Thursday, December 29, 2011


It’s okay to cheat on my own blog, yes?

It’s end of year review time. I have to say I love the music-related “best ofs” that appear on so many outlets, off and online.

So – and here’s the cheating part – my top ten CDs of the year include two I don’t have in my collection but whose tracks I’ve listened to a lot thanks to the Internet. The “cheating” selections are Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me” and the Israel Nash Gripka offering “Barn Doors And Concrete Floors.”

Each of these albums is rewarding and hugely satisfying.

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Gillian Welch – The Harrow and The Harvest

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

Dave Alvin – Eleven Eleven

Richmond Fontaine – The High Country

Israel Nash Gripka – Barn Doors And Concrete Floors

Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire

Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

Bubbling under Wilco with “The Whole Love,” Jonathan Wilson’s “Gentle Spirit” and, surprised myself with this one, the Elbow offering “Build A Rocket Boys.”

No cheating, however, when it comes to my top gigs of 2011 as I did attend them all, enjoying the glorious music while enduring the crowd talkers, grotty loos, venues where starting times are state secrets, and the antiseptic air of the all-seated, posh places.

If all these acts had been playing a second night, I’d have gone again, happily.


Gillian Welch/David Rawlings, The Armadillo
“Each and every one of their 22 songs was a highly polished, meaningful gem, delivered with poise, passion and delicious contentment.”

Israel Nash Gripka, Stereo
“A sweaty, barnstorming gig, bang on the money if you like roots rock hewn from musical goldmines where The Stones, Son Volt, Ryan Adams and even Crosby Stills and Nash have dug successfully.”

Band of Heathens, Classic Grand
“…utterly compelling as the Texans played song after song in an unfussy, but gripping manner.”

John Grant, St Andrew in the Square
“…an emotional, heart-warming performance with shards of black humour slicing through his sadness.”

Phosphorescent, Stereo
“ a band that blends the robust and the tender, and makes its audience smile all the way through, a real trick of the trade.”
David Olney/Sergio Webb, Laurie’s Bar
“…a magic gig that lasted over two hours. Another two would have had us equally entranced.”

Richmond Fontaine, Stereo
Gleefully and mercilessly intent on setting song moods to manic mode in many cases, RF retain an endearing ability to be rockers, hushed raconteurs and first-class Americana roots’ exponents.

Steve Earle, The Academy
“Leaving an Earle gig is always a bit of a wrench…never do you come away other than satisfied – and gratified that you get a masterclass each time.”

Giant Sand, 02 ABC2
“A shortage of great tracks is not a problem for dust-blown Gelb who can deliver them in any manner he chooses..”

Wilco, The Royal Concert Hall
“….truly on fire offering up a joyous mixture of wailing wig outs and dreamy, heartfelt mellowness.”

All live review snippets penned by me and available in full on the excellent americana-uk website.


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