Best of 2010: 12-10

We’re kicking into overdrive now. The Top 10 begins in this post.

#12 – Downtown Church by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin is one of my all time favorites.  From her acoustic only debut album Living With Ghosts to her her much heavier produced follow up Flaming Red to the more polished and mature releases of her tenure with ATO Records, Griffin has hit a home run with me on nearly every one of her albums.  Griffin’s music was one of the first topics I ever discussed with my wife, and her music has always been present at each important stage in our time together.  She has the voice of an angel, and certain moments of her live shows fall just short of being religious experiences.  Recording a gospel album was a fully logical step.

This isn’t just any gospel album, though.  It has that rare combination of musical and spiritual resonance that you won’t find in your average praise band.  Producer and Americana All-Star Buddy Miller teams with Griffin to create beautifully textured songs that grab both the ear and the soul.  Friends like Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, Julie Miller, Mike Farris, and Regina & Ann McCrary joined Griffin for the recording sessions at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church. I like to imagine the recording sessions as little church services led by Griffin as she recorded her vocals from the pulpit.  The word you’re looking for is “Hallelujah.”

Patty Griffin: If I Had My Way (Buy Album)

#11 – See You on the Moon by Tift Merritt

As an artist, Tift Merritt has always been about evolution.  Merritt’s sound has morphed over the years from the classic country of her early duets with The Two Dollar Pistols to the Memphis soul of Tambourine to the layered and varied sounds of See You on the Moon.  She is one of those artists that I’ve followed from the very beginning, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow over the years.  She has evolved into a very formidable artist and someone who never seems to disappoint with her music.

For her new record, Merritt took another step forward and exposed another facet of her sound.  The sweeping strings and subtle hand-clap percussion of “Mixtape” give that track an R&B vibe while the deeply layered and textured “Feel of the World” (with Jim James of My Morning Jacket) is among the most ambitious tracks in Merritt’s catalogue.  You can credit producer Tucker Martine for providing Merritt with some of the direction needed to pull off this next step in her evolution, but you also need to credit Merritt herself for being willing to take that step in the first place.

Tift Merritt: Feel of the World (Buy Album)

#10 – People. Places. Things. by Drunk on Crutches

Los Angeles’ Drunk on Crutches was easily my favorite surprise of 2010.  It all started when I saw People. Places. Things. posted on ReviewShine, and I couldn’t help but wonder what a band named Drunk on Crutches would sound like.  I fell in love with the album on first listen, posted a brief review on the site, and started playing a couple of tracks on WDVX.  Well it turns out that lead singer Jennifer Whittenburg’s mother listens to WDVX and heard me playing her daughter’s music.  She posted a few times on the WDVX facebook page, I contacted her back, and before long the band from L.A. was in Knoxville doing a live spot on the Blue Plate Special.

Drunk on Crutches play a guitar fueled brand of roots rock that is immediately memorable and full of hooks.  Whittenburg’s voice is both breathy and powerful, making her vocals just as effective in the quiet moments (“Oh Well”) as it is in the loud ones (“Tupelo,” “Using Me Up,” “Drink Up Buttercup”).  For those of you like me who came to Americana from the Rock & Roll side of the fence, this is one you need to hear.  Turn it up to eleven, sit back, and enjoy.

Drunk on Crutches: Tupelo (Buy Album)

Happy Holidays everybody!

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