I made this list of albums 2 weeks ago and I’ve reordered it once or twice each day since. At some point during that 2 week span, each album was placed at the number one position and I am so torn as I prepare to actually type this that I contemplated not picking a single top album at all, but where’s the fun in that? Any of the top 6 could have easily been the number 1 album, but in the end I went with my gut and selected the album that I kept coming back to. So, here is my list for the top 10 albums of 2008. If you’re interested in an honorable mention list, just head over to the essential listening list (hurry, cause it’ll be reset soon).
11. John Mellencamp – Life, Death, Love and Freedom
Okay, I know I said I wasn’t gonna do an honorable mention list, but I decided to mention this one anyway. Every time I tell people it’s an awesome album they roll their eyes at me. In my original piece about the album I said, “Maybe it’s his age. Maybe it was the backlash from the last album. Who knows what it was and really, who cares? The point is, it seems that on Life, Death, Love, And Freedom Mellencamp has put aside chasing commercial success and decided to pursue the goal of putting together a complete album of strong tracks from beginning to end and, outside of “My Sweet Love”, I must say he succeeded.” Time with the album has not lessened my enthusiasm at all.
10. Grayson Capps – Rott N’ Roll
I am so glad I now know who Grayson Capps is. His 2007 effort, Songbones, was my introduction and this year’s effort, Rott N’ Roll, was a great follow-up. From my original piece on the album, “I find myself drawn to the drunks, whores and vagabonds that haunt Grayson’s songs. They’re like old friends you keep up with via letters in the mail, and with a new album comes new updates.”
09. The Whipsaws – 60 Watt Avenue
Man, if I was gonna choose a “rock and roll” album of the year, this album from a little band in Anchorage would win going away. From my original post about the album, “The Whipsaws are a rock and roll band from Anchorage, Alaska. There’s no shortage of people who will refer to them as an alt.country act based on their country debut, Ten Day Bender, but 60 Watt Avenue is a rock and roll album sans a subgenre hyphen. Sounding like an early version of the Drive-by Truckers without that early Trucker twang, they have released a great bar room rocker of an album.”
08. Black Diamond Heavies – A Touch of Someone Else’s Class
These guys are one of my favorite bands in the “punk blues” movement. This year I finally got to see them live (twice), plus they graced us with a new album. From my original piece on the album, “The Black Diamond Heavies are not for the uninitiated…Nay, the Black Diamond Heavies are for people who are ready to feel sin and salvation through the low end of a B3, with a tumbler full of whiskey and John Wesley Myers’ growl as a drinking partner. I’d been kicking around various ways to describe BDH’s sound and then I saw it spelled out perfectly on a CMJ review of Someone Else’s Class as such, “humid tone over heated tunes.”
07. Possessed By Paul James – Cold and Blind
Easily the wife’s favorite album of the year, she even tried to convince me that it need to be mine or sex would be withheld. Needless to say, I am gonna be a little tense for a while. In all seriousness, though, seeing Possessed By Paul James was surely my favorite show of the year. As I said in my original piece on the album, “Cold and Blind features Konrad incorporating fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, stomp box, the occasional diddly boe, grunts, hollers and a kind honesty that you rarely hear, but once you do, cannot deny.” and seeing him live makes you realize just how genuine that is.
06. Tim Barry – Manchester
I am really late to it, but the more I listen to him the more I wanna be the one driving the Tim Barry bandwagon. The pure brutal honesty of Tim’s songs is the draw. This is from my original piece on the album, “Tim Barry isn’t really the type of music you toss on for background music and it grabs you. Tim’s music wants you to sit down and listen to it. Hear the lyrics and feel them. If you do that you’ll know what I’ve recently learned: That Tim Barry and his new album are essential listening.”
