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The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest

Magnolia Fest 2015
The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest
Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL

Writer: Niklaus Earl
Photographer: Amber Jennings/Crowe Light Photography

Here’s what you missed: the fall season kick off at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak Florida on October 15th – 18th that celebrated the 19th Annual Magnolia Fest.

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To elaborate, the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park is a 500+ acre, premier campground and music park located on the banks of the Suwannee river with accommodations for any type of camper, ranging from primitive sites for those who like to truly rough it, to rental cabins for those who like to camp with all of the modern creature comforts at hand. A campground of this nature provides a venue for even those who shiver in dread at the word ‘camping’ to enjoy a music festival. The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park does it’s level best to provide everything that a guest could need while camping, so that the guest can get on with the business of relaxing and enjoying the many musical offerings to be found on their four stages over the course of four days.

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At around four in the afternoon on Thursday, the Florida-grown Lee Boys took the stage at the Amphitheater and kicked things off under a clear, blue Florida sky. Their unique, ‘sacred steel’ music is a form of Gospel music with deep roots in blues, but which also embraces and beautifully blends soul, funk, rock, jazz, country, and hip-hop. Their style of music was the perfect way to begin the festival as it faultlessly embraced the core message of Magnolia Fest; All Are Welcome. After the warm festy welcome by the Lee Boys eight more bands would keep the music flowing between the Amphitheater stage and the Porch stage; the Ivey West Band, Band of Heathens, Parker Urban Band, The Congress, The Corbitt Brothers, The Motet, Nikki Talley and Lake Street Dive until 1:30 in the morning.

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By ten in the evening the temperatures had dropped thirty degrees from the daytime highs in the mid 80’s to the low to mid 50’s but did little diminish the enthusiasm of festival-goers as The Motet, a disco-funk revival band out of Colorado, laid down a sound that blew away any thoughts of being chilly and installed a single, musical imperative in their place: You Must Boogie! Children new to this sound danced alongside folks in their sixties and seventies who were remembering younger days in the Age of Funk and Disco as decades-old muscle-memory awakened within them and drove them to shake their aged-yet-still-funky booties. Joy suffused the faces of fans as The Motet put every effort into shaking the leaves from the trees of the outdoor theater with their mighty sound. Bass, two-piece brass, drums, keyboards, percussion, guitar, and vocals all came together flawlessly to create a modern tapestry of those musical elements that made the Disco-Funk era great, while leaving behind those elements that made it cringe-worthy.

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Following The Motet, western North Carolinian Nikki Talley kept things rolling from eleven to midnight on the Porch Stage, offering a more intimate country duet set with herself and husband Jason Sharp playing and harmonizing sweetly, allowing guests to cool off without going cold.

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At midnight, the final set of the night was performed by Lake Street Dive back at the Amphitheater Stage. The three-piece, four member band makes up for any possible lack of sound they might have compared to larger bands by adding their voices to the mix in precise harmonies that work to supplement and support the drums, double-bass, and guitar and/or trumpet, all of which work together to provide a framework for the strong lead vocals. Taken as a whole, the artists provide a cohesive sound where every part exists in a musical symbiosis and no element offers discord by trying to outshine its fellows. All fancy talk aside, Lake Street Dive laid down a sound big enough to keep festival-goers dancing until 1:30 in the morning.

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By noon on Friday, the temperatures were back up in the 80’s where they would stay for the rest of the day, with the light clouds and mild breezes typical of a Florida fall day. The first full day of the festival was in swing as all of the park’s four stages came to life. Merchants and food vendors were fully operational and ready to greet ever increasing numbers of attendees who arrived throughout the day that hurriedly set up camp and then made their way to the main festival area. Here the festival-goers wandered back and forth between the three outdoor stages and the refreshingly dark and air-conditioned Music Hall, catching the bands that they had come to see as well as becoming fans of bands that had been, until now, unknown to them. With twenty-one bands playing on four stages in a thirteen-and-a-half hour time frame, it would be just as impossible to not find a band that tickled your fancy as it would be to see every single performance, though there were those who certainly made a valiant effort at doing the latter. Artists performing bluegrass, country, blues, rock and roll, Cajun, funk, and endless variations of all of the above could be found all day and night throughout the park.

