The Best of 2010

It’s that time again. The end of the year list that are as common as as spam in your inbox, but it’s tradition and I’m a sucker for tradition. So here we go!

If you follow my twitter feed (!/TwangNation) you’ll already know what’s on this list. I did the countdown as seperate tweets lest week and I got a great response. You also know that its not merely a top 10 but a top 25! That’s right, you get 25% more music for your money.

It has been another great year for Americana/roots music, and from what’s currently coming across my desk for 2011 we can look forward to another. Old-timers are beating on the barn door and upstarts are using old parts to make new works that advance the form while staying true to the roots.  The genre appears to be attracting and cultivating the type of nurturing and craftsmanship that labels used to practice in the golden days of the 60s and early 70s. Of course this time without the lavish pay-out. The music industry is in turmoil from the corner office view but from the touring van and the laptop it’s  a prime-time for opportunity. And if you’re a burgeoning musician concerned about the current conditions I urge you to purchase Dr. Ralph Stanley’s book Man of Constant Sorry and learn about what REAL hard time look like.

So I raise a pint and celebrate an embarrassment of riches that show the love of craft and and honor in roots that defines a road of American culture that is often overlooked and forgotten but often leads to the promised land.

As the year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on the past four years of writing Minkin’s Music and all the good times with people I’ve met along the way. May the spirit of the season touch your soul and let comfort and joy shine upon you throughout the upcoming year.

  1. Mat D – Plank Road Drag –
  2. Jamey Johnson – Guitar song-
  3. Ray Wylie Hubbard – A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C) –
  4. Truckstop Darlin’ – Truckstop Darlin’ –
  5. Reckless Kelly – Somewhere in Time-
  6. Miranda Lambert – Revolution –
  7. Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues –
  8. Lindsay Fuller – The Last Light I See –
  9. Elizabeth Cook – Welder –
  10. Jason & The Scorchers  –  Halcyon Times –
  11. Mandolin Orange – Quiet Little Room –
  12. Black Twig Pickers – Ironto Special –
  13. Possessed By Paul James – Feed The Family –
  14. Joe Thompson – Yankee Twang –
  15. Joe Pug – Messenger –
  16. Carolina Chocolate Drops  – Genuine Negro Jig –
  17. The Sadies – Darker Circles –
  18. 6 Day Bender – E’ville Fuzz –
  19. I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House – Sounds of Dying –
  20. Doc Dailey & Magnolia Devil – Victims, Enemies & Old Friends –
  21. Shineyribs – Well After Awhile –
  22. Patty Griffin – Downtown Church –
  23. Whitey Morgan & the 78′s – Whitey Morgan & the 78′s-
  24. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers  – Agridustrial –
  25. Mary Gauthier – The Foundling –

Music Review: Joe Thompson – Yankee Twang (self-released)

On his second release Joe Thompson takes us on a journey of a man caught between two worlds – the American northeast and the southwest. His birthplace of Western Pennsylvania,  his current residence of New York City and Texas, the source of his lineage (the birthplace of his parents if the narrative in Texas waltz is factual.)  All play a part in the shifting landscapes of Yankee Twang, but it appears that in this struggle of geographic and identity the main source of aesthetic inspiration is the Lone Star State.

With a barroom baritone that would truly make Randy Travis proud, Thompson opens Yankee Twang with Blue New York – a classic George Strait-like ballad of lonely nights and hard love in the city that refuses to let you sleep. The chorus calls out to Texas, Austin specifically, as remedy for the big city blues, but he sounds like a man that would cast his lot with any way out of Gotham –

Lucky Mistake is a Nashville hit as-yet not recorded by one of the CMA chosen hat-acts. Upbeat but not frothy and great to sing to at the top of your lungs. I hope Thompson is lucky enough to have Kenny Chensey pay him for the privilege of ruining it. Next is the song I hope to hear in every tequila bar in America – Luisa! Luisa! sounds has a Texas Tornadoes festive spirit that belies the sad story of the protagonist losing the song’s namesake. Tequila does that for you.

Sweet Texas Waltz is a gorgeous acoustic-led number that really being to bear the duality theme that runs throughout. “My Yankee blood’s rich with that black Texas mud, but a Yankee I am through and through.”  And this longing results  in “I wish I could dance that sweet Texas waltz, the way my mom and dad do.”

Summer ’93 reaches into West Texas and back in time to channel Buddy Holly’s rave-up rockabilly hiccup beat. I Could’ve Slept All Day is a damn fine lovely lament of tear-stained love and regret.

The song that stands out the most to be is the briefest on the release. At 2 minutes and 32 seconds Traction is a moody, menacing window into the heart of a man that gave all to love and recognizes his estranged reined back emotions seemingly in anticipation of, or causing, the end. It’s as stark edge of emotion in song as I’ve hard.

As a Texan that lived for five years in New York City I get a kind of reverse sense of cultural disassociation that Yankee Twang emits. Dirt and blood run thick as as Houston humidity and I feel a kinship to this generation-removed Texan brought up in the rust, instead of the Bible, belt. Thompson recently moved to Austin.  I hope he ventures outside that bubble and the reality matches the mythology this release is steeped in.

For fun Thompson has a cocktail companion to every song on the album.

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