SEAN'S LUCKY 13 OF 2011

Why 13, you ask? Well, it’s my favorite number and, conveniently, it is also the number of albums that grabbed my attention this year. Plus, I like the title of “Lucky 13” for my list.

13. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire. This is the album I’ve turned to all year whenever I’ve been in the mood to chill. Perfect for sitting back with a bottle of scotch. (Sound pretentious enough?)  On a side note, Ryan did a couple excellent covers of my music idol, Bob Mould, this year: Black Sheets of Rain (Live on Letterman) and Heartbreak a Stranger (Bob Mould Tribute Concert)

Ryan Adams – Chains Of Love

12. Foster and Lloyd – Its Already Tomorrow. This album out jangles The Byrds. The title track and “Lucky Number” are the best power-pop songs I’ve heard in years.

Foster and Lloyd – Lucky Number

11. R.E.M – Collapse Into Now. I doubt if R.E.M could have left after a better album, short of retiring after Automatic For The People (a valid argument). “Discoverer” may be their best opening track since “Begin the Begin” off Life’s Rich Pageant. “Uberlin” may simply the best song they’ve recorded in the past 10 years.

R.E.M. – Uberlin

10. Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories). Hayes gets the most attention for his romps and stomps, but his songwriting really shines on the slower songs.  “Another Like You” is a cleaver give and take with Cary Ann Hearst.

Hayes Carll – Stomp and Holler

9. Drive by Truckers – Go-Go Boots. One of the things about doing these lists is you go back to revisit albums from earlier in the year that you got burned out on. Sometimes you realize they weren’t as good as you thought. Other times they sound even better on the second “first” listen. This is the latter.

Drive-By Truckers – The Weakest Man

8. Have Gun, Will Travel – Mergers and Acquisitions. Pretty much everything Autopsy said.

Have Gun Will Travel – Freightliner

7. Dave Alvin – Eleven Eleven. No better CountryRockBlues album released this year. Like his songwriting, Dave’s baritone is as strong as ever. How did I overlook reviewing this? Gonna have to rectify that after the first of the year.

Dave Alvin – Johnny Ace Is Dead

6. The Decemberists – The King is Dead. I’m one of those who never got into The Decemberists before this album. But, being a REM-head since the mid-80s, it is in my DNA to adore this one. “Down By The Water” another of my songs of the year.

The Decemberists – Calamity Song

5. Jason Boland and The Stragglers – Rancho Alto. A true country album in every sense of the word. If anyone is carrying the “traditionalist banner”, it’s Jason. This album is proof. “Farmer’s Luck” ranks with Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow” as one the great songs describing the troubles of the American farmer. “False Accuser’s Lament” is a prime example of Jason’s vivid storytelling.

Jason Boland & The Stragglers – False Accuser’s Lament

4. The Damn Quails – Down the Hatch. See review

The Damn Quails – Me and The Whiskey

3. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest. Top notch songwriting, great band, great album. “Codeine” is one of my songs of the year, although “Go It Alone” might be the song that got the most play as it has helped me get through my separation and pending divorce.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Go It Alone

2. Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods. Anyone from Nashville that calls themselves “Outlaw Country” needs to listen to this and then hang their heads in shame. Review is upcoming next week.

Hellbound Glory – You Better Hope You Die Young

1. John Moreland and the Dust Bowl Souls – Everything the Hard Way. See review

John Moreland and the Dust Bowl Souls – Christian Rock

Bonus: Jody Booth – Nashville. Perfectly describes the corporate music machine in 2011.

WADE BOWEN – LIVE AT BILLY BOB'S, TEXAS

Wade Bowen is one of my favorite Texas/Red Dirt boys and he has finally dropped a Live at Billy Bob’s Texas album on us as a CD/DVD combo. If you know anything about the scene you know that everyone has to do one of these at some point and that they are always good. You can look through the careers of Jason Boland, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and just about any other Texas artist and you’ll find one of these discs in their releases. It’s not limited to Texas boys either with the likes of David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard and other legends having a Live at Billy Bobs Texas release to their name. Wade joins the club with the one and it’s everything one would expect from both him and Billy Bob’s without a disappointing moment on either disc.

This album and the atmosphere it conveys is the reason I got into the Texas/Red Dirt Scene. Originally a member of West 84 which, in 1991, re-aligned with Wade as the front man and started releasing albums as Wade Bowen & West 84 and eventually as just Wade Bowen he has over a decade playing music and recording albums and still leaves it all on stage. This is something you can really feel on this album. It isn’t like being there but it’s as close as you can get with your headphones on. There just isn’t a bad track on this one and the quality of the live performance puts it close to the top of the stack as far as live albums so far this year. If you have never heard Wade Bowen before this album is as good as any to start with but I’d wager if you started with you wouldn’t be stopping with it. It’s rare for me to think a live album is Essential Listening but just about any Live At Billy Bob’s Texas is good enough to make the list and this one is no exception.