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Of the many great artists to be seen performing on Friday, one absolute, not-to-be-missed set was that of The Del McCoury Band. At 76 years of age, Del is the epitome of the classic, classy bluegrass performer. He and his band, including sons Ronnie and Rob, took the Meadow Stage at six in the evening. Dressed in suits and ties in spite of the 84 degree heat they played in the finest bluegrass tradition with the sun kissing their faces as it sank below the cypress.

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More often than not, in spite of having the expanse of the massive Meadow Stage on which to perform, the band clustered closely together in a tight knot, singing into a single mic in much the same way as Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys did seventy years prior. To see Del perform is to see a man who appears to be the happiest man in music. In spite of the heat and the sun shining in his eyes and the gnats in his face – several of which he claims to have swallowed while singing, “…they went down pretty easy, though…” he complained not at all, but rather grinned his infectious grin and laughed like the possessor of the world’s funniest joke. Singing songs about being sad and blue while seemingly tickled pink at life, Del McCoury looks to be the living example of the person that we all wish that we could be: the person who has found the thing they love to do the most in the world, and then got paid to do it.

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The sun set as the Del McCoury Band played the last songs of their set. The heat fell away while fans smiled and tapped their feet to the music or danced in happy abandon. The dust kicked up by feet mingled with the smoke of campfires while the evening mist of the cooling humid Florida air worked to soften the view of the meadow. Happy festy folk danced and smiled as dragon flies flew overhead while Del continued his set. Children and families played without care or concern, content to exist in the moment as night fell and Del and his band bowed and left the stage. There were moments throughout the weekend that perfectly crystallized the nature and intent of what Magnolia Fest was meant to be, and this was certainly one of them.

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Though the Del McCoury Band set might seem like the perfect ending to a great day, there were still six and a half hours of shows left to be enjoyed, starting with The London Souls on the Porch Stage. The New York City based power-duo turned the page as day became night and their music filled the vending area with a massive sound that was surprising in its strength for having been made by only two men. Doyle Bramhall II took to the Meadow Stage and The Congress filled the Music Hall with their sound, each band doing their part to remind attendees that, though the sun was down, the day was far from over. Then the Amphitheater Stage was mounted by The Travelin’ McCourys with guest musicians, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel) and Earl Walker (drums) of The Lee Boys as well as Ronnie McCoury’s eldest son, Evan, on guitar. As an additional special guest, Del McCoury took the stage in order to lend his talents to the performance of ‘My Love Will Not Change’.

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After the Travelin’ McCoury’s, the Tedeschi Trucks Band took over the Meadow Stage for a two hour set. The twelve member band filled the night with their southern-style rock and Gospel sound. The superb skills of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks were generously supported by a fat brass section, a trio of backup singers, keyboards, bass, and, not one, but two drum kits, all orchestrated in such a way that never was the sound cacophonous or overwhelming, but always a perfect mix of the right sound in the right place.

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By 11:30, many festival-goers thought themselves spent for the night and ready to return to their camps until The Motet began their second set of the weekend. People who thought themselves depleted of energy found themselves recharged and ready to shake to the funk for the next two hours. Finally, at 1:30 in the morning, the music on the main stages came to an end. As attendees made their way back to their campsites the gentle picking of Slopry Land would divert their attention and call to them to enjoy the late night festivals throughout the campground.

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Saturday was another beautiful fall Florida day with highs in the low 80’s. Attendees marveled at how early noon comes when you stay up until the wee hours of the morning the night previous, but put on their happy faces and were present in respectable numbers when the first of twenty-two bands to play that day took their places on the stages. It would be another thirteen-and-a-half hour marathon with some bands like Berry Oakley’s Skylab, Col. Bruce Hampton, Steep Canyon Rangers and more giving repeat performances, much to the relief of many fans who had been forced to choose between seeing these bands and others who were only playing on Friday.

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Fans that missed the performance of Steep Canyon Rangers on Friday were able to catch them on the Meadow Stage Saturday afternoon. The sextet thoroughly entertained the crowd with a modern bluegrass sound which is still firmly rooted in its ancestral soil. To the joy of many present, they invited Jeff Austin and two of his band members to join them on stage to play, demonstrating one of the key elements of bluegrass; a love of playing and picking with friends.

