Best of 2008

Boudin Barndance Faves of 2008
by Dan Ferguson

Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch)
His most accessible album yet, Escovedo’s in his glory on this mostly autobiographical affair that draws from all phases of his career spanning full throttle rockers to elegant country folk to chamber pop.

She & Him – Volume 1 (Merge)
The unlikely pairing of indie ace M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel create an irresistible gem of an album that floats wonderfully between ‘60s girl group pop and tart country.

Charlie Pickett – Bar Band Americanus (Bloodshot)
Equal parts early Stones and Johnny Thunders with a dollop of Scorchers-esque punktry, to boot, the mid-to-late ‘80s squall created by Pickett and his various bands is captured is all its unfettered Floridian fury on this excellent retrospective. Could qualify as reissue/retrospective material, but because he never made it beyond vinyl, we qualify as new.

Caroline Herring – Lantana (Signature Sounds)
Captivating story songs sung in a plainspoken, but beautiful voice with its subtle touch of the South, Herring’s Lantana in all its understatedness packs a subtle wallop.

Angela Desveaux – The Mighty Ship (Thrill Jockey)
A relatively new voice on the alt country front, Toronto-based Desveaux’s sophomore outing is another well crafted and alluring batch of hazy folk pop tunes buoyed by her stellar Mighty Ship backing band.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Rattlin’ Bones (Sugar Hill)
Equal parts bluegrass, country and gospel, the Aussie wife-husband team take harmony into the sibling dimension on this striking offering of acoustic roots music.

Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life (Bloodshot)
Son of Steve and taking his middle name from Van Zandt, Earle proves talent is in the bloodlines channeling the honky tonk past and then some as if a fly on the wall of the Ryman on this winning debut.

Cornell Hurd Band – American Shadows: The Songs of Moon Mullican (Behemoth)
Austin-based Hurd and his C&W big band do the catalogue of legendary hillbilly piano rocker Moon Mullican nothing but justice on this swaggering 18-song romper and stomper.

Andre Williams – Can You Deal With It? (Bloodshot)
Often salacious and always in your face and cool, the seventysomething Mr. Rhythm, with backing from The New Orleans Hellhounds, puts rockers half his age to shame. Check out his bio pic if it comes to your town or gets released on DVD.

Blue Mountain – Midnight in Mississippi (Broadmoor)
After a seven year hiatus, the seminal alt country trio return with an album that’s diverges little from the best of its early days. For sentimental types, that’s pretty good.

James McMurtry – Just Us Kids (Lightning Rod)
Few songwriters tell it as they see it in as literate fashion as McMurtry. Ever fewer can combine those songwriting smarts with a proclivity to rock, even when he keeps it to wood and strings. Just Us Kids is the complete package.

Malcolm Holcombe – Gamblin’ House (Echo Mountain)
Roughhewn voice and sizable picker on guitar, Holcombe’s ragged tunes, which at times strike like a force of nature, fall in that void between folk and blues.

The Tough & Lovely – Teardrops (Spoonful)
On Teardrops, the Columbus-based band is as at home in the garage as it is knocking out tuneful, hook-filled quickies. At its centerpiece is the tough and lovely voice of Lara Varaz who wears it well coyly balancing sexy cool and girl group grit.

Local Favorite: A nod to New London with the longplayer Guitar, Bass, Drums from long-time (& perennial Converse wearing) heroes The Reducers.

Other decent 2008 stuff: The Steel Drivers – self-titled (Rounder); Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West); Cat Power – Jukebox (Matador); Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands – Cody’s Dream (Bloodshot); Chatham County Line – IV (Yep Roc); Matthew Ryan – MRVSS (00:02:59); Reckless Kelly – Bullet Proof (Yep Roc); Brothers & Sisters – Fortunately (Calla Lily); Caitlin Rose – Dead Flowers (Theory 8); I’m Not Jim – You Are All My People (Bloodshot); John Doe – The Golden State (Yep Roc); Menahan Street Band – Make the Road By Walking (Dunham)

Best Live Show: Alejandro Escovedo record release party at the Continental Club in Austin in late June. Runnerup: Andre Williams at high noon at the Bloodshot BBQ at Yarddog-Austin during SXSW. Swelling, two-pronged organ attack was a first for these ears & eyes with Mr. Rhythm is fine form.

Record label of the Year: Bloodshot Records leads the pack!

Best bite to eat: Tostadas off the Union Pool taco truck at Union Pool bar/music joint in Brooklyn. I’ve been dreaming about them since devouring three in October at the Bloodshot BBQ. Check out By the way, how the heck did they get that truck into the Union Pool courtyard?

Best museum visit: Memphis-based photographer William Eggleston’s late 2008 show at the Whitney Museum.

R.I.P.Drew Glackin, Chris Gaffney, and especially, Danny Roy Young, all gone way too soon.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)