Friday, December 31, 2010

Windfarm 2010 All-America Music Team

In an attempt at doing something other than a traditional "best of 2010" list, I've taken a bit of a different route, and instead, listed my favorite albums in the form of an All-America Team. What you'll find are not necessarily the best musicians at every position, but players from my favorite albums of the year broken out by position. Thus, many great musicians get ignored, although my main concern was including at least someone from each of my favorite albums this year.

Yes, I also know some of these are a stretch, but I couldn't just have 14 first team vocals, so there are a few picks that aren't necessarily full time on the instrument they are assigned to. Next year hopefully I can solicit votes from readers and bloggers alike to get a better compilation for this list.

Most Valuable Musicians

Every member of The National - High Violet

First Team

Vocals: John McCaulley III, Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions
Harmony Vocals: Julie Davis & Joseph Pope III, Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory of Loss
Guitar: Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
Bass: Murry Hammond - Old 97s - The Grand Theatre: Part I
Drums: Brian Moen, Peter Wolf Crier - Inter-Be
Banjo: Munly Munly - Munly & the Lupercalians - Petr & the Wulf; Slim Cessna's Auto Club - Buried Behind the Barn
Keyboard: Benjamin Tanner, Dylan LeBlanc - Pauper's Field
Pedal Steel: Jon Graboff, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - III/IV

Second Team
Vocals: Win Butler, Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Harmony Vocals: Ryan Monroe - Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
Guitar: Seth Avett, The Avett Brothers - Live Volume 3
Bass: Reid Perry, The Band Perry - self-titled
Drums: Julian Harmon, The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Banjo: Winston Marshall - Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Keyboard/Piano: Eric Earley, Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void

All-Texas Team
Vocals: Will Johnson, Centro-matic/South San Gabriel - Eyas
Guitar: Daniel Markham, One Wolf - One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf
Pedal Steel: Colt Miller, Thrift Store Cowboys - Light Fighter
Bass: Brooks Kendall, Jr. - Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Apology, Part I
Drums: Rob Sanchez, Monahans - 2010 Recordings
Banjo: Glen Farris - Doug Burr - O Ye Devastator
Keyboards: Adi Kanlic - The Lusitania - Rain & Rivers

Other First Teamers

Autobiographer: Keith Richards - Life

Documentarian: Gandulf Hennig - Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself

Live experience: singalong of "When My Time Comes" - Dawes - Fox Theatre, Boulder 06/19/10

Shameless Self Promotion: Windfarm - "The Proud Colorado Mountains of Townes Van Zandt" (Hey, I spent a lot of time on that post, so why not give it one more mention?)

Venue: Hi-Dive, Denver, CO

Song of the Year: "Red, Red" - Doug Burr - Specifically, the moment the drums come in on this song is the best musical moment of 2010 for me.

Close second place for song of the year: "Christchurch Woman" - Justin Townes Earle

Radio station: 1410 AM, KRIL, Odessa, TX

Record store find: Vic Chesnutt, Little (vinyl first printing)

TV show(s): Southland, Modern Family, Hard Knocks, Friday Night Lights, Dexter, Eastbound & Down, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, No Reservations, Human Target

Magazine Interview: "The Lost Lennon Tapes" - Rolling Stone

Sports blog: Feinstein on the Brink

Odd Celebrity Sighting: Vijay Singh on Pearl Street in Boulder (might have been 2009)

Best Daytrotter sessions: Nathaniel Rateliff - 06/21/2010; Dawes - 07/08/2010

Non-fiction book: Welcome to Utopia - Karen Valby

Album I rediscovered: The Dark - Guy Clark

Person who deserves Supporting Actor Nomination: John Hawkes in Winter's Bone

Best pick-up truck ever: This baby blue Chevy Scottsdale I saw at HEB -

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia - film review

It has been years since I saw the 1991 cult documentary Dancing Outlaw, a film that sparked a great deal of interest in the American South, paving the way for films like Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus and Seven Signs down the line. The trials and tribulations of Jesco White are fascinating, although ultimately the film paints a picture of an oft-forgotten America that is stuck in a holding pattern of poverty, violence, and substance abuse.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
picks up with the entire White clan approximately 17-18 years following the release of Dancing Outlaw. While Jesco White remains a cult hero of sorts to fans of the original movie, what hasn't changed is the culture in which he lives. In fact, this movie is a sobering and stark depiction of the effects of deep seated poverty in rural America.