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One of the most notable moments of the Steep Canyon Rangers’ set was when fiddle player, Nicky Sanders, left the stage to come down to play along the rail where he was given a bear-hug by an enthusiastic fan. Upon extracting himself, Sanders backed up and tripped over the stairs leading back up to the stage. Though stumbling, Sanders managed to keep his feet without doing himself an injury or dropping a single note in his furious fiddle playing.

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Adding another musical element to the festival, the Rebirth Brass Band took the Meadow Stage and filled the evening air with a prime example of New Orleans jazz brass. Fans in the know danced energetically while waving hankies, scarves, bandanas, or just index and middle fingers held together in the air to signal their approval of the sounds this band of thirty-two years was laying down.

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Jeff Austin Band returned to the stage with his band for his scheduled set at 7:30 pm, giving fans another example of solid, jam-grass. The thing that distinguishes Jeff Austin from so many other excellent bluegrass musicians is the obvious punk-rock soul that seems to seethe just beneath the surface and which influences both the lyrics and the beat of many of his songs. The overall feel of much of his music speaks of a vision of the world that is greyer and less ‘bright and shiny’ than traditional bluegrass and watching him perform is like watching a bluegrass version of Angus Young as he shreds on his mandolin. As always, it is an exhilarating performance.

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The headliners of the night were The Avett Brothers with a much expanded lineup, taking the stage at 9:30 pm to the joy of their adoring fans. A crowd of smiling, upturned faces reflected stage light back at the band as music spilled across the meadow and drew the greatest number of fans for any performance of the weekend. In spite of chilly temperatures in the upper 50’s, fans in shorts and t-shirts would sooner have sawn off a limb than leave for warmer clothes and risk missing a single minute of the two hour set. Their love of the band would be enough to keep them warm.

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Finally, rounding off the evening back at the Amphitheater Stage, Donna the Buffalo, a core band of Magnolia Fest, played their first set of the weekend. They lead festival-goers out of the last hours of Saturday and into the first hours of Sunday with their distinctive sound that had fans, as always, dancing almost nonstop.

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Scattering outward into the darkness after the last notes of Donna The Buffalo had faded away, many a camper drifted back to their respective campsites to wind down before turning in, but no small number of people made their ways through the darkness to seek out the many islands of sound that drew them in back into Slopery Land like moths to an audible flame. Here, musical guests and festival attendees alike played long into the small hours of the morning, keeping the music going on a lower key, though with no less earnestness than any of the performances which had come before.

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Sunday dawned cool and breezy and had a distinct, ‘the party is winding down’ feeling to it. It was the kind of morning that encouraged one to enjoy breakfast slowly and to linger over hot, fragrant coffee while mulling over the events of the preceding days and nights. Only a single stage, the Amphitheater Stage, would be in use by five bands for a piddling eight-and-a-half hour day of music. O, what luxurious and relaxing bliss does a lazy Sunday bring!

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Looking out over the meadow where the now-silent Meadow Stage stood, one was given sight of yet another of those moments that perfectly crystallized the core notion that Magnolia Fest was founded on. Children laughed, played and giggled with the pure abandon that is the sole province of the innocence of youth, while adults looked on and smiled to see such beauty in the world. Here was a moment in time where the grinding concerns of life could be set aside momentarily and one could embrace the joy to be found in a world of music and the camaraderie one finds in the company of others in whose souls also dwells an appreciation for beauty in all its varied forms.

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At noon the music started off with Big Cosmo, followed by Grandpa’s Cough Medicine and Jim Lauderdale, all of whom drew solid attendance and put out enough energy to keep exhausted festival-goers, if not dancing outright, smiling and tapping their feet at the very least. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those folks dancing on Sunday were aged roughly 12 and below, as they seem tapped into an energy source to which the rest of us have long since lost access.

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By 4:00 in the late afternoon when Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel took the stage, the batteries of most of the adults had recharged enough that they were able to dance along with the tireless children. The previously clear air of the day is now dissected by shafts of sunlight because of the amount of dust kicked into the air by happy feet. Bubbles float lazily overhead, hula-hoops are enthusiastically, if not always professionally, spun, little children are bounced on the shoulders of parents, hammocks rock, and fans sing along as Keller plays.

