Top picks for the first 1/2 of Y2k + 7

Well. Here we are. July. The official beginning of the ass end of the year. So far, this year has proven to be a rather phenomenal concert year for the normally lacking Central Florida region. I was reading an exchange between a bunch of “big-time” bloggers earlier this year about how cheesy all of the “best of” lists that come out at the end of the year are, and it got me to thinking. Shit, I can out-cheese a year-end list…with…wait for it (sorry Bonnell), THE MID-YEAR LIST!

WTF? Why not. I already keep the Essential Listening list. I can spend a day telling you what may favorite 5 so far are. Maybe you’ll buy one, and you should…downloading all the time is like fucking whores. Sure, in the end you got off, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a pretty package every once in a while?

These are selected from my Essential Listening list. It is basically the best albums I have come to hear this year. They may have been released earlier but I did not hear them until 2007 and the same rules apply here. Furthermore, these are not in any order, and isn’t a be-all end-all list. This list could change depending on the day and my mood. All the albums in the Esslist list get regular play. However, some get more than others, and trying to trim those down to a mere 5 has left a few out that may have been on it if I was typing this yesterday….or tomorrow. Without further ado:

My favorites of the first half of 2007:

This is one if those albums. Honestly, I didn’t even put it on the Esslist when I originally posted about it, but I never stopped listening to it. Ever. Then my brother started listening to it in the cubicle next to me at work and it just kept occupying more and more of my music time. So finally, with no fanfare, I quietly added it to the Essential Listening list. Country Ghetto is so much better of an album than I initially gave it credit for. Of everything on this list, this will probably be the album I still listen to 5 years from now. It really is timeless like that.

JJ Grey and Mofro – Circles

Unlike the JJ Grey album, I knew I was in love with this album the moment the cd changer tried to switch to the next disc and I got my drunk ass up off the porch swing and walked inside to play it again. I opened my write-up about these guys with these two sentences:

Somewhere on the highway between Drag the River and Lucero, there is an exit with a dive bar. The Fox Hunt, out of Martinsburg, West Virginia, is that bar’s house band.

I still think those are the best two lines to have ever come from this little blog. At the same time, I have never thought my writeup did these guys justice. The album they put together really does only get better with time. Listening to them way too early in the morning a couple of weeks ago on my way to go fishing sealed the deal on these guys making this post. I do not care that they are just some unsigned band from Virginia who happened to put out a cd. It is better than 95% of the crap that Pitchfork is gonna bust wood over. That’s a fact. If these guys manage to buck the odds and stay together they are gonna be mainstays on your community radio station in a few years. Do yourself a favor and check these kids out. They gots mad skills.

The Fox Hunt – Change My Ways

On the way home from mountain biking over the weekend, I was telling the wife about this post and asking what she thought. I asked her what her choices would be, without thought she says, “Alela Diane and The Wells! I’ll have to think about it after that.” The Wells were already on my short list as well. The characters of this album and myself have spent many an evening and a bike ride together. I cannot wait for the next Wells album, but ’til it gets here, me and outcasts are like a familiar and well worn book.

The Wells – I had a Dream, Jess

At the risk of hyperbole, 10 Days Out is much greater than the sum of it’s parts. 10 Days will serve as documentation of some of the lesser known, but by no means lesser, blues musicians of the South. Some of the people featured on the cd/dvd release passed on before it was released, and more have moved on since. The object was to shine a spotlight on these people while there was still time, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, along with the legendary Double Trouble and producer Jerry Harrison, achieved their goal in spades. No overdubs, no high-tech fixing, “Live as it went down,” says Shepherd. “What happened is what you hear. We kept it as real as possible.” More history than mere album release, this is the most ‘important’ album released this year, in my opinion.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd w/Cootie Stark and Neal ‘Big Daddy’ Pattman – Prison Blues

Cootie Stark (1926-2005) – A blind street singer, he learned his stuff from Greenville, South Carolina, bluesmen Uncle Chump and Pink Anderson in the 1930’s. At 70 he rediscovered his unplugged genius and has headlined at festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe. His card catalog repertoire runs from soul classics to Piedmont blues songs like “Sandyland” and “Metal Bottoms.” Cootie Stark was one of the last authentic Piedmont blues guitarists/singers and provided a direct link to a South long gone.

Neal Pattman
(1926-2005) – Nobody made moonshine, worked a cakewalk, chopped wood or played a harmonica like Neal Pattman. Losing an arm in a wagon wheel at the age of nine didn’t slowed him at all. “66 years ago the Blues knocked on my door and they wouldn’t leave.” His testimony can be heard in a sound and a style his daddy taught him as a child in the country outside Athens, Georgia.

As I said before, “Two Cow Garage is a band I can root for. Three completely awesome guys who write completely awesome rock music and play it with everything in them, regardless of the size of the crowd behind the monitors, and if you can’t get behind that, then I dunno why you would even bother to read this site.” They may hate their name, but what a name they are making out of it. “Three” shows the band at their cow-punk/rock-and-freaking-roll best. Life on the road may have left them a little jaded, but not so cynical you need a white belt to listen to them. Three will be one of the best albums this year, regardless of what gets released in these remaining six months, and if you are so lucky to have them come to your town, they will also be one of the best rock shows you will get to see.

Two Cow Garage – Should’ve California

The album I most regret not being on this list:

I kept thinking that damned Gill Landry album has got to be on this list, then I could not find anything to bump, but at the same time, I could not accept leaving this list without a mention of Lawless Soirez. This album is beautiful on many layers. “Featuring a mixture of old country blues, jazz and songster music of the 20’s and 30’s, and Gill’s voice….and oh what a voice, makes this the perfect cd for a quiet night with a warm glass of whiskey and a little sweat.” One listen to the song Dixie and you should understand.

Gill Landry – Dixie

And there you go. Hopefully there is much awesomeness left to be found in the remaining six months. I’m gonna go find some to write about tomorrow.

Take care.

3 thoughts on “Top picks for the first 1/2 of Y2k + 7”

  1. I hope this is putting Jasons album on the last half of the year! Other than that fantastic list and first half year finds (Ive picked up a couple myself). Thanks for keeping the NB a daily part of my day. Later

  2. Yes, I counted Sirens as a latter 1/2 of the year album. This post was supposed to go up last week (before the Isbell post) but I got sidetracked.

  3. wow. why have i never heard of jj grey and mofro? this tune is definitely going to the beach with me tomorrow. thanks…you made my day, er, night.

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