TOP 100 ALBUM OF 2014 (26 THRU 50)

26- St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Half the City   (2-18-14) - Paul Janeway grew up in a devout household with little non-religious music being heard at home. Paul’s plan was to become a minister, a goal until he was 18 years old. He was seduced by an open mic night in Birmingham, AL, expanded his musical experiences beyond The Mighty Clouds of Joy and into Tom Waits and Nick Cave. It is Soul that crowned St. Paul, and The Broken Bones became the chariot that carried him and the Birmingham, Alabama sextet to finally release their debut of rock’n’soul, Half the City.

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26 – Steelism – 615 to Fame   (9-16-14) - Steelism play smart instrumentals that are happier making a melody than grandstanding flash and fury in the playing. The band creates a Roots Modern sound that touches on Mod and Spaghetti Western style.

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28 – John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken   (9-22-14) - The is a literary tone to the songs on Plain Spoken. John Mellencamp stages his heartland stories, giving them a wider range of emotion and heft than living inside the borders of a Pop song.

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29 – Chuck Mead - Free State Serenade    (3-4-14) - Chuck Mead opened the Broadway show Million Dollar Quarter as musical director for the performances. On Free State Serenade, Chuck and the boys in the band present an album that could have been an extension of the Sun Records jam session that gave over its story if the players had gotten along and made an album.

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30 – Israel Nash – Israel Nash’s Rain Plans   (8-19-14) - Israel Nash perfectly captured the tone and texture of classic album from Neil Young and Van Morrison with his 2014 release, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans. Live, the band present the album in its entirety and sequentially.

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31 – Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes   (1-14-14) - Bruce Springsteen enlisted E Street Band members, including contributions from departed members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici as well as Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello for High Hopes. The album is a collection of unfinished tracks and re-worked tunes from his catalog, such as the raw meat version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.

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32 – Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen – Cold Spell     (8-12-14) Cold Spell expands on the song catalog of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen without compromising its intentions. The band have a knack for matching music to pain, desires and longing in Frank Solivan’s vocals with the sonic textures cradle and rock the stories with strong support to get them through troubled times of the heart.

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33 -Brent Johnson – Set the World on Fire   (4-8-14) -  “My sound is rooted in the blues, though I don’t pretend to be a purist, and I don’t want to be. I write music based on my experiences and the sounds I grew up with; I never want to pretend that I had the same experiences as the old bluesmen did, so I’m not going around trying to sound like them. What I do is put the emphasis on the feeling of the music, the passion, the urgency, the directness –that’s the goal.” Brent Johnson introduces himself with short bursts, but it is not the words of the New Orleans-based Blues/Rock guitarist that has you showing up early for the party; it is his playing. Set the World on Fire is kinda the perfect title for his release on Canadian imprint, Justin Time Records….bravado that will immediately get the hackles of true believers raised, and guitar work that will have them saying they saw Brent in some little hole in the wall rock club way before anybody heard of him.

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34 -Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition   - Dark Night of the Soul    (1-18-14) - The songs of Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coliation have a presence; they invade each arrangement making Dark Night of the Soul a majestic album on full listen. The band jumps into each song with a beautiful display of coordinated chaos. Luckily, the folks that roam the tunes halls fit perfectly with music that wears Jimbo’s rock and roll heart on its sleeve. The title track starts life on a scratchy church basement piano, pulling the curtain back slowly behind Jimbo’s stage soul pleas as the boys in the band plug in to back their brother behind the microphone.

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35 -Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana   (4-22-14) - Keb’ Mo’ uses the strength of  a solid groove to suggest that there are times in life when limits are reached and you got to “Move”, a track from his most recent release, BLUESAmericana. The rhythm is a physical thing on the song as Keb Mo’ finger points with his guitar licks, laying down the rule of the house…. ‘you ain’t got to go home but you can’t stay here’. He took his own advice and headed back into the studio to record, though the inspiration for BLUESAmericana came way before the wisdom of the tracks. The album’s nine originals and a cover of a tune Keb’ first heard sung by Mississippi Sheiks Sam Chatmon, “That’s Alright”, began the recording process. Keb’ Mo’ knows himself, and that “I only make albums when I’m inspired to, and these ten songs come from a very honest place”. Since his last album, Keb’ had gone through life challenges as he and his wife persevered tough turns on the marriage road. He touches on the need, and is thankful for the ability to talk things out in “For Better or Worse”. He felt that patch in his marriage forced him to take a look, realizing “I had to learn more about myself and in doing that I felt a personal shift’

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36 – Leftover Salmon – High Country   (12-30-14) - New members and a renewed passion can be heard in the musical continuity of High Country. High Country features LoS playing from a stronger bluegrass center point. The lines thread through folk rock, country rambles, rock, and reggae.   The subtle banjo playing of Andy Thorn runs as an undercurrent as it wraps around the tracks on High Country, like his playing does in the title track, kicking the tune off with a classic banjo opener and maintaining a presence within the constant rhythm machine stoked by his bandmates.