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Last, but not least by any stretch, Donna The Buffalo takes the stage once again for the final set of the day, giving fans two more hours of music with which to enfold their spirits before taking their leave of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and picking back up their burdens of daily life. Though the music of Magnolia Fest has come to an end for another year, the memory of the music and the joyful festival-goers and the perfect weather will linger on in our minds and, in times of need, hopefully be a balm to our souls when we are sometimes battered by the casual indifference of daily life. It is in the memory of joy and beauty that we find the strength to straighten our backs and smile when we might otherwise bow our heads and let the innumerable little burdens of life break us down. It is for those memories that Magnolia Fest exists, and we hope next year to see you there, so that next time, You, dear reader, are the one who can begin the story with, ‘Here’s what you missed…’

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The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest on October 15-18, 2015

Magnolia Fest 2015

Features Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Avett Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, Keller Williams Grateful Gospel, Lake Street Dive, Jeff Austin Band & more

The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest on October 15-18, 2015

at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL

 

In just one week Magnolia Fest will celebrate it’s 19th year at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. The festival kicks off on October 15th and will run through Sunday, October 18th.

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The line up for this year includes Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Avett Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, Keller Williams Grateful Gospel, Lake Street Dive, Jeff Austin Band, Roosevelt Collier & The Travelin McCourys, Doyle Bramhall II, Steep Canyon Rangers, Rebirth Brass Band, Donna the Buffalo, Jim Lauderdale, The Motet, New Orleans Suspects, Col Bruce Hampton, Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons, Lost Bayou Ramblers, CeDell Davis, The Lee Boys, The Congress, Band of Heathens, The London Souls, Nikki Talley and more.

 

The 500+ plus acre campground of Spirit of the Suwannee provides one of the most unique festival experiences a festivarian can have. The beautiful wooded floodplain surrounded by upland pine woods and maturing hardwood forests draped in thick lush Spanish moss bestows one of the finest backdrops imaginable. The mystic of the antebellum era can be felt as one hikes through the 12 miles of trails.

 

Magnolia Fest will kick off on Thursday, October 15th with the American sacred steel ensemble, Lee Boys. The Florida based band’s unique sound has attracted musical such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Los Lobos, Michelle Shocked, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks Band w/ Susan Tedeschi, The North Mississippi Allstars, Hill Country Revue, Umphrey’s McGee, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Oteil & Kofi Burbridge, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Toubab Krewe, Victor Wooten, The Del McCoury Band and The Travelin’ McCourys- all of whom have played with the Lee Boys and/or invited them to tour with them. The Amphitheater and Porch stage will host acts throughout the day from Ivey West Band, Band of Heathens, Parker Urban Band, The Congress, The Corbitt Brothers, The Motet (who will also close out the evening on Friday), Appalachian singer song writer Nikki Talley. The evening is set to close with Massachusetts based band, Lake Street Drive known for their split difference between Motown soul, sixties pop zip and British invasion swagger.

 

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The lineup for Friday continues the introduction of some world’s finest performers in Americana, Roots Rock, Acoustic Blues, Singer/Songwriter, Bluegrass & Newgrass, Cajun/Zydeco with opening acts Grits and Soul and Bonnie Blue. Friday also sees the addition of two stages, an expansive Meadow Stage and the Music Hall. Performances will include Mojo Gurus, Applebutter Express, Berry Oakley’s Skylab. The Lee Boys, The Corbitt Brothers, Nikki Talley and The Congress will take to the stages once again for those who missed out on the Thursday sets. The lineup continues with Cedell Davis, Habanero Honeys, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Col. Bruce Hampton, Grammy award winning bluegrass favorites the Del MCoury Band, Quartermoon, The London Souls and Doyle Bramhall II whose been on tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band.  The Travelin’ McCourys with the front man for the Lee Boys Roosevelt Collier will play a set before the headline for the evening Tedeschi Trucks Band. The Colorado impro funk band The Motet will wrap up the performances on the stages. Late night campfire pickin’ will continue into the wee hours of the morning by attendees and performers alike.

