Give Me Tomorrow, Willie Nile (from the River House Records release House of a Thousand Guitars)
Nile’s eternal optimism reigns supreme, most notably on this spirited testament to change and opportunity. “I’ve seen poison in the waters, heard the crying of the sea, I have heard your sons and daughters say what’s to become of me, I’ve seen hunger in the garden, I’ve seen empty eyes full of pain, oh, but I have seen things change.” Amen, Willie, amen.
Audio Download: Willie Nile, “Give Me Tomorrow”
Good, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (from the Lightning Rod Records release Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit)
I still find it amazing that, even 10 months after its release, I still break out into a smile when I hear the opening guitar blast of this furious rock track. Perhaps less surprising is the adrenaline rush that persists for the next four minutes and forty-five seconds. Isbell continues to amaze.
Audio Download: Gretel, “Car Bomb Times”
Chalk, Buddy and Julie Miller (from the New West Records release Written in Chalk)
Buddy and Julie Miller have the magic touch. Their broad musical talents – his aching voice, remarkable guitar-work and superb production; her breathtaking songwriting – converge on a song guaranteed to send a chill down one’s spine. I’ll stand by the words I wrote earlier in the year: If there is a more heart-breaking song this year, I haven’t heard it.
Cry, Slaid Cleaves (from the Music Road release Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away)
Cleaves employs a generous vocabulary to write songs that are filled with lyrical imagery. The gentleness of his voice and the wistfulness of his songs only accentuate the contemplative feel of his songs. “There’s no poison like a dream when it all comes undone, don’t you know that in the end you’re not fooling anyone.”
I Can’t Get Out, Session Americana (from the self-released Diving for Gold)
While it may seem a bit ironic that the least “Americana” sounding track on this release was the stand-out, it is really a testament to the band’s musicianship. Both music and lyrics fall somewhere between haunting and beautiful. “Confessions and regrets make whispers and goodbyes, you’re leaking all the daylight along the path behind.”
Audio Download: Session Americana, “I Can’t Get Out”
Smack You Back, PorterDavis (from the self-released porterdavis)
The only thing more biting than this song’s lyrics is the killer bluesy riff. This Austin trio of harmonica, guitar and modified drum kit knows how to pack a punch. “Smack me and I’ll smack you back, I’m running away, ain’t never comin’ back.”
Audio Download: porterdavis, “Smack You Back”
55 Pictures, The Damnwells (from the self-released One Last Century)
Singer-songwriter Alex Dezen has a knack for winsome rock-and-roll. His catalogue abounds with immaculately crafted songs with immensely hummable melodies, few more so than this gem from the band’s latest release.
Audio Download: The Damnwells, “55 Pictures”
Why Modern Radio is OK, Roman Candle (from the Thirty Tigers release Oh Tall Tree in the Ear)
There are any number of songs on Oh Tall Tree in the Ear that illustrate the intelligent, organic pop of Roman Candle. I always fall back to this one that marries a primer in American music with a tale of broken romance, as told by two old friends meeting in a bar.
Last One to Die, Rancid (from the Epitath Records release Let the Dominos Fall)
The LA punk band rocks with a fury that bands twenty years their junior should envy. “We got it right, you got it wrong, we’re still around, last one to die,” said with a sneer.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.