My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: The Decemberists

2011: The 75-(per)cent report

School buses are back on the roads and the leaves are already starting to fall on the roads here in southern Ohio. Crisp nights are upon us, and as we head into final months of 2011, I’m revisiting my growing playlist of my favorite songs and albums released in the first three-quarters. No waxing or pondering on the fate of what’s popular this time, these are just some of my favorite releases of the year, in no particular order, combined with a few words to tell you why in some cases.  Be sure to share your top picks for the 3/4 of the year so far in the comments.

Albums

Sunny Sweeney – Concrete … As I said in my review, if this became the sounding board for all future female country albums, we’d all be better off.

Terri Clark – Roots and Wings … Though it’s not as strong as her previous effort, Clark’s latest, and its lack of airplay, is another page in the long indictment against country radio.  I’d be the first to welcome her back with this material.

Pistol Annies – Hell On Heels

George Strait – Here For A Good Time

Connie Smith – Long Line of Heartaches … Traditional country and classic themes performed by one of country music’s finest singers. A can’t-miss combination.

Chris Young – Neon

Ronnie Dunn – Ronnie Dunn … The Brooks & Dunn frontman hasn’t reached his full potential as a soloist yet – I think he’s still too unsure of himself – but this is a helluva start.

Blake Shelton – Red River Blue

… and on the not-so country side:

Lucinda Williams – Blessed

Adele – 21

Lori McKenna – Lorraine

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead 

Songs

Bradley Gaskin – “Mr. Bartender”

Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “You and Tequila”

Pistol Annies – “Lemon Drop”/”Trailer For Rent” … I can’t pick a favorite among these two on the album.

Ronnie Dunn – “Cost of Living”

George Strait – “Here For a Good Time”/”Poison” … It’s been said before, and better, but I really like the title track to Strait’s latest album. And I think “Poison” is one of his finest moments.

Sunny Sweeney – “Staying’s Worse than Leaving”/”Amy”

Billy Currington – “Love Done Gone”

Taylor Swift – “Back to December”/”Mean”

Lucinda Williams – “I Don’t Know How You’re Living”

Year In Review: Chris Dean’s Top 10 Albums of 2009

These albums are an interesting mix: a few indie albums, a comeback album, a mainstream major release (or 3) and a live album that shouldn’t go together. However, from the albums I heard this year, these were my favorites, the ones I kept listening to. Hopefully you agree, but maybe not and that’s what makes the end of the year so interesting! Maybe you’ll find something new on my list that you didn’t think to listen to.

10. Southern VoiceTim McGraw (Curb)

A last minute entry on my list, this album was not what I expected. I hadn’t even listened to his new singles, and I wish I’d paid more attention. This album is a mature bunch of story songs such as the morbid “Good Girls”. The most touching is ‘You Had To Be There,’ a scene in a prison where a father talks to his son through a glass window and a phone. Even lead single ‘It’s A Business Doing Pleasure With You’ is a fun pop-country song that manages to be fresh.

9. Destination Life – Rhonda Vincent (Rounder)

A finely crafted bluegrass album that’s entertaining from start to finish. An infectious version of ‘Stop the World (And Let Me Off)’ is by far my favorite track here.

8.Middle Cyclone – Neko Case (Anti)

I had the chance to see Neko in concert right before this CD came out, and I wish I had; this is a unique collection of natural disaster-inspired love songs. ‘This Tornado Loves You’ is awesome, and the album artwork is one of my favorites ever. I mean come on, holding a sword on a car hood? Yeah!

7. Live At Eddie’s Attic – The Civil Wars (Sensibility)

A free, digital, live album- this duo is a hidden gem. ‘Poison & Wine’is raw and heartbreaking- not to mention they can really sing live. Hopefully a studio album will be in the works…

6. The Long Way Home – Terri Clark (Bare Track)

A little more slick than I expected, nevertheless this album has very fine tunes, especially the AA-themed’A Million Ways To Run’ and the clever “If You Want Fire”.

