It is pretty much impossible to comprehend that 2015 is almost 1/2 way over. The year started a bit slow as we waited with bated breath for the release of the new Madonna album, and new releases from Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson, and Van Morrison, all mostly met with the sound of one hand clapping, and far from their best effort.
Songwriters turned solo artists have been prevalent so far with Chris Stapelton and Gretchen Peters coming out from behind their collective quills with two highly superlative records that should stand the test of time. Indie Icons My Morning Jacket released Waterfall, again not their best, but highly listenable, and just plain Icons The Waterboys are out with Modern Blues, one of the best records of the year so far.
The new Mumford and Sons is pretty much as expected, unlistenable, and the 2015 version of Whitesnake performing various selections from the David Coverdale era Deep Purple days is an unfortunate waste of vinyl.
So carry on my wayward sons and check out the top twenty below, according to the Falcon’s Nest that is, and make sure you scroll down to “and don’t sleep on” at the end of the list for a bunch more records that are worth your ear time that did not make our top twenty, but may be on yours.
Party on Garth!
20.) Chris Spedding – Joyland
The veteran session player, who has played with Roxy Music, Elton John, and Roxy Music delivers a more than solid set of noir tunes all by himself. Ian McShane makes a surprise cameo appearance on the title track.
19.) Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
A little more textured than their debut, the second time around still has the back of the barroom blast we have come to know and love. A pairing of the first two albums from these upstarts makes for about as solid a one two punch as you will find.
18.) Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey
This one is like that girlfriend you could never take home to mother. Sexy, tattoos in places that rarely see the sun, a bit crazy, and a hell of a lot of fun.
17.) Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune
Nothing short of a Texas national treasure. “Chick Singer, Badass Rockin'” is worth the price of admission alone.
16.) Fools Gold – Flying Lessons
You wouldn’t be straying too far from the sun if you made this one your anthem album of the summer. Bright, sunny, psychedelic in the best possible way, and disco tinged in just the right places. Look, listen, love.
15.) Palma Violets – Danger in the Club
Not quite as reckless as their debut, yet no less dangerous. This modern-day Garage Rock classic could have been a Pretty Things record circa 1968.
14.) Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
Sometimes talent just carries the day. The opening title cut on this one hits you between the ears with about one full minute of guitar mastery even before Ryley Walker songs a note in his Donovan by way of Nick Drake vocal style. This is one epic of a folk song, if there is such a thing. With influences ranging from British pastoral folk to Miles Davis and Cat Stevens, Primrose Green is about as refreshing an album as you will hear all year.
13.) Whitehorse – Leave No Bridge Unburned
Luke Doucett and Melissa Mclelland channel their inner Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, new millennium style.
12.) Black Star Riders – The Killer Instinct
Rising from the ashes of Thin Lizzy, this one might be the Rock album of the year.
11.) Rhett Miller – The Traveler
A sterling example of why the head honcho of The Old 97’s is one of the best front men in the business.
10.) Calexico – Eye of the Sun
Any record with Sam Beam, Band of Horses, and Neko Case helping out has got to be good. And this one is great.
09.) The Staves – If I Was
A sprinkling of Americana and Soft Rock seeps into the blue print here which is a little bit of a change from their maiden voyage, but fear not, the crystalline vocals of the sisters remain very much intact.
08.) Della Mae – Della Mae
One of the only all female Bluegrass bands you will find around. Don’t be afraid of a little banjo or Mandolin and immerse yourself in some refreshing new music.
07.) Noel Gallagher – Chasing Yesterday
Going back to his Brit Rock Roots, he even has a song that sounds strikingly similar to “Rock On'” Gallagher is at the top of his game.
06.) James McMurtry – Complicated Game
McMurtry is simply one of the best song writers in the game. His best effort since the stellar Just Us Kids, he continues to carry the torch for common people living complicated lives.
05.) Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds
She has written a ton of hit songs for others including Faith Hill’s “The Secret of Life” and “Independence Day” for Martina McBride. Stepping out on her own she shows signs of stardom in her own right. The song “Blackbirds” might be the Americana song of the year.
04. David Corley – Available Light
A years in the making overnight success Available Light resonates like an ill-gotten evening spent over-served in your favorite watering lamenting over loves lost, fortunes squandered, and lives over lived, all in a voice that sounds like it comes from the gutteral crossroads of Lou Reed and Tom Waits.
03. Chris Stapelton – Traveller
Riding on just the right side of the Country trail right there between Waylon Jennings and Dale Watson, the secret here is in the storytelling. This troubadour should be side by side with Sturgill Simpson and Jamey Johnson on your new school Outlaw Country Rolodex. Stepping out from behind his quill to strap on his guitar, just take one listen to “Tennessee Whiskey” and Chris Stapelton might just be become your new best friend.
02. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
A bit more diverse than 2012’s Fear Fun this time out the good father combines Pop, Americana, and Singer Songwriter with his Laurel Canyon vibe to create what might eventually be one of the best records of 2015.
01. Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands
Sailing on to exotic ports of call ranging from Jackson Browne, The Band, and 70’s vintage Beach Boys, four albums in Dawes has definitely hit their musical stride. Every tune is a study in song construction with the vocal mix from mostly Taylor Goldsmith front and center on a cloud of sublime guitar work that seems to come from the Dire Straits or J.J. Cale Songbook. The title cut “All Your Favorite Bands” could have been on the B side of “The Pretender,” and if there is any musical justice in this world, this one should be the song of the year for 2015.
And don’t sleep on:
21.) The Wateboys – Modern Blues
22.) The Lone Bellow – Then Came the Morning
23.) Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony
24.) Steve Earle – Terraplane
25.) Banditos – Banditos
26.) My Morning Jacket – Waterfall
27.) Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris – The traveling kind.
28.) Torres – Splinter
29.) Rose Windows – Rose Windows
30.) Paul Weller – Saturn Patterns
31.) Hollis Brown – 3 Shots
32.) Melody Gardot – Currency of Man
33.) Boz Scaggs – A Fool to Care
34.) Ryan Bingham – Fear & Saturday Night
35.) The Dunwells – Lucky Ones
36.) Blackberry Smoke – Holding All the Roses
37.) Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch
38.) John Moreland – High on Tulsa
39.) Jesse Malin – New York Before the War
40.) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
41.) Ron Sexsmith – Carousel Love
42.) William Eliot Whitmore – Radium Death
43.) The Minus 5 – Dungeon Golds
44.) Gil Landes – Gil Landes
45.) Jose Gonzales – Vestiges and Clawes
46.) Blur – The Magic Whip
47.) Matthew E White – Fresh Blood
48.) Sonny Landreth – Bound by the Blues
49.) A Thousand Horses – Southernality
50.) Holly Miranda – Holly Miranda