A Lazy Man’s Guide to My Favorite Albums of 2014

otonanokagaku_premium_gramaphone_eI was reminded this morning as I went out to shop at our local market that the year is winding down. How did I know? Because there was a lonely trombonist standing outside the door playing a dirge-like version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” in one/one time, and he managed to hit every single note about a half-tone flat. It made me want to write a check for a thousand dollars and drop it into the red kettle just to get him to stop.

The second thought I had was a reminder to myself…it is damn hard to make good music. I’ve not seen the stats from the past year but if they’re close to the year before, musicians have released about 120,000 albums….or about a million new songs. Only about a thousand albums will be heard (via stream or purchase) more than a thousand times, and with the exception of Taylor Swift and a handful of others who will get a couple million of listens, the rest will likely be distributed to friends and families and house concert attendes…making for a wonderful memory in a couple of decades.

I am not your everyday music consumer, and don’t pretend to be. I’ll rarely write a review, tend to wiggle-waggle back and forth between seeking out something new, or spending months pursuing 78s of long forgotten string bands or jazz bands that came and went in a blink of an eye. One night every two weeks I’ll Spotify a couple dozen new releases, maybe hop on over to You Tube, purchase and download something of interest or more likely than not, just go to sleep.

And so it is against that backdrop that I offer up my before-the-end-of-the-year fast and easy look at what albums caught my ears this year. There is no numerical list, no ranking, no convoluted point system nor any claim that this is any way or shape definitive. In fact, before I’ve even finished posting a track or video  from each of the albums that struck something special inside me, I’m sure I’ll realize that I’ve forgotten one, or two, or three.

I’m going to kick it off with a rather raw video live from a hotel room at this year’s Folk Alliance, from a duo from Traverse City Michigan who are getting ready to blow up in a huge way judging from a recent sighting I had of them opening for Del and Dawg. Billy Strings is only in his early twenties, and Don Julin is in his fifties. And we’re off…

Rosanne Cash’s album came out last January, and lets hope that is isn’t lost or forgotten to the real-deal reviewers’ lists. She closed this year’s American Roots Music Festival at Caramoor and it was a poetic performance. Here she is with her husband doing a ‘one mic, one take’ at the Capitol Record’s studio.

I know very little about the album that came out earlier in the year from the Abramson Singers, and this video was shot in 2013;  but the song was on the disc and is one of my favorites.

A string band trio whom I’ve seen a few times now, that also are beginning to break big on the touring circuit. I love the Birds.

We shared a bucket of naked chicken wings a few weeks ago and talked about Gene Autry. I’ve seen John perform five times in the last six months, and have taken to calling him (although not to his face) Billy Joel Elton John Fullbright. He is the New Piano Man.

Best blues album hands down from two brothers that used to be in a band called the Blasters. If you get a chance to see them live, they’ve got some great stories about growing up in Downey California and cruising over to Whittier Boulevard to hang with some of the old masters.

Somebody told me that this new double album from Lucinda somehow didn’t make the American Songwriter end of the year list. Really? This album is so rich and deep with amazing lyrics and music that I gotta put on one of those rubber overalls that fly fisherman wear just to listen to it.

In all candor, I have no idea who this next band is. But I sure liked their album. I Draw Slow. Like me. I Move Slow.

And finally, if either Scientology scared you off or you have some notion that Beck isn’t one of the best artists making music today, think again. “Morning Phase” is…get ready…I never admit to things like this…my favorite album of the year. And I’ve chosen the least Americana/roots song to share with you. Trust me…go listen to the whole enchilada.