RUNE's TOP 13 MUSICAL REASONS 2011 WAS A GOOD YEAR…

I’m not doing a “regular” top-list. I already made a top50 for my norwegian blog, and the selections just make me want to go hide in the forest until the new year is official and no-one cares about these lists anymore.

SO – what I’m doing for Ninebullets is picking some of my favorite albums among the more unknown artists out there…
Obviously I loved Isbells “Here We Rest”, Adams “Ashes & Fire”, Gillians “The Harrow and The Harvest” and even Paul Simons beautiful “So Beautiful Or So What”.

But I also loved these albums, and I hope you will give them a chance – as they all deserve attention.

Here’s 13 musical reasons 2011 was a good year:

Howard Iceberg & The Titanics – “Welcome Aboard”

When Pat Tomek introduced me to Howard Icebergs songs, I did not expect to be blown away by his exceptional lyrics. But that was what happened. Howards box “Welcome Aboard” – which I reviewed here on Ninebullets a while back is by far my most played album of 2012. It being seven cds, that’s impressive by it self. Since discovering the world of Howard Iceberg, I’ve bought his not too extensive back-catalog, and even a couple of cassettes on eBay – as I just can’t get enough.

Howard Iceberg & The Titanics – Tattoo

The Porter Draw – “California Widow”.

Among all the sub-par stuff my norwegian blog gets sent either by email or Reviewshine, there are gems that shine stronger than most of what gets noticed.
The Porter Draw and their fabulous album California Widow is one of those gems. Their in-your-face mix of americana, punk and bluegrass makes this album a pleasure to listen to, and with their songwriting and great musicianship as their strongest assets this band will just keep delivering.

The Porter Draw – Athens

The Damn Quails – “Down The Hatch”

This might just be my one and a half year old sons favourite album. He broke out in spontaneous dancing when he first heard “Fools Gold”, and still jumps around every time he hears it. And that’s quite often, as I love this album just as much as him – and subsequently plays it a LOT.

The Damn Quails – Fool’s Gold

The Far West – “The Far West”

Brilliant pedal-steel by Erik Kristiansen, and the most heartfelt vocals you’ll ever hear makes this one of my favourites this year. I love their sound and the fact that they sound like a long lost Whiskeytown album.

The Far West – The Best Company

The Rainmakers – “25 On”

If Ryan Adams comeback was great, then The Rainmakers comeback is nothing less than magic. There’s always the great risk of sounding dated and just going through the motions for the money when great bands from the late 80s and early 90s get back together.

The Rainmakers have turned out stronger than ever, with a great album of songs with Bob Walkenhorst’s lyrics where he draws an all his experience and shows how both he and the band has matured and really deserve attention once again.

The Rainmakers – Given Time

John Moreland – “Everything The Hard Way”

This is a matter of “I heard it through the grapevine”, or rather quickly understood that this had to be listened too after reading the other 9B-writers reactions to this album. And their impeccable taste did NOT let me down. Strong lyrics, and an album that focuses on growing up.

John Moreland -Christian Rock

Israel Nash Gripka – “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors”

Speaking of great lyrics, this album really has got them! Along with the melodies that stick on your brain, this album has made me play it again and again and again since I became aware of it this fall. You get rock, you get country – and you get songs that both Neil Young and Ryan Adams would have been proud of writing and adding to their albums.

Israel Nash Gripka – Drown

ORBO & The Longshots – “Prairie Sun”

My norwegian favourite from 2011, the brilliant “Praire Sun”. The album is getting it’s american release in late january, before the band hit the road in the US yet again. They are just too good for little Norway, so I guess we need to share them. Great songs, great rockin’ americana.

ORBO & The Longshots – High Grass Dog

Stephen Simmons – “The Big Show”

I’ve been heavily focused on lyrics this year, and Stephen Simmons brings some of the best into the mix. He writes about life in a way that really tells you he’s lived it himself, and this is really something that deserves an audience.

Stephen Simmons – Parchcorn Falls

The Reneaus – “Room For Roses”

Another one of those little gems that turned up on Reviewshine, I can only describe The Reneaus as different. They create a mood that is unique, and the voice of their singer Ashley Cooper Winn will stick to your mind as soon as you let it into your head.

Some bluegrass, some country and bits and pieces of darker rock’n’roll make up this album that sometimes haunt me when I sleep.

The Reneaus – Banks Of The River

Drew Kennedy – “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”

This was really a treat. Drew Kennedy released an album AND a book. Both called “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”. The book, which is really a great read, focuses on the fictional singer/songwriter Dan Murphy and his experiences while on the road to finish up another tour – while dealing with a bad breakup and his mind killing off his ex-girlfriend in brutal ways.

