Top 20 of 2009: 21-19

My decade list has been posted. The Bird List has been compiled. Now it’s time to look back at this year’s new releases and attempt to list my favorite albums of 2009.

It’s important to note that these are my favorite albums and not necessarily a critical review of the best of the year. There’s a lot of stuff out there that I didn’t hear this year, a lot of things I enjoyed but didn’t earn favorite status, and a few critical darlings that just flat didn’t do it for me. This is simply a list of the 20 albums that I enjoyed the most this year and the ones I kept coming back to.

A couple of notes before we get into it…

I’m doing 20 instead of ten this year because that’s the size of the list I came up with for The Bird List (A collective effort by 30 Americana and Roots bloggers to create a master list of the most essential albums of 2009). In fact, this list will have 21 albums because it includes one album that was not on my entry for The Bird List. This album’s inclusion on the list is based on my bending of the definition of “2009” in order to make it fit. I’ll tell you more when we get to that spot.

The write ups for each album will also be a bit shorter than last year. I’ve already written about most of the albums on this list at least once this year. Where I can, I’ll provide links to the original posts as I progress through the list. The mp3 links in the original posts will be inactive, but I will provide active mp3 links for each album in the new posts.

Ok… Let’s get started…

#21. Porterdavis by Porterdavis

I was first introduced to this trio from Austin this summer when they sent me a copy of their self-titled studio debut produced by the wonderful Gurf Morlix. When I noticed they were headed to Knoxville in September to play the Blue Plate Special and a few other shows, I gave the album a few spins and really came to like what I heard.

The band had a unique sound that was built around the vocals and guitars of lead singer Daniel Barrett and filled out nicely by Simon Wallace on harmonica and Mike Meadows on the Black Swan Drum (an instrument of his own invention). Simon’s harmonica heavily ties the band’s sound to the blues while also taking some cues from folk and alternative country. The lead track on the album, “Smack You Back,” showcases all of this while also dropping some lyrical references to classic rock. Here’s the studio version of the track along with another version played live at the WDVX studios when the guys visited with me in September. You can also listen to their entire visit here.

Porterdavis: Smack You Back (Buy Album)
Porterdavis: Smack You Back (Live @ WDVX) (Buy Album)

#20. Beautiful Day by Charlie Robison

My original review of this album was one of the first posts removed by the blog police this summer, but that won’t stop me from including it here as one of my favorites of 2009.

As I said previously, Charlie has always been my favorite of the two Robison brothers. This album goes a long way toward explaining why. Charlie always seemed to have a bit more of an edge than his brother Burce, and that shows through clearly here on songs like “Yellow Blues” and “Nothin’ Better to Do.” Charlie’s music has always seemed a little more carefree and wild than his brother’s.

That’s why it’s so striking that the true successes of this album come when Charlie lets his more vulnerable side shine through. He recorded this album in the aftermath of his divorce from long time wife Emily Erwin of the Dixie Chicks. The heartbreak is palpable in the pleading “Reconsider” and the mournful “Down Again.” But he refuses to give in to the failures of the past, and instead turns his eyes to the future on tracks like “Feeling Good.” Despite the emotional scar at the center of the album, Charlie never seems defeated by the circumstances of his life. He sees the Beautiful Day on the other side of his pain and lets the light shine through.

Charlie Robison: Beautiful Day (Buy Album)

#19. Songs in the Night by Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers

Samantha Crain is a young songwriter from Oklahoma who turned a lot of heads this year with her full length debut Songs in the Night. On this release, Samantha displays a mature songwriting style and manages to create her own individual sound while still allowing each song to have a life and feel of its own. She is able to convincingly pull off the subdued “Long Divison” just as easily as the up tempo “Devil’s in Boston.”

Samantha appeared on Tennessee Shines in October and also visited me in the studio before the show. She played a couple of songs for me in the studio and shared a great story about how an email to the Avett Brothers helped to jump start her career. It was great to have such a promising young artist in the studio to share her story and her music. As much as her songs spoke to me on the album, it was amazing to have her share them with me one on one in the WDVX studio. Here voice is truly a unique instrument and one I was glad to have the opportunity to experience up close. You can listen to my entire interview with Samantha Crain here and check out a studio track and a live performance below.

Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Songs in the Night (Buy Album)
Samantha Crain: Get the Fever Out (Live @ WDVX) (Buy Album)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: