Top Tunes ’18: Ben Davis Jr.

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Wow! 2018 has come and gone, and it’s about time we reflect on our favorite sounds of the past year. Leading up through the end of the year, WOUB Culture will be spotlighting what various music-centric people throughout the region have been enjoying the most for the past 12 months.

Ben Davis Jr. (Submitted)

Ben Davis Jr. is a musician and the chief songwriter for Ben Davis Jr. and the Revelry. Davis anticipates releasing a new album next year.

These are the albums I listened to the most in 2018!

1.) WolvesAmerican Aquarium

This album is great from beginning to end. As a songwriter this album has shaped my writing like no other this year! The lyrics are honest, things we all feel. It’s like visiting your hometown and reminiscing on every moment spent, every great memory, and every difficult experience. It’s always reassuring to know you’re not feeling these feelings alone. My favorite track would have to be “End Over End.” “When the world stops spinning end over end/the blood all dries and the wounds they start to mend/When I need less of a lover and more of a friend/baby please don’t/Promise you won’t/Baby don’t let me down again.”


2.) Something in the WaterPokey LaFarge

This album is a really fun listen. It’s has an early doo-wop/soul vibe very reminiscent of The Drifters or The Coasters with a good bit of ragtime and swing mixed in. The production is on point, and the musicianship of the band is very apparent. The songs are extremely well-written and tend to paint a picture in your mind with every listen. I’m a lyric guy for sure, and the shining moment of the album in my opinion is the re-recorded “Cairo, Illinois.” Poker sings “Down by the levy,where you swear God’s got you shamed/Just cast your doubts and the mistakes that you’ve made into that old wishing well.” That resonates with me on such a high level that I find myself listening to the whole album, just to hear that lyric.


3.) I Feel AlrightSteve Earle

This album is my go to for any emotional spike. Steve wrote it at a very trying time in his life, and it sounds like it. Somber lyricism backed by a steady driving rock and roll band was a great contrast for this record. It’s the kind of combination that helps you get through your own personal stuff. It has a gritty edge that you’d expect from Earle, but also can get pretty delicate which is the case with “Valentine’s Day.” I really enjoy the last track of the album “You’re Still Standing There” which features my favorite female vocalist and songwriter of all time, Lucinda Williams.


4.) Car Wheels On A Gravel Road Lucinda Williams

I have to admit that 2018 has been an eye opening year for me musically. My father and I had the privilege of driving to Nashville to experience a stop on the LSD Tour. The tour got its name from Lucinda, Steve (Earle), and Dwight (Yoakum). With exception of her countless contributions to other artist’s alternative country recordings, I had never listened to Lucinda Williams. Her voice is so iconic and immediately distinguishable, and I have always loved hearing her paired with Willie Nelson, Steele Earle, Kevin Gordon, and so many more. What I didn’t expect was to love her songwriting even more. She has a powerful and incredibly authentic presence in her recordings. This album features some of her most popular tracks, like “Joy” and “Drunken Angel” which are both incredible. She has a very unique, somewhat repetitive nature to her lyricism. I don’t mean that I’m a bad way, it’s actually what draws me into this album the most.


5.) Good ThingLeon Bridges

Leon Bridges is a very talented songwriter and performer who has released a few very good albums. I discovered his 2015 album “Coming Home” by stumbling across his song “Pull Away” on YouTube. That album has a very old school ’50s and ’60s R&B and Soul feel to it, that drew me in and made me a fan. This year, Leon released an album with an updated sound, but not completely modern. This album seems to be pulled from a time capsule buried in the late ’70s. “Beyond” is by far my favorite song released in 2018. The overall feel of the song paired with the rhythmic vocal and the warm acoustic guitar keep me singing along and humming the tune for weeks at a time.


6.) Lukas Nelson & Promise of RealLukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

This album starts with some very ethereal soundscape type ambience and introduces an incredibly pleasant sounding electric guitar riff as a prelude to what is to come. “Set Me Down On a Cloud” is a powerful song filled with great instrumentation and incredible harmonies provided by Lucius, layered behind Lukas’ unique voice. I remember seeing a video being shared around on social media of singing one of his father’s songs with the caption “Willie Nelson’s son sings a classic and sounds just like him!” Though the similarities are very apparent, and I’m sure are very appreciated, Lukas has his own distinct vocal characteristics. You really get to experience something special when you play this album all the way through. “Just Outside of Austin” is my go to track on this record. It features a beautiful fingerstyle guitar part, paired with piano and Lukas’ beautiful falsetto. “Those nights when it’s just you and me, or maybe soon we could be three, it ain’t so bad a place to raise a kid. Or maybe we should wait a while, no need to hurry nothing, I’m just saying I’d be happy if we did.” Such a great verse, but I have a tough time choosing a favorite. This album is definitely worth a listen.


7.) Run Skeleton RunDavid Childers

This album was released in 2017 and really caught me off guard. David has released verbal incredible albums, but he continues to evolve and adapt. This album has rockabilly, folk, a little newgrass, and straight up rock ‘n’ roll. Songs like “Greasy Dollar” and “Thanks to All” are shining representations of David as a person, a songwriter, and a regional treasure. David is also gifted with the ability to transport you into the world he is singing about. You can experience the scents of the setting, the outfits the characters are wearing, what they’re feeling, and you really get attached. David is such a great soul and everyone should hear this album.


8.) Tres HombresZZ Top

This could very possibly be my favorite rock ‘n’ roll album. It flows and carries you along through a borderline psychedelic sequence of punchy bass, a nice balance of saturated and swirly guitars and harmonies that all of Texas should be proud of. I think any band could show up, play this album front to back, and be hailed as rock gods for all of history (if only in their local scene even). The album kicks off with “Waitin’ for the Bus” and sneakily slides right into “Jesus Just Left Chicago” not leaving you any option but to keep listening. Follow that with “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” and you’re hooked. The highlight of the record for me is “Hot Blue and Righteous.” I’m a sucker for a ballad, and this one just speaks right to me!


9.) EveEmery

Emery has been one of my favorite bands since high school. They had the perfect recipe for me at the time. A mix of compelling lyrics, unique rhythmic arrangements, perfectly crafted guitar parts, and a little bit of screamo charm! As I have grown older and my taste in music has matured, I have always been able to go back and listen to those old songs with pride. This new album isn’t an exception. Their sound has seemed to mature and grow right alongside me. Staying true to their roots as a formerly labeled “Christian band,” they have pushed the boundaries of what that means. As I have grown away from that genre as time goes by, I appreciate Emery more, for creating a place for young musicians outside of the four walls of religious constraint. Providing hope and understanding for those who feel lost or stuck or unsure. “Safe” is a very powerful song featuring Devin Shelton in the forefront. “We used to look at the stars, and dream of the days we would find something more/Somewhere along the way, the smile left your face and life set in.” Such a powerful statement and so many of us feel that about ourselves or someone we love. This is the kind of lyricism you get from Emery.


10.) In the Wee Small HoursFrank Sinatra

I cant say a whole lot about this record, except it is perhaps one of the most soothing recordings I’ve ever heard. I use this album to put me to sleep, and it works every time. The smooth dulcet voice of Sinatra paired with soft piano, woodwinds, and strings is wonderful throughout. I don’t have a favorite song, I’m not sure I’ve heard the whole album, but it really does put you at ease after a long hard day of just about anything. If you need to relax or catch up on some sleep, here’s your ticket!