The album consists of the songs Dan writes during his travels, and the lyrics to them are printed in the book at the aproximate point where Dan writes them. Brilliant concept, and it really works!

Drew Kennedy – Vapor Trails

Back Porch Mary – “Time Is Now”

Since “Time Of The Broken Heart” from 2008, Back Porch Mary have toured extensively, gone from being a quartet to a trio – and matured as band and songwriters. They promised that “Time Is Now” would be their strongest effort yet, and followed through all the way by giving us a real kicker of an album.

Back Porch Mary – Fast Car

Vintage Trouble – “The Bomb Shelter Sessions”

If you haven’t checked these guys out on YouTube yet, please do so.
If you have the opportunity to see these guys live, PLEASE do so!
This is the perfect mix of blues, soul, rock’n’roll and Rhythm & Blues, like it was mean to be played.
Their album is good, but their live shows and videos are bloody (that’s across the pond for “fucking”) awesome. Check “Blues Hand Me Down” and “Nobody Told Me” and tell me I’m wrong…

Vintage Trouble – Nobody Told Me

9B WEEK IN REVIEW:

It was a really busy week here on ninebullets and we’re hoping that will be the new norm with all the new writers so I thought I’d start posting a weekly recap on the weekend (good idea?). So let’s get into it:

BACK PORCH MARY – LIFE IS NOW

I really loved Back Porch Marys first album, and when they promised that their new album would be even better I hoped they would come through on that promise. And they really have!

Since their last album “Time Of The Broken Heart” was released in 2008, they’ve been busy with an increasingly busy touring schedule. Despite the road, they were still able to get these songs on tape. I read an interview when the last record came out, and found that singer Mike Krug hates being in the studio, so recording these songs must have been done quickly and effectively.

The songs seem to have been thoroughly road tested, and they sound as tight as Ryan Reynolds new Green Lantern suit. The album manages to sound more polished without losing the rough exterior that was key to their previous album’s sound.

Mike Krug seems to have matured as a songwriter. Where his previous songs tended to focus mainly on drinking and broken relationships, not that there’s anything wrong with that – it makes up most of the songs we enjoy in this genre, but an added depth is never a bad thing.

A great example is “Dry Here In This Town”, where the main character is watching all the successful people around him, in dispair over his own situation. He’s stuck in the same place, without any future in sight. The definitive highlight of the album in my book…

“I spend my life going nowhere
at night I just fall down.
There always a raincloud over my shoulder,
but it’s dry here in this town”

The song “You Don’t Know About Me” is a tribute of sorts to all the invisible workers out there doing all the small jobs that never get noticed. The “little people” that actually make society function, and keep the wheels of the world turning. The real workers and heroes, never getting any of their deserved respect. And it doesn’t end well, as the end turns into the French Revolution!

“I’m the one who’s gonna mow your lawn,
the one you act like can’t see.
I got your kids home safe last night,
but you don’t know about me.
Yeah you don’t know about me
I’m broke and tired, and far from free”

As I mentioned, the songs seems like they have been worked on a lot, the album sounds better – and mostly in structure. Seems the loss of guitar player Slim Laurence has made the band focus more on the songs, and the format of “Power Trio” really suits them. The lyrics are great, and they are the focal point of the songs.

Another great example of Krugs evolvement as as songwriter can be found in “Drove Her To Drinkin'”, where he previously wrote about heartbreak from his own standpoint, there is a deep self insight when he tells us the story of a guy who broke a girls heart so thoroughly he drove her to drinkin’.

“She was a good girl
She never did no harm.
I drove her to drinkin’
yeah, it didn’t take long.”

Gary Braun from Mickey & The Motorcars can be heard delivering back up vocals on a few of these songs, and his voice suits these songs like nothing else. He’s obviously learned quite a bit from the others in the Braun family in that respect.

The album is delivered in a simple cardboard sleeve, and this is explained on their website:

“We are just doing a cardboard sleeve with a front and a back. We are keeping it simple because as everyone knows, jewel cases just break anyway. It’s just going to end up on everyone’s IPOD or music player of choice very quickly regardless of how you get it.”

Go buy this from Back Porch Mary like they ask quite nicely on their website:

“It’s important to note that ordering the CD from our site is the best way to help the band. We get all the profits this way. Now, we know that some of you are going to burn it and/or share it with friends. We think that is awesome. Feel free. However, we do encourage the purchasing of music from the artist.”

Back Porch Mary – Dry Here In This Town
Back Porch Mary – Fast Car

Back Porch Mary’s Official Site, Back Porch Mary on Facebook, Buy Life Is Now