It’s been a good year for music so far this year (and the rest of the year is looking quite nice, too). Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite releases from the first half of 2017.
It’s not too late to get on the Moreland train — but you better hurry. Word is spreading quickly and rightfully so. His songs deftly examine society and relationships with a blend of thoughtful perspective and world-weary realism.
Key Tracks: Sallisaw Blue, Love Is Not an Answer, Lies I Chose to Believe, Slow Down Easy, Amen So Be It, Latchkey Kid
Tommy Stinson proves the best rock and roll is about more than music, it’s about attitude. Anything Could Happen is a rock and roll tour de force, filled with plenty of hook-heavy melodies powered by brawny but freewheeling electric guitar.
Key Tracks: On the Rocks, Anything Could Happen, Breathing Room, Anybody Else, Bad News, Never Wanted to Know
Featured Twangville coverage of Bash & Pop: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 2 and SXSW 2017 – The Sounds, Part 1.
Spend time with any of Matthew Ryan’s releases, this one included, and you’ll be rewarded with songwriting that balance intensity with intelligence. Sure, they’re often wonderfully powered by electric guitars but there’s a thoughtfulness and depth within the songs that is truly captivating.
Key Tracks: I Just Died (Like an Aviator), Battle Born, Close Your Eyes, Maybe I’ll Disappear, Run Rabbit Run, Summer Never Ends
Featured Twangville coverage of Matthew Ryan: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 3, Music With a Purpose — Matthew Ryan’s “An Anthem for the Broken”and Monday Morning Video: Matthew Ryan and Jon Dee Graham.
A tasty bit of Southern California country courtesy of a band from Austin, Texas. They may have grown out of their acoustic roots but songs filled with dusty harmonies punctuated by electric and the occasional pedal steel guitar sound just as savory.
Key Tracks: All I’m Asking, Last Minute Man, Trouble Came Early, Deep is Love
Featured Twangville coverage of The Band of Heathens: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist and Readers’ Pick: Duende by Band of Heathens.
At long last Errico dusts off his guitars and unleashes a new batch of songs. He is the consummate craftsman, combining pitch perfect melodies with sharp lyrical perspectives on everything from failed relationships (“Why Do You Call”) to the perils of a rock and roll lifestyle (“Buses and Planes”). Bonus points for a killer cover – a reimagined Americana-esque version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.
Key Tracks: Buses and Planes, Arecibo, Why Do You Call, Not Your Fault, Trusted, You Shook Me All Night Long
Featured Twangville coverage of Mike Errico: Mike Errico’s Sinking Ship – A Twangville Premiere and Monday Morning Video: “You Shook Me All Night Long”.
Canadian singer-songwriter Cousins may have started her career as a folk singer but she shows a whole different side with an album that burns with a simmering intensity. Stellar production by Joe Henry is beautifully sparse, letting Cousin’s voice and songs truly breath. Natural Conclusion is certainly not a light-hearted record – it’s a powerful meditation on relationships, personal and societal – but is profoundly rewarding nonetheless.
Key Tracks: Freedom, Chains, the Grate, Grace
Featured Twangville coverage of Rose Cousins: Monday Morning Video – Rose Cousin’s “Grace”
This album would make the list on the basis of just two songs, the spine-tingling “If We Were Vampires” and the inspirational, if not aspirational, “Hope the High Road.” Throw in another strong collection of Isbell gems, from the rootsy “Something to Love” to the bruising tale of life in the coal mines of the “Cumberland Gap,” and it’s easy to see why the songwriter’s reputation continues to grow.
Key Tracks: Last of My Kind, Cumberland Gap, If We Were Vampires, Hope the High Road, Something to Love
Featured Twangville coverage of Jason Isbell: Back in the Saddle Again – a Special Twangville Playlist, Part 3, Monday Morning Video – Jason Isbell “Something More Than Free” and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit/Live from Columbia, SC, October 16, 2016.
I haven’t written about Lisa Bastoni’s new album – yet. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been in heavy rotation since it’s January release. I take some solace in that my delay pales in comparison to Bastoni’s ten year hiatus from music. Judging by the songs on The Wishing Hour, the break served her well. There’s a wistfulness to her writing, buoyed by freewheeling folk pop arrangements that shimmer with enticing charm.
Key Tracks: In This Town, Wichita, Weightless, Remember Me, Rabbit Hole
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.