Welcome to Powderfingerspeaks. Here you will find my thoughts on the things which interest me. That will mainly be music, but will likely include beer, whisky, film and anything else that takes my fancy. Opinions are all my own. Your mileage may differ. If it does, then enjoy your own journey. This is mine, please join me for the ride.
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Top Ten Albums Of 2018 - Number 1
A note before I start. This is not the definite list of the best albums of 2018, but my personal top ten.I have only included albums that I own, and there will be notable and popular records not in this top ten simply because I have neither the time or inclination to listen to them all. It's okay to disagree! With that said here's my choice for number 1, and coincidentally the subject of my very first blog post back in Back Roads And Abandoned Motels by The Jayhawks
Arriving just over two years after 2016’s “Paging Mr Proust”, the new album from Minnesota’s finest is a departure, in that most but not all of the songs were co-written with other artists. Two Gary Louris originals round out the set. Whilst “Paging Mr Proust” was a return to form after the, in my mind, lacklustre and inconsistent “Mockingbird Time”, this is a step back up to the 1992-2003 heyday.
From the moment the drums and bass guitar strike up an instantly recognisable Jayhawks groove on “Come Cryin’ To Me”, until the final chord of “Leaving Detroit” fades out, this is a treat for fans of the band and anyone who enjoys good music. None of these tracks outstay their welcome, the melodies linger and at least 3 tracks, “Gonna Be A Darkness”, “El Dorado” and “Carry You To Safety” would go straight onto a “Best Of” compilation. “Gonna Be A Darkness” joins Mazzy Star’s “Look On Down From The Bridge” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Land Of Hope & Dreams” as songs that speak to me powerfully about death.
Hearing Karen take a couple of lead vocals is a pleasant surprise. Hopefully we’ll get to see them over in the UK next year and hear some of these tracks in the flesh.
Whilst only the passage of time will dictate the place this album eventually settles in the band’s canon, it certainly feels like it would sit comfortably just behind “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Rainy Day Music”; their 1997 masterpiece “Sound Of Lies” still standing out as their finest work.
In summary, if you like The Jayhawks, buy this album. If you like “alt-country, Americana, roots rock” or whatever label you’d apply, buy this album.
A new album from Tim Showalter which, barring a final misstep, hits all the Americana, (and more), marks. This album is heartfelt, sleazy, uplifting, classic and referential all at the same time whilst still pointing forwards.
The beginning is inauspicious. "Weird Ways" starts out like a standard Ryan Adams ballad, but takes off halfway through in a way that reveals the pedigree of the other musicians on the album. After hearing this track I thought it sounded like the aforementioned Mr Adams playing with My Morning Jacket(MMJ). The reverb drenched sound kept rearing its head and a little research revealed that, minus main man Jim James, they were the backing musicians on the album . No wonder I kept hearing them! As a band who has produced much that I like this was a good thing.
After "Weird Ways" heads for the stars we stay there with "Hyperspace Blues" which is one for fans of Jason Pierce's Spiritualized, and sounds just as a song with that title s…
Continuing a series about songs death and dying. These are not necessarily songs that talk about the process of dying, rather as the title suggests, songs that I could imagine listening to on my death bed, or taking as consolation during or after a funeral.
Morbid? I think not, as death is part of life. If we all talked about it a little more, maybe we'd cope with it better.
No 1: featuring "Land Of Hope & Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen here
No 2: featuring "Look On Down From The Bridge" by Mazzy Star here
With that said here's my next choice.
No 3: Gonna Be A Darkness - The Jayhawks
From their superb collection of songs that main man Gary Louris wrote with other artists, (full review here), comes this gem co-written with Jakob Dylan.
I love the extended musical introduction, starting with the mandolin, building with the bass and piano.It sets a lovely relaxed groove that hints at the sadness to come. Louris and drummer Tim O'Reagan blend their voices beauti…
Be sure to listen to the latest episode, 736, of Rockin' The Suburbs podcast to hear me talk about some of the new songs I enjoyed in October. You can listen here or via your usual podcast provider.
The songs I talk about, along with a little cricket, NFL & rugby are:
"Run Away" by Lightning Dust "In Good Faith" by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Hard Times" by Whyte Horses featuring John Grant "Favourite Boy" by Half Moon Run "In The Air Tonight" by Lucy Dacus Be sure to listen every day...........
Shakey's live archive releases continue apace, coming after the excellent "Songs For Judy", (full review here) and the even better "Roxy: Tonight's The Night Live", (full review here).
This time Neil treats us to excerpts from an Alabama show, (hence the title), from the 1973 tour previously documented on "Time Fades Away". Whilst a commercial success, the tour was fraught due to Young's grief over the drug-induced death of Danny Whitten that led to his masterpieces "Tonight's The Night" and "On The Beach", and his discomfort in translating his sound to the big arenas his success now found him playing. Neil has previously stated that "Time Fades Away" is his worst album. Those of us who have endured "Everybody's Rockin'" or "Landing On Water" might beg to differ....
Anyway another snapshot of that tour emerges here, and an altogether more lighter mood prevails. The autobiographical &…
After the Broadway experience comes a new song, and my initial thoughts upon hearing it were not about this track specifically, but what it means for the upcoming "Western Stars" album in June. As Bruce has said, this is a different type of album, not a rocker but a 'return to sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements'.
My hope is that we are going to get Bruce's version of "Nashville Skyline", as the track has a laid back, country feel, with a rhythm that immediately evokes "Everybody's Talkin' ".
Another one of his early influences, the great Roy Orbison, also shines through, and as a defender of "Outlaw Pete" from "Magic", (more on that here), this can only be a good thing. His vocal has a country tinge and the pedal steel and strings complete the image.
Given his battles with depression, documented in his autobiography, the lines about "being too fond of the blues" and "loving the lonely place&q…
Arriving with positive notices and an all-star supporting cast that includes a former Beatle in Ringo Starr, a former Heartbreaker in Benmont Tench along with renowned players like Jim Keltner, Don Was and produced by Ryan Adams it would be easy to dismiss such a description as too good to be true. However, sometimes it is okay to believe the hype.. The 4th solo album from Jenny Lewis is an example of the old adage that misery makes for great art, and is another entry into the canon of great break-up albums. It is crammed with catchy melodies, expert playing and excellent, if sometimes just a little too cool for school, songwriting. Right from the very start with "Heads Gonna Roll" the sweetness of the melodies is leavened with a perfectly judged dose of underlying menace and bitterness. Mention has to be given to the Hammond solo from Benmont Tench on this track. The tone is deliciously fat and filthy in the best possible way. "Wasted Youth" continues with a ridiculous…
I picked up Josh Rouse's latest album at the show reviewed earlier, purely on the strength of the new songs he'd debuted that night.
Firstly, the songs are almost uniformly great, and whilst some might complain at only 9 tracks on an album, less is sometimes more. "Leave 'em wanting more" is a good policy. I find it hard to accept, for example, that The Beatles "White Album", to pick a famous example, wouldn't have been improved by being cut to a single disc. A topic for another day perhaps?
Back to matters in hand. The album starts out with what is my favourite track from the set, "Salton Sea". It sets out the album's pop stylings and production, gated snare and prominent synths, occasional vocoder flourishes, etc. that continue throughout the album. With a nice build at the end to some instrumental guitar, it is a great start.