In January I was relishing an expanded, remixed version of Lucinda Williams’ self-titled album and in June I raved over the latest by Mingo Fishtrap. Good gosh, where did the days go? But with school out and the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, this can only mean that it’s that time, time to stop and reflect on the year in music at the halfway point.
As is the tradition I’ve followed for years, I break up these lists into four parts, and the first part is anything that isn’t jazz. Seems simple enough, don’t it? And for once, the choices were all clear-cut, six new releases — plus that Lucinda reissue — that my ears tell me stand head and shoulders above the rest. Non-jazz to me normally means rootsy music, organic soul and rock evocative of the classic style; all of these choices fell into one or the other of these slots.
All of the selected albums have been covered on this site, just click through the titles to find the full accounting of what I wrote about them at release time. (Jack White’s Lazaretto was reviewed here by Mark Saleski instead, but I fully concur with him.)
What are your non-jazz favorites so far this year? Let us know in the comments section.
Jack White – Lazaretto: As Saleski recounted in his review, “White collects old sounds and styles — a string section from old Westerns, a fuzztone amp from the 1960s, the sepia tone wobble of old pre-war 78s. The results manage to be both vintage and modern. On Lazaretto, White goes deep into that old idea closet.”
Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue: This one shows the benefits of Walker’s continual tweaking of his sound and it’s paid off in this completely solid album of roots music. Producer Oliver Wood is doing quietly what T-Bone Burnett does with much fanfare.
Mingo Fishtrap – On Time: Who needs neo-soul when old-school soul works just fine? And it rarely functions better than it does when performed by this Austin-based horn band ably led by Roger Blevins, Jr.
Me’Shell Ndegéocello – Comet, Come To Me: With her complete command of the complexion of music in its many forms and the creativity to forge something different and compelling from that command found all over Comet, Come To Me, it’s tempting to call Me’Shell Ndegéocello the female Prince. Except that lately, she’s been much better than Prince.
Blue Mother Tupelo – Only Sunshine: Direct, pure and oh so soulful, Only Sunshine is more of Blue Mother Tupelo’s handmade treats. Rick and Micol Davis do a commendable job reminding us of how Southern blues, folk and country morphed into Southern rock, a connection that sometimes gets lost these days.
Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans: As the class of Southern Rock, the DBT’s are a tight, road tested unit led by two masterful, persuasive songwriters who might not have even hit their ceilings yet. Whether English Oceans is the apex or on its way there, it’s another essential entry in a catalog that’s already full of essential entries.
Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams: More widely known for Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Williams may not have made an album that’s song-for-song better than the self-titled album that put her name on the Americana map in the first place. Twenty-five years hence with live tracks from the tour that followed the original release added to the mix, the music has weathered Father Time and sound more powerful than ever.
Looking for the mid-year best jazz records? Stay tuned…
S. Victor Aaron’s Mid-Year Best of 2014 (Modern and Mainstream Jazz) > > >