January 15th, 2010 | Album reviews


I tried. I swear I tried to cut it to 10. But it’s impossible. My Top  12 for the Oughts.

In no particular order…

Bruce Springsteen – The Rising

From a songwriting standpoint, when I heard Bruce was doing a record about 9/11 I thought, “This is going to be a disaster.”  And man, was I wrong. He took archetype imagery—a kiss, blood, bonds, honor, loyalty—and tied it, in artful ways, to a city in ruin. In terms of difficulty, it is, in my opinion, the greatest songwriting feat ever. When that choir sings “Rise Up,” I still cry.

Delbert McClinton – The Cost of Living

How many records has Delbert released? 15? 20? It must be so tempting to just phone it in, but the 2006 release “The Cost of Living” has what so many blues albums lack—unbelievable songs. In fact, there’s not ONE bad song on this album. It also won a 2006 Blues Grammy.

Lee Ann Womack – There’s More Where That Came From

Nashville country done right. The cover hints that it is a throwback record.  Simple production. Great songwriting, and Lee Ann Womack returning to real country after 5 years making boring pop records. It won a heap of awards, but that’s not the reason it’s good. A cross between classic Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.

Dwight Yoakam – Blame the Vain

Here’s a man who understands his brand. Bakersfield country with enough modern tones to make it still matter. The telecast licks are awesome, and Dwight’s voice — are you KIDDING ME? He sings the harmony parts and his choices are always right on the money. The title track is a killer.

Gretchen Wilson – Here for the Party

The kind of record I want to hate, but cannot. It puts a stake in the ground and says “Tough Shit.”  The songs are all arena rock singalongs, but the attitude was sorely needed in Nashvegas. Credit Big and Rich for making this record old country and big rock. Gretchen was a shooting star, it seems, but what a show.

David Serby – Another Sleepless Night

The great honky tonk hope. David Serby’s  2007 release is as real as real can get. Sad songs about drinking and losing someone you love. His voice is mournful, kind of round tonally. It’s the kind of freak genetic thing that plays right into his art. There’s a couple of roadhouse numbers so you don’t nod off and drive into a ditch, but this is an album best consumed with a glass of bourbon.

Hank Williams III – Straight to Hell

I can only imagine that every record company in the world has throw zillions of dollars at Hank to make him a mainstream artist. With his lineage, he is a music marketer’s dream—but he doesn’t care. He makes vile, offensive, hardcore honky tonk records about drugs, drink and life on the road. It is a BEAUTIFUL thing to behold, and this 2006 release is his best. I hope he can hold out.

My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

MMJ is a hard band to define. To me, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Wilco, making the most interesting American pop music on the scene today. It’s complex. It’s emotional. It’s rootsy. And they seem to be doing exactly what they want to do — the hell with the rest of us.

Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous

Before they were the new Fleetwood Mac, Rilo Kiley was a cute little band that made fun albums with catchy songs and a simmering sassy sex appeal. I spent the fall of 2004 singing along.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

Boy, do I hate giving this album any more praise. When someone handed it to me, I thought it was a joke, but holy smokes is it good. It’s probably the case that Alison Krauss could have made this album with a number of old rock singers, but it doesn’t take away from the power of the final product.

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

I have a stack of Ryan Adams records that are simply terrible. Clearly for six years or so his label said, “Record anything you like! We’ll put it all out!” The boring sound-sketches that a good producer would’ve tossed in the trash end up as full blown album tracks. But HEARTBREAKER! Wow! This is how he sells all those terrible records. It’s so good, it hurts. Need Proof? YouTube – “Come Pick Me Up” on the Letterman show. It is the SINGLE best live performance in the history of the DLS, and that’s just a taste of the quality on Heartbreaker.

Merle Jagger – Rancho Los Angeles

Guitarist Mark Christian and LA stalwarts, Merle Jagger, have done everything a band can do – without a lead singer. They open for the big acts. The put tunes in movies. They are the best band you’ve never heard. Instrumental acts have a hard time busting out… but this record is the soundtrack to my nights driving around Hollywood.

-Grant Langston