For the second (third?) year in a row, LOM didn't vote in either the Nashville Scene's best of country music poll or the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop best of American music poll. I'm just not a good list-maker. Detest that stuff. Just trying to compile a list of possibles makes my brain hate me.
Anyway, I rarely get serviced by the major labels, and I don't listen to the radio stations that kowtow to the major labels, so I don't feel I have much context in which to wrestle with the important national security problem of whether Carrie Underwood or Brooks and Dunn put out the superior radio-friendly, Wal-Mart-marketable schlock.
The only kind of list I know how to do is the What Did I Listen To A Lot This Year list. Even that list is not exactly a no-brainer, but at least it's attemptable. And I don't have to worry about genres (are the Drive-By Truckers country; is Steve Earle hip hop?). So here goes, in no particular order since I don't know how to honestly determine, for example, whether Sam Phillips should be above or below Fred Eaglesmith.
SteelDrivers, SteelDrivers: For a bluegrass record, this thing just gets in your face from the first note. Powerful stuff, and my dad loves it. "Blue Side of the Mountain."
"Don't Do Anything"
Sam Phillips, Don't Do Anything: Sweet little Sam sounds as dangerous as a rusty straight razor; as smart an album as I heard this year. This woman needs to record more often.
NTO live on Chicago's WGN
Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra, Pinky: "The Musical Mayor of Chicago" lays down a rocking, big-beat blues-rock barrage that screams "shake your booty" and "call my shrink." These are full-grown men at work.
"Get on Your Knees"
Fred Eaglesmith, Tinderbox: He laughingly describes it as "alternative gospel," but this one will cause goosebumps on your arms when it finally gets through to you. Filled with the feeling of tent revival. Another guy my dad loves.
"She Left Me for Jesus"
Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind: Brad Jones's brilliant production and grasp of what Carll is all about makes this one of the best-sounding alt-country offerings of '08.
"You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"
Darrell Scott, Modern Hymns: Scott takes these not-always-well-known American poems and turns them into a modern gospel for our chaotic times.
"Real Love," live on David Letterman
Lucinda Williams, Little Honey: Lu is rocking again, and she's full of confidence and sass and jump-off-the-cliff bravado again. You go, girl.
"Sister Lost Soul"
Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal: Collaboration with Chuck Prophet yields one the hardest rocking albums of the year and a career statement from one of Texas' most important artists. One smokin' record.
"Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!"
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!: With his body of work, Cave must find recording anything a fairly daunting prospect, but he showed he's still got it in spades with his jivin' Old Testament Beat poetic Lazarus.
Tremoloco, Dulcinea: The first album from Tony Zamora and his L.A. outlaw crew of big-time sidemen is a Mexi-Americana dream. I wish Freddy Fender had lived to hear this one. "Mi Novela."
"Une Americaine a Paris"
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Rupa & The April Fishes, eXtraOdinary rendition: These San Franciscans took the world music scene by storm with their carnival atmospherics and lyrics in five languages.
Pistolera, En Este Camino: Political messages, dance grooves, and outlaw spirit make for an album that is both fun and meaningful. - William Michael Smith