Friday, January 05, 2007

Best of 2006 – Music

As Ryan Adams (my all time favourite artist) didn’t release any new recordings last year, other artists managed to get a decent hearing on the CD player. At lot of what I found interesting last year were new discoveries like Teddy Thompson and Ray Lamontagne. Some of them I saw live and that enhanced the listening experience.

Top Ten – In no particular order

Teddy Thompson - Separate Ways
The more I listen to this CD the more I like it. Dark pop folk tunes with clever twisted lyrics. Teddy’s voice is powerful and affecting and seeing him live made the CD even more special.

Shane Nicholson – Faith & Science
Shane Nicholson is a singer songwriter from NSW. I discovered his music a few years ago at a Kasey Chambers concert where he was one of the support acts. I ran out the next day and bought his debut solo CD It’s A Movie and it became an instant favourite. Faith & Science is the follow up CD to It’s A Movie and it is just as catchy with attractive pop tunes and great lyrics. Seeing him live again this year was great though it seems he is yet to be discovered by the mainstream. One show of his I attended had an audience of about 20 people. I think he is quite brilliant and is a mesmerising live performer.

The Audreys – Between Last Night and Us
This fabulous little band hails from South Australia. They seem to have come out of nowhere into instant stardom owing to the quality of their debut CD. It’s a winning combination of pop rock, folk and country. Lead singer Taasha Coates has a great voice and a winsome stage presence and the other members of the band, playing an unusual blend of instruments, support her admirably. I saw this band live a couple times as well. They are accomplished and cheerfully confident in their performance.

The Wailin’ Jennys – Firecracker
This trio of Canadian singer songwriters toured Australia earlier last year. I had heard of them but hadn’t listened to any of their recordings, so it was a thrilling experience to hear them live for the first time. If you like harmony singing, these girls are simply wonderful. They are also very skilled multi instrumentalists. I was hooked from first listen and instantly acquired their earlier CD 40 Days. Their music encompasses folk, country and rock and they write most of the songs themselves. The songs are very fine examples of the song writing craft. Both 40 Days and Firecracker are highly recommended.

Ray Lamontagne – Till The Sun Turns Black
This CD has to be one of the most beautifully produced recordings of the year. Ray Lamontagne is a mysterious backwoods artist who emerged from nowhere some years ago with a CD called Trouble whereupon he was hailed as the new Van Morrison. Actually he is not at all like Van Morrison, other than perhaps in the manner in which his songs incorporate repeated phrasings. He has a very affecting voice, slightly raspy but full of angst. His songs vary in quality, but some a very good indeed with lovely melodies. He appealed to me because there is something Ryan Adamsish about his music, possibly because Ethan Johns, who has also produced Ryan Adams, produced Lamontagne’s CDs. Producers, because of their individual style are often recognisable in the CDs they produce. Take for instance Daniel Lanois, whose productions are very distinctive.

The Be Good Tanyas – Hello Love
I’ve been a fan of the Tanyas since hearing their CD Chinatown, which spent quite some time on the player a few years ago. Hello Love is the follow up CD and is very similar in tone and sensibility to the aforementioned record. The Tanyas are another Canadian trio reinventing folk music. The music is acoustic and very much influenced by Joli Holland who was an original member of the band. Slightly weird in a very nice way, their music is mesmeric to listen to and the vocal harmonies are exquisite.

Grant Lee Phillips – Nineteen Eighties
I haven’t really had much chance to listen to this CD, but from what I have heard I liked it a lot. It is Grant Lee Phillips’ tribute to the music that influenced him in his younger days. Grant Lee Phillips formerly headed the Grant Lee Buffalo band and has a very individual voice. I saw him perform at the Basement Discs in 2004 and was very impressed with him, so I’ve been a fan ever since. His 2004 CD Virginia Creeper still gets a spin these days. It has a great version of the Gram Parsons song “Hickory Wind”.

Various Artists – Sail Away – The Songs of Randy Newman
Occasionally I do acquire compilation discs and this one is pretty good. Randy Newman is famous for his satiric songs about America, Sail Away is a tribute and the artists involved in the recording give interesting interpretations of his songs. Steve Earle does a great version of "Rednecks", for instance.

Bob Dylan – Modern Times
This is another CD I haven’t listened to all that often, but I did get the impression when I did that it was Bob at his best. This CD has made the top ten on quite a few lists so I’m including it here myself as I’m sure it’s appropriate to do so.

Dixie Chicks – Taking the Long Way
When I first bought this CD I played it once or twice then not again until after I’d seen the Chicks live in concert whereupon it suddenly became compulsive listening. It is a departure from their earlier CDs, more Rock n Roll than country. but it’s got attitude with a capital “A” and Natalie Maines voice has never sounded better.

Honourable mentions:
Various Artists – I’m Your Man – Leonard Cohen Tribute
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning
Jenny Lewis – Rabbit Fur Coat
Robyn Hitchcock & Venus 3 – Ole Tarantula
Ron Sexsmith – Time Being
Eric Clapton & JJ Cale – Road to Escondido
Jinder – I’m Alive
Dave Alvin – West of the West

Best live shows: (click on the links for reviews of the shows)

Teddy Thompson – Northcote Social Club
Dixie Chicks – Rod Laver Arena

Kathleen Edwards – Northcote Social Club
The Wailin’ Jennys & The Audreys – Don’t’ Tell Tom

Shane Nicholson – Northcote Social Club
Robyn Hitchcock & Venus 3 – Basement Discs
Ron Sexsmith – Basement Discs

2007 promises to be another good year for music. One of my favourite artists Patti Griffin has a new CD coming out in February as does Lucinda Williams and surely Ryan Adams has at least one if not two or three in the offing. And maybe, there will be more new artists for me to explore.

My first live music show for the year is only two weeks away when Mary Gauthier and Steve Young take the stage at the Northcote Social Club. I’ll be sure to keep on rocking throughout the year even if 2007 is a significant year in my life as far as adding another decade to my age.

No comments: