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 2018.
Cowles shares a debut solo full-length that is emotionally raw and spiritually uplifting. How To Be OK Alone is a tremendous rock record that showcases the range of Cowles talent as a singer and a songwriter.
Key Tracks: The Fold, Tequila Train, Keep Moving, Gina Joon, Places, How to Be OK Alone
Featured Twangville coverage of Brent Cowles: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2018, Part 1, SXSW 2018 – The Sounds, Part 1, Monday Morning Video – Brent Cowles “The Fold”, and Monday Morning Video – Brent Cowles.
Morrow serves up my favorite country album so far this year, chock full of no BS attitude and heavy southern grooves.
Key Tracks: Heartbreak Man, Paid By the Mile, Quick Fix, Good Ole Days, Weight of a Stone, Skinny Elvis
Duhon takes his time between albums but they are well worth the wait. His latest, the follow-up to 2013’s outstanding The Moorings, is filled with sweet (if sometimes melancholy) stories, honeyed vocals and soothing arrangements. False River plays with a timeless charm.
Key Tracks: Comin’ Around, Heart of a Man, They Don’t Make ’em, Gotta Know, Still Holding On, Easy Ways
It took me 10 years to discover Fruition but better late than never, right? Their latest hooked me immediately with its potent blend of folk, rock, soul and a touch of psychedelia.
Key Tracks: Northern Town, There She Was, I’ll Never Sing Your Name, Turn To Dust, Should Be (On Top of the World)
Featured Twangville coverage of Fruition: Mayer’s Playlist for Winter 2018, Part 1.
Great music is inspired by the world in which we live, the best musicians are able to capture the resulting anxiety and emotion in song. Grant-Lee Phillips reacts to the social and political unrest around us with a collection of songs stirring and aggrieved.
Key Tracks: Walk In Circles, King of Catastrophes, Scared Stiff, The Wilderness, Another Another Then Boom, Totally You Gunslinger, History Has Their Number
Featured Twangville coverage of Grant-Lee Phillips: Mayer’s Playlist for Winter 2018, Part 1, Mayer’s Picks – Best Albums of 2016 and Monday Morning Video – Grant-Lee Phillips “Cry Cry”.
Will Johnson and Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster team up for an album filled with restrained but bluesy rockers alongside ethereal folk songs.
Key Tracks: High Desert, Inverness, Famished Raven, Simple Scenes, Features/Fights, Rest Be Mine
Featured Twangville coverage of Marie/Lepanto: Mayer’s Playlist for Winter 2018, Part 2.
Michael McDermott is one of contemporary music’s most remarkable storytellers. Out From Under, like his previous work, is filled with colorful characters – sometimes autobiographical, sometimes not – trying to make their way in a difficult world.
Key Tracks: Knocked Down, Sad Songs, This World Will Break Your Heart, Rubber Band Ring, Never Goin’ Down Again, Sideways
Featured Twangville coverage of Michael McDermott: Michael McDermott Comes Out From Under (Album Premiere), Mayer’s Picks – Best Albums of 2016 and Mayer’s Playlist for June 2016.
New music from Eli Paperboy Reed is all too infrequent. But leave it to the R&B master to hit the bulls-eye with this collaboration with the High & Mighty Brass Band. The group revisits gems from the Paperboy catalog, pumping up the horns, of course, with monstrous results.
Key Tracks: As I Live and Breathe, Walkin’ and Talkin’, Take My Love With You, I’m Gonna Getcha Back, Come and Get It
Featured Twangville coverage of Eli Paperboy Reed: Mayer’s Playlist for Spring 2018, Part 2, Mayer’s Playlist for June 2016 and Monday Morning Video – Eli Paperboy Reed Takes On Ray Charles.
Ruby Boots is on the move. Set aside that she relocated from Australia to Nashville and then travelled to Dallas to record her Bloodshot Records debut. Said album radiates confidence and charm, driven by her determined rock songs and captivating voice.
Key Tracks: It’s So Cruel, Don’t Talk About It, Easy Way Out, Break My Heart Twice, I’ll Make It Through, Infatuation, Don’t Give a Damn
Featured Twangville coverage of Ruby Boots: Mayer’s Playlist for Winter 2018, Part 2, SXSW 2018 – The Sounds, Part 2, Folk Alliance 2018 – Mayer’s Picks, Part 2 and Readers’ Pick: Don’t Talk About It by Ruby Boots.
There’s nothing better than seeing Session Americana live. For those who can’t (or for those who have and want an on-demand reminder), this December 2016 recording is a glorious testament to their songwriting and performing prowess.
Key Tracks: Barefoot Soldiers, It’s Not Texas, Riding With the Ghost, Mighty Long Time, Brown Eyed Women, The Driving, Ain’t Living Long Like This
Featured Twangville coverage of Session Americana: The Berkshires Seemed Dreamlike – A Special Boston Playlist (Part 2), Monday Morning Video – A Visit To Beer Town and Shakin’ with Session Americana.
One of Boston’s finest prove that rock and rollers can mature with grace and do so on their own terms. The lyrics may reflect their lives as career and family men, but the power trio feistiness remains intact.
Key Tracks: All Be Gone, Overtime, Roman Cars, Freckles, Lonely Fast and Deep, In the Ice, The Only Living Boy in New York
Featured Twangville coverage of Buffalo Tom: The Berkshires Seemed Dreamlike – A Special Boston Playlist (Part 1) and Mayer’s Picks: Best Albums of 2011.
Naseem Khuri has never been one to pull his punches and the current political climate only adds fuel to the fire. Rather than be subsumed by the world around him, he tempers his response with some deft exploration of social and personal relationships. All are set, of course, to some tremendous rock arrangements.
Key Tracks: Find Me Out, Fifth of July, Still So Still, Little Man, Bottom of the Barrel, Not Right Yet, Carry On Fine, Never Been Home
Featured Twangville coverage of Kingsley Flood: The Berkshires Seemed Dreamlike – A Special Boston Playlist (Part 2), I Will Remember Massachusetts, Part 2 – A Special Boston Playlist and Hazy Shade of Winter — A Special Boston Playlist.
Awash in electric guitars and heavy with raw melodies, Buckley channels Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Las Cruces explodes with energy and conjures up images of a Harley-Davidson rumbling down a rural highway. It is quite simply an album that bleeds ragged glory.
Key Tracks: Las Cruces, Three Chiefs, Old Glory, Consuela, Downtown, Bakersfield
Featured Twangville coverage of Buckley: The Berkshires Seemed Dreamlike – A Special Boston Playlist (Part 1) and Just Another Band Out of Boston: A Special Boston Playlist.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.