Updated Thu, Dec 19, 2013 11:58 am
This is the 10th in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year's lists at this link.
WOUB Public Media once again asked me to reveal my favorite listening for the old year. Here are some bits and pieces.
Sam Phillips, Push Any Button: Sam has been pushing her own buttons and sliders since 2008 with consistently amazing results (T-Bone Burnett pushed 'em before that). This recording is the soundtrack of a few moods. I dig getting moody with Sam. Current favorite track is the poppy "When I'm Alone."
Robbie Fulks, Gone Away Backwards: "Some guy in Bombay is running that press I used to hate/Now I sling hash for what all spills off the interstate" is my favorite line from Gone Away Backward's "Where I Fell." The song is performed in such a whispered state that it gives Robbie's abrasive verbal jabs more power than ever. This isn't your typical Fulks, but then again, nothing ever is. Steve Albini again stays out of the way and produces a "real" sounding record. No percussion here and very little electric guitar.
Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott, Memories and Moments: Being a songwritin' West Virginia boy, I felt like I'd heard all the coal songs I needed, or I should say, I felt that the good ones were already penned. This album's "Keep Your Dirty Lights On," written by Scott, changed my mind. Recorded mostly live in the studio with little-to-no overdubs. I just heard that the song was nominated for a Grammy, but don't hold that against 'em.
The Middle Rats, The Middle Rats: What started out as a side project for Joey Hebdo and friends turned out to be one great recording. These rats are hep cats. I caught them before my show at Donkey Coffee earlier this year as they were playing at Casa Nueva. Typical noisy cantina crowd, which always makes me feel somehow sad for the performers who play over it (the noise, that is). I knew they were good live, but was unprepared for where the CD would take me as I was stuck on the DC beltway. Check out "Instead She Let Me Go," compare it to this video and you'll get an idea of how diverse this recording is.
Paul McCartney, New: I didn't pick this recording just because Paul is still out there and at it at 70--I think it is a really cool listen. I understand some of the lyrics are improvised and I'm thinking these might be among his best. That aside, I marvel at the endless supply of nutty great melodies that continue to come from this man. The songs "Early Days" and "New" are tunes that both have Paul looking back. Although they are probably the weakest of the batch, they led me to the next recording on my list.
Paul McCartney, Band on the Run: After New, I went "old." I'd never heard this whole album, which was released in 1973. The tracks "Band on the Run" and "Jet" are worth the price of admission, but the rest of the recording is grand too. I'm 40 years behind on my listening. I envy those who will hear some of the classics for the first time.
Mountain Stage archives, Aug. 6, 1989: I spent much, if not most, of my casual listening time celebrating Mountain Stage's 30th anniversary by listening to many of their archived shows. So many of them are so great, but one in particular shines a light on what a classic program Mountain Stage really is. On Aug. 6, 1989, they recorded a program with John and Jamie Hartford, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, The McGarrigle Sisters and Tony Rice. The same archive has a bonus set of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys recorded earlier that same year. A thrill through-and-through. Happy anniversary to Mountain Stage.
Andy Ridenour and Larry Groce, circa late 1980s
Birth of a Radio Show - Mountain Stage at 30: A Radio Retrospective by Dave Mistich: The single most captivating hour of listening for me in 2013 would have to be this West Virginia Public Radio piece by Dave Mistich. Mistich does a great job of telling us the story of Mountain Stage, from their inception 30 years ago to now. Many famous artists talk it up here, from Richard Thompson to Kathy Mattea and beyond. Host Larry Groce and past Producer Andy Ridenour tell their story, as do many others from the Mountain Stage staff, band and crew. There isn't much music on this podcast, but it is crucial listening for any fan of this world famous program, which I'm proud to say is produced right here in the great state of West Virginia.
Lou Reed, Magic and Loss: After Reed passed, I kept going back to this superb recording from 1991. He recorded a group of songs surrounding the passing of two of his close friends. Life's Good.
Others off the top of my head:
Blue Yonder, Bittersweet Road: John Lilly has a real way of making his new songs sound like classic county. Guitar champ Robert Shafer smokes all over this, too.
John A. Walsh, Fields of Gettysburg: Walsh churned out a great song cycle on the 150 anniversary of this notorious battle. Nothing hayseed here. Members of the Mountain Stage Band, Tim O'Brien, Colten Pack and more.
Superchunk, I Hate Music
Jason Isbell, Southeastern
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away
Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Neil Young, Live at the Cellar Door
David Bowie, The Next Day
Todd Burge is a traveling singer/songwriter who resides with his wife Lisa and two grade-school children, Sophia and Will, in Parkersburg W.Va Burge has been quoted as saying, “music put me where I am today." Listen to Todd's music at www.toddburge.com.