A recent photo of musician Todd Burge. (Josh Saul)

Top Tunes 2016: Todd Burge

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This is the third installment of a December-long series that examines what Athens-centric tune heads have been jamming to all year long. Keep tabs on the series throughout the month here

A really tough year to pick just ten. These are the ones that come to mind as I sit here today. I have loved and listened to so much music this year. In no particular order:

David BowieBlack Star

Jason King said “What did we do to deserve such a creative genius in our lifetimes?”
 It blows my mind in a different way with each listen and still, 11 months later, it has me going back and back to all things Bowie.

Paul SimonStranger to Stranger

Come January, I fear everyone will have to have a wristband to get into the United States. 
The quality of Simon’s music over the last four decades is unparalleled. 
I especially like the live versions of “Wristband” and “Duncan” taken from a Prairie Home Companion.
 Simon’s musical hero, Dion sings a duet with him on the final track. This album is touching and profound both musically and lyrically.

Sharon Jones and the Dap KingsIt’s a Holiday Soul Party (2015)

Thanks to Tim Peacock and the Nelsonville Music Festival, we were lucky enough to hear her live. 
This is a fantastic holiday recording. Sharon Jones lives.

Big Thief Masterpiece 
New (to me. New to most everyone I suppose. Rockin’ good.)

“You saw the masterpiece, she looks a lot like you
/ Wrapping her left arm around your right/ 
Ready to walk you through the night
You whisper to a restless ear, “Can you get me out of here?
 This place smells like piss and beer, can you get me out?” 
You were asking me, how to get you free/ 
I only know the recipe to roam…”

Adam TorresPearls to the Swine

I remember Adam Torres coming to Bruce Dalzell’s songwriter events back in the 2000s in Athens, OH. 
I always dug his way as I could never really describe his sound. Those are the best kind.
 Adam has the type of voice that you can’t see coming out of anybody, human or beast. Beautiful. 
And the songs are just great.

JD HutchisonYou and the World Outside

The album I have anticipated most over the last few years. The recording documents the Athens County master of dark wit. Produced by Tim O’Brien and featuring JD’s long time backing band Real Billy Jive.

Larry GroceLive Forever

You probably know Larry Groce as host of NPR’s Mountain Stage. He has been at it strong for over 33 years now. Fact is, Larry is a great songwriter and performer and has the hit song, Grammy nomination and platinum records to back it up. This latest album, recorded live in Michael Lipton’s home in Charleston, WV and produced by Don Dixon (REM, Red Clay Ramblers) showcases songs that have inspired Groce through the years by artist including Paul Simon, Jesse Winchester, Lyle Lovett etc., as well as some Groce originals. You will get to know Larry a lot better by listening to this record and he is a good one to know.

Jacob DunnDriving

From the town of Pomeroy, OH which is only one block deep, yet has a music scene that a town of any size would be proud of, Jacob Dunn’s first solo album, Driving was playing a lot in my VW this year while I was, driving. 
There are no bells or whistles on this recording. Mostly, it is just Jake and his guitar. Some of them sound like they were recorded on his phone, but who cares, good music is good music. I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next.

Andy Shauf The Party

A smooth, somewhat understated concept album that is a portrait of a party narrated from various points of view. After I first heard it, it had me wanting to go back and listen to my Al Stewart records. Once I got beyond his odd way of annunciating, I was hooked on the stories being told surrounding a group of friends, and friends of friends, obsessed with seeking connection powered by sex, booze, cigarettes and less. I discovered Andy via a Mountain Stage that we both played. It airs the first week of March 2017 with Iron and Wine and others.

The BandThe Last Waltz

Filmed on my 12th birthday, back in 1976, I watched this over and over again at the Bullpen Deck (Bar) on Sunnyside while I was going to WVU. They had a big screen there with a VCR and some classic films. My friends and I would go in and request certain concert films, and this was by far our favorite. It was the first time I had ever watched and re-watched anything multiple times. Meaning, it was back in the days before I had a VCR at home. This music is part of my nervous system. Featuring Neil Young , Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters and other greats, this tribute to The Band is what all musicians and film makers might be trying to achieve. If you’d like to read about how Neil Diamond led me to becoming a Dylan fan, click here.

Todd Burge is a touring singer-songwriter based out of West Virginia. His latest album, “Live on Mountain Stage 2006-2016” includes portions of his numerous performances on the internationally distributed weekly music program produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. His latest appearance on Mountain Stage, which featured the likes of Iron and Wine and Andy Shauf, will broadcast the first weekend of March 2017. Look for Burge’s Feb. 12 appearance as the guest host of Mountain Stage.