Wade Bowen – Please Come to Boston
Wade Bowen – Daddy and the Devil
Wade Bowen – Ghost in this Town

Wade Bowen official website
Wade Bowen on Myspace
Wade Bowen’s artist page on Last.fm

THE ROCK REPORT: JEREMY STEDING AND THE BAND OF BASTARDS @ GOODE'S ARMADILLO PALACE – HOUSTON, TEXAS 12-03-09

Some days things just work together. While I was writing up the review of A Damn Good Ride I dropped by Jeremy Steding’s website to look for his bio and such and found out he was playing in town that night. I grabbed a phone number off the site, made a call, and set up some time with him before the show. As luck would have it and one thing leading to another I wasn’t as early as I wanted to be but since it was a Thursday night show there wasn’t an opening act and there was still plenty of time to meet The Band of Bastards and get to know them before the show. And a damn fine show it was…

Jeremy Steding
(In case you’re wondering that is a Jason Isbell shirt on the Eric.)

What I learned is a that Jeremy is originally from Florida and came west to Austin in 2007 with an unmastered, unreleased “Whiskey Songs and Prison Songs” to pursue music in the Red Dirt scene. Having been inspired by old Pat Green (before he went Nashville), Cory Morrow, Robert Earl Keen and the like he figure Austin was the place to be if he wanted to play his kind of music.
I know our gracious host would disagree, being a huge fan of the Florida music scene and rightfully so, but Jeremy made his trek and is now making his mark on Red Dirt Music. One of the highlights of the night was finding out that Jeremy is fan and friend of Pete and Larry from Truckstop Coffee. Those boys are perennial 9B favourites and it’s always nice to find other fans.

Jeremy is at a point in his career that he says many never make it past. He’s playing decent venues and getting decent turnouts but intimates it’s fairly easy to get stuck there for a good long while and some folks can’t handle what seems like being in a rut. He handles most of his own booking, all of his merch, all of the publicity pretty much managing himself and the Band of Bastards. He uses all of the standard methods today such as twitter, myspace, facebook, and so on to get the word out about his music and his shows all while giving away his recorded music on his website. He and the band have a sponorship from Budweiser and they are touring hard. He says he loves the work and doesn’t mind all the time it takes to self manage. I did ask him specifically about giving away the albums on the website and he explained that while they sell a good number of CDs at shows that he wanted more people to discover his music. He thinks that people don’t buy as many CDs as they used to because of worrying about the investment. What if the CD sucks? So he put both albums for free, gives out business cards everywhere he goes that tell people where to go to download it, has a donate button if you want to toss a couple bucks his way, and still sells just as many plastic shiny discs at shows. And it’s working. More and more people are hearing his music and coming to shows. And that’s where Jeremy Steding and the Band of Bastards really shine…

Jeremy Steding And let me tell you: These boys can tear up a stage. I liked the album and that’s pretty clear from my review but seeing them live is just damn good. It’s not as big a difference as Cory Branan’s live vs. his studio work but it is something that has to be seen to be believed. Jeremy is a showman for sure and he pulls in the audience without even trying. He’s still young so the show isn’t as polished as some of the old timers but whether it’s belting out his original songs are having a little fun with classic covers like You Never Call Be By My Name whilst claiming it was written by “…a friend of a friend of a friend of my dad’s” on Canadian bacon in eyeliner you can tell that Jeremy is doing what he loves and the Band of Bastards is having as much fun as he is. And when I say he gets the audience involved I mean the isn’t above calling out the drunk birthday girl to help out with The Boys From Oklahoma.

They're too damn skinny and way too long...
…they’re too damn skinny and way too long…

In closing you shouldn’t miss the chance to see this Florida boy turned Texan play a live show. With a band that cites influences ranging from Truckstop Coffee to Jason Isbell you certainly could do worse. And as far as the more country and western shows go I am not sure you could do better these days.

The Band of Bastards is:

  • Matt Winegardner – Drums
  • Eric Smith – Bass
  • Steve James – Lead Guitar

You can see the full gallery from the show over at romeosidvicious.com .

