Top 20 of 2009: 15-13

#15 – Jill Andrews EP by Jill Andrews

2009 was really a big year for Knoxville’s Jill Andrews. Her long time band the everybodyfields split up, she became a mother for the first time, and she released her first ever solo project. Jill’s self titled EP was released in October and reads as a deeply personal record that stands up to any of her previous work with the everybodyfields. When I asked her in November how it felt to have a record that bore her name after spending so long as part of a group, she described the feeling as, “pretty much the best thing ever.”

She’s not too far off in her assessment. In my initial review of the album, I mentioned the raw emotions that are on display throughout the album as Jill deals with the dissolution of her previous band. It must have been quite cathartic to get those feelings out of her head and on to a record. She has every right to be proud and excited about this release… it’s certainly “Worth Keeping.”

Jill Andrews: Worth Keeping (Buy Album)

#14 – The Excitement Plan by Todd Snider

I didn’t review Todd Snider’s The Excitement Plan when it came out, but I did give everyone a chance to listen to the album early with a handy widget from Todd’s website (you can still listen to clips of four songs from the album there). I also celebrated Todd Snider day (a holiday of my own invention) back in May when he visited for a couple of shows at WDVX. Todd played brief solo sets on the Blue Plate Special and Tennessee Shines. I left both sets in awe of his easy sense of humor and, of course, his music.

Both of Todd’s assets are in fine form here. He will make you smile with his rant against the music industry in “Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number Ten) and with “Don’t Tempt Me,” a classic country cheating song he cowrote with Loretta Lynn. Todd takes an introspective turn on “Greencastle Blues” when he examines his own troubled past with a mix of helplessness and ownership of his mistakes. Todd sings, “Some of this trouble just finds me/Most of this trouble I earn.” It’s an honest assessment of his career, and it serves as a window into Todd’s past and his present.

Todd Snider: Greencastle Blues (Buy Album)

#13 – Lace Up Your Workboots by Boca Chica

Although I bear a slight grudge against the city of Pittsburgh right now after the Steelers late win over the Packers yesterday, I would be remiss if I didn’t give praise here to the Pittsburgh based collective Boca Chica. I was very happy to find this one in my inbox this fall. On Lace Up Your Workboots, songwriter and vocalist Hallie Pritts leads her expansive ensemble cast through ten finely crafted folk flavored tunes that draw influences from all over the musical spectrum.

“Shake Your Party Dress” owes a heavy debt to Fleetwood Mac while other tracks draw from Neil Young, Gillian Welch… even Andrew Bird. It’s folk music with a bit of an experimental edge that also somehow stays true to the core of the original form. Here’s a track called “Valentine” that builds nicely from a quiet acoustic strum into a fully fleshed out symphony of strings, snares, synths, keys, and vocal harmonies. It’s quite captivating.

Boca Chica: Valentine (Buy Album)

Special bonus Boca Chica Holiday track from Indiecater Records Christmas sampler…

Boca Chica: Snow Angels (Buy Album)

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