Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten I Love

Steve Martin Rehearsals for The Hardly Strictly Business Bluegrass Festival

A funny thing happened on the way to my usual year end list of top albums: one of my employers—the one that usually asks me for a year end critic's pick list—didn't want it this year. Well, that's not completely true—they wanted it, but they wanted to merge it with dozens of other lists to form some sort of amalgamated "super list" that didn't reflect any one critic's personal choices.

My main problem with that is that this particular publication is short on country music fans. My list merged with a couple dozen others adds up to my picks being negated by the indie folk rock duo from Queens that sell 10 albums and the German dance/pop wunderkinds who sell 20.

No thanks.

So for what it's worth, here's the list of my favorite 10 albums of 2009 (in no particular order):

Miranda Lambert, "Revolution" (Columbia Nashville)
Like her first two albums. Miranda and producers Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke crafted a major label album with indie sensibilities. There's not a clunker among the 15 songs and "The House That Built Me" is a monster track.

Steve Martin, "The Crow: New Songs For The Five String Banjo" (Rounder)
What can't this guy do?

Rosanne Cash, "The List" (EMI Manhattan)
I've been a fan for 20+ years and I knew she could pull off an album of covers before I even heard it. That said, she blew me away.

George Strait, "Twang" (MCA Nashville)—King George continues to amaze. I won't pretend that I've heard every one of his albums, but this has to be one of his best, if only for his spot on (to my ears) Spanish only version of "El Rey."

Jack Ingram, "Big Dreams & High Hopes" (Big Machine)
From "Barbie Doll" to "Seeing Stars" and everything in between, this album is solid from start to finish.

Holly Williams, "Here With Me" (Mercury Nashville)
It's too bad there wasn't a breakout hit from this album so that the world could find out what a talent Hank Jr.'s daughter is. "Three Days In Bed" is naughty and nicely done.

Radney Foster & The Confessions, "Revival" (Emergent)
One of the men that helped me fall in love with country music is still blowing me away two decades later. There are so many standouts it's hard to pick one, but I'll choose the title cut.

Keith Urban, "Defying Gravity" (Capitol Nashville)
I love everything Keith does and this is no exception.

Sam Bush, "Circles Around Me" (Sugar Hill)
OK, I'll be honest... I wrote the bio for this album. That said, this is everything you could ask for in a modern bluegrass album. "The Ballad Of Stringbean and Estelle" made me pull my Jeep over to the side of the road.

Jason Aldean, "Wide Open" (Broken Bow)
Jason is a great example of how a career can be built. He just keeps getting better and so do his albums. I won't soon forget watching 10,000 people stay right where they were during his concert in a rainstorm.

Ricky Skaggs, "Solo: Songs My Dad Loved" (Skaggs Family)
An exceedingly cool tribute to Ricky's dad, who inspired his love for music. For a guy that is as prolific as he is when it comes to albums, Ricky never ceases to amaze me.