Rob’s Top Ten for 2012
It wasn’t a great year for music by any means. In fact, it’s gotten so easy to produce an MP3 or a CD that just about everyone does. DYI is cool for friends and family, but such projects often add to the background noise and make it harder to find the really good stuff. And, as politically incorrect as it is, I find 90% of all hip-hop and rap to be unworthy of being viewed as music. Ask me to judge by the standards of slam poetry and we can talk, but spoken word over sampled music and programmed percussion doesn’t meet my melodic measurements. So here is my Top Ten for 2012 in the genres (such as they still exist) of rock, pop, folk, country, and world music.
1. Le Vent du Nord, Tromper le Temps (Borealis): From Québec comes a jewel from a band so good that the only open question is whether we prefer their energy or their polish.
2. Ari Hest, The Fire Plays, (Project 4 Records): Baritone vocals evocative of John Gorka and compositions worthy of Billy Joel or Paul Simon. Score one for the Metro (NYC) male.
3. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill, (Reprise): The old man still has it! Perhaps overlong at two discs, but a classic Young mix of country, folk, rock, and grunge.
4. Altan, Gleann Nimhe, (Compass): These Irish-folk veterans stepped back in time for a new release the evoked the band’s early days and their back-to-the-future project succeeded brilliantly.
5. Caroline Herring, Camilla, (Signature): If Country music was run by talent scouts instead of empty suits, Caroline Herring would be one of the industry’s brightest stars.
6. Genticorum, Naguez Rameurs, (Mad River): A tick below Le Vent du Nord, but just a tick. Add both to your collection and you’ll clog your way through 2013.
7. Karine Polwart, Traces, (Hegri Music): From one of Scotland’s most fearless singers, an album about loss, bruised hearts, and renewal. Raw emotions meet heavenly vocals.
8. Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Little Blue Egg, (Red House): Recovered demos and shelved songs from the late, great Dave Carter–a hit from beyond the tomb and renewed life from Tracy.
9. Jason Myles Goss, Radio Dial (Jeswaldo Sounds): This rising talent from Boston’s fertile folk scene is back with an album full of compelling stories from the down side of life.
10. (Tie), Steep Canyon Rangers/Mairi Morrison & Alisdair Roberts, Nobody Knows You/Urstan, (Rounder/Drag City): Sometimes the hippest new thing is the old made new. Steep Canyon Rangers aren’t your daddy’s bluegrass, and Morrison & Roberts give a fresh treatment to Celtic waulking songs and mouth music.--Rob Weir