Tag Archives: John Prine

2018 in Review: 15 Favorites

Happy New Year’s Eve, y’all! I’m clicking publish on this just before picking up my kids from daycare and heading to a neighbor’s house to send off 2018 in style. It was a really weird year. Good in lots of ways, bad in many other ways, but I’d argue that the music was truly excellent. Here’s one more list — the albums I loved that didn’t fit into the other categories (EPs, Jazz, Blasts from the Past, and RVA), ordered alphabetically. There’s even a quick list of other jams I enjoyed at the bottom.

Thank y’all wonderful people for sticking with this dusty old blog in 2018. Be safe out there tonight. See you in 2019.

Arctic Monkeys — Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

File this under “Things I didn’t know I needed…” If you would have come up to me and said, “One of the bands you like is going to make a completely sincere album about a space casino,” I’m not sure how I would have reacted, or if I would have guessed Arctic Monkeys were the band. Then again, you could argue that the seeds for Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino were planted in the making of A.M., in which Alex Turner found a new and uniquely convincing narrative voice as a chronicler of messy late night interactions. That’s what makes Tranquility Base work so well: It doesn’t sound like Turner is acting, even though it couldn’t be clearer (ahem, space casino) that what he’s singing about is imaginary.

As a side note, I listened to this almost exclusively while on a non-imaginary trip to Las Vegas earlier this year. My first time there. Alex Turner was my spirit guide. Like I said, “Things I didn’t know I needed…”

Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy

This year’s winner for Difficult Album Categorization. It’s not a reissue, since the songs have been rerecorded, but the original Twin Fantasy was released all the way back in 2011, so this doesn’t exactly feel like a new album. In the end, none of that matters, because there’s power baked into these songs, their themes, and their memorable melodies that transcends how they’re presented. And I genuinely enjoy how Will Toledo forces you to examine your assumptions about whether recording a song means it’s “finished.”

Honorable mention for difficult album categorization goes to Ryley Walker’s excellent rework of Dave Matthews Band’s Lillywhite Sessions, which were never actually released, making Walker’s album the first official Lillywhite release? I guess?

Phil Cook — People Are My Drug

This album has all of spiritual buoyancy of Cook’s Southland Mission album, and it arrived at a time when his brand of relentless optimism is needed most. I’ll never forget giving it a spin when my faith in humanity was especially low, after a creepy encounter I had while canvassing here in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District for Abigail Spanberger. I got home, put this on, made a pot of chili, and the world felt right again. Well, almost as right as it did when Spanberger won 🙂

Jonny Greenwood — Phantom Thread OST

Cooking with mushrooms will never be the same in the Jones household. Not sure what I mean? See the movie, and then try to cook with mushrooms while this soundtrack is playing in the background and not get creeped out. It’s impossible.

Lonnie Holley — MITH

Holley is a true original. I’ll never forget how his 2017 show at the Broadberry was staged — Holley on keys and two cellos. Tons of improvisation. It was wild. I follow him on Instagram, and I still haven’t seen that arrangement repeated. I was ready for anything when MITH came out, and while there’s still a wildness to the way Holley delivers his songs, there’s a sharp thematic focus to the album, with “I Woke Up In A Fucked-Up America” leading the way.

As a side note, this made the Bitter Southerner’s Best Southern albums of 2018 list, and I loved the way Chuck Reece’s podcast explored “I Snuck Off The Slave Ship.”

Jump Little Children — Sparrow

Off Your Radar readers know about my love for Jump Little Children. I was so thrilled to see the band had gotten back together and recorded a new set of songs, but given how much time had passed, I was cautious in terms of my optimism. Lead single “Hand On My Heartache” was a great start, though — and a big hit in the Jones household, given that my daughter loved it right away — and the rest of Sparrow ended up following suit. We’ve listened a bunch as a family, which I love because of how I first learned about the band from my older sister.

I had a really hard time picking a song to feature for this one, because so many of these songs demonstrate what’s been great about Jump Little Children all along. I ended up going with the title track, which opens the album with a nice balance of quiet moments and anthemic builds.

Adrianne Lenker — abysskiss

I fell hard for “cradle,” which I first heard while on a trip to Maine with my family. It seems so fitting in retrospect, and not just because I listened to the song while I was literally putting together a Pack ‘n Play. There’s such a wonderful sense of intimacy to the album. Even when Lenker is singing “No one can be my man/No one can be my woman,” the closeness of her voice makes you feel like you’re on the inside of some warm, small space that she’s constructed with her words and arpeggiated chords. I love spinning the album at home and feeling grateful for the warm, small space in the world my wife and I have constructed together.