In short, the movie breaks down the White family tree, detailing the lives of Jesco's siblings, nieces & nephews, cousins, and even his mother. What you find is a family history addled by the effects of addiction. Pharmaceutical abuse is a major undercurrent throughout the film, and its effects upon the family have been devastating. Prison time, deaths, and violence are commonplace in the family, to the point that many of the family members seem to known nothing other than such events. Of the entire clan, Poney White, who moved his family out of West Virginia entirely, is the only one who is shown to have achieved any level of stability.

Jesco White, sadly, is but a shell of a drug abused body, noting himself that years of gasoline huffing have left his cognitive abilities very limited. The gregarious mountain dancer who has been the hero of hipsters and frat boys alike over the past two decades has seen few, if any, benefits of his famed status. He is a tragic figure who in his 54 years of life has become a poster child for the exploitation of the impoverished. Those who have profited off of his personality have the distinct benefit of being able to leave when they are finished filming, yet Jesco and his family remain trapped in a neverending cycle of problems. White continues to live in rural West Virginia, where he is likely to live out the remainder of his life. Even if he or his family could see profits from their fame, the poverty cycle is too deeply ingrained for money to have beneficial effects, as it almost certainly goes right back out the door in the purchase of various drugs.

It's certainly your prerogative to take what you wish out of this film, but the sad truth is that this intriguing sideshow is in fact a portrait of real people. The Whites are representative of a sizeable segment of American society, and serve as a reminder to us all that no matter how great the opportunities many of us have, a substantial portion of the country is never exposed to education or the benefits provided by modern society. Sadly, it's not as though these people are so isolated that they can live "off the grid," as their rural lifestyle has been greatly affected by the availability of black market pharmaceuticals while programs to help them deal with the resulting large scale addiction are virtually non-existent, or at-best, ineffective and underfunded. The White family is concurrently hard to watch and hard not to watch, and while I think the film is a realistic depiction of them and a valuable reminder of the effects of poverty, it also remains an unsettling portrait of those who have fallen through the cracks in our country.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock - NYE in Marfa

Padre's in Marfa has West Texas' best New Years Eve show this year, as far as I can tell. Padre's is a relatively new venue in the region, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a great stopover for some of the best musical talent in the country. This NYE show is no exception, bringing native West Texans, and 2/3 of the Flatlanders, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock (Yes, Butch finally has a Web site) to the Padre's stage. Opening the show is the fantastic Colin Gilmore, a long-time favorite of mine and an excellent performer and songwriter in his own right.

While the show itself is a bit of an early one, with a 7 p.m. start time, the musical lineup is so strong that I'd go see these performers at 7 a.m. if I had to. Check out Padre's Web site for more details. Advanced tickets available.

Doug Burr - Daytrotter session 12/29/10

Great to see one of my songwriters continuing to get the attention his work deserves. A new Daytrotter session for Denton, TX, based artist Doug Burr was posted today, and if you've been hiding under a rock for the last year, this is your chance to check him out finally. Check out the session here. Free download and lossless format downloads available.

Image via Daytrotter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monahans - 2010 Recordings

Today, Austin-based Monahans releases the final track in a 10-month project, known as the 2010 Recordings, in which the band has released a new free download every month since March. This great collection of new material followed on the heels of 2009's magnificent Dim the Aurora. Quite a brilliant plan, both artistically and from a marketing standpoint. You've gone to great lengths to get everyone's attention with the release of a new LP, so why not keep their attention?

Many independent bands often have long periods between albums, and there are always plenty of excuses to explain such times. What better way to make yourselves stay productive than to commit to a project like 2010 Recordings? Not only does it force you to keep the creative juices flowing in the realms of writing and recording, but it's also an innovative medium through which to distribute your music. I don't know that Monahans is the first to release a record in such a manner, but I can't think of any other artists that have made such a concerted effort to release an album of new material in this manner. Sure, plenty of bands release b-sides and various outtakes for download, but 2010 Recordings stands far superior to such ventures.

While they were at it, Monahans decided to go big on the final track, "Seabirds," although they still only subtly mention on the download page that Sinead O'Connor provides back-up vocals on the track. This on the heels of Robert Plant recording a version this year of "The Only Sound That Matters," a track from a previous project of some of the members, Milton Mapes. It's been a pretty good year for Monahans, and largely because they just keep making the music they want to, and releasing it the way they want. Don't pass up the opportunity to pick up this great collection of songs from Monahans while it is still available.

I guess the thought I'm left with is, why stop now?