Every year at this time, I make a mix disc for family and friends of the best music released over the past 12 months. This year I’m sharing it with Local Rhythms readers.
Usually it’s a top ten, but there was so much good stuff in 2008, it’s been expanded to 15.
More proof that while the business is hurting, music is fine.
Here’s another thing worth pondering. Despite all the talk about the death of the long-playing record, the majority of these songs were picked from well-rounded albums.
So, without further ado, my 2008 mix:
Delivered, Mark Erelli – The title song from my favorite album of 2008. Mark Erelli changed up everything from his studio band to the record-making process itself, enlisting his fans for a “barn raising” to fund the project. Then he made amazing music about impermeable things – family, commitment and faith in the future. “Love will remain,” sings Mark, “this you cannot change.”
River Grace, Jenee Halstead – This eastern Washington transplant was my discovery of the year. Jenee (pronounced like “Renee”) has a honey-throated voice and the storytelling ability of a soul well beyond her years. Don’t miss her upcoming appearance at Boccelli’s. This, the title cut from her debut album, is a gem among many.
The Only Wicked Thing, Greg Copeland – Catching up with the performer, who made one record in 1982 and disappeared, was one of the joys of my year. This song imagines Hank Williams’ last night on earth. The album it comes from, “Diana and James,” is earthy and brilliant.
Babylon Is Falling, Pariah Beat – I’ve been scratching my head since first hearing this Upper Valley collective, trying to find a way to describe their music. How about – Klezmericana?
Where Were You, Jackson Browne – This song is an historical document of the failure to respond in the wake of devastation, rendered with Browne’s trademark quiet rage.
Fan The Fury, Aloud – This Boston band rages, but there’s nothing quiet about them. This pointed song put to rest any questions about 2008 being an election year.
Since The Day, Stonewall – I’ve been listening to rough mixes of these songs for a long time, so it was gratifying to greet the release of my favorite power trio’s debut album, “What If?”
That’s The Way It Goes, Open Case/Breadtruck Productions – A great song full of infectious hooks that I can’t get out of my head. This hip-hop outfit and I had a lively discussion about the genre, and I wound up being impressed by their “Rap the Vote” live show.
Strawberry Street, Lili Haydn – It was hard to pick a top song from this wonderful fusion of pop, rock and jazz. The title cut, “Place Between Places,” is hypnotic while her re-make of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” shows why Lili’s called the Jimi Hendrix of the electric violin.
One Bite Won’t Kill You, Dr. Burma – Without a doubt, my favorite guilty pleasure is 70’s horn bands. It doesn’t matter how obscure, I love ‘em all (does anybody remember Lighthouse?). Dr. Burma brings it all back with their first studio album, and the title cut is the best of the lot.
Last Radio, Oneside – Banjo fury fuels this danceable ode to a dying art form. This is one of many great tracks from this Boston-based band’s most recent collection.
Hallelujah, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors – One of the few “singles” on my list, only because I haven’t yet had a chance to hear the album it came from. This celebration of the music life arrived as part of a Paste magazine sampler.
The Longer I Run, Peter Bradley Adams – A lovely balance of longing and regret, I’ve been humming this song like a prayer of late.
America (Enough), Meg Hutchinson – Too much of something tends to become its opposite – “if there’s crowd enough, it turns back to solitude.” Hutchinson is Thoreau with a guitar, possessing a knack for finding meaning many strange and beautiful places.
Yes We Can, will.i.am et.al. – A speech set to music that in many ways reflected the mood of the country during this turbulent year – recorded in New Hampshire, no less.