Show Post: In House #1524
We continue our look at the musical year that was, 2005, today as we rundown our top five releases in the roots/Americana/alt-country genre. Just to explain, traditionally we've always set aside a seperate top five for this category, not because the selections can't compete with tomorrow's top five of the year selections, but because it's really a case of apples and oranges. In any case, it was a very strong year for albums that twanged. We can't necessarily claim that these were the "best" five, but they were the five that we most enjoyed over the course of the year.
5- The Knitters: The Modern Sounds of the Knitters (Zoe)
Yeah, not at all a bad return after 19 years. The original country side off-shoot of the Los Angeles punk band X picked up where they left off long ago and then some. The Knitters circa 2005 are just that much better, particularly John Doe and Dave Alvin, delivering a set of new songs and covers of themselves and others (including "Born to Be Wild").
4- Laura Cantrell: Humming By the Flowered Vine (Matador)
Another fine batch of songs from the New York City-based alt-country songstress found her, somewhat surprisingly, on Matador records. Perhaps it was this switch that led to a few new, less pure country sounds from Cantrell on the album, particularly on the opening track, "14th Street," probably the most pop sounding song Cantrell has ever recorded. Lest we fear she's losing her twang, elsewhere she tackles a Lucinda Williams cover as well as the traditional "Poor Ellen Smith."
(MP3) "14th Street"
3- Son Volt: Okemah & the Melody of Riot (Transmit/ Sony)
While it wasn't the original Son Volt-- in fact, it was entirely new one with the obvious exception of frontman Jay Farrar-- one of the more exciting musical developments of the year was the reignition of one of the best alt-country band of the late nineties. This time around, it was a somewhat unexpectedly more muscular and politically-minded Son Volt, with Farrar taking George W. Bush to task in the less than subtle "Jet Pilot", among other places. Despite the axe to grind, it all works well, and shows that the legacy of Uncle Tupelo lives on in more than one circle.
2- Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Come On Back (Rounder)
This just sounded like a great idea, and I must confess that there's probably been a spot reserved here for this album since the day of its release last summer. Gilmore tackled the classics for this one, specifically music introduced to him by his father while he was growing up. As such, the album plays not only like an homage to the classic country era of Hank Williams, Hank Snow and the like, but also to the spirit of Gilmore's late father. Imminently relistenable.
1- Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Jacksonville City Nights
Adams and his newly-formed band could easily have had two entries in the top five, considering the sprawling excellence of the Cold Roses double-album. Nevertheless, Jacksonville City Nights is the slightly darker, more honky-tonk of the two, and as such probably the album that Whiskeytown fans had been patiently waiting for Adams to release through all of his frustrating rock star poses. That's important, because it means that, at least for now, Adams is back to doing what he does best. It means that, for a change, Adams is in the news because he's put out a great album.
(MP3) "The Hardest Part"
In House #1524.
Focus: Best of 2005: The Roots/Americana/Alt-Country Top Five.
Last Year's Roots/Americana Top Five
In House PODCAST #37