Here’s some tracks off of Jemery’s first album since I don’t have any live tracks (except the one from this album) from him just yet:

Jeremy Steding – Bonnie Blue
Jeremy Steding – Auburn
Jeremy Steding – The Day to Day, Today (Live)

And the Boys From Oklahoma…

Jason Boland – The Boys From Oklahoma

Jeremy Steding Official Site
Jeremy Steding on MySpace
Jeremy Steding on Facebook
Jeremy Steding on Twitter
Jeremy Steding on YouTube

JACKSON TAYLOR & THE SINNERS

Aces n Eights

This might be a little off the farm for some of ya’ but here is an album from an ol’ boy I saw quite by accident and ended up hangin’ with (read: got way too wasted with) all night…

I was headed out to see Jason Boland at The Firehouse for the umpteenth time and left too early or didn’t stop and eat so I got there before the opening act had even started. You see I usually skip the opening acts for most bands I go see and that may be kind of shitty it’s just how I’ve done it for years. Anyway… The opening act, some dude named Jackson Taylor, starts up and much to my surprise the music was quite good. I meandered over near the stage there was this old boy wearin’ a Social D t-shirt, covered in tats belting out country music. One thing led to another and instead of seeing the band I came to see I ended up hanging out with the opener all night. There’s a story there that doesn’t warrant telling here but you can rest assured I had a grand ol’ time.

That said I have to admit this isn’t my favorite Jackson Taylor album. I mean he’s a bad son of a bitch (I was at a show he was late to because he had to bailed out of jail for a bar fight the night before) but it seems sort of forced in places on this album. The music is more polished than his early stuff and that could play into why I am not as into as his other albums. So why write about it? Well that’s because as much as it’s not my favorite JT album it’s still a damn site better than most of the tripe passing as country music these days and there are some real gems on it as well. I have a feeling even the songs that aren’t that great on this offering will be pretty damn good live because that’s just how Jackson is.

The two Social D covers, Ball & Chain and Highway 101, may be my fourth and fifth favorite covers this year (#1 Micah Schnabel – Can’t Hardly Wait, #2 Michael Dean Damron – Beautiful and Damned, #3 Chad Price – Hybrid Moments) and the new recording of Jackson’s own classic Barefeet on the Dash make this one worth picking up. At first listen the music may sound like standard Country & Western to some the lyrics and attitude is where Jackson makes his stand. He follows in the outlaw tradition of Waylon, Willie, Ray Wylie and Billy Joe in writing music that Nashville won’t touch with a ten foot pole as well as touching on topics that are generally forbidden in the radio safe sounds drifting out of Music City. Jackson is most assuredly a Texas boy, born and bred, and that shows through when he plays and in his overall approach to life.

Aces ‘n Eights ain’t gonna make album of the year for me but it ain’t getting deleted off my iPod either. It’s a good listen and I may be too harsh a critic. Pick it up and decide for yourself.

Two from Aces ‘n Eights
Jackson Taylor – Ball and Chain (Social Distortion Cover)
Jackson Taylor – Country Song

Two from Live, Locked, & Loaded at Longhorns:
Jackson Taylor – Whiskey & Women
Jackson Taylor – Old Lone Star

Jackson Taylor & The Sinners Official Site, Jackson Taylor & The Sinners on myspace, Buy Aces & Eights

ROBERT EARL KEEN – THE ROSE HOTEL


The first time I ever heard anything referred to as Texas Country it was a song from Robert Earl Keen. That song, unlike many people’s first REK exposure (The Road Goes on Forever), was Corpus Christi Bay. My younger brother played it for me one evening and I was hooked. I speedily acquired REK’s catalog and branched out into other Texas Country artists like Cory Morrow, Pat Green, Jason Boland & The Stragglers just to name a few. I love the Texas Country scene and especially The Firehouse Saloon here in Houston. When I finally got into the music REK was too big a name to be playing the dives I tend to hang out in so I rarely see him play and yet he his music holds a special place in my heart. It may be that he was the first artist in a new genre that I heard but it is more likely that he is just an amazing singer/songwriter.

After a four year hiatus we finally have a new release from Robert Earl Keen. The Rose Hotel may be standard Robert Earl Keen but that doesn’t mean there is anything standard about the album. You see standard Robert Earl Keen is a cut above the rest even when it comes to Texas Country. I have been listening to this thing for two days now and haven’t found a single song I didn’t like. From the opening strokes of The Rose Hotel to the closing chords of Wireless in Heaven this is a solid album. Toss in some a Townes Van Zandt cover Flying Shoes and Billy Bob Thorton doing vocals on 10,000 Chinese Walk Into A Bar and you end up with something great. Fifteen albums into his career Robert Earl Keen proves once again that there is no mold that fits him and that suits us just fine.

If you aren’t already a Robert Earl Keen fan you should be. Give the 9b selections a listen and go get yourself REK’d…

Robert Earl Keen – The Rose Hotel
Robert Earl Keen – Throwin’ Rocks
Robert Earl Keen – The Man Behind The Drums

Robert Earl Keen’s Official Website, Robert Earl Keen on myspace, Buy The Rose Hotel