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37 - Carlene Carter – Carter Girl   (4-8-14) - Carlene Carter boards a “Little Black Train” to start off her most recent release, Carter Girl. The locomotive tune is running a full route, making station stops at songs made popular by the forebears of her musical legacy, The Carter Family. Carlene Carter is the daughter of June Carter Cash and country music superstar Carl Smith, and the granddaughter of Maybelle Carter aka Mother Maybelle, original member of The Carter Family formed in 1927 in the Virginia town of Maces Springs. The group was ground zero for Country music, recording several of the genres standards such as “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and “Keep on the Sunny Side”. The Carter Family influenced generations by developing but also integrating Country music with Folk, Bluegrass, Gospel, Rock….and how those styles translated to Pop.

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38- Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love     (2-18-14) - Will Kimbrough uses his latest release title, Sideshow Love, to focus on matters of the heart. The Love in Will’s Sideshow walks a carnival midway filled with bright lights and dark shadows, strong men and bearded women, exotic beauties and transient roundabouts. Will Kimbrough is the barker standing outside his album’s tent to draw you in with quality songwriting and styles that offer three-ring diversity. The album’s mix of music and moods fits the man behind the song, Will Kimbrough. Songwriter, performer and producer is a good resume, one that gets a hand up the ladder with work as sideman guitarist with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Kim Richey, musical rambles with longtime friends Todd Snider and Tommy Womack and a quarter owner of the Willie Sugarcapps sound.

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39 - Queen Esther – The Other Side  (5-25-14) - Queen Esther is a beneficent ruler of The Other Side, expressing her advice, experience and personal hopes over a sound track of Black Americana, stirring a roux of Blues, Country, Soul, Jazz and Rock to spice her songs. She brands the varied genres as her own as her voice, becoming the sound of a breaking country heart, tough love dressed in dirty blues, and crawling inch by inch over echoey piano notes.

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40 -Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits   (2-18-14) - Lake Street Dive have moved forward and have kept their musical focus pure. They have traveled from up sidewalks, keeping their musical focus leveled on the sparkle of 60’s Pop. The songs on Bad Self Portrait, the band’s recent release, siphon sound from the heydays of 1960’s genre-blending Pop that mattered with nods to Brill Building girl-groups, British invasion bands, R&B, horn-fueled Stax soul and Motown. The bright musical bed softens the blows of the heartbreak and headaches of love in the tales on Bad Self Portrait

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41 – John Hiatt – The Terms of My Surrender   (7-15-14) - John Hiatt recorded (for the most part) ‘off the floor’ as he would in a live setting, which was fitting since the band in the studio was Hiatt’s exceptional touring band, Nathan Gehri, Kenneth Blevins, Brandon Young and Doug Lancio. The music goes back to the Blues yet the story lines maintain John Hiatt’s ability to get to the heart of an emotion and his bedside manner of softening the blow with quick wit and a knowing nod.

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42 – Dom Flemons – The American Songster Dom Flemons, Prospect Hill  (7-28-14) - Dom Flemons is a modern musician, a tour guide for a busload of sound. He hits the Southwest desert at dusk right when the photographer’s ‘magic hour’ is ripe (“Sonorian Church Two-Step”) and walks in muddy water with fast-paced words to make it through Mississippi muck as he revisits a tune from Memphis songster Frank Stokes. Dom Flemons not only plays the music of the past as it was originally presented, he does it with pride for every note, happy to present authentic representations for tunes he penned and the work of others. The American Songster Dom Flemons puts history and tradition, styles and sounds all into a song on Prospect Hill.

