with anything new or groundbreaking, but the troubadour proves he’s still the foremost American Folksinger with 2009’s Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away.

buy Everything You Love…

Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers – The Dam Song

Just as I suspected, Sam Crain’s first full-length album is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve heard the band’s HearYa Live Session, many of the songs here won’t be brand-new to you, but they sound even better with proper studio treatment. The handful of brand new songs are even more inspiring. BUY THIS ONE!

buy Songs In The Night

Steve Earle – To Live Is To Fly

Mr. Earle’s tribute to lifelong friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt is set for release in May. A few tracks have been previewed here and there, and it sounds like Steve will bring a new vibe to the songwriting legend’s work, while still staying true to his legacy.

Check out the 4-song EP (iTunes) and stay tuned to SteveEarle.com for a forthcoming pre-order.

Iron & Wine – Peace Beneath The City (acoustic version)

Sam Beam has been generous enough to offer up a FREE DOWNLOAD of 8 acoustic versions of tunes from 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog. Think old-school, mellow I&W treatment to his new, fuller sound. The songster will also soon release Around The Well – a 3LP collection of rarities and never-before-released tracks.

Check his dot com for more info and the full download.

Frightened Rabbit – Last Tango In Brooklyn

Scottish folk-rock outfit Frightened Rabbit was a late, yet still warranted addition to my Best of 2008 Album list. The band has recently contributed a tune for Lifted Brow’s latest compilation album. It echoes the softer side of the band’s material. Good stuff.

Frightened Rabbit MySpace/Website
Buy The Lifted Brow IV

Sam Quinn & Japan Ten – Hello

I posted a video of this recording back here. I can’t stop watching/listening, so I ripped the audio for you fine folks. The sound quality is as good as a proper recording.

Sam Quinn & Japan Ten MySpace

Jill Andrews – Rehearsal

The other half of The Everybodyfields has been at work on new material as well. On her site, she’s giving away the first taste of said work. The recording is a little rough, but her vocals help to put some shine on it.

Jill Andrews MySpace/Website

Ryan Adams – Like A Fool (Superchunk Cover)

While waiting to see just how long Ryan’s sabbatical will last, I came across a link to a Merge Records compilation disc featuring non-Merge artists covering Merge’s greatest. The album helped in celebrating the label’s 20th birthday. I bet you can guess just how excited I was to see ‘ol Ryan on the set. The tune sounds like a polished Pinkheart song. Others taking part include: The Shins, Bright Eyes, Okkervil River, and The Mountain Goats.

buy SCORE! 20 years of Merge Records

Also, my wandering mouse has recently run across leaks for the new albums from both Dylan and Son Volt. Don’t worry, I’m gonna be a good music fan and purchase both of the quite impressive discs upon their release. Sorry, for fear of my life and this blog’s, I’m not gonna offer up any tracks from them just yet.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-31-2008

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Greetings from La Quinta in Denver. We made record time from Houston to Denver today – about 14 hours. Getting some rest tonight and then hittin’ the (hopefully unfrozen) pavement again in the morning for about 4 more hours to our destination of Steamboat Springs.

This quaint Colorado town will be gearing up for Music Fest as we gear up for a 44″ snow base and champagne powder runs. Tomorrow night will be full of fireworks, champagne, and whiskey – yes all at the same time – so no time for posting. That’s why i’m writing this New Year’s Post now. But you wouldn’t have ever known that as i’ll schedule the post for tomorrow. Ok, i’ll shut up now.

2009 already has lots of promise. Many highly anticipated releases are scheduled – as well as some others that i’m simply expecting without any substantiating evidence.

Also, the 22nd of January will mark the 1 Year Anniversary of This Mornin’ I Am Born Again. You can email me for the address to send gifts to.

So, have a great remainder of the Holidays and we’ll see you next year.

Jams:

Todd Snider – Happy New Year
Slaid Cleaves – One Good Year
The Walkmen – In The New Year
Jack Ingram – Auld Lang Syne

"now i know that seasons change, and so must i"

Posted by Payton | Posted in one liner | Posted on 11-19-2008

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Slaid Cleaves – November Skies
buy Slaid Cleaves’ Holiday Sampler (2001)

As always, Slaid tells us a great story. One that captures that retrospective feeling you get in the winter.

Cover/Uncovered: Slaid Cleaves…..

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized, cover/uncovered | Posted on 09-30-2008

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In addition to his latest, all covers release Unsung, Slaid Cleaves has been known to mix in his version of someone else’s tune from time to time. But just as on that last album, Slaid absolutely owns the songs he covers and always adds his own flavor. In fact, i was going to post these two songs simply because of how good they are before i realized they weren’t his.


