ONE LAST LOOK BACK: THE TOP 10 LIST OF JOHN W. ALLMAN

Not so much a Top 10 list, as there is plenty of music I haven’t heard this year, but these 10 albums represent the discs that rarely made it out of rotation on my iPod or Spotify account. These are the albums that I turned to when I was happy, when I was caught in a blinding moment of despair, when I needed someone else’s words to articulate the emotions swirling in my head, if only to allow me the chance to breathe in, breathe out, and steady the ship.

Music has that power – to soothe, to agitate, to kickstart into action and give voice and purpose to one’s life. And these here are some pretty powerful artists, in that regard, whose songs helped define the past year of my life.

  1. Girls Guns and Glory: Sweet Nothings – This one has it all, from mournful ballads to shit-kicking rev-ups, and there’s not a damn bit of filler to be found. Best song, “Baby’s Got A Dream,” which instantly vaulted into my favorite songs of all time.
  2. Imelda May: Mayhem – Imelda May is the total package. She’s a latex-wearing, Vargas pinup with an undeniable ear for the heart of rockabilly swing. Best song, “Proud and Humble” or “Psycho.”
  3. The Horrible Crowes: Elsie – It’s no secret, I love The Gaslight Anthem, and this side project was a gift for longtime fans waiting for their follow-up to “American Slang.” Best song, “I Witnessed A Crime.”
  4. Jonathan Keevil: Bellflower (Original Motion PictureSoundtrack) – If you haven’t seen “Bellflower,” you are missing out on the best film to come out since “Fight Club.” It’s an apocalyptic love story with flamethrowers and badass Mad Max-inspired muscle cars that perfectly captures love’s intensity, from the intoxicating thrill of the first kiss to the heart-smacked gut punch of the worst breakup ever. Jonathan Keevil’s haunting soundtrack does for Evan Glodell’s film what Elliott Smith did for “Good Will Hunting.” It is simply remarkable. Best song, “Blind, Deaf Too,” “Enough” or “Babyfin.”
  5. Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine – Much has been made of Loveless’s destructive bent, her penchant for honestly exploring her issues with drugs and drink, and the fact that she’s barely legal and likely a candidate for the doomed 27-year-old musician’s curse. But there is no denying how amazingly talented she is, or that Loveless is as close as we’ll likely come to a 21st-century Patsy Cline. Best song, “Learn to Say No.”
  6. American Anodyne: So You Want to Be A Bullfighter – Good old outlaw country that would make Waylon proud. American Anodyne announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with on their debut, perfectly balancing a handful of rousing juke joint rockers with the social commentary of a modern-day Woody Guthrie. Best song, “Call My Brother” or “El Dorado, Dark Blue.”
  7. Kasey Anderson and the Honkies: Heart of a Dog – Singer-songwriter Kasey Anderson hooked up with the Honkies and delivered a wonderful slice of countrified rock, the perfect album for driving fast down an empty interstate, destination unknown. Best song, “Kasey Anderson’s Dream.”
  8. Jessica Lea Mayfield: Tell Me – Another younger-than-her-years songstress, Jessica Lea Mayfield can break your heart with her big, beautiful eyes or just cut it out with her incredibly sharp ruminations on the damage love can do. Best song, “I’ll Be the One You Want Someday.”
  9. The Breedings: Laughing at Luck – This brother/sister act out of Nashville, TN are the real deal, and I think they are poised to break big in 2012. Erin and Willie Breeding compliment each other perfectly on their debut, but it’s Erin’s voice that will grab you tight and not let go. Best song, “When It All Comes Down.”
  10. Jo Wymer: Living with Scars – I love Jo Wymer. This New Jersey-based mother/wife/teacher lives and rocks by a simple motto: Play it loud. And on her self-financed, independently released debut, she does just that, reaching for a brass ring that few artists are lucky to ever touch in their entire career and refusing to let go. I compared her to Pat Benatar in my review, but honestly, she’s better. Few albums in 2011 made me smile as much in 2011, and I can honestly say I never once was tempted to turn the volume down. Best song, “Dirty Secrets.”