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43 – Nell Robinson – The Rose of No-Man’s Land   (11-4-14) - Nell Robinson chooses the vehicle of song to stitch a quilt of lives onThe Rose of No-Man’s Land,integrating the heritage of her own Alabama family during 250 years of war. For the most part, the stories captured in the songs are from archived letters, documents, mementos and generational lore, all centered on war and service. Beginning with Revolutionary War to the present, Nell Robinson weaves national and family history along withproducer Joe Henry and a cast of musical friends lending a hand, including Kris Kristofferson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and John Doe, performing songs by Nell Robinson, Rodney Crowell (“Scots Irish”, Guy Clark (“Heroes”), Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe.

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44 – The Hello Strangers - The Hello Strangers   (5-23-14) - The Hello Strangers had a slew of tunes written in a cottage off South Congress Street in Austin, Texas that they squeezed into the backseat of a rural Pennsylvania-bound car along with lives, dogs and Larissa’s husband (not necessarily in that order). The result is a self-titled release for The Hello Strangers.

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45- The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood   (4-1-14) - Family of choice holds men and women closer than blood, and that sentiment has proven true for The Holmes Brothers. Two of the members, Wendell and Sherman Holmes, are attached by ancestry. The third man, Popsy Dixon, is a Holmes Brother because there is just no other place that he could, or should, be. The Holmes Brothers celebrate and define the band, and music, on their recent release, Brotherhood. The album is their fifth album for Alligator Records. Wendell Holmes (guitar, piano, vocals) shares the recipe that has kept The Holmes Brothers cooking for three decades; “Great songs, whether we write them or not, bring great things. And we are all striving to write, find and perform great songs.

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46- Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons   -  Hey Kid   (1-21-14) - Hey Kid might just be the gold standard for roots rock’n’roll as Angela’s voice curls around the power of the playing. She teases in her delivery, waiting a beat, to drop bombs by the way of one-liners, winks and promises. Hey Kid is the first full length album from Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons following four EP’s since forming in 2009. The Howlin’ Moons explode out of the speakers with a barely contained ferocity tamed by Angela Perley’s smoother seduction.

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47 – Eric Brace & Karl Straub – Hangtown Dancehall   (1-21-14) - Hangtown Dancehall features a stunning array of musicians featuring players such as Tim O’Brien, Pat McInherney, Jen Gunderman, Fats Kaplin, Buddy Spicher and Mike Auldrige. Lead vocals come in the form of the musical’s characters as played by Kelly Willis, Eric Brace, Karl Straub, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Wesley Stace, Jason Ringenberg and Andrea Zohn. A-list players are surrounded by warm melodies and tempos that never get too far from the dancehall.

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48 – Adam Carroll – Let It Choose You   (5-19-14) - There is an art to songwriting that makes its characters so real, so strong, that the singer and the song are in the backseat on the three minute ride that puts the men and women stars of the tale behind the wheel. Adam Carroll is one of those songwriters on his recent release Let It Choose You, a student of the school of Jerry Jeff Walker, Jo-El Sonnier, Todd Snider, John Prine, and Guy Clark (“Wrote It for You”). Adam is a born and raised Texas songwriter  and Let It Choose You picks a Gulf Coast sound that blends folk, Cajun, country and rock’n’roll.

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49 – Bob Seger – Ride Out   (10-14-14) - In a time when rockers are looking to roots music for a career shift and Roots musicains are citing classic rock as inspiration, the most impressive thing about the Bob Seger album, Ride Out, is that he made a Bob Seger album, leaning only on personal influence with a heavy hand and history. Ride Out smokes the competition with ease, and Bob Seger muscles up the Roots Rock that made his name as Detroit-famous as the assembly line heroes that fueled his tunes.

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50 - Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart   (5-6-14) - It is the lady and her piano that take center stage on any Eden Brent recording or performance. As a solo artist or as a bandleader, Eden is the single cell that gives the music life as much as her Mississippi Delta heritage hardwires the blues into her own playing. Eden Brent and her Blues made the trip north from Mississippi to record her latest release, Jigsaw Heart, in Nashville with guitarist/solo performer and member of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and Bob Dylan’s band, Colin Linden, sitting in the producer’s chair.   Blues blood of broken and bubbling love courses through Jigsaw Heart, the album forming a circle of the lost and found love within the tracks puzzle pieces.  Blues boogie, and Eden’s personal history of learning the 88’s, has garnered the nickname Lil’ Boogaloo. The boogie is present on Jigsaw Heart though its songs stretch out, laying out the album’s tunes out as a musical songbook of Southern styles such as Gospel, Soul, Country and R&B to exist alongside Eden’s natural Blues.

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