Buck Meek — Buck Meek

The two brilliant Big Thief solo albums are back-to back alphabetically! How perfect is it that? Meek is Big Thief’s guitarist, and I love his approach — restless and inventive, not unlike Blake Mills’. I even hear some of the same guitar tones. Meek’s lyrics are just as gripping. I could go on and on about “Joe By The Book.” Who knows how many times I’ve listened to it. It doesn’t even cross the two-minute mark, but it’s a study in how details enrich lyrics, with colloquialisms like “Who’d you fool to borrow this race car?” and “You should get paid to waste my time” that feel so true-to-life that I wonder if they’re one side of a real phone conversation. Either that or the most economical short story I’ve heard since “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Blake Mills — Look

Speaking of Blake Mills and restlessness… Look came out later in the year (I’m actually still waiting for my online order for a vinyl copy to be fulfilled), and I’m still getting to know it. But I love how Mills is constantly looking for new muses — in this case it’s Japanese guitar synthesizers from the 1970s. According to an interview I read, Look is a document of Mills’ learning to use them — like a sketchbook kept by an artist mastering a new technique. Yet Look sounds like mastery to me, and I envision spending a ton more time with it.

Mountain Man — Magic Ship

This one has been within the vicinity of my record player since it came in the mail. In all seriousness, I don’t think it’s left that room. I’ve reached for it in so many situations: Cooking dinner, first waking up on the weekend and making coffee, during chaotic kid dinners. It pairs with solitude and serious contemplation just as well as it accompanies lighthearted moments of communion. Can’t wait to see Mountain Man at Capital Ale House in the coming year. Get your tickets here if you haven’t already.

John Prine — The Tree of Forgiveness

Much of what I said about Both Directions at Once in my jazz post applies here as well, since this is Prine’s first album of original material since I started getting to know his music. But I’m inclined to think this contains some true all-timers. “Summer’s End” packs an incredible emotional punch and reminds me a little of the power of “Hello in There,” and “When I Get to Heaven” offers a beautiful example of Prine’s benevolently dark humor.

RosalĂ­a — El Mal Querer

Hypnotic spareness. Arresting, beautifully ornamental singing that lays bare the link between cante flamenco and musical traditions rooted farther east. Production from the brilliant El Guincho, who shows as much of a knack for listening here as for building out rhythm and atmosphere. Add in a track that incorporates the melody from “Cry Me A River” and you have an unreasonably generous feast for the ears, especially if you’re interested in the interconnectedness of styles from around the world.

Jeff Tweedy — WARM

I guess I never really stopped to think about the opaqueness of Wilco’s lyrics. There’s always been so much to dig into musically, especially since Nels Cline joined the band and became a focal point unto himself (one of the reasons I love Sky Blue Sky). But this whole narrative about how the lyrics on WARM are direct in a way Tweedy’s haven’t been in the past — I totally buy it. It really does feel like a refreshing creative left turn, and I feel like I understand him a little better after listening to WARM. That’s pretty incredible, given how much time I’ve spent with his work over the past decade or so.

Brocker Way — Wild Wild Country OST

I loved Wild Wild Country, and I especially loved the way it used Bill Callahan’s “Drover” in the series’ climactic scene. In that moment, the lyrics of “Drover” bring the show’s dark and complicated narrative full-circle, and the show brings out shading in the lyrics that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. When I first saw this album at Small Friend Records & Books, I thought it would be more of a soundtrack, with songs like “Drover” included, but this is the original score, which was done by Brocker Way, brother of the creators of Wild Wild Country. When I saw it had been pressed to maroon vinyl, I had to snag it. I’m glad I did, because it’s haunting in really interesting ways — controversially so.

As a side note, you’ll see an honorable mention below for Callahan’s Live at Third Man Records album, which (coincidentally?) includes a version of “Drover.” Did I mention the song is where the show got its name?

Thom Yorke — Suspiria OST

Creepy, pretty, and perfectly suited for pumpkin carving. Thom Yorke’s first foray into the world of film scoring. Really impressive. Looking forward to hearing more from him in this format.

