2009’s Top Albums

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Honest Tune Top Five Albums of 2009

5 – Felice Brothers –Yonder Is The Clock

4 – Bloodkin – Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again

3 – Black Crowes – Before The Frost/Until The Freeze

2 – Avett Brothers – I and Love And You

1 – Derek Trucks Band – Already Free

 

Tom Speed (Editor-in-chief)

10. Dexateens – Singlewide
9. Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy
8. George McConnell – Singles Only
7. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
6. Phish – Joy
5. Derek Trucks Band – Already Free:
As a band, DTB is hitting its stride, providing here a studious survey of the myriad influences that comprise their repertoire. Stunning guitar work is a given.
4. Wilco – Wilco (The Album): All Wilco does is continue making near-perfect albums. Marrying their noise-rock tendencies with their pop indulgences, Wilco (The Album) is just another ho-hum day of top-notch writing and playing by one of America’s greatest bands.
3. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You:
In many ways, the pairing of producer Rick Rubin with The Avett Brothers was a perfect match. Known for cutting to the crux and allowing songs room to spread their wings, the plaintive turmoil of the Avetts seemed tailor made for such a stark approach.
2. Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band:
For only their fourth long-player release in the band’s 10 year history, this loosely connected group of northwesterners patched together a brilliant assembly of sweetly jangly rock ‘n roll tunes. Led by erstwhile Shin Eric Johnson, The Ruminant Band sparks and slinks with a folksy grace, buoyed by a strong melodic sense and gracefully winding guitars.
1. Black Crowes –
Before the Frost/Until the Freeze: This is the album the Crowes have been needing to make for years, a sprawling document that captures their fiery stomp and stammer and their earthy pastoral excursions in equal measure. Ostensibly a pair of albums, Before the Frost was sold as a CD with the companion Until The Freeze as a free download. They were sold together as a digital download on iTunes. Regardless of the medium, the collection is bound together by deft performance and some of their finest songwriting in a decade. Recorded live before a small audience at Levon Helm’s upstate New York barn and featuring guest multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, Before the Frost/Until the Freeze is the Black Crowes at their best.

 

Josh Mintz (Managing Editor)

10. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
9. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
8. Gregory Alan Isakov – This Empty Northern Hemisphere
7. Black Crowes –
Before the Frost/Until the Freeze
6. Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
5. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
: "Supergroup" albums can fall flat. With great songwriting and haunting vocal harmonies, this one most certainly does not.
4. Derek Trucks Band – Already Free: Another step forward for these guys, Already Free may be a little more straight-ahead rock than previous albums (like 2006 Honest Tune album of the year Songlines), but it’s a mature album from a band that has really found its sound.
3. Phish – Joy: Back, and in a big way. Tremendous studio effort for a band known to release mediocre studio efforts.
2. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You: This Rick Rubin-produced disc would have finished higher had Farrar and Gibbard not knocked it out of the park. The Avetts took another step forward, and made a stellar disc from front to back. While it may be a bit more polished than previous releases, the songs are winners across the board.
1. Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move And I’m Gone: A common love for Jack Kerouac led to the relatively unlikely pairing of the lead voices of Son Volt (Farrar) and Death Cab For Cutie (Gibbard) on this movie soundtrack, but the duo combined to make one hell of a disc. Each contributed their own sound, blending Alt/Country and Indie-Pop to make something fabulous.

 

Jamie Lee (CD REVIEWS EDITOR)

10. Sonic Youth – The Eternal
9. Crippled Black Phoenix – 200 Tons of Bad Luck
8. Drive-By Truckers : The Fine Print – A Collection of Oddities and Rarities
7. Lucero – 1372 Overton Park
6. Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine
5. Drummer – Feel Good Together:
Leave it to The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and four other drummers to make one of the most exhilarating indie albums of the year. Airy and refreshing, Drummer proves that the talent behind the kit is far more expansive than one might expect.
4. Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs):
Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood is one of the most prolific songwriters on the music scene today. And for his second solo outing, he continues to confirm his ability with songs written over the course of his career, brought to life with fire and sincerity. Hood is in his prime, and he just keeps getting better.
3. Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies
: The son of Steve Earle and named after Townes Van Zandt, Justin Townes Earle has a lot to live up to with his music. With Midnight at the Movies, the singer/songwriter delivers twelve tracks that imbue a laid-back, country flow and a maturity that defies his youth.
2. Kurt Vile – Childish Prodigy: Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has released one of the most inventive albums of the year with Childish Prodigy. Stripped-down, yet psychedelic, this batch of songs resonates with a rough, bluesy approach and fuzzed out tone, made more significant with off-kilter melodies and tense repetition.
1. Bloodkin – Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again: Descriptions of Athens, Georgia’s Bloodkin beg for cliches, but for all of the wrong reasons. They have toiled at their craft, creating remarkable songs that are raw, infectious, and ooze with Southern soul. And yet, for over 20 years, Danny Hutchens and Eric Carter have made poignant music in relative obscurity. Until now. After escaping the harrows of drug addiction, a reformed Bloodkin made its best album in years, Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise again, and finally won notice from the mainstream, including a spot in Rolling Stone’s Fricke’s Picks. It took a lot of living to make this classic, and for the listeners who are spared the gory details, it was well worth the wait.