 

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Saturday’s lineup packed to the gills with goodness will include Steve Pruett’s Back from the Brink, Bryce Alastair Band, This Frontier Needs Heroes, Quartermoon, Berry Oakley’s Skylab, The Corbitt Brothers, Flagship Romance, Whetherman, JacksonVegas, Col. Bruce Hampton, Steep Canyon Rangers, Sloppy Joe, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, Quebe Sisters, Rebirth Brass Band, Grits and Soul, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, Jeff Austin Band, Jim Lauderdale, New Orleans Suspects. The multi Grammy award winning Americana folk rock band, The Avett Brothers, will headline the Meadow Stage Saturday evening. Donna the Buffalo the amazing zydeco, folk rock band will close out the evening.

 

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The low key Sunday schedule gives attendees the opportunity to explore the wonderful Spirit of the Suwanee Park. The shady banks of the historic Suwannee River provide an excellent picturesque paddling experience with canoe rentals or wandering the trails by bike or foot. The lineup for Sunday starts at noon on the Amphitheater stage with Big Cosmo, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, Jim Lauderdale, Keller William’s Grateful Gospel and will close with a set from Donna the Buffalo.

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Tickets are on sale in advance and at the gate. Tickets are $200 until October 14th; and $210 at gate. All weekend tickets are inclusive of all taxes and fees, and include 4 days of primitive camping and music. Kids under 12 are invited to join for free. Fans can also upgrade their experience with VIP tickets for $400 which includes dinner, discounts, VIP Lounge, festival poster, & other perks. Single day tickets are available. Student and Military tickets are $180 and $210 at the gate. The Live Oak Music And Arts Foundation (LOMAF) will have a booth with raffles to raise money for the local music and art programs in the area.

SOSMP is located between Jacksonville, Florida & Tallahassee, Florida about 30 minutes south of the Georgia State line, about 45 minutes north of Gainesville. For RV hook ups, cabin rentals and golf cart rentals, please visit the park’s web site at www.musicliveshere.com call SOSMP at (386)-364-1683. For further information and tickets, please visit →www.magnoliafest.com/tickets.

10 of 2012: Team Honest Tune’s Top 10 Albums of the Year

Top 10 - HeaderIt is hard to believe that 2012 is coming to a close in a matter of days, but it has been an impressive year of releases from across the musical spectrum. Members of the Drive-By Truckers stepped out on their own, Dr. John re-emerged with a little help from a Black Key, and Alabama Shakes took the airways by storm with their debut, Boys and Girls.
And this is only the tip of a mountain of monumental music.

The members of Team Honest Tune have taken some time and put together their personal top album lists. The lists are as varied as the personalities we have on staff here, from rock to bluegrass to metal. Spend a little time with our lists, check out any albums that you haven’t heard, and be prepared to enjoy some fine, fine music.

 

Tom Speed – Editor in Chief/Publisherdr-john-locked-down

  1. Dr. John: Locked Down – Full of funky gris-gris and retro soul, Dr. John proves on this collaboration with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach that even in his 70s, he is still the king of Voodoo.
  2. Jack White: Blunderbuss – The first album in White’s already extensive oeuvre to actually be credited to him as a solo artist, Blunderbuss is a wide-ranging display of his rock bombast craftsmanship and his appreciation for moving American music forward.
  3. Tame Impala: Lonerism – This lush slice of pastoral psychedelia is both a blast to the past and an entrancing excursion into modern day sunshine pop.
  4. Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons: Happy Book – There’s nary a clunker on this double-disc collection that feels like the culmination of Joseph’s decades long career as a prolific songwriter, a collection that is all the more glorious for harnessing the unique maelstrom that occurs when his songs are expressed through the Jackmormons.
  5. Alabama Shakes: Girls & Boys – One of the most buzzed about bands of the year shows why on this stunning, soulful debut.
  6. Hurray For The Riff Raff: Look Out Mama Look Out Mama is a gorgeous, timeless work of wonder. Alynda Lee Segarra and company deftly mingle Americana sounds from all over the map; dust-bowl ballads, old-timey string bands and folk blues all play prominently, all the while hearkening to times gone by.
  7. Jimbo Mathus: Blue Light – In just six songs, the Mississippi maestro cooks up a cauldron of blues, R&B, soul and country that celebrates rock-and-roll at the molecular level.
  8. Dent May: Do Things – Ditching the ukulele and instead delving into synth grooves, dance-floor shenanigans and Pet Sounds pop, May produced the summer’s most summery release.
  9. Howlin Rain: The Russian WildsHard rock ain’t dead. It’s alive and well on this expansive, scorching ’70s flashback of crunchy, lighter-waving rockers, replete with feedback, some horns and songs about werewolves.
  10. The Lumineeers : Self-Titled While Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers, and other stalwarts of the so-called roots revival movement may have garnered more mainstream buzz, the best record of the genre came from this Colorado-based trio and their self-titled debut, a record infused with vocals both plaintive and rousing and an infectious energy that elevate a prodigious selection of original songs to great heights.

