Dec 31, 2008

Country Covers: Best of 2008 Edition

These are all cover parodies of albums I've seen listed on various country "Best of" lists. A few of them are re-posts, but most are brand spanking new.

Dec 30, 2008

Best Albums of 2008

'08 was a great year for music (artistically, if not commercially) and I listened to a lot of it! Below you'll find the top 10 I submitted as my official "Gambler" vote at as well as a couple other albums I heard this year. Tomorrow I'll get back to the funny and post a "Best of 2008 Country Covers" edition with mostly fresh, new, unposted parody covers! For now though, here's what my ears enjoyed in 2008.

01. Drive-by Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
This is my third favorite Truckers album. That alone qualifies it to be the number one in any given year. The fact that DBTs recovered from their previous, disappointing release and the loss of Jason Isbell with this extremely satisfying record only seals the deal. Standout: The Righteous Path

02. Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song
The best mainstream country album in years, maybe decades. Jamey paints a darkly vivid picture of heartache, addiction and despair with a few respites of humor, all in the style of an updated Waylon. Johnson inhabits his songs in a way that few country artists do. He may not be in the category of "..Jennings and Jones" but That Lonesome Song proves Johnson has the talent to aim that high. Standout: The High Cost of Living

03. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson - Rattlin' Bones
I've never had more than a passing interest in Kasey's solo material, but this is a different beast altogether. Kasey and Shane's vocals blend to make a heavenly sound and the songs they perform are very strong as well. The harmonies are the thing though. Standout: Sweetest Waste of Time

04. Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
Kathleen reaches back into the emotional depth of her debut album with Asking for Flowers and comes out with nearly as strong an album. Her songwriting and wit are sharper than ever.

05. Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
Hayes is a hillbilly poet in the tradition of Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt and he's quickly proving himself to be in that realm of talent as well.
Standout: Bad Liver and a Broken Heart

06. Sun Kil Moon - April
I'm not sure how Mark Kozelek keeps this up. His first SKM album is one of my favorites of all time, and this isn't far off.

07. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Standout: Lord, I'm Discouraged

08. The Felice Brothers - s/t
Standout: Frankie's Gun!

09. Two Cow Garage - Speaking in Cursive
Standout: Bastards and Bridesmaids

10. Fleet Foxes - s/t
Standout - White Winter Hymnal

The rest:
11. NQ Arbuckle - XOK
12. Blitzen Trapper - Furr
13. Chris Knight - Heart of Stone
14. Metallica - Death Magnetic
15. Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof
16. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
17. Justin Townes Earle - The Good Life
18. Bruce Robison - The New World
19. The Steeldrivers - s/t
20. Drag The River - You Can't Live This Way
21. Blue Mountain - Midnight in Mississippi
22. Mudcrutch - s/t
23. Vampire Weekend - s/t
24. AC/DC - Black Ice
25. Damien Jurado - Caught In The Trees
26. Lee Ann Womack - Call Me Crazy
27. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever
28. Chris Mills - Living In The Aftermath
29. Hank Williams III - Damn Right Rebel Proud
30. The Tallest Man in the World - Shallow Grave
31. The Moondoggies - Don't Be a Stranger
32. Guns n' Roses - Chinese Democracy
33. Jason Boland And the Stragglers - Comal County Blue
34. Aaron Watson - Angels and Outlaws
35. Horse Feathers - House With No Home
36. Whitey Morgan And The 78's - Honky Tonks And Cheap Motels
37. Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher
38. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
39. The Black Crowes - Warpaint
40. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
41. Paul Thorn - A Long Way From Tupelo
42. Randy Rogers Band - s/t
43. Old 97s - Blame It On Gravity
44. Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - Turbo Ocho
45. Langhorne Slim - s/t
46. Jim Lauderdale And The Dream Players - Honey Songs
47. Trent Willmon - Broken In
48. The Black Keys - Attack and Release
49. Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball
50. Nada Surf - Lucky
51. Snoop Dogg - Ego Trippin'
52. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
53. Candlebox - Into the Sun
54. R.E.M. - Accelerate
55. George Strait - Troubadour
56. Alan Jackson - Good Time
57. Weezer - The Red Album
58. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
59. Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell
60. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
61. Five Finger Death Punch - The Way of the Fist
62. Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak
63. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
64. The Cool Kids - Bake Sale
65. Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Lonesome Dirge

Dec 29, 2008

Top 10 Country Albums of 2008

Here are my favorite "mainstream" country albums of '08. Again, if you'd like, leave me a comment or a list of your own! Oh, and for the record, I don't claim to be any great shakes as a reviewer. I just know what I like. For some truly well written reviews, check out my buddies at Country Universe, Roughstock, The 9513 and a few others in my sidebar. CU's Blake's take on my #1 is especially insightful.

01. Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song
Head and shoulders above every other mainstream country album that has come out, not just this year, but almost as far back as I can recall. Reminiscent of the sonic textures of the better known Waylon Jennings albums, That Lonesome Song is a nearly unrelentingly dark trip through the hell of heartache and regret. Somewhere between Jennings and Jones, Jamey chisels his own persona hewn from hard living and hard times. A modern classic.

