Arms & Legs and Flowers, Ian Hunter (from the New West Records release Man Overboard)
It’s no accident that Ian Hunter gets two mentions on this list. The legendary singer-songwriter is a true rock and roll poet, writing magnificent songs that combine simplicity with depth.
“Arms & Legs” is an inspirational tribute to love built around a brilliantly simple conceit, “if you wanna know what love is, these are my arms, these are my legs, these are the thoughts running ‘round in my head, I wanna be where you are, I wanna do what you do, ‘cause nothing really matters but you.”
“Flowers” is a potent reflection on the challenges of politics and modern society, accompanied by a plea for compassion. “Death starvation exploitation, helpless, homeless, curious, mass confusion, disillusion,” sings Hunter, “sometimes flowers ain’t enough.” Here’s hoping that we heed the call.
Ridiculously Beautiful, Bob Walkenhorst & Jeff Porter (from the self-released No Abandon)
You’ll first be captivated by the enchanting melody. Repeated listens, however, will illuminate the depth of the lyrics. Walkenhorst is a songwriter of tremendous grace and maturity.
Audio Download: Bob Walkenhorst & Jeff Porter, “Ridiculously Beautiful (live)”
What Are You Willing to Lose, Lucero (from the Republic/Universal Records release 1372 Overton Park)
I cycled through a bunch of the Lucero’s latest through the back half of the year, finally settling on this as the stand-out of the bunch. The unbridled raw energy, punctuated by the knock-out horn accompaniment, sealed the deal. Then, of course, there are Ben Nichols colorful lyrics. “So what if all my heroes are the losing kind? Well we ended up with nothin’ but we put up a fight, and most of it was choices we never asked to choose, the rest of it was luck and now we’re out of that too.”
Someday I’ll Be Forgiven For This, Justin Townes Earle (from the Bloodshot Records release Midnight at the Movies)
The melody is soothing but the lyrics are anything but serene. Earle’s apparently autobiographical depiction of a romantic break-up perfectly captures the combination of resolution and regret.
Audio Download: Michelle Malone, “Yesterday’s Make-Up”
Poetry of the Deed, Frank Turner (from the Epitath Records release Poetry of the Deed)
I just love the fact that beneath the surface of this infectious rocker is an equally outstanding folk song. “Life is too short to live without poetry, if you’ve got soul, darling now come on and show it me.”
Covers of the Year
Faithfully, Matt the Electrician (from the self-released Animal Boy)
Matt the Electrician has always been a distinctive singer-songwriter. Listening to him reinterpret the Journey classic only serves to put an exclamation point on the statement.
Audio Download: Matt the Electrician, “Faithfully”
Can’t Hardly Wait, Justin Townes Earle (from the Bloodshot Records release Midnight at the Movies)
A mandolin transforms the Replacements’ classic into a country tune without losing any of the energy.
View Part 1 of Mayer’s Best of 2009 (the songs) here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.