The Best Songs of 2013 January - March Edition: Lone Bellow, Son Volt, Harris/Crowell, Sexsmith

Just a few favorites from the first three months of 2013...
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My wife and I recently moved out to the country, or the sticks as we like to call it.  We were previously living in a tiny town in West Tennessee, but apparently that was too big for us.  At least it had a little grocery store and some fast food joints.  We're now fifteen miles from the nearest...well anything.  I'm not really a country boy at all.  I didn't like living where we were and now we're even farther out in the middle of nowhere.  I won't say I'm a city boy either, but I do like to live somewhere close to civilization. I grew up about 20 miles from Tulsa, Oklahoma and that was just about perfect.  Not so close that you had to deal with it everyday but close enough that you could easily run into the city and find interesting things to do.

But I'm not complaining.  Not too much anyways.  It really is kind of nice out here.  The dog loves it. He spends his days running wild, chasing squirrels and digging up thousands of holes in our yard looking for moles.  The daughter loves it too, and I love that she's nowhere near a steady stream of traffic so that I don't have to fear for her life every time I open the door.  We've got a nice yard and a gorgeous view off the front portch with a glorious sunset every evening.

Those things make the half hour journey into town to get the gallon of milk I forgot to get the last time I was in worth it.  For the most part anyways.

As a stay-at-home dad I try to limit my ventures into town as to not burn anymore gas than I have to, but the wife goes in everyday for work.  It is a good little ride and I've decided what she needs to pep up her drive is some good music.  My intentions are to make her a playlist every month consisting of the best music from the previous month on it.  I meant to start at the begining of the year but here it is April 4 and I'm just getting going.  Truth be told January had suck-all in terms of interesting music.  I'm pretty sure it always does as the labels figure we're all burnt out from Christmas spending.  Februrary did better but the month got away from me and I never found time to write about it.  So here we are.  I won't say this is the best music from the last three months as I've not had time to listen to it all, but it is music that I like, or at least found interesting.

"She Does My Heart Good" by Ron Sexsmith

From the album Forever Endeavor

I first heard of Sexsmith when he opened for Lucinda Williams at a concert several years back.  I liked him alright  but I was too ansty to hear Lucinda to pay him much attention at that moment, or any moments sense.  The old brain cells remembered him when I saw this album on the virtual shelves and I decided to check him out.  I'm glad I did. Forever Endevor is filled with these lovely laid back pop ditties.  "She Does My Heart Good" is catchy, sweet and crisp.  Its full of head-bopping melodies and a surprising number of instruments.

"Desfado" by Ana Moura

From the album Desfado

I know crap-all about Portugese music. So much so in fact that I initially thought this was Spanish music and even wrote a paragraph about how the only thing I know about Spanish music is what I hear at the local Mexican restaurant.  Then I looked up Ana Moura on Wikipedia and felt embarrassed for myself.  If this is what Portuguese music is like I think I need to school myself.  If American pop music was half this delicious record companies could stop complaining about poor record sales and buy themselves all new yachts.

emmylou_rodney-600-1361207171.jpg"Hanging Up My Heart" by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell

From the album Old Yellow Moon

I've always said that Emmylou makes better music as a duo than as a solo artist and she doesn't prove me wrong here.  Her and Mr. Crowell throw a torch on the last couple of decades of country music and have made a wonderfully classic bit of country and western tuneage.  "Hanging Up My Heart" is writes the book on makes a great coutry song: broken heart lyrics, big acoustic two-step music (complete with steel guitar of course) and gorgeous vocals with just a hint of twang.


"Seawall" by Son Volt

From the album Honky Tonk

I am definitely on the Jeff Tweedy side of the Uncle Tupelo break-up.  Preferring the constantly musically morphing of Tweedy's Wilco over the tried and true alt-country machinations of Jay Farrar's Son Volt I've not really paid much attention to what they've done over the last couple of decades.  Honky Tonk doesn't necessarily make me regret that decision but its kind of nice that at least someone is playing old fashioned barroom country with some modern twists.  "Seawall" is the kind of song you'd hear at an old broken down bar in rural Arkansas when the bartender is trying to break up a beer-fueled brawl.  Its got that road warn sadness to it that would make even the hardest of rednecks put down their knives, grab another beer and hang on to their old lady for dear life.

"You Never Need Nobody" by the Lone Bellow

From the album The Lone Bellow

I'm a sucker for rich harmonies.  The blending of multiple voices into a colorful weave of gorgeousness just knocks me out.  "You Never Need Nobody" lays me down, fluffs my pillow, covers me with the big comforter, and tucks me in for the long count. Gorgeous just doesn't do it justice. Its the type of song that makes me give up on ever learning to play music because I'll never do it this well.

"Waitress" by Boy

From the album Mutual Friends

White fluffy cloud indie rock that sticks in my head for days and days. And days.

61eiLGsEkSL._SY520_.jpg"Let the Groove Get In" by Justin Timberlake

From the album The 20/20 Experience

Its seems weird to me to admit but I kind of dig what Timberlake has done with his career post N'Sync.  Unlike so many of his boy band compatriots Timberlake has remained in the spotlight by pushing away from the cookie cutter, made-for-the-masses music of his youth, creating interesting, even mature (but still very danceable) albums, and even reinventing himself as a very decent actor. And the boys got style too.  "Let the Groove Get In" is big booty-shaking, let your sweat mingle with your partners, down and dirty groove.  Its more than too, as it doesn't just get you moving for a couple of minutes and then let you find something else.  No at just over 7 minutes in length it wants to be more than just another inst-o-matic pop hit but throws down a long slinky groove just as other songs are packing it in.  I won't say I love everything Timberlake has made, I won't even say the vast majority of it is really my thing, but I will let you throw this in as often as you like and I won't even care when the ladies giggle as this fat white boy with no rhythm lets it all out.

"Bird on the Wire" by Madeline Peyroux

From the ablum The Blue Room

Peyroux's French tinged Billie Holiday vocals take Leonard Cohen's prayer for redemption make it more fragile and more beautiful than one would think possible. Her delivery is so delicate, so languid you'd think they were the last words of a dying swan. 

"We Don't Call" by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

From the album We the Common

Hippie dippy trip folk with blistering horns and groove that makes me want to smoke a bowl and save the world. 

"Ohm" by Yo La Tengo

From the ablum Fade

For some reason I always thing Yo La Tengo is a rap group (its probably some connection between the Yo in their name and memories of Yo! MTV Raps.) The fact that they are an indie rock group of New Jersey only serves to complete my embarrassment.  "Ohm" is amped up feedback jams served as the backdrop to extended meditation for the vegan crowd.  Oh and it rocks too.

mumford-and-sons-grammys-650-4303.jpg"I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons

From the album Babel

The anthem of the year.  Possibly the decade.  Mumord & Sons make giant, colossal, meant for stadiums rock and roll like U2 used to.  The fact that they do so with acoustic instruments makes it all the better.  That they write lyrics fully of depth and breadth and that you can sing at the top of your lungs and mean every word makes them one of the best bands making music today.  I dare you to listen to this and not feel better about yourself.