 

Fred Adams (Features Editor)

10. The Dynamites feat. Charles Walker – Burn It Down
9. Buddy & Julie Miller – Written in Chalk
8. JJ Grey and MoFro – Orange Blossoms
7. Them Crooked Vultures – New Fang
6. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
5. Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze
: The Black Crowes took a new approach in recording their latest album – gathering an intimate audience in Levon Helm’s Woodstock barn/studio to watch as they recorded their new material. Listened to one at a time, or as a two disc set, Before the Frost/Until the Freeze captures the Crowes doing what they do best – balancing carefully structured songwriting filled catchy choruses with loose and meandering grooves, combining their easy-going attitude with hard rocking songs to create music that is uniquely American, and truly The Black Crowes.
4. Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Review – Shout! Live: On Sunday nights former Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelie Mike Farris turns the famous Nashville bluegrass dive The Station Inn into a real life church revival; some of the best moments are documented on Shout! Live, a high-energy jamboree of gospel sing-a-longs combined with funky, blues jams and soulful horns, compliments of The Roseland Review. The disc finds Farris, along with the angelic backing vocals of the McCrary Sisters, spreading the good word of redemption once again, complete with full-congregation clapping, call-and-response testifying, and some of the most spirited, heartfelt vocals one could ever imagine.
3. Bloodkin – Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again
: As the title suggest, Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again is Bloodkin’s tale of redemption, the story of a band that never quite gained their just due, and along the way overcame death and addiction, and nearly parted ways before regrouping to record one of the most glorious discs of the year.
2. Corey Smith – Keeping Up With the Joneses: A name that remains unfamiliar to many, Corey Smith is a songwriter par excellence. Keeping Up with the Joneses, his sixth release finds him with a full band unlike past outings, which centered on his foundation as a solo acoustic performer. The resulting disc is lively, filled with beautiful songs that all bear Smith’s trademark brand of revelry.  Singing tales of love (“Feels Like Love”), sex (“Dirtier by the Year”), and booze (“$8 Bottle of Wine,” “Sweet Sorrow”), Smith takes a listener on a festive, sing-a-long journey through the best times of life.
1. Derek Trucks Band – Already Free: Having spent much of his time the past few years touring with guitar greats Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, it came as little surprise that Derek Trucks would bring some new tricks to his latest studio CD.  Few, however, could have envisioned Trucks and his band delivering such a masterpiece, a timeless disc packed with so much raw Southern grittiness and inspirational soul that the songs instantly feel like an old friend, one that you’ve always known, yet can never hear enough. From first listen, there was little doubt that this CD would be the best the 2009 would have to offer, even though the year was but 13 days old.  Now, with the end of year at hand, Already Free sounds even better than it did upon that first play, and remains not only the CD of the year, but perhaps the finest of the entire decade.

 

Brad Hodge (Live Music Editor)

8. Bloodkin – Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again
7. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
6. Dexateens – Singlewide
5. Chali 2na – Fish Outta Water:
Has one of the best voices in the hip hop movement.  His span as one of the Jurassic 5 MC’s led to a big success with Galactic and a massive Bonnaroo performance last year.  This album brought the MC back to the spotlight.
4. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is:
This album has a little punk attitude, the sound of Texas guitar, and the soul of a big r&b review.  Not sure how many pool parties this album jumped off this summer, but it was a definite hit!
3. The Felice Brothers – Yonder Is The Clock: The Felice Brothers continue to raise the bar for Americana artists with witty songs and timeless albums.  On Yonder Is The Clock These boys from upstate New York prove everything taste better soaked in whisky.
2. Pretty Lights – Passing Behind Your Eyes:
Pretty Lights continues to offer up his music for donations, and drops the illest beats of the jamband/festival circuit.  His albums are finely crafted productions, and Passing Behind Your Eyes may be the best yet.
1. Ryan Bingham – Roadhouse Sun
This album best defines a genre of music for 2009.  It is a picture perfect album of country music. Not only does Bingham have spot on instrumentation, the songs tell
stories the way country music should.  A few and far between disciple leads the fight to save country with songs like "Rollin Highway Blues" and "Wishing Well."

 

Tim Newby (Senior Writer)

10. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
9. Levon Helm – Electric Dirt
8. Bombadil – Tarpits & Canyon Lands
7. Joshua James – Build Me This
6. Low Anthem – Oh, My God Charlie Darwin
5. Felice Brothers – Yonder Is The Clock:
If you put your ear to the chest of Americana music, the beating you hear would sound like Yonder is the Clock. And if you opened that chest up, The Felice Brothers would be there bashing away.  
4. Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze: Their defining moment.
3. Derek Trucks Band – Already Free: The pinnacle in the evolution of the DTB.  Trucks brings it like you would expect, but the secret weapon is vocalist Mike Mattions who kills it.
2. Dead Weather – Horehound: Jack White reinvents thick blues rock with his new band, and again proves while he is the Artist of the Decade.
1. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You: Capializing on their unlimited potential, The Avetts release an emotional journey of album that has taken them from best band you may have never heard of to the Best Band around today.

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