S. Victor Aaron’s Mid-Year Best of 2013 (Non-Jazz): Harper/ Musselwhite, Robben Ford, Tommy Malone

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If you were to go back and check the choices I made at the middle of 2012 for non-jazz albums released the first six months of that year, you’d find the artists being awarded were among the biggest hitmakers of the 60s, 70s and 80s: Van Halen, The Beach Boys, Sinead O’Connor, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John and so on. Yeah, Jack White’s big debut album was on there, too.

This summer, the choices are decidedly lower profile ones. No real explanation for that, it just turned out that way. But lower stature of the musicians involved didn’t lower at all my enthusiasm for the gems they crafted. Ben Harper is kind of a big deal and so is Robben Ford to a lot of folks. The rest of these acts are big deals to me, and I humbly suggest that they should be to you, too.

I’ve got ten succulent selections this time, in no particular order or ranking. These entries are chosen strictly from albums I took the time to review, and the links nested in the titles take you right to the full lowdowns on these albums, including streams and videos. Blues, folk, prog rock, jazz pop, retro-rock and even a indie pop are all represented here, just not that many big names. But you shouldn’t mind…

Ben Harper, with Charlie Musselwhite – Get Up!: It feels as if they decided to do this about five minutes before they ducked into the nearest studio, positioned themselves around mikes and hit the record button. And that’s the best possible way to capture Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite.

Ethan Keller – Goin’ Down In History, Goin’ Down In Flames: As someone who grew up listening to the radio a hell of a lot in the 70s, confessional singer-songwriterKeller captures a lot of the spirit of what I remember from back then; the good stuff, at least.

Robben Ford – Bringing It Back Home: The laid-back arrangements Ford applies to these songs — as much as those savory licks of his — put his own stamp on these durable ditties. Bringing It Back Home is a essentially a back-to-basics showcase that reveals that sans slick production and arrangements, Robben Ford sounds just as enjoyably good.

The Summarily Dismissed – To Each: This band is a polished vehicle for Ari Shagal, whose compositions have the incisive wit and mature sophistication that recalls some of the best pop songcrafters of a bygone era, like Laura Nyro, Carole King and those guys from Steely Dan.

Tommy Malone – Natural Born Days: Natural Born Days The second solo effort from the way overlooked former frontman of the Subdudes is a clear, bright signal that New Orleans’ best days musically are with us again.

Buke And Gase – General Dome: This might not be an act destined for the mainstream, but neither was Sonic Youth, and they’ve had a pretty good career. In a just world, Buke & Gase will enjoy that kind of career, too, as long as they keep making oddly compelling records like General Dome.

Hadden Sayers – Rolling Soul: The passion for telling arresting stories — as well as his devotion to the blues and his faculty for Texas blues guitar — all bleed through on Sayers’ Rolling Soul.

Thieves’ Kitchen – One For Sorrow, Two For Joy: Soulful as it is technically sound, One For Sorrow, Two For Joy appeals stronger with each listen as the details reveal more of themselves.

Mike Zito and the Wheel – Gone To Texas: It’s the bliss that Zito has found from hanging out with the Cajun-kissed Texas music and culture of his adopted hometown of Beaumont that’s given him ample inspiration for the words and music he’s put together for this latest long player. And sure enough, Gone To Texas does sound inspired.

David Philips – December Wine [4 Track Tapes]: A man who scarcely needed to make a “return to roots” record went lo-tech to connect back to his beginnings and in doing so, moved his music forward. Europe’s answer to Chris Smither strikes again.

Looking for the mid-year best jazz records? Stay tuned…

S. Victor Aaron’s Mid-Year Best of 2013 (Modern And Mainstream Jazz) >>>

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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