We all get to an age when we start to lose our peers. It is hard enough to lose our grandparents, then our parents’ generation, but mortality hits like a load a bricks when the Man Comes Around for men and women who share our timeline. Brandon Jenkins (6/7/69 – 3/2/18) is one. I got to know him a bit when a friend and I helped update his Wikipedia entry a couple years ago–wiki editors are vicious and petty and a force to be reckoned with, but with some help from another Twitter friend we made sure the Red Dirt Legend was recognized… and then a visit to the doctor, heart surgery, and the Legend passed on. “Be the Revival” from Brandon Jenkin’s February release Tail Lights in a Boomtown became his benediction and my most played track of 2018.
Nancy K. Dillon is a singer-songwriter who I played on the radio when I did the DJ thing at KRFC-FM back in the day. She has a knack for capturing story and place as an essential character in her stories. The legend of the Dutchman’s Gold is, well, legendary, and she tells the tale well on that song and others on her album A Game of Swans. I should have written it up earlier this year, because it was my most scrobbled album of 2018.
Brandon Jenkins was a close 2nd with Tail Lights in a Boomtown. Steep Canyon Rangers Out in the Open, Calexico’s The Thread That Keeps Us and The Wood Brothers’ One Drop of Truth clustered together on my mental radar and Spotify playlists. Something about the vibe. Caitlin Canty returned to my Top 10 lists with Motel Bouquet, while Sunny Sweeney’s Trophy and Lee Ann Womack’s The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone grew stronger their Sophomore year. Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains and perennial favorite Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams’ Hard Core Broken Heart were late year releases that rocketed to the top of my personal play charts–go find them, get them, listen to them.
We tend to reminisce about an artist’s catalog when they pass away. Jed Marum is another folk artist I played a lot on KRFC, and the last couple years friended on Facebook. We weren’t buddies by any means but, somewhat like Brandon Jenkins, I felt a social connection through social media. Jed passed away unexpectedly 2 May 2018 at age 65. With these passings, I got to thinking about Willie Nelson, with his release Last Man Standing. Which he is, more or less. Johnny is gone. Merle is gone. Willie survives, so I streamed a bunch of his back catalog just because. And Brandon Jenkins. And Johnny Cash. And Jed Marum. Rest in peace.
As I’ve noted previously, I had high expectations for Americana music last year, as I do this year. While I’m hard on the genre, it’s only because I know we can do better. We did see (hear) a LOT of good music released in 2018, maybe as good as 2017. And darn near anything on the AMA Radio chart was better than anything you’re gonna hear on commercial “country” radio. So go find some good music. Stream it. Live Show it. Buy it. Live it while you can.