Folk, Blues, Roots, Alt.Country...and Close Enough
By Dwight Thurston
FAVORITE RECORDINGS OF 1997
O.K., these choices are somewhat subjective. Objectivity is a myth, just in case you haven't heard. It's our time's lame excuse for having neither courage nor convictions. These choices don't pretend to be comprehensive, they're based on what I've heard and what I like and respect in these kinds of music.
- Fred Eaglesmith, Lipstick Lies & Gasoline (Razor & Tie) The flat-out hottest, coolest, most soulful, brilliant recording of the year. Guts and brains evident throughout. Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, and the hillbilly Elvis never died, they're hiding out on Fred's farm in Ontario.
COUNTRY AND ALT.COUNTRY
- Cliff Eberhardt, 12 Songs of Good and Evil (Red House) Eberhardt's best ever overflows with Good, Evil, heart, and musicianship.
- Toni Price, Sol Power (Discovery/Antone's) Austin's favorite chanteuse, live, with her usual simpatico sidemen, singing her heart out.
- Eric Taylor, Eric Taylor (Watermelon, 1995) OK, I missed this one when it came out, but it was worth the wait. Masterful literary and cinematic stories sung from way inside by a quintessential outsider.
- Sam Pacetti, Solitary Travel (Waterbug) Veteran bluesman Roy Book Binder says this 23-year-old is "the future of American fingerstyle guitar." He's only part right –Pacetti's also a powerful songwriter and singer.
- Greg Brown, slant 6 mind (Red House) Brown's backwoods blues revival, and wild, wooly, sh*t-kickin' medicine show.
- Chris Smither, Small Revelations (Hightone) The master or slippery R & B and folk/blues has cranked out another great one.
- Louise Taylor, Ride (Signature Sounds) She's a powerhouse of voice, guitar, and emotionally charged songs. Amazon music for everyone.
- Hart Rouge, Beaupre's Home (Red House) Infectious, intelligent, deeply soulful, pop-tinged expressions of traditional French-Canadian and modern musical idioms.
Sons of the Never Wrong, Consequence of Speech (Waterbug) Dazzling, witty, rhythmic omni-pop, with two killer female voices.
- U. Utah Phillips, Loafer's Glory (Red House) America's most garrulous hobo/folk raconteur with some of his most telling, hilarious narrations.
- Grievous Angels, New City of Sin (Bloodshot) Picking up where Gram left off. This band could redeem the reputation of country-rock.
- Buddy Miller, Poison Love (Hightone) True country songs the Nashville Music Police missed the last time they sprayed the town with song bleach – still got the twang, the high-lonesome, and some occasional weird in 'em.
- Darrell Scott, Aloha From Nashville (Sugar Hill) Another one the Gnashville Music Police missed. Swing, old-time, country, Appalachian, and coal mining songs from this Nashville session-man-turned-solo artist. An extraordinary and long overdue debut.
- Dale Watson, I Hate These Songs (Hightone) No BS Bakersfield country music. Plenty of Brockways, bars, and broken hearts.
- Bill Kirchen, Hot Rod Lincoln – Live! (Hightone) Powerful country, truckin' songs, swing, and early rock n' roll from one of Commander Cody's hottest boys.
- Tom Russell, Song of the West (HMG/Hightone) Russell brings heart and gritty personality to traditional and original material about cowboys and the West.
- Steve Earle, El Corazon (E Squared/WB) The whole magilla, from topical to testosterone from the resurrected Earle.
- The Blasters, American Music (Hightone) Like they say in the title song, "Louisiana boogie and the Delta Blues, country swing and rockabilly too, jazz, country-western and Chicago Blues." It's all here: the first Blasters album from 1980. Roots music – from before anybody even thought up the word.
- Townes Van Zandt, Rear View Mirror (Sugar Hill) One of the best live sets Van Zandt ever recorded.
- Terry Allen, Smokin the Dummy/Bloodlines (Sugar Hill) No prisoners Texas grit. Something about the water in Lubbock, or maybe it's the sand he puts in his coffee.
- Various artists, Straight Outta Boone County (Bloodshot) Songs originally written and performed by artists who played on WLW's "Boone County Jamboree" in the 1940's. Performed with exuberance – and with reverence for and new twists upon old country songs.
Various artists, Nashville: the Other Side of the Alley (Bloodshot) Another great Bloodshot collection. Non-hat acts from Nashville run the gamut from straight country to psycho-country.
Other "Best of '97" lists by RootsWorld writers
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