I have enjoyed reading the best of 2008 lists from my favorite music sites, such as Twangville (Mayer, Tom), AWOT, Hickory Wind, Nine Bullets and Hear Ya.
I do my yearly best of lists a little differently. Since I buy more old records than new ones, I base my lists on records that I heard for the first time this year. Here are my picks for 2008.
Record of the Year
Hands down and without a doubt, The Avett Brothers’ Live, Vol. 2 (2005) is the best record I heard for the first time in 2008. These guys are from Concord, NC, which is less than ninety miles away (name that song reference for extra credit) from my hometown. I have no idea how I missed them until now. Live, Vol. 2 is not only my record of the year for 2008, it will likely wind up in my top 10 of all time. There are 17 songs on the record, and every one is excellent. November Blue is without a doubt one of the best songs I have ever heard.
Smoke in Our Lights and Offering, among many others, are also excellent. The singing, playing and writing is uniformly excellent.
Do yourself a favor and buy this record right now.
Other Great Finds
One of the many wonderful things about Pandora is its function as a music discovery tool. A few weeks ago, I was working in my shop when an absolutely amazing song came on. I ran over to the computer to give it the thumbs up and write down the name. It was a song called Speed Train by J.J. Schultz from his record Something to Me (2005).
Speed Train is the best song on the record, but there are plenty of other great songs to make this a worthy addition to your collection.
I’ve been a fan of The Band for years. Dirt Farmer (2007), the latest record by Levon Helm, reminds me why. It won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk album, which is great, but I wouldn’t classify this record as a traditional folk record. It sounds like American farm music to me- which is even greater. I would love to attend one of Levon’s Midnight Rambles.
I didn’t get all the hoopla about The Black Keys, until I heard their 2003 record, Thickfreakness, which was on Fat Possum Records, one of my favorite labels. This is some righteous blues, and Have Love, Will Travel rocks so hard it will rattle your teeth. If Led Zeppelin wants to tour and Robert Plant won’t come around, Dan Auerbach is the answer. This album is a must for blues rock fans.
No other band has held my love and attention as much as the Grateful Dead. I have a ton of their records as well as a ton of solo stuff by the members. Somehow I missed Jerry Garcia’s records with Merl Saunders until I heard their cover of Positively 4th Street on XM a couple of months ago. I don’t generally buy “best of” records, but this is the one I found when I went looking for that song. It’s a mighty fine record, with the cover of Mystery Train being another highlight.
I have always loved female alt. country bands. Freakwater is a long time favorite of mine, as were the Texas Rubies (Kelly Kessler and I co-wrote some songs back in the day). My newest discovery is The Be Good Tanyas, particularly their record Hello Love (2006). They do a great cover of Neil Young’s For the Turnstiles. They even do a pretty darn good cover of Prince’s When Doves Cry. My favorite song on the record is the beautiful A Thousand Tiny Pieces. I played this song for my young daughters, both of whom are, to one extent or another, aspiring musicians and told them to write, play and sing just like this.
And, finally, as I predicted in a post last month, Porter Batiste Stoltz’s Moodoo, an excellent record anchored by the wonderful Funky Miracle/Sing a Simple Song/Rainy Day Women.
Those are my picks for 2008. What are yours?