Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Album picks

2012 brought us a lot of great music that we'll enjoy into the new year as well as anticipating what is to come.  We wanted to take a moment to look back at some of our favorite rockabilly, surf, roots, blues and just great vintage sounding releases.  They're in alphabetical order as it would be hard to arrange them otherwise.

The Beach Boys- That's Why God Made The Radio
There was a certain amount of mixed anticipation and nervousness in waiting to hear this project.  Admittedly, after being a fan for so many years, expectations were high for this one.  When you have an album like Pet Sounds in your catalog, there is always high expectations.  Literally within the first few seconds of the majestic opener "Think About The Days", all nervous feelings were gone.  Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and company have created one fantastic sounding project.  The title cut and "Isn't It Time" showed they still can create great pop sounding tunes while the trio of songs ending the project ("From There To Back Again", "Pacific Coast Highway" and "Summer's Gone") show they haven't lost an artistic sense about them.  The vocals are lush and the lyrics are as vivid as they've ever been.  Listening to Mike Love's "Daybreak Over The Ocean" will transport you immediately to some beach hideaway.  Don't make the mistake in thinking their best music is from the past.  Pick this one up today!!

Dion- Tank Full Of Blues
You can get more behind the scenes info on Dion and the release from our interview last year HERE.  Needless to say, I understand him when he says he feels more relevant now than ever.  I watched as hip radio stations added tunes from this project and brought attention to an artist that has never stopped reinventing himself.  A favorite from this project is his fictitious account of driving Robert Johnson to the Crossroads in "Ride's Blues".  His lyrics are as sharp as his guitar playing throughout the project.  Rolling Stone magazine even blushed over his "I Read It (In The Rolling Stone)" causing them to make this one of their weekly picks not to miss.  

The Explorers Club- Grand Hotel
How many times have we either said or heard the expression, "they just don't do music like they used to before"?  We usually mean we miss the vocal harmonies and interesting music melodies.  If you're looking for a fresh approach to the great sounds of the 60's, then The Explorers Club is your answer.  Fans of The Beach Boys, Dave Clark 5, Burt Bacharach and so many of the great sounds from the past will love this album!  Their tight vocal harmonies shine through on the first single, "Run Run Run".  "Anticipatin'", "Go For You" and "I've Been Waiting" are more highlights.  I can't recommend them enough!

Wanda Jackson- Unfinished Business
Wanda's Jack White produced project last year was a reminder that she is still the Queen Of Rockabilly.  This album was produced by Justin Townes Earl (Steve Earl's son).  It has a bit more of an alt-country flair which really suites Wanda's style.  Her cover of the Freddy King classic "Tore Down" is a wonderful slow blues rocker.  The ballad "Am I Even A Memory" is a hauntingly beautiful classic.  Other highlights include "The Graveyard Shift", "Pushover", "It's All Over Now" and "California Stars".  Wanda still has it...and we're the better for it!

Los Straitjackets- Jet Set
Few (if anybody) can do energetic surf music like Los Straitjackets.  If you are a fan already, you're sure to love this latest offering from the boys.  If you're not a fan, this is a great place to start!  Highlights include the title cut, "Crime Scene", "Brooklyn Slide" and "Space Mosquito".  Now that Christmas is over, this will have you thinking of outdoor summer parties that will rock!  Crank this one up!!

J.D. McPherson- Signs & Signifiers
This was released originally in 2010 on Hi-Style Records but released to a bigger distribution by Rounder Records this year.  Read more with JD here and with producer and bass player Jimmy Sutton here.  They have created a sound that is equally fresh and vintage.  If you go see them in concert, you'll see a new generation looking hip in retro clothes ready to dance.  The band never disappoints either!  From the opening strains of "North Side Gal", this project takes you on a high energy journey that doesn't stop until the band hit's the last note of "Scandalous".  Conan, Leno and Letterman all had the fellas on their show this year making anticipation grow for new music hopefully in 2013.

Lee Rocker- Night Train To Memphis
The latest project from this Stray Cat really rocks!  The disc kicks off with the classic Johnny & Dorsey Burnette number "Rockabilly Boogie".  This one has to played loud!!  There is a lot of energy in this album.  "Slap The Bass", "Wild Child" and "Twenty Flight Rock" are blazing ball of rockabilly bliss!  The title cut sounds like a classic as well.  You'll find yourself singing this one often.  Pick up The Cover Sessions from him as well.

Jack White- Blunderbuss
Lot's of high expectations on projects this year.  Jack White created a buzz in releasing his first solo project after many releases with White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather.  I've always loved his not-so-obvious choices for cover songs.  "I'm Shakin'" is a great tune originally done by Little Willie John.  The Blasters also did a great cover later as well.  Jack's version keeps the energy level up and gives it an extra bit of punch.  He toured with 2 sets of bands this year.  One was all female and the other was all male.  This brought a different vibe with each show.  This is nominated for "Album Of The Year", "Best Rock Album" and "Best Rock Song" for "Freedom At 21" for the upcoming Grammy Awards. 

Mark W. Winchester- Upright
If you missed our recent interview, you can check it out HERE.  Mark slaps a bass guitar with passion that few can match.  Fans of Planet Rockers and Brian Setzer Orchestra will recognize Mark from being members of both.  His "Rooster Rock" first appeared on Setzer's 68 Comeback Special- Ignition album.  The version here is a bit more acoustic swing.  There is plenty of twang, rockabilly, swing and good ole rock and roll here to keep your speakers blaring!  Kenny Vaughan and Jimmy Lester round out the trio on this project.  This is roots rock at it's finest!!

ZZ Top- La Futura
This Rick Rubin produced set returns that little ol' band from Texas to their loud blues roots.  "I Gotsta Get Paid" is a unique rap cover that gives you all the dirty guitar sounds you've come to expect from this trio.  "Over You" is a slow grinding blues number that will remind you why you became a fan in the first place.  Many highlights on this album.  "Heartache In Blue", "I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose You", "Flyin' High" and more.  If you've not listened to them in a while, this one needs to be in your collection.  You'll become a fan all over again!