10 more 2018 albums I enjoyed:

Nathan Bowles — Plainly Mistaken
Bill Callahan — Live at Third Man Records
Father John Misty — God’s Favorite Customer
Mary Lattimore — Hundreds of Days
Lindi Ortega — Liberty
Screaming Females — All at Once
Shovels & Rope — Busted Jukebox Volume 2
Ryley Walker — The Lillywhite Sessions
Wilco — Live At The Troubadour L.A. 1996
Neil Young: Roxy — Tonight’s the Night Live

More 2018 in Review:

2018 in Review: EPs
2018 in Review: Jazz
2018 in Review: Blasts from the Past
2018 in Review: RVA Part 1

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Sid Kingsley

Think about one of your favorite singers, and try to remember the very first time you heard him or her sing. Did it stop you in your tracks? Did you look around the room, like “What the hell is happening right now?”

That was my experience hearing Sid Kingsley for the first time. Listening through Good Way Home on its release day back in May was an uncanny experience, both because of the jolt I got from his voice and because the album includes covers of songs by artists who are near and dear to my heart. A new favorite vocalist. New versions of favorite songs. It was such a trip…

…which made having the opportunity to sit down with Kingsley and interview him for River City Magazine even more of a trip. We chatted on the patio outside Cary Street CafĂ©, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I did nerd out and bring my vinyl copy of Good Way Home for him to sign. He did so graciously, and the article that resulted from our conversation hit the interweb this week. Click here to check it out, and click here to see where you can snag a physical copy of the magazine.

Want to know what’s really crazy? The uncanny experiences with Good Way Home haven’t stopped. I’m seeing two concerts in the next two nights, and Kingsley’s album features versions of songs either written or made famous by both of them: “Moonshiner,” a traditional tune previously recorded by Bob Dylan, and “Sam Stone,” by John Prine. Both are embedded below.

If you haven’t heard Good Way Home yet, you’re in for a treat. Maybe you’ll even have your own “What the hell is happening right now?” moment.

Sid Kingsley — “Moonshiner” [Spotify/iTunes]

Sid Kingsley — “Sam Stone” [Spotify/iTunes]

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2016 in Review: Blasts from the Past

Easing into the numbered lists with Blasts from the Past — the reissues and archival releases I had the most fun with this year.

1. John Prine — In Spite of Ourselves

john-prine

I once found myself outside a recording studio talking to a very large and friendly stranger about how much we both loved “In Spite Of Ourselves,” trading the verses we could remember off the tops of our heads and laughing hysterically. The power of John Prine’s songwriting, y’all. I think about that dude every time I hear the song. I think about you too, Mrs. YHT, just [adjusts collar nervously] not just you. I’m going to stop typing about this now.

John Prine — “In Spite Of Ourselves” [Spotify/iTunes]

2. Allen Toussaint — Live In Philadelphia 1975

Allen Toussaint

The Last Waltz introduced me to Allen Toussaint The Arranger, and Matthew E. White’s interviews and Spotify listening feed helped me get to know Allen Toussaint The Influence, but I hadn’t really met Allen Toussaint The Performer until Record Store Day, when this live set was reissued. Predictably, that part of his personality is like the other parts — charming, entertaining, and close enough to flawless that you find yourself wondering if he ever makes mistakes. (Just a few months later, when I grabbed a copy of American Tunes while in Chicago for a wedding, I got to meet Allen Toussaint The Technician-Historian — he’s pretty great, too.)

Allen Toussaint — “Last Train” (live) [Discogs]

3. Gillian Welch — Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg

gillian-welch

If you buy into the Gillian-Welch-as-self-styled-Southern-person narrative, you’d probably call this album evidence of a crucial turning point in her persona definition. I tend to think we’re all constructs of the people we want to be, with varying degrees of consciousness about the whole deal. Having grown up in Norfolk — large military presence, friends’ families moving away and moving back, not all that rednecky but right near the North Carolina border — I understand how it feels to embrace Southern-ness consciously, selectively, and gradually, and I tend to feel a little defensive when people talk/write about her origin story. It’s weird, and I can’t tell whether I like this Boots album because of or in spite of that defensiveness. Probably a little of both.

Gillian Welch — “Dry Town” (demo) [Spotify/iTunes]

4. Various — Why the Mountains Are Black – Primeval Greek Village Music: 1907-1960

why-the-mountains-are-black

Spooky tunes compiled and analyzed by legendary 78’s collector Chris King? Check. Cover art by R. Crumb? Check. Release party at Steady Sounds with King spinning 78’s from the second floor? Check. Something to play whenever we want to make Greek food and/or remember our trip there? Check.