PLAYLIST: NINEBULLETS RADIO 11.17.11

Ninebullets Radio is a radio extension of the blog ninebullets.net that airs every Thursday night in Tampa, Florida on WMNF 88.5 FM at 10pm Eastern. The show is archived for one week after it’s original air date and is available for streaming here. Also, don’t forget to head over to Facebook and like the Ninebullets Radio page.

Below is the playlist for November 17, 2011.

01. Glossary – Little Caney
02. Merle Haggard – Working Man’s Blues
03. Drive-By Truckers – Outfit
04. Chris Knight – Enough Rope
05. Doop & The Inside Outlaws – What Am I Supposed To Do
06. Hellbound Glory – Bastard Child
07. Chuck Ragan – Nomad By Fate
08. Two Cow Garage – Alphabet City
09. Whitehorse – Emerald Isle
10. Sassparilla – Same Old Blues
11. Kingsley Blues – Mannequin Man
12. Have Gun Will Travel – Dream No More
13. The Decemberists – E. Watson
14. Jo Wymer – Dirty Secrets
15. Dan Bern – Wasteland

Bold = Request

P.S.: If you like this show, do me a favor and post about it on your Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It’ll do a lot to help these bands reach new ears…and in the end, that’s what this is all about. It’ll also help bring the existence of the radio show to more people’s attention & the more people there are listening/paying attention to the show the more likely it is to stay on the air.

Episode 46: aired 11.17.2011

JO WYMER – LIVING WITH SCARS

When I was a kid and first discovered the music that would begin to define me, most of it was guitar driven, played by bands predominantly fronted by female singers.

I’m talking Pat Benatar, Heart, Blondie, The Motels.

Not every band stuck with me for the long haul, but some like Benatar, I’ve never been able to shake. That voice backed by Neil Giraldo’s wailing guitar. Jesus help me, I’ve been saved.

Jo Wymer is a lot like Benatar. She growls, purrs and isn’t afraid to hit the high notes with gusto throughout her hook-laden debut, Living With Scars.

It’s literally a tour de force of potential hits, songs that are radio-ready, if radio had any soul left and wasn’t auto-tuned to hell and steered by programmers, not deejays, deciding which four songs go on heavy rotation and which 15 “classics” serve as hourly filler.

Like Benatar, she has a hell of a backing band, a damn fine guitarist and enough attitude to keep an audience enthralled.

Here’s the problem, though.

Wymer, who hails from New Jersey, isn’t on a label. She self-produced her album. She’s playing lots of local festivals and logging the necessary hours to establish herself, but how’s that supposed to help her feed her family? A labor of love is great, but in a down economy, it would be nice to get paid for kicking so much musical ass.

I think Wymer’s fate rests with so many other deserving artists who struggle and fight to be heard. She just needs a lucky break, a record executive, or better yet, television producer, to hear her album, to listen to the stories that she spins in her songs, the wonderfully vivid narratives that she belts out like a woman scorned.

These days, it doesn’t take a hit album to break big. All it takes is for someone high-enough up on the production chain of a show like The Vampire Diaries or Fringe, hell, even cheesy crap like Grey’s Anatomy, to take a shine to one of the stronger tracks off Living With Scars, and there are plenty, and lobby to include it on the show.

I can totally see “Dirty Secrets” or “Stay Away From Me” or “That Kiss” playing through a musical interlude, that portion of the hour-long drama where there’s no dialogue, just a succession of scenes that propel specific storylines.

With her vivid imagery, Wymer’s songs play perfectly to this niche.

For now, though, Wymer and her band need your help, they need your support, they need you to go out and buy her album. Trust me, it’s worth the cost. This is damn good guitar rock with just enough honkytonk inflection to make you move in your seat.

Jo Wymer – Dirty Secrets
Jo Wymer – Stay Away From me
Jo Wymer – I Can Tell

Jo Wymer’s Official Site, Jo Wymer on Facebook, Buy Living With Scars