 

Josh Mintz – Managing EditorTedeschi_Trucks_Talkin

  1. Tedeschi Trucks Band: Everybody’s Talkin’ – It’s almost unfair to put a live album as number one, but this album is so good it warrants it. It shows the Tedeschi Trucks Band where they should be – onstage, absolutely tearing through their catalog with reckless abandon. From Trucks to Tedeschi to the brothers Burbridge, the album gives all of the players a chance to shine.
  2. Avett Brothers: The Once and Future Carpenter – The Avett Brothers have matured into one of the best bands on the planet, and The Once and Future Carpenter is another large leap forward.
  3. Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Big Moon Ritual – It’s spacey in all the right places, and groovy in every way, just as psychedelic music should be.
  4. Howlin’ Rain: The Russian Wilds – Another phenomenal offering from one of the best little-known rock bands on the planet.
  5. Alabama Shakes: Boys and Girls – There’s something magically raw about this debut release. It’ll be tough to follow up.

 

Jamie Lee – CD/DVD Reviews EditorPatterson_Hood_Heat_Lightning

  1. Patterson Hood : Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance – Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood delivers on his third – and best – solo album. It is vivid, gritty, and full of feeling.
  2. Neurosis : Honor Found in Decay – To say that Neurosis are in the zone would be an understatement. This album sounds as if the instruments are playing the musicians, and they don’t let up.
  3. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit : Live from Alabama – Jason Isbell continues to cement his reputation as one of the era’s premier songwriters, and he proves on Live from Alabama that he can not only write, but he can perform.
  4. Baroness : Yellow & Green – Baroness reinvented themselves on Yellow & Green with succinct, rocking songs that lack the progressive leanings of previous releases, but make up for them with pure, concise power.
  5. Howlin’ Rain : The Russian Wilds – Howlin’ Rain can’t help but nod to ‘70s-era rock, and they do so with warmth, muscle, and a freshness that is rare.
  6. Glossary : Long Live All of Us – Glossary continue to churn out soulful songs that showcase Joey Kneiser’s songwriting and infectious harmonies he shares with wife Kelly. Long Live All of Us may have flown beneath the radar of the mainstream, but that in no way indicates the impact of this album.
  7. Isis : Temporal – Two years after calling it quits, Isis return with a  collection of rarities that hits all of the right spots. The sonic mastery of this band is to be reckoned with, even on stripped down demos found here.
  8. Stew & the Negro Problem : Making It – Brimming with polished compositions and clever wordplay, Making It is a cinematic collection by Stew and cohort Heidi Rodewald.
  9. Royal Thunder : CVI – Atlanta’s Royal Thunder followed up a solid 2010 eponymous EP with CVI, a debut that is Sabbath-thick and heaving. At the forefront are the breathtaking vocals of powerhouse Mlny Parsons.
  10. Mike Cooley : The Fool On Every Corner – On his first solo album, Mike Cooley is captured live, acoustic, and rummaging through covers and songs from his Drive-By Truckers catalog. With banter that is engaging as the music is spirited, this album clearly articulates his stellar songwriting prowess.

 