5. Song Up In Her Head – Sarah Jarosz (Sugarhill)

In the vein of Nickel Creek, Sarah Jarosz’s album is progressive bluegrass with plenty of banjo. A cover of the Decemberist’s ‘Shankill Butchers’ is the highlight.

4. American Saturday Night – Brad Paisley (Arista)

I didn’t expect to like this album, but I did and I have been playing it for the past 6 months. ‘Everybody’s Here’ is a gorgeous ode to not having a good time at a party. Anyone else surprised that a solo, mainstream male artist made it on my list? I kind of am.

3. Sara Watkins – Sara Watkins (Nonesuch)

Her solo debut is surprisingly not a continuation of Nickel Creek (Although that would still be awesome!), Sara brings more country tunes. The mournful ‘All This Time’ and swingy ‘Any Old Time’ show her real talent.

2. Mountain Soul II – Patty Loveless (Saguaro Road)

Do I need to say anything? Probably not, but I will. I actually like this album more than the first Mountain Soul, but it doesn’t quite have a knockout track like ‘You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’. ‘Diamond And The Crown’ with Emmylou Harris comes really close though, with it’s hymn-like organ and wonderful performance.

1.Revolution – Miranda Lambert (Sony)

I meant to write a review here for this album, but life got in the way. This album manages to be diverse and cohesive at the same time; a feat last accomplished so deftly by a mainstream artist when Trisha Yearwood released Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love. ‘The House That Built Me’ made me miss home so much I shed a tear, something that very few songs have the power to do.

Album Review: Sarah Jarosz – ‘Song Up In Her Head’

song up in her headI have a few things in common with Sarah Jarosz, a new addition to label Sugar Hill’s roster. We both:

– love to listen to music in the car
– are 18
– are National Honor Society members
– just graduated from high school
– are going to college in the fall (Me in Utah, her in Massachusetts)
– love bluegrass music (especially if it includes Chris Thile or Nickel Creek)

However, there’s one major difference: I am not a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist nor have I recorded a stunning bluegrass album. It’s mind-blowing that she’s my age and has made an album as good or as mature as Song Up In Her Head. If I didn’t know better, this album was made by a pro who’s been making music for decades, but it’s not. She plays piano, banjo, mandolin, guitar and clawhammer banjo, not to mention the amazing instrument that is her voice.

This isn’t one of those albums where Sarah’s “good for her age,” she’s just flat-out good. It’s interesting to see how she’s younger than Taylor Swift (By one year) and already she’s on a higher plane of maturity. Taylor is 2-note most of the time, either singing about a good boy or a bad boy. Sarah’s “just trying to figure this life out” and she does that by playing and singing. Scattered through her original songs are 2 covers, including one especially haunting rendition of “Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists. This beautifully creepy song describes the infamous Shankill Butchers, a group that terrorized Irish Catholics in Ireland during the 1970’s. It’s heavy subject matter, but Sarah takes it in stride with confidence and talent.

sarah-jaroszIn “Edge Of A Dream”, a gently swaying number, Sarah sings about life as a dance. We all dance to the same beat, why don’t we “learn a new dance”? Throughout the album, she makes small references to her age, but in a way that’s relatable and meaningful to older listeners, making good music that anyone can find meaning in instead of a select few.

This batch of songs is not only mature and deep, but they all sound really cool, with lots of picking and guests such as Jerry Douglas. A toy piano is used to great effect, not to mention Sarah’s excellence on the banjo- the textures are varied and interesting to listen to.

This album is really something special- Sarah Jarosz is here to stay. She’s confident and knows exactly the kind of music that she wants to make, and she makes it! I wish I was going to her college, I would ask her out for sure! Is that weird? Anyway, check out this album, it’s worth your time.

Grade: A

My top 3 tracks:
1. “Shankill Butchers”
2. “Song Up In Her Head”
3. “Edge Of A Dream”

Listen to Song Up In Her Head on Last.fm

Buy Song Up In Her Head on iTunes or Amazon.