Archive for the Jenny and Johnny Category

Best of 2010: 15-13

Posted in Crooked Still, Jenny and Johnny, jenny lewis, Justin Townes Earle, Top 21 of 2010 on December 22, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

#15 – I’m Having Fun Now by Jenny & Johnny

Jenny is former Rilo Kiley front woman and indie rock goddess Jenny Lewis.  Johnny is singer/songwriter/producer Johnathan Rice.  The two started working together when Rice appeared on Lewis’ 2005 album Rabbit Fur Coat. They continued to record and tour together as their musical relationship turned into a personal one.  Rice was so largely involved in Lewis’ 2008 release Acid Tongue that it only seemed natural that the pair would release their newest effort as a duo project with both of their names on the record.

And while Lewis may be the bigger name of the two, it is important to note that this is a fully collaborative effort with each getting a chance to shine.  In fact, Rice’s voice is the first you hear on record on the punchy and poppy album opener, “Scissor Runner.”  Still, I find myself drawn more to the tracks like “My Pet Snakes” and “Just Like Zeuss” where Lewis has the lead.  Those tracks play like lost sessions from Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous (one of my all-time albums) with Rice playing Blake Sennett’s role as sideman.  No matter who leads on each track, Jenny & Johnny have managed to make a record that is simply a lot of fun.

Jenny & Johnny: My Pet Snakes (Buy Album)

#14 – Harlem River Blues by Justin Townes Earle

There’s no real sense in rehashing Justin Townes Earle’s origins one more time in this space.  I’ve done it a few times already.  Suffice to say that Earle is the son of one legend, bears the name of another, and has already done enough in his short career to create a legacy all his own and independent of his father and his namesake.  His previous effort, 2009’s Midnight at the Movies was handily selected as last year’s best album by a panel of Americana bloggers.

This year, Earle returns with Harlem River Blues.  It’s an ambitious album that straddles the lines of many forms of American roots music.  The breezy folk of “Wanderin'” easily gives way to the bluesy soul of “Slippin’ and Slidin'” and the up-tempo gospel rhythms of the title track.  Incidentally, the title track is also as infectious a tune about planned suicide as I can ever remember hearing.

I was a little distracted with life when this album first came out, so I didn’t really sit with it until I started working on this list.  It was unranked in my first draft, but slowly crept up the board in subsequent drafts until settling here at #14.   A few more weeks with it, and it may have cracked the Top 10.

Justin Townes Earle: Harlem River Blues (Buy Album)

#13 – Some Strange Country by Crooked Still

First off, I just want to say that no one else sounds like Crooked Still.  Their unique instrumentation that includes a cello and a double bass as part of the line-up gives their music a darkness that is largely absent in other contemporary string bands.  I remember hearing their version of “Ain’t No Grave” in 2006 as part of the house music at a venue in Asheville while waiting for an Adrienne Young concert.  I had never heard Crooked Still’s music before, and I was haunted by that song for a long while before I came to realize who was singing it.

Now it’s four years later, and I’m still haunted by vocalist Aoife O’Donovan and crew on the new CD Some Strange Country.  And I think haunted is the right word due to the murder ballads and other tales of woe and sorrow that make up the bulk of the record.  When I reviewed the album earlier this year for Country Standard Time, I used words like ghostly and chilling to describe the band’s sound and subjects.  I think both of those words fit the song I’m sharing here.  This is the traditional tune “The Golden Vanity” featuring Ricky Skaggs on backing vocals.

Crooked Still: The Golden Vanity (Buy Album)