As a fan of– I guess I’ll call it “non-pop”– country music, I was happy to see 2009 was a year that offered enough new music to allow me to make a top 5 country albums list. So here it is.
5. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane by Elvis Costello
I have always viewed Elvis Costello as not much more than a curiosity. His voice was always a barrier to his music, and the fact that he is such an iconoclast and so musically unclassifiable always made me feel like his music was for someone else. This album, though, feels like it was made just for me. In the context of slide guitar and stand-up bass set to a waltz rhythm, his voice goes from sounding quirky to sounding right at home.
4. I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers
I’d been aware of the Avetts prior to 2009, but like so many others, this was the year that they worked their way in front of my face and said, “No, seriously, listen to us.” I had the good fortune of seeing these guys play a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR, which sealed the deal for me. They know how to build drama, and those harmonies…
3. Changing Horses by Ben Kweller
Who knew? Well, people from Texas knew, I guess. All I had known of Ben Kweller prior to this record was that he was supposed to be some sort of rock ‘n roll wunderkind with chubby cheeks. What makes this record to me is Ben’s voice, which is delicate but composed and completely up to the task that these songs put forward. The healthy dose of pedal steel doesn’t hurt, either.
2. A Friend of a Friend by Dave Rawlings Machine
This one is on faith alone. Dave Rawlings has earned as much. Who else is excited for the release on Tuesday? Anyone? Hello?
1. Midnight at the Movies by Justin Townes Earle
In a year where this blog had all of TWO posts on it, this album inspired one of them. I guess that says enough. Read that post for more thoughts if you’re interested.
10. “Another Girlfriend” by Rhett Miller – Rhett’s was not a country album, really… but this is most definitely a country song.
9. “Caroline” by Old Crow Medicine Show
8. “Gypsy Rose” by Ben Kweller
7. “Home” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – See explanation for #10.
6. “What I Mean to You” by Justin Townes Earle
5. “Mama’s Eyes” by Justin Townes Earle
4. “Santa Fe” by Gallaramy “Bells of Harlem” by Dave Rawlings Machine
3. “Old Hat” by Ben Kweller
2. “Laundry Room” by the Avett Brothers
1. “I Dreamed of My Old Lover” by Elvis Costello – I love how there is a solitary pluck of the stand up bass in the intro and that you don’t hear from it again until after the first verse, when POW! The changes go from sweet to devastating.