Cover: Slaid Cleaves – I Feel The Blues Moving In
buy Broke Down (2000)

Slaid has always had just a hint of bluegrass in his music – whether it be from the big stand-up bass, his epic story-telling, or his occasional yodel. Although he takes the bluegrass tempo out of the song, the haunting 3-piece harmony is true to the version from the bluegrass legend.

Uncovererd: Del McCoury – I Feel The Blues Moving In
buy High, Lonesome, and Blue (2004)



Cover:
Slaid Cleaves – White Rose
from Mearlefest

One of the reasons i had no idea this song was a cover is that Slaid has often told his own versions of small towns that have met their end due to impending industrialization. Like many of Fred’s songs, they’re great stories but i would almost always rather hear someone else do them. The highlight from Slaid’s version is when his band mates imitate the wailing wind spinning the sign from the disappearing filling station in the chorus.

Uncovered: Fred Eaglesmith – White Rose
buy The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 (2006)


Check out another song from Slaid i posted over at SMM.

Another Day, Another Blogger………..

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 06-12-2008

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My birthday is officially over now………
This is the first year that i really haven’t been all that excited for it. Maybe it’s because my birthday was also a dreaded deadline for a looming online class. Maybe it’s because it sorta also marks the beginning of the rest of my life and the real world. Who knows??

Today i got to:

• wake up early and go to the dentist
• run a few errands
• drive 2 hrs away just to pack up some shit and drive back

But i did get to spend some quality family time and have a nice dinner. And i got a badass new camera. Thanks to the glory of Facebook, i did get about a million birthday wishes. Thanks.

But i’m going to officially celebrate the date of my birth this weekend in…….

Costa Rica. Oh yeah, six days of reclined bliss in a Rain Forest that just happens to butt up to the Pacific Ocean.

This will most likely be my last post from this country, cause i got another busy day tomorrow. So (hoping i can find some sort of Internet service in the jungle) the next time you hear from me, i’ll be layin’ in a hammock with my new copy of To Live’s To Fly and a piña colada.

P.S. – expect a ton of kickass pictures like this one upon my return………

Until then, enjoy some tunes especially picked out for today:

mp3: The Everybodyfields – Birthday
buy Nothing Is Okay (2007)

mp3: Neil Young – Old Man
buy Harvest (1972)

mp3: Todd Snider – Age Like Wine
buy East Nashville Skyline (2004)

mp3: Slaid Cleaves – One Good Year
buy Broke Down (2000)

mp3: Ryan Adams – Born Yesterday (since it’s now way past midnight)
from Live At The Brewery (1999)

i’m hungry………

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 05-25-2008

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It’s almost been a week since my last post. i’ve been back and forth between here and there. Mostly i’ve been back home letting my mother take care of me cause i just got my wisdom teeth yanked out of my face.

i’m really not in too much pain (i ain’t skimpin’ on the hydrocodone, though); the worst part is……… i’m hungry as shit. i’m tired of soup and jello.

So to end this blogging hiatus and to make me even hungrier, here are some good food-related tunes:

mp3: Stoney LaRue – Texas Cookin’ (live – Guy Clark cover)

mp3: Cody Canada – Juicy Fruit (live – Jimmy Buffett cover)

mp3: Old Crow Medicine Show – Chicken Pie (unreleased)

mp3: The Band of Heathens – Cornbread
buy Band of Heathens (2008)

mp3: Ray Wylie Hubbard – Heartaches and Grease
buy Snake Farm (2006)

mp3: The Wood Brothers – Chocolate On My Tongue
buy Ways Not To Lose (2006)

mp3: Robert Johnson – Come On In My Kitchen
buy The Complete Recordings (1990)

mp3: Slaid Cleaves – Breakfast in Hell
buy Broke Down (2000)

mp3: The Felice Brothers – Take This Bread
buy The Felice Brothers (2008)

"This Mornin’ I Am Born Again…

Posted by Payton | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 01-23-2008

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and a light shines on my land
i no longer look for heaven in your deathly, distant land
i do not want your pearly gates don’t want your streets of gold
This mornin’ i was born again and a light shines on my soul

This mornin’ i was born again, i was born again complete
i stood up above my troubles and i stand on my two feet
My hand it feels unlimited, my body feels like the sky
i feel at home in the universe where yonder planets fly

This mornin’ i was born again, my past is dead and gone
This great eternal moment is my great eternal dawn
Each drop of blood within me, each breath of life i breathe
Is united with these mountains and the mountains with the seas

i feel the sun upon me, it’s rays crawl through my skin
i breathe the life of Jesus and old John Henry in
i give myself, my heart, my soul to give some friend a hand
This mornin’ i was born again, i am in the promised land

This mornin’ i was born again and a light shines on my land
i no longer look for heaven in your deathly distant land
i do not want your pearly gates don’t want your streets of gold
And i do not want your mansion for my heart is never cold”
–Woody Guthrie

———————————————————————-

As an extra bonus today, the namesake for my newly established blog:
mp3: Slaid Cleaves – This Morning I Am Born Again
mp3: Ray Wylie Hubbard – This Mornin’ I Am Born Again

From what i can find, this was a poem/lyrics from Woody Guthrie that Slaid Cleaves put music to and recorded for Broke Down.