Tim Newby – Features Editor Dr. Dog  - Be The Void

  1. Dr. Dog : Be The Void – Dr. Dog have been on a hot streak of late, from Fate to Shame, Shame to their latest album, Be the Void.  This is classic Dr. Dog, full of quirky songs that wear their Beatles, the Band, and Neil Young influences on their sleeve. They are loud and proud, sounding like they were written for drunken campfire sing-alongs.  That is a good thing … a really good thing.
  2. Justin Townes Earle : Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now –When you are the son of Steve Earle and named after Townes Van Zandt, you have some big shoes to fill. On Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me, Earle proves just how big his feet really are as he crafts a songwriter’s masterpiece resplendent with horns, Nashville soul, and a lyrically open frankness that is at times a troubling, personal narrative of the demons he struggles with.
  3. Jack White : Blunderbuss – Jack White has been on tear, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold, from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs to The Dead Weather, and now with his first solo album.  Despite the strength and greatness of all his various projects, heading out on his own has freed White up to go where he pleases with little concern.
  4. Alabama Shakes : Boys & Girls – Refreshingly retro with their rock-and-soul sound, Alabama Shakes follow up last year’s massive hype with Boys & Girls, their full-length debut, and they do not disappoint.  All throaty-howl and swampy-grooving guitar, the Shakes make music that, while clearly reminiscent of classic-rock-long-gone, is also as equally forward looking with a hint of punk’s unbridled fury and indie-guitar’s angst.  Music like this makes it fun to get up each morning.
  5. Cloud Nothings : Attack on Memory – It’s easy to try and peg Attack on Memory as a ’90s nostalgia trip, with sludgy guitars, Pixies- Nirvana soft/loud dynamic, and Steve Albini manning the production duties. However, the nine-minute second track, “Wasted Days,” quickly blows that theory out of the water, as it more closely resembles Television’s guitar-freak-out-jam “Marquee Moon.”  That is the genius of Attack on Memory, the way it subtly hints at past greatness, but creates its own unique path.
  6. Punch Brothers : Who’s Feeling Young Now – While rooted in bluegrass, the Chris Thiele-led Punch Brothers explode across the musical universe with their hyperactive kid approach that finds them taking choices coaxing unimaginable sounds from their simple acoustic instruments.  It is space-age bluegrass.  For proof of their otherworldly creativity one only need to listen to their mind-blowing cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A.”
  7. Grizzly Bear – Shields – Shields is not an easy album to get to know. It is deep, dark, and complex, requiring multiple listens to truly absorb all its beauty.  It is not an album that lends itself to loud parties or drinking with friends, but rather one that unfolds over time, revealing itself slowly, before rewarding the patience of the listener with a gorgeous aural trip.
  8. Anders Osborne – Black Eye Galaxy Black Eye Galaxy is a well-developed song-cycle with Osborne leading the listener on a brutally honest, painful journey from his past demons into his future.  It is an open book to a man’s soul, a painful reminder of how flawed we can all be, but told with a touch of unflinching beauty and thunderous guitar.
  9. Cris Jacobs – Songs for Cats & Dogs – After a decade spent as the driving force behind The Bridge, Jacobs has stepped out on his own and released his solo debut-album, Songs for Cats & Dogs. With his storyteller’s eye, passionate guitar, and fiery, expressive voice, he has created an album of deeply, powerful music which defies easy categorization.  It is an album that has an intoxicating, irresistible, rootsy groove that seems to explode from the past with its timeless quality.
  10. Beach House – Bloom – Bloom is all ambient glory and huge, undulating sonic-landscapes awash with singer Victoria Legrand’s ethereal voice filling the sky above.  Following up 2010’s masterful Teen Dream, Bloom expands on the ideas first presented there and finds the Baltimore duo infusing their songs with a hook-based approach that allows those dreamy, textured moments to explode.

Honorable Mention – Dr. John : Locked Down, Gary Clark Jr : Blak & Blu, Jimmy Cliff : Rebirth

 

