Hope all y'all had a nice holiday.
'Spect it's time for the Big Rock Candy Mountain best of list for 2006. I guess best of isn't necessarily the right word for it. As I've read through the various publications who do the whole "best of" thing, I find the majority of what is deemed important or best holds little appeal to me. I'm probably not alone in that. Things have become so niche-oriented that it's difficult to fully take in the broad spectrum of music that's out there. Look at all the music blogs that specialize, this one included. We've been so overwhelmed by genre that a common, shared voice is difficult to pinpoint. I'm not sure we could produce another Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Nirvana, or Eminem again. Artists who, for one reason or another, transcend their genre, who reach across imaginary market share lines. I could be wrong.
This is the year that one of the most perfect songs ever written, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, has been co-opted to hawk a business that I will not patronize. Parliament is hawking some kind of SUV thingy.
I've purchased somewhere around 100-150 albums this year. The majority of them were not released in 2006. That probably makes me sound a bit the fogey. I'm too young to start sounding like my parents, right? There's great music being made every year, and I'm not keen on sacred cows or status quo's. I see no reason Yo La Tengo, f'rinstance, shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles. Music didn't begin and end with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I find myself more and more drawn to strange little compilations from no-name or overseas labels featuring a bunch of never-remembered hillbilly honky-tonkers, blues jumpers, trashcan bangers, and whatnot. There's gold in them there hills. Important? Maybe not. There's a reason some folks never made it down the mountain, tablet in hands. But, you know, it's what I like.
Which is why this is not a Best Of list. There's no context to judge Best. No remove. Get back to me in 10 years when we see if we're still listening, when we see if there's influence.
So this is part 1 my list of favorite albums of the year, plus some other odds and ends sprinkled in over the next four days. They're albums I listened to the most, or think I'll appreciate for years to come. Maybe you will too. Or not.
Favorite Box Sets
1. Rockin' Bones : 50's Punk and Rockabilly (Rhino): The motherlode of trash. Sure, there's a couple thousand songs left off, but it's tough to argue with the songs included. Great as a primer, or as a nifty little all-in-one package for those of us who have these songs spread out over 101 other compilation cd's or records. This is the kind of music the Mountain's all about.
2: Waylon Jennings: Nashville Rebel (Sony/BMG): Good gravy! We got your Outlaw Country right here. Ol' Waylon had some schmatlz in 'im, and some of that is included on this career-spanning set. But all the classic honky-tonk goodness is here, from the personification of the Outlaw movement. I'm pretty sure Hank would have done it this way.
The Big Rock Candy Mountain Top 10 Albums, Part 1
I'm cheating already. This album was released in 2005. But I didn't get it 'til this year. Seems likely this would have finished higher on last year's list, but I figger it's not fair to the albums that came out this year. Or something. Cast King, 79 and recording his first proper album, makes mountain music, lonely and faded, burnt and dirty, creaking and caked by mud. For a more in depth look into how great I think this record and Cast King are, you can check out what I wrote 11 months ago. It's a perfect record, the way god intended: A man, a guitar, a back porch, a mountain.
I was fully prepared to dislike this album. Gob Iron is Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt and Anders Parker of Varnaline. Ostensibly a collection of Farrar and Parker's take on traditional folk songs with musical interludes, it could easily have been a tossed-off, ego-driven affair, on it's way to the bargain bin of history. What it turned out to be, though, was a bit of a revelation. Farrar has the kind of voice made for the dusty corners of America, and he puts it to good use, with Parker's cracked voice serving as counterpoint. With respect to the originals, the two men forge a new modern traditionalism. The spirit of the old with a new weariness of time infused. A creaking, desperate affair.
Stop back tomorrow for Part 2, and a list of runners-up. Thanks.