Top 19 of 2001
1: Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera (SDR Records)
This record so perfectly captures being a southern youth in the ’70s that it’s almost scary. The saga of Lynyrd Skynyrd makes perfect subject matter for extended examination — and it rocks LAMF. Absolutely brilliant.
2: Bob Dylan: Love And Theft (Columbia Records)
Two good Dylan albums in a row? Words you can hear and understand? With his razor-sharp band (featuring Charlie Sexton and Augie Myers, among others), Bob Dylan sets the standard for maturing rockers with this walk down the hallways of American music.
3: The Rosenbergs: Mission: You (DGM Records)
Although they captured public attention with their confrontation with Farmclub.com, it’s the music that keeps you interested. Heavenly pop born of the better aspects of the ’80s.
4: Radiohead Amnesiac (Capitol Records)
Yes, they are pretentious, wordy, and somewhat humorless. They also are about the only band capturing mainstream media attention that is worth hearing. From computerized funk to decaying swing, Thom Yorke yelps and cries in a class by himself.
5: Various Artists: Down From the Mountain (Lost Highway Records)
Nothing in the last few years has been as refreshing and welcome as the O Brother phenomenon. Old time music, bluegrass and delta blues creates a top selling album, concert movie and now a tour? Well, when you load the soundtrack with folks such as Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley and John Hartford its not so much of a surprise.
6: Circus Devils: Ringworm Interiors (Fading Captain)
The latest (at this moment) release from the mind of Robert Pollard (along with the Tobias brothers). This record succeeds where the Guided By Voices major label release of the year failed — passionate, weird music played and recorded quickly, but still sounding better than most of his stuff. Truly strange inventions.
7: Alejandro Escovedo A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot Records)
Roots rock poetry that sounds so easy you might attempt to try it yourself. Then you discover the magic Escovedo deals so well. Real rock for now people.
8: Gillian Welch: Time (The Revelator) (Acony Records)
Welch and partner David Rawlings are country music’s best one-two punch since Tammy left George. And if you don’t know to whom I’m referring, your loss.
9: R.L. Burnside: Burnside On Burnside (Fat Possum Records)
Live blues that leaves you feeling as if you’re in the middle of a pool of gas, smoking a blunt. Burnside is about 100 years old, and could kick all our asses.
10: Allison Krauss and Union Station: New Favorite (Rounder Records) / Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder: History of the Future (Skaggs Family Records)
Two glimpses at bluegrass, 2001. Krauss combines traditional voicing with modern material and makes yet another great record. Skaggs plays it more traditional, and just plays everything fast. Real, real fast.
11: Del McCoury Band: Del and the Boys (Uni Records)
The best “straight up” bluegrass band around. Seeing Del and his sons perform Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” on the Grand Old Opry was a joy — and it is only one of many gems found here.
12: Sparklehorse: It’s a Wonderful Life (Capitol Records)
It might be wonderful, but it sure sounds sad as hell. For those who crave their music slow and strange, Mark Linkous returns.
13: The Yayhoos: Fear Not the Obvious (Bloodshot Records)
Yeah it’s stupid redneck rock. You gotta problem with partyin’? As close to a supergroup as is operating today, Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites), Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Steve Earle, et al), Keith Christopher (Kenny Wayne Shepard, Shaver) and Terry Anderson pull up the bar and pay their tab with music that sounds as if Rod Stewart and The Faces got stuck in Mobile. Hot damn, this is good shit.
14: Jay Farrar: Sebastopol (Artemis Records)
Being solo suits the retiring Farrar. Former kingpin of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt finds firm voice on his solo debut.
15: Merle Haggard: Roots (Anti Records)
Haggard has made it his mission to document country music’s classic moments (in this case the 1950’s sound of Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson). A noble idea, and with the Hag’s unequaled voice, a grand musical statement.
16: Bill Frisell: Blues Dream (WEA Records)
Jazz isn’t dead, and not all shredders play rock. Frisell plays music as indescribable and as captivating as Ry Cooder once did.
17: Raisins in the Sun: Raisins in the Sun (Rounder Records)
Bet ya never heard (or heard of) this. Harvey Brooks, Jules Shear, Chuck Prophet, Jim Dickinson and others sitting around jamming. Could be awful, actually is great. But when the players involved have worked with Dylan, The Stones, Green On Red, and Radiohead , you aren’t talking music store rejects here. Great stuff.
18: The Gourds: Shinebox (Sugar Hill Records)
Okay, it’s a reissue, but you never heard it the first time around, and it’s longer now. Most well known for their bluegrass bitchin’ on “Gin N’ Juice” (included here), The Gourds are the future of music, in a way. Picking the best parts of roots, rap, rock, and whatever and melding it into a unique sound all their own, they blaze new paths.
19: Danny Barnes and Thee Old Codgers: Things I Done Wrong (Terminus Records)
Former Bad Livers banjo picker moves to Portland and records on the cheap. Crazy, sincere, brave. All apply.