02. Reckless Kelly - Bulletproof
It's a shame this group hasn't struck it big... yet. Everything about them screams "big time superstar band" but their hard rocking side leaves radio programmers at a loss as to where or even if to slot them. They may not fit into Clearchannel's ideal of country right now, but they're closer to the real deal than many of the top 40's pop leaning acts. RK's writing is strong and varied, and as musicians, they are noted to be among the cream of the "Texas music" crop. Bulletproof is their strongest release to date, bringing the rock and the ballads in enough measure to satisfy the male and female demographic alike. Even their throwaway songs stay with you because of the big melodies, and the deeper tracks will punch you right in the gut. I've been a fan since last millennium, so it gives me great selfish personal satisfaction to see them catching on. The sky's the limit for Reckless Kelly.
Standout: Ragged as the Road

03. Lee Ann Womack - Call Me Crazy
When Jamey Johnson thinks you're the best country artist going today, you're doing something right. Lee Ann could have kept pushing toward the pop country of her smash hit "I Hope You Dance" but has instead opted for real tear-in-your-beer country with her two most recent releases. This one's even better than "There's More Where That Came From" which landed on many "Best of" lists.
Standout: Solitary Thinkin'

04. Randy Rogers Band - s/t
See #2
Standout: Didn't Know You Could

05. Trent Willmon - Broken In
Trent has a distinctive Texas drawl and a unique perspective on commercial country. He also picks and co-writes great material. He's a vastly underrated and under-appreciated artist.

06. George Strait - Troubadour
The King just keeps right on rolling, sounding better than ever on somewhat above average material. That's not a slight against him; the songs just aren't all up to snuff this go round. He's still wonderful at performing them.
Standout: West Texas Town

07. Alan Jackson - Good Time
A welcome return to straightforward country, but something of a bloated release. Trim this down to a svelte 12 song package and it's probably 3 places higher on the list. Normally, I wouldn't penalize an album for too many songs, but the fact that there are so many weak songs (I'm looking at you "Country Boy") really pull down the overall product. Mix in an outside writer or two, AJ.
Standout: Right Where I Want You

08. Ashton Shepherd - Sounds So Goods
A great new voice in the country world, Ashton's nasal twang takes some getting used to but it grows on you after a bit. It's nice to hear someone who sounds different from what we're used to on the radio, and it's surprising (though well deserved) to see her finally getting some airplay with the very endearing title track. She's definitely someone to watch in coming years. Here's hoping she gets the continued push she deserves.
Standout: Whiskey Won the Battle

09. Blake Shelton - Startin' Fires
Blake leans toward more soulfulness on this record to nice effect. If he'd mix some grittier material in with the smooth R&B (with the right track sequencing of course), this would be a more satisfying effort, but it's nice nonetheless. The hooks are sharp as an X-acto blade.
Standout: Startin' Fires

I see you, BSers :)
Yes, I am weird, but hey, I liked the album at least.

10. Randy Travis - Around the Bend
Standout: Dig Two Graves

Dec 28, 2008

Favorite Songs of 2008

Everybody's doin' it, why not me? I tried to keep it down to one song per artist, but some artists warranted more. I'll follow this up with a top 10 country albums, top albums overall and possibly a "Best Albums of 2008" album cover day which will not just be a rehash, but quite a few new parody covers. For now, here are my favorite songs of the year. Chime in with your own if you'd like.

Top 50 Songs of 2008

1. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Once In A While
2. Drive-by Truckers - The Righteous Path
3. The Hold Steady - Lord, I'm Discouraged
4. Ben Nichols - The Kid (technically a 2009 release, but I'm too lazy to redo the list)
5. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
6. Kathleen Edwards - Buffalo
7. Jamey Johnson - The Last Cowboy
8. Mudcrutch - Scare Easy
9. Sun Kil Moon - The Light
10. Blitzen Trapper - Not Your Lover
11. Langhorne Slim - The Rebel Side of Heaven
12. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson - Sweetest Waste of Time
13. Hayes Carll - Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
14. Chris Knight - Crooked Road
15. Damien Jurado - Paper Kite
16. Chris Mills - Such a Beautiful Thing
17. Two Cow Garage - Bastards and Bridesmaids
18. Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma
19. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
20. Drag the River - Fleeting Porch of Tide
21. Amber Dust - An Unfamiliar House
22. Lee Ann Womack - Solitary Thinkin'
23. NQ Arbuckle - Marco Polo
24. Sun Kil Moon - Like the River
25. The Tallest Man on Earth - Pistol Dreams
26. Old 97s - Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue
27. The Moondoggies - Make It Easy
28. Reckless Kelly - Ragged as the Road
29. Travel By Sea - Let It All Lie Down
30. Alan Jackson - Right Where I Want You
31. The Black Keys - Things Ain't Like They Used to Be
32. Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Bottle By My Bed
33. Dead Confederate - The Rat
34. George Strait - West Texas Town
35. Drive-by Truckers - That Man I Shot
36. Hayes Carll - Beaumont
37. AC/DC - Anything Goes
38. Whitey Morgan and the 78's - Sinner
39. The Wrights - Rewind
40. North Mississippi Allstars - Shake
41. The Steeldrivers - Sticks That Made Thunder
42. Tift Merritt - Broken
43. The Low Anthem - To Ohio
44. Jamey Johnson - In Color
45. Kathleen Edwards - The Cheapest Key
46. Fleet Foxes - Mykonos
47. Nada Surf - Beautiful Beat
48. Justin Townes Earle - Hard Livin'
49. The Gaslight Anthem - High Lonesome
50. Ray Lamontagne - Let It Be Me

Dec 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20 (New International Version)

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Dec 20, 2008


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