Ray Wylie’s version is one the most hauting songs i’ve ever heard. No instruments, just odd percussion (some of which sounds something like someone sitting in a creaky rocking chair bangin’ on a bag of feed). It begins with a smoky cough, then just Hubbard’s growl, and by the end there are six or seven vocalists (Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Gurf Morlix, Patty Griffin, and Bob Schneider…) adding harmony. The first time i heard this song was on a long drive on the back end of a road trip from New Braunfels, TX, and everyone in the car was in a hypnotic trance for the entire three minutes.
Truly great traditional folk music written by the original folk singer himself.

Artist Spotlight: Slaid Cleaves

Posted by Payton | Posted in album review, artist spotlight, texas music | Posted on 01-22-2008

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As i mentioned in a previous post, i use the Hype Machine (http://www.hypem.com/) to find, and listen to, a lot of music. It’s an amazing site, but you can’t find everything on there. It seems that a few a my favorite artists cannot be found in the blog world. But now that i have my own blog, i can change all that. And maybe in the process – turn some people on to some great musicians they may not know about.

First order of business……….

Slaid Cleaves

Slaid Cleaves. Grew up in Maine. Lives in Texas. Writes songs. Makes records. Travels around. Tries to be good. (courtesey slaidcleaves.com)

Maybe it’s beacause he’s not heavy into the MySpace thing (until a few days ago, he hadn’t updated his page since his early ‘06 album release), maybe it’s because he isn’t the most prolific guy around (only 7 albums in 18 years, and nothing in the works), or maybe it’s because he doesn’t tour like a madman (although he does cross the pond occasionally), but whatever the reason no one is blogging about Slaid Cleaves is beyond me. This guy is, in my opinion, the best troubadour in the folk scene alive today.
He is a singer, a songwriter, a guitar player, but you only need one word to describe Slaid best:
Storyteller.

He tells sorrowful stories of love gone wrong, depression era depictions of a dying towns, mythic adventures of Canadian Lumberjacks, and action-packed laments from the perspective of an aging horse jockey. Oh, and he can Yodel like a sonofabitch.

But i’m not here to give artist bio’s, so i’ll just give you a chronologic song sampling, highlighting some of those captivating stories….

don’t be a jackass – go here and buy these straight from Slaid himself. Or iTunes, if that’s your thing. But all songs are right-click, save as.

mp3: Smitten ~ from The Promise (1990)
This is one of only two songs i have from this out-of-print album. It’s obviously early Slaid, but it still has that true singer-songwriter feel.

mp3: Tell Me ~ from Life’s Other Side (1992)

Another album i can’t seem to get may hands on, but this heartfelt song will keep me trying.
mp3: No Angel Knows ~ from No Angel Knows (1997)

Here, we find Slaid Cleaves coming into that sound of his i love so much. Some sorta mix between bluegrass and blues thats sounds like an old jug band sittin in a swamp somewhere. Complete with fiddle and a thumpin’ stand-up bass.

mp3: Lydia ~ from Broke Down (2000)

Broke Down was released not long before i came across Mr. Cleaves, and has become his career-making album. Although this isn’t Slaid’s song (Karen Poston wrote it – check her out) it shook me to the core the first time i heard it and still does. He delivers a despairing tune of a woman twice-scarred by coal mine tragedy.

mp3: Below ~ from Wishbones (2004)

My favorite album of his, Wishbones shows Slaid in his best storytelling effort. It took me a while to narrow it down to just one song to show off these amazing accounts, but Below is a story of a small town doomed to be flooded when the dam is built. BUY THIS RECORD!
**sidetrack**
a similar story and a great song here about the Tennessee Valley Authority:
mp3: The Everybodyfields – T.V.A. [MySpace] [iTunes]

mp3: Fairest of Them All ~ from Unsung (2006)

Unsung is one of the coolest concept albums i’ve heard. It’s a covers album, but not of overdone, well-known covers. Instead, Slaid carefully picked songs from his peers (some virtually unknown) that perfectly fit his style. Just from listening, you would never know these weren’t his songs. Fairest of Them All is a song by Ana Egge.

———————————————————

Ok, so i couldn’t help myself. Here are a couple more good stories from Wishbones.

mp3: Quick as Dreams

mp3: New Year’s Day