Sarah Tollie – ContributorEd Sheeran_Debut

  1. Ed Sheeran : + – With his simply titled album +, Ed Sheeran has brought about a rebirth of the bare-boned, bare-souled songwriter in his native Britain—and this year, he’s made waves stateside. The Brit Award-winner is now Grammy-nominated with his lead single “The A Team.” Other memorable offerings from + include “Lego House,” “Small Bump,” “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” and “Give Me Love.”
  2. Annie & the Beekeepers : My Bonneville – Boston-based Annie & the Beekeepers have been festival-circuit darlings for several years, and that’s due in large part to two key things: 1) Annie Lynch’s stuck-to-your-bones vocals and 2) her group’s excellent knack for creating excellent albums. This year’s My Bonneville, with such gems as “An Island” and “Always My Heart is True,” is no exception.
  3. Mumford and Sons : Babel – With Babel, Marcus Mumford and company have crafted a second full-length set filled to the brim with sonic gems. It comes as no surprise, then, to hear of the band’s recent honors: From radio-ready and critic-friendly lead single “I Will Wait” to Grammy nominations to their highly successful Gentlemen of the Road tour, Mumford and Sons are riding high—and rightly so—on the strength of this set.
  4. Silbermond : Himmel Auf – Silbermond’s name might conjure up classical music thoughts, and its latest album title, confusion for non-German speakers, but this Teutonic band speaks volumes and breaks barriers with its music. With Himmel Auf (or roughly, “Sky open” in English), Silbermond connects with listeners on a deeper level: The disc  plays boldly, beautifully with ever-ethereal vocals from Stefanie Kloss and driving beats from members Andreas Nowak, Johannes Stolle, and Thomas Stolle.
  5. JD McPherson : Signs and Signifiers – JD McPherson serves up semiotics, soul, rock, and blues on his much-abuzz major label debut. Signs and Signifiers sets fire with tracks such as “North Side Gal” and the aptly-titled “Fire Bug.” Rolling Stone has caught McPherson’s flame, too, naming him an “Artist to Watch” in its November 19 issue.
  6. Ellie Goulding : Halcyon – Following the still-building buzz of her debut single “Lights,” British electro-pop songstress Ellie Goulding returned triumphantly this year with her sophomore effort, Halcyon. From the pulsing lead single “Anything Could Happen” to the emotive track “Only You,” Goulding’s whisper of a voice shouts and softens at all of the right moments.
  7. Hanson :  No Sleep for Banditos The Tulsa trio’s mini studio effort No Sleep for Banditos was released earlier this year as part of an exclusive fan club package. But, on the strength of this five-track set, one thing is clear: Hanson warrants a wider audience. The standout song is the EP’s fourth track, the rousing and rocking “Heartbreaker.”
  8. Shovels and Rope : O’ Be Joyful It’s possible that Shovels and Rope might have never happened: Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent had carved their own sonic paths with their own full-length efforts, Lions and Lambs and The Winner, respectively. Luckily, Hearst and Trent released their second effort, O’ Be Joyful, earlier this year. Key tracks on this funk and folk, country and rock set include “Birmingham” and “Tickin’ Bomb.”
  9. Gossip : A Joyful Noise – After a brief foray into the solo world, powerhouse front woman Beth Ditto fully returned to her band this year with Gossip’s fifth full-length set, A Joyful Noise. Following the delightful bop and pop, disco and dance of Music for Men, this album finds the worldly (by way of Arkansas) band breaking new sonic—and certainly, stuck-to-your-bones—ground. Catchy, dance-y keepers include the Madonna-esque lead single “A Perfect World” and “Love in a Foreign Place.”
  10. Alex Band : After the Storm – Former frontman of rock band The Calling, Alex Band is back with another brief, but haunting, set. After the Storm finds Band traversing the darker depths of childhood, love, and relationships. Set atop sweeping, mid-tempo beats, “Take Me Back,” “Right Now,” and “King of Anything” show Band at his best.

 

Brett Bickley – ContributorJerry_Joseph_Happy_Book

  1. Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons : Happy Book – Yes, artists still release double albums. And this? It is the best rock album of 2012.
  2. Trixie Whitley : Fourth Corner – Forget Adele. Trixie is the most brilliant female artist performing and recording today.
  3. Mike Dillon : Urn – I don’t even know where to begin. But trust me, this guy is the real deal.
  4. Lettuce : Fly Fly is just one of the many reasons why Eric Krasno is one of the most amazing musicians recording today. Plus, you can dance all night to it.
  5. Medeski, Martin & Wood : Free Magic – This ain’t your father’s jazz. Intriguingly intricate, interesting, and damn fine.
  6. Wil Blades & Billy Martin : Shimmy How can two Caucasians sound this funky? Apparently, quite easily.
  7. Will Johnson : Scorpion – If My Morning Jacket love this guy, you can’t go wrong. You can feel the sand and tumbleweeds as you listen to this slice of desert Americana.
  8. Gaslight Anthem : Handwritten – Next to Bruce, the band that makes me proud to live in New Jersey.
  9. Chris Robinson Brotherhood : Big Moon Ritual/The Magic Door Forget Phish. This is the band that will replace The Grateful Dead.
  10. Swans : The Seer – The genius of Michael Gira returns to us in walls of emotion and noise. It is guaranteed to peel your soul open and lay it bare.