Kalamatianos” (“Dance of Kalamata”) [Spotify/iTunes]

5. Jack White — Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016

jack-white

[knock, knock, knock] “Hi, I’m here for the alternate version of ‘Carolina Drama,’ and I’m not leaving until I understand the critical plot points.”

Jack White — “Carolina Drama (Acoustic Mix)” [Spotify/iTunes]

BONUS: Bob Dylan — The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert

bob-dylan

I hadn’t planned on buying this, but that giant 1966 box set has been looking more interesting by the day, and a used copy popped up on BK Music’s Instagram feed. I figure this’ll keep the box set at bay. For now.

Bob Dylan — “Tell Me, Momma” (live) [Spotify/iTunes]

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Friday News and Notes

tiger-panda-fairy

Happy Halloweekend, y’all! Pictured above is Toddler YHT is dressed as your classic tiger-panda-fairy hybrid. Can’t wait for trick or treating. Until then…

I’m off to have a semi-serious conversation with Mrs.YHT about whether we should do the Jimmy Kimmel thing where you pretend you ate all your kid’s candy and videotape the reaction. I’m not that mean… am I?

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Friday News and Notes

bon-iver

A few news and notes to complement your Friday…

  • Holy hell, is this a good release day. Bon Iver. Jenny Hval. Bob Weir. The Truckers. John Prine. Kind of freaking out a little bit.
  • And holy hell, are there some good First Listens up right now. Shovels & Rope. Conor Oberst. Brent Cobb. Helado Negro. Hot damn.
  • Wanna see Okkervil River do its new and very good album with the orchestra that helped record said album? Here ya go!
  • Wanna see three dudes play Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on melodicas? Here ya go!
  • Did y’all see about the Dylan box set coming out soon that’s 36 discs, all with The Band backing him up? Hey Mrs. YHT, there’s this holiday called Christmas, and while its true meaning was lost long ago, I hear people buy other people cool shit around that time…

I hope everyone has a fun weekend ahead. The band is recording all day tomorrow at Audio Verite with Pedro Aida. Trying to get three songs done. Fingers crossed…

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Friday News and Notes

Heart

That’s a heart-shaped leaf I found on the sidewalk, because I love all you weirdos. And these are Friday News and Notes!

  • Congrats to Adam Henceroth — Mr. EggHunt Records himself — on this great Style Weekly profile. EggHunt is on one hell of a winning streak, and the albums they’re putting out are serious points of pride for this city. Adam is also just a very friendly person, so it’s nice seeing him get this kind of recognition. Applause emojis all around.
  • Anyone else think this fairly snazzy new Britney Spears song would sound right at home on The 20/20 Experience? Is that you I hear, Timbaland? And can someone tell me why I have to look up the spelling of Britney Spears’ first name every time I type it?
  • Really wish I would have found out about this Durand Jones & The Indications album before it’s resell price got up to $75…
  • Y’all see that they just pressed John Prine’s In Spite Of Ourselves to vinyl for the first time? Feel very fortunate to have snagged a copy at BK. It’s a fantastic album of duets, and the title song might be my favorite song of his.
  • I’m enjoying the hell out of next week’s Off Your Radar album, Dear Bo Jackson by The Weeks. Not sure what I’m going to say about it, but it’s definitely getting filed under “How on Earth did I miss this?” Southern rocky, soulful, horns, pedal steel — like shooting fish in my musical preferences barrel.
  • Just bought a bunch of concert tickets I’d been meaning to get. Car Seat Headrest and Mountain Goats are coming to the National on consecutive Mondays — that’s going to be a fun week. And Drive-By Truckers just went on sale today, and I grabbed a couple for the Friday show. That Thursday show is pretty tempting as well, though. Hm.
  • Did y’all know that video killed the radio star?

Hope a great weekend awaits each and every one of you, and that random heart-shaped things pop out at you wherever you look.

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Friday News and Notes

Baketball gif

Happy tournament y’all! Crazy first day of games. Early exits for Baylor, Arizona, and Purdue… should be a fun weekend. Until then, a few news and notes:

Whether you’re out and about or glued to the TV like I’ll be, I hope your weekend is a [dribbles up to the basket and unleashes a 360-degree windmill jam] slam drunk. [Winks]

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