There is always more great music than anyone can learn about and listen to. Here are 10 albums that stood out for us in 2012. If you liked what you heard at one of our concerts, we bet you will like most of these albums, too. Wherever possible, clicking the album title will take you to a site where you can hear samples.
Kevin Gordon - Gloryland
This album is chock full of songs that tell great stories and force you to think. It is like literature, but set to swampy roots rock. It's rare that you hear a 7+ minute song that keeps you interested the whole time, but "Colfax" goes further and keeps you rapt. We are nailing down the details of Kevin coming to Mechanic Street in March. We can't wait!
The Black Lillies - 100 Miles of Wreckage
This band is killer live and this album captures thier sprit. They mine a territory between appalachian, jam band, country, and indie pop. Great songs ("Two Hearts Down" and "Same Mistakes" are instant classics) carefully arranged and played by a super tight band.
Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America
These songs have the idisyncratic beauty of Joni Mitchell and the intensity of Neil Young. The album is a reflection on growing up and on parents, but mostly they are just great songs. Also, her voice is distinct and beautiful.
Rodney Crowell & many friends - Kin
This album is made up of songs by the musician Rodney Crowell and the author Mary Parr and performed by Rodney and artists like Lucinda Williams and Norah Jones, each handpicked to match a particular song. It really shines a light on how great a songwriter Rodney Crowell is to hear a collection of his songs performed by exactly the right singers with exactly the right music.
John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
This album is up for the Americana Grammy award and rightfully so. Its a diverse set of songs that range from lullabies to songs from an angry god to an upbeat anthem, all with his own stamp on it. This is a debut on par with Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams. Mechanic Street fav Fats Kaplan adds some tasty fiddle, too.
Mike Uva & the Bad Eyes - Lady, Tell Me Straight
We loved this Clevelander's set at Mechanic Street in January. When we first got this album, every time a song came up on shuffle we said, "This is great! Who is this?" Well, we've listened to it enough that now we just say "Mike Uva! Yay!" He writes universal songs about odd, individual topics.
Matt Flinner Trio - Winter Harvest
If you like David Grisman, the Goat Rodeo Sessions, or Bela Fleck, you will dig this album. All orignial instrumentals played by well honed trio of mandolin, acoustic guitar, and upright bass. It's somewhere between bluegrass and jazz and, unlike so much in these genres today, these top-notch players never detract from the songs with pyrotechnics.
Whitehorse - The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss
Here's the story: Two members of Sarah McLachlan band fall in love and start making their own music. Now they are big in Canada and virtually unknown here, This amazing indie-pop album may be enough to change that.
Phil Madeira & many friends - Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us
This is an ecumenical gospel record featuring a ton of the best Americana artists (Emmy Lou Harris, Buddy Miller, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops, to name a few). Some may call these gospel songs but they feel more spiritual than religious. Long on joy, love, and hope and short on preaching. Good stuff!
Trepanning Trio - Auspicious Threes
Shameless self-promotion alert: Joel plays in Trepanning Trio. This album was released in November and has oddly beautiful instrumental music that touches on contemporary classical, African, Chinese, jazz, and rock music. Simple, strong melodies that stick in your head. Just listen - you might like it!
Please let us know what gems you discovered this year!