05. Drag The River – You Can’t Live This Way
Any album from here on out could have easily been my album of the year depending on what time of what day I was writing the piece. Before this album was released the band “kind of” split up, and when I wrote my original piece on the album we all thought it was their final release. As a result I wrote the following, “Regardless of what is going on with the band, though, the fact is that they have a new album in stores tomorrow and if it really is their final release, it’s a fucking shame. Passing on the ‘almost all drinking songs’ formula, You Can’t Live This Way is easily the most mature effort of their catalog. It seems like the guys were/are finally beginning to fully realize themselves as songwriters and as a band, and to cut that short is a pity.” They are supposed to have another album coming out this year and they are playing here in Tampa in 2 weeks, so I’m thinking the rumors of their demise may have been a little overstated.
04. Justin Townes Earl – The Good Life
I knew this album was destined for my top 10 list the moment I heard it. Sad thing is, hearing it almost never happened. As I said in my original piece, “I’m not sure what I was expecting from Justin’s Bloodshot debut, The Good Life, but it wasn’t much. I don’t know why, either. I had never heard anything from his debut EP, Yuma, but when it came down to it I was only giving The Good Life a courtesy listen. Regardless of what I was expecting, what I got was one of the best albums so far this year.”
03. Two Cow Garage – Speaking in Cursive
Easily the best album in their career, I was totally hoping to hear it on satellite radio by now and it very well may have found it’s way onto XM had Sirius not come along and ruined it. It’s hard for a band that you already adore to continually meet your ever-expanding expectations, but Two Cow has managed to do it time and time again. The very fact that this album isn’t #1 on my list is a testament to how good this year’s releases were. Nonetheless, this album is a must listen for anyone who frequents this site. As I said in my original piece on the album, “The amount of ground that this band has covered from The Wall Against Our Back to III to Speaking In Cursive is more than many bands cover in their entire career. The maturity level of their musicianship and Micah’s songwriting is night and day over that 3 album span. There really is no unbiased way for me to talk about this album, I just love it too damned much. I mean, it’s not just Essential Listening, it’s album of the year candidate.”
02. Left Lane Cruiser – Bring Yo’ Ass To The Table
It was so hard for me not to make this the album of the year. So very difficult…the album was everything I was hoping for from their label debut. There ain’t a track on it that I ever hit skip on it and there ain’t a mood I’ve found that the album ain’t perfect for. I could gush about this album for 400 words, but I think I summed it up in my original piece about the album, “Joe and Brenn headed into Painesville, Ohio’s Suma Studios, a studio full of reel to reels and vinyl cutting machines, and emerged with a blues-fueled, rock-driven cd on the verge of a whiskey rage. This is a must add to the Essential Listening list and currently my favorite cd of this young year. You like this site? You’ll love this disc…”
drum roll please…………………………………
01. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Cipher
I dunno what it is but there is something about this album. It’s infectious. As I said in my original piece about the album, “SCAC writes big songs, I don’t really know how else to describe it. They aren’t heavy, they aren’t loud, and they’re rarely disposable. They are often labeled as “gothic country” due to the intermingling of Old Testament and apocalyptic religion with bad relationships, alcohol, and murder. If nothing else, SCAC is, IMO, one of the best bands in America that hardly any one’s heard of, and they just released what might be the best album of the year in Cipher.” Turns out, IMO, it is the album of the year. If I listen to it on Monday I’ll still be singing the songs on Saturday. It’s vintage Slim and Munly and that’s hard to beat…and in 2008 nothing else did.
That’s it. The album you’re thinking should have been on my list probably would have been had I made it 15 albums long. Let’s hope 2009 is as musically awesome as 2008 was. Speaking of 2009, I’ll see y’all then.
Take care and Be Safe (cause I need your traffic next year)
OKAY! I know I said I wasn’t gonna do an honorable mentions list but I do wanna list the bands that were on the short list that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. All of these bands made music this that you should look into but were left off my final 10 list for some reason or another: Bean Pickers Union – Potlach, Ben Nichols – Last Pale Light In The West, Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creations Dark, The Black Keys – Attack & Release, Those Poor Bastards – Satan Is Watching, Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher, The Steeldrivers – The Steeldrivers