Dec 21, 2017
Dec 20, 2017
11. The Kernal - Tennessee Sun
A cool 70s country inspired Americana roller with a simple earworm of a refrain. "Letting go of everything that I don't need on my way down" brings to mind the vibe of Son Volt's "Windfall," but this song looks back at the past before embracing the blank slate of the future.
10. Kate Rhudy - I Don't Think You're An Angel (Anymore)
I love everything about this song. The gentle instrumentation, the heavenly harmonies, and the somehow sweet but venomous at the same time lyrics. This song's a beauty.
9. Daddy Issues - High St.
Yeah, I miss the rock of the 90s but that's not why I dig these ladies. They inhabit these throwback pop-grunge tunes with a wise-ass wink and a modern gravity. The whole album is killer, but this one's the best of the bunch, in my estimation.
8. Tyler Childers - Whitehouse Road
Though he's been at it for years, Childers made his introductions to the Americana community at large this year in a big way. His album Purgatory has graced many a "best of 2017" list, and it's not just because he's the 'hot new thing.' Childers' lyrics cut to the heart of the matter but they get there aimed from his unique perspective. "Whitehouse Road" is about too much partying the wrong way, but it still comes off like a singalong for the good times.
7. John Mayer - In the Blood
I have not been a Mayer fan in the past. I've always realized he was a talented guitarist, and that his songs were well-crafted, but something just never clicked for me. "In the Blood" is a revelation. Well-crafted, beautifully written, and masterfully performed. With this great song, and his hilarious Twitter account, I've likely turned the corner on Mr. Mayer.
6. The War on Drugs - Strangest Thing
6 minutes and 41 seconds of low-key classic rock bliss. The guitar solo is a cathartic release.
5. Craig Finn - God in Chicago
A short story set to music shouldn't work this well as a song, but "God in Chicago" is an understated gem. Only a one-time refrain/chorus is sung - the rest of the song is spoken word, mostly over a simple piano melody. It's a song about tying up loose ends and making sense of tragedy, which you might not expect to get from a story about a drug deal.
4. Ruston Kelly - Black Magic
This song was stuck in my head more often than any other in 2017. The chorus is just so damn catchy. And this song is so dark. It's the antithesis of a love song. The imagery evokes a horror movie. Though it's likely a misheard line on my part (and that of all the lyrics websites), I'd still love for Ruston to explain what the line "Love is like a bag of drugs, it blows out both your knees" means. Oh, and I'm guessing the reference to Ryan Adams' "Love is Hell" is intentional.
3. Brandi Carlile - The Joke
A song for the underdog. I'm usually a lyrics guy, but I didn't even realize what the song was about the first 3 or 4 times I heard it - I was just in awe. That the song is an anthem for the times without getting remotely political makes it that much better. Carlile really turns loose here. Breathtaking.
2. Turnpike Troubadours - Pay No Rent
A selfless wish for good tidings. A true love song - whether that love be for a one-time significant other or a friend who comes and goes. Evan Felker brings songs like these to life with colorful detail, everyman philosophy, and warm sincerity. Besides the solid lyricism, "Pay No Rent" is relentlessly catchy, memorable, and it just makes you feel good.
1. Sunny Sweeney - Bottle By My Bed
A good artist can make you appreciate a song that doesn't necessarily relate to your life. A great artist can make you feel exactly what he or she is going through when they sing the words, no matter what they're about. Sunny Sweeney is a great artist, and this is a fantastic song. I dare you not to feel the longing of a woman who desperately wants to be a mother when you hear "Bottle by My Bed." It just aches. A career song.
Jan 30, 2017
On January 20th, 2017, the day our new President was inaugurated and spouted nationalist rhetoric to the thousands who were in town, my buddy and I drove to Pittsburgh to get outta DC and see Craig Finn play an intimate show in an office space.
Seeing Craig in this particular setting playing songs from his new album appropriately named "We All Want The Same Things" was extremely cathartic for me. We sat on the floor and listened to songs about people who've seen better days, but are so damn positive that those better days are still reachable and right over that horizon.
This blue collar optimism in the face of defeat is the signature of any Finn-penned song. The new songs on the upcoming record are no different, if maybe a little darker at times. Those characters are still there fucking up, but getting back up and fighting back. If this isn't a metaphor for the times we're in right now, man, I don't know what is.
I'd never seen a show in this setting, and I gotta say, it was wonderful. It was something I'd highly recommend to anyone who is within driving distance to see one of their favorite musicians play an incredibly intimate show to fewer than 50 folks. It gives a real sense where the artist was when that song was created. It didn't hurt that Craig made time for some questions during the show, so it was a real insight into some of his songs.
I think most in the room, including Craig, felt a little weird about what had just happened earlier in the day. I think everyone felt a little better about the world afterwards. Maybe not for too long, but at least for a little bit. And, dammit, that's what music is for. Craig Finn is a national treasure and I can't wait to hear this album in full. Go pre-order this album here and I can guarantee you you won't be disappointed.