Albums I Should Have Bought in 2013 – The Year of the Honky Tonk

Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams

This was the year I came home to the Front Range music scene. ¬†I went out‚ÄĒas much as my new job and my middle age preference for napping permitted‚ÄĒto see live music. ¬†I went out to see Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams in LaPorte and Bearfoot and Jalan Crossland and others in Fort Collins. ¬†I went out to see Alan Jackson (and should have seen Dwight Yoakam) at Frontier Days here in Cheyenne. ¬†And I meant to go the the first (and sadly may be the only) Rutsfest between the two burgs.

The trade-off was I cut back on my physical music purchases away from the shows.  I brought home some good swag, but I resisted the many good new releases this year. Such is life.

Some might blame the growing availability of “free” streaming media. ¬†I did fall in like with Spotify this year, after a decade of on-and-off streaming at Last.fm. ¬†And then there’s the Wild Wild West of YouTube. ¬†Maybe the youngsters see streaming as a substitute for owning. ¬†Maybe. ¬†I treat it like radio. ¬†Radio I can program myself. ¬†Maybe a mix-tape. ¬†Usually background noise.

I also feel like streaming media‚ÄĒlike good radio‚ÄĒgets bands noticed, gets them on our radar. ¬†I feel like I’m much more likely to fall in love with music narrowcasting online than I was in the “good old days” of Album Oriented Radio. ¬†And I want to fall in love with music before I go and buy it.

But that’s me. ¬†Don’t go and build a business around “me”. ¬†As Kacey Musgraves so fabulously sang on TV this year, go follow YOUR arrow, wherever it leads. ¬†If you want the opinion of somebody’s who got paid to listen to this stuff, check out the Entertainment Weekly list here.¬† In no particular order:

Jason Isbell – Southeastern [Explicit]

While I’m a long-time Drive-by Truckers fan, I’ve been slow to warm up to Jason Isbell as a solo artist. ¬†While not cut for radio, this album is worth the buy on the strength of the emotional Elephant alone. ¬†Just wow. ¬†This is grown-up stuff. ¬†I expect good things forthcoming, especially with his new bride Amanda Shires.

Holly Williams – The Highway

My sister suggested I check out Holly Williams a couple releases ago. ¬†Hank, of course, defines Country Music. ¬†Hank Jr defines the 2nd generation muddling thru between brilliance and bogus. ¬†Hank III defines what could have been. ¬†Where does that leave Ms Audrey’s granddaughter and Mr Isbell’s current tour-mate? ¬†Maybe what Country Music ought to be. ¬†If Holly Williams could be the future we would all live in a better sonic place.

Son Volt – Honky Tonk

Where Mr Isbell and Ms Williams make me feel my age, Jay Farrar is (along with Alison Krauss) more of a contemporary reminder of what I missed out on during college days back in Central Illinois. ¬†Oh, if I had only kept practicing my guitar instead of going to class… ¬†Whether solo or ensemble with Son Volt, I know I’m going to like what he does. ¬†Honky Tonk is a trippy take on Buck’s Bakersfield sound and the love shines through.

Audrey Auld – Tonk

The lovely¬†Mrs. Mezera takes a more straight-forward assault on Bakersfield, with her usual dose of Carter Family and Texas-Tasmania enthusiasm in the enterprise. ¬†Audrey’s music is music you can two-step to, dammit, and even as a Nashvillian now she’s not afraid to talk truth to Music Row.

Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams – Rocky Mountain Honky Tonk

Do you see a pattern here?  2013 IS the year of the Honky Tonk.  I almost got to another Halden Wofford show after their new album came out, but alas it has not yet been.  From what I have heard it is their usual alt.country gold.  This IS an album I will be picking up next time my truck points south across that Colorado line.

Vince Gill – Bakersfield

If your tastes lie less alt.country and more classic country, AM-radio that could be Buck Owens’ ghost, or Merle Haggard in his prime, Vince Gill delivers. ¬†Again, from what I’ve heard, its a fun little album, well worth your time.

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon

Two of my favorite artists, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell never fail to deliver. ¬†I wish I had spent some time with this album this year. ¬†I didn’t. ¬†My bad. ¬†Maybe the Americana Grammy in 2014 will actually go to Americana artists.

Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park

Its nice to see one of our own make the big time and Kacey Musgraves done that in spades this year. ¬†I want to get all bent out of shape about her more libertarian, I’m-OK-you’re-OK message, but you know what? I never let it bother me with good old rock ‘n roll and I’ll get over it again. ¬†Good writing. ¬†Good singing.

Good gracious there’s some good music out there if I would get off my duff and go buy it this year. ¬†These are just the tip of the Americana iceberg and there’s plenty more where they came from. ¬†And that, my friends, is something to celebrate with a Happy New Year.


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