Archive for August, 2011
Best 10, plus one, I’ve heard this year:
1. Hard Bargain, Emmylou Harris: A longtime fan, I was still stunned by the beauty and poignancy of this record. Dark but not despairing lyrics that hold a wealth of experience and ring true. Spare instrumentation expertly chosen, and a clear, full production by Jay Joyce. Harris, whose voice — gorgeous and penetrating — is one of the best in not only country but contemporary music today, has consistently released quality albums, but this is the best of recent vintage.
2. Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks Band: A delectable brew of blues, R&B and southern soul. Tedeschi’s voice is suited well for the material and Trucks is stellar on his signature slide or single string guitar playing. Augmented by a fine horn section, the material, from slow burners to infectious grooves, brings out the best in the musicians with opener Come See About Me, Until You Remember and Learn How To Love standouts from a quality set.
3. Buddy Miller’s The Majestic Silver Strings: Miller leads a dream guitar band of Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz with guest singers, including Ann McCrary, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin through a roots-style outing with western, country, jazz and rock overtones. The playing is a joyful listen, as expected, on material in part from Lefty Frizzell, Libby Cotton, Tex Owens and traditional pieces.
4. Mayhem, Imelda May: May’s follow-up to the big success of debut Love Tattoo sees her stretching out from her rock-a-billy base to show jazz and R&B leanings. Don’t worry there’s plenty of ’50s and early ’60s rocking material on hand. She’s been attracting a lot of attention for her collaborations with Jeff Beck in the past two years, but her own steamy, proficient delivery shines here.
5. Let England Shake, PJ Harvey: With each new album it seems Harvey perfects her playing on an instrument or learns a new one and for this one it’s autoharp, last seen with the Lovin’ Spoonful in the late 1960s. Much has been made of the lyrics on this record being more outwardly directed and socially conscious rather than a reflection or Harvey’s inner self. That’s true, but it’s Harvey’s wonderful vocals, melodies, instrumentation, arrangements and production that make this another compelling addition to her strong catalogue.