Boudin Dan's Favorites of 2009
Heartless Bastards - The Mountain (Fat Possum)
Listen to Erika Wennerstrom sing the songs embodying Heartless Bastards' The Mountain and it feels like they're from a place down deep. Spike it with jagged-edged rock, roughshod Appalachian and loping pedal steel and it becomes intoxicating.
Carolyn Mark & NQ Arbuckle - Let's Just Stay Here (Mint)
Below-the-radar duet album of the year? Go North of the border for this collaboration between Vancouver songstress Carolyn Mark and Toronto's NQ Arbuckle. Sad, happy, boozy, and spine tingling, it strikes all the right nerves.
Paul Burch - Still Your Man (Ramseur)
Country stylist Burch mixes jazz, country swing, blues and even a little rumba and all with a Kodachrome tinge on a record that gets better with each listen.
Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (American)
Producer Rick Rubin works his magic on the major label debut from this festival favorite band.
Scott H. Biram - Something's Wrong/Lost Forever (Bloodshot)
The self-proclaimed Dirty Old One-Man Band has built his rep on raw, sonic boogie tunes. He also writes some darn purdy country songs. Sure he cranks the burners on this 2009 outing, but it's the ones where he knocks it down a notch that stick in the craw like glue.
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Anti)
An album difficult to categorize, but when swallowed whole borders on bewitching in its beauty.
Naomi Shelton & Gospel Queens - What Have You Done, My Brother (Daptone)
Singing in NYC soul clubs since the early ‘60s, Alabama native Shelton's debut is a slab of timewarp tunage that plays like some long lost, early ‘60s Southern soul artifact.
Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies (Bloodshot)
Earle broadens his American music palate even further on his sophomore outing to include country blues and pop, at the same time demonstrating a beyond-his-years eye for songwriting.
Willem Maker - New Moon Hand (Big Legal Mess)
When he hunkers down on guitar (as he does nearly all through his new album), the garage-folk blues of Alabaman Willem Maker is near narcotic. Maker hits the strings hard on New Moon Hand taking his poetic lyrics and roughhewn voice to gut-grabbing heights.
Gurf Morlix - Last Exit to Happyland (Rootball)
Known for his production and sideman work, Morlix has also delivered an impressive string of solo albums. Featuring a deep and dark brew of songs, Last Exit continues the streak.
Local Heroes: Locals gone national Deer Tick is a runaway with Born on Flag Day.
Tier 2 of Favorites: Reigning Sound - Love & Curses (In the Red); Black Joe Lewis & Honeybears - Tell ‘em What Your Name Is (Lost Highway); Bob Frank & John Murry - Brinkley, Ark (Evangeline); Eilen Jewell - Sea of Tears (Signature Sounds); Todd Snider - The Excitement Plan (Yep Roc); Jessica Lea Mayfield - With Blasphemy So Heartfelt (Polymer); Daddy - For a Second Time (Cedar Creek); Monsters of Folk - self-titled (Shangri-La); M. Ward - Hold Time (Merge).
Favorite Reissues/Historical Releases:
Big Star - Keep An Eye On the Sky (Rhino)
Various Artists - Fire In My Bones (Tompkins Square)
Various Artists - Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero Group)
Various Artists - Eccentric Soul: Smart's Palace (Numero Group)
Elvis Presley - From Elvis In Memphis (Legacy)
Jayhawks - Music from the North Country (Legacy)
Various Artists - I Woke Up One Day in May (Mississippi)
Mack Allen Smith - The Early Years (Big Legal Mess)
Sun Ra & Kim Fowley releases on Norton Records
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)