Country Fried Rock Best of 2012

15 Respect the Van – The Brothers Comatose

The Brothers Comatose  bring a lifetime of rock appreciation to their string band. Bouncing between traditional and progressive numbers, their instrumentation lumps them into the “bluegrass” tent, but their folk and rock sensibilities keep the party going.Their instrumental, “Pennies Are Money, Too,” would get nods from even the most rigid bluegrass traditionalists. CONTINUE

14 Burn. Flicker. Die. – American Aquarium

American Aquarium Burn. Flicker. Die.

American Aquarium Burn. Flicker. Die.

American Aquarium‘s sixth album, Burn. Flicker. Die. , extends the reach of the North Carolina band, down I-95 and across I-20 to Texas. For the past five years, American Aquarium has toured 300 dates per year, mainly within the Southeast, yet their foray into Texas led them to Red Dirt and Texas Country music, expanding their fan base and the music that speaks to their songwriter, BJ Barham. Until January of this year (2012), all of these dates happened due to Barham’s alter ego, Bradley Thompson, chief booking agent and public relations magnate. Many independent bands use this ruse, but few are as successful playing this game as he was. CONTINUE

13 Beer Drinkin’ Gospel Revival – The Bearfoot Hookers

When does a rowdy bar band become more than that? The Bearfoot Hookers of Athens, Georgia, assembled from an art teacher who designs album covers, an adult child of an Episcopal priest, and a guy obsessed with the home recording process. These three core members of The Bearfoot Hookers balance their time playing between their hometown and their adoptive home, Waycross, Georgia–the swamp land of South Georgia from which Gram Parsons emerged, and twang still reigns. Waycross is a quirky little town, with an inordinate percentage of incredible musicians and people who love music, surprising because of its remoteness and apparent lack of highbrow culture. What is not evident on the surface, is Waycross’s history and how the power of roots music has seeped into the swamp water and its people. CONTINUE

12 Noineen Noiny Noin – Steve Poltz

Steve Poltz’s bio says, “Steve Poltz is not normal.” I cannot judge that from one conversation, but I can say that you might know a few of his songs, and be shocked by some of his other work. No matter which incarnation of his music you like, Poltz’s fans are dedicated to his songwriting and to each other in ways many artists only imagine. Poltz fans follow him from show to show, country to country, and plan their vacations to meet other Poltz fans that they only know through his shows. In his words, if fans are not coming up to the band after shows to buy CD’s and asking, “When are you coming back?” then artists need to re-evaluate what they are doing creatively. The call to action should be so deep, that listeners seek out the band. That said, Poltz’s music is not for everyone, and his live shows can be so intense that significant others’ of diehard fans make a point of telling him how much they hated it! CONTINUE

11 Where the Lies Begin – The Pollies
The Pollies Where the Lies Begin
The Pollies’ record almost did not happen. Songwriter, Jay Burgess, began recording some of the songs nearly 2 years ago, in what he now considers demo tapes, but the intent was not to make a record; it was merely a side-project from his previous band, Sons of Roswell. As it became apparent that Sons of Roswell were fading away, Burgess’ writing never ceased, and the demo recordings became more of a focus. Fellow musician friends from the Shoals area of Alabama (the “Quad Cities”) came and went with the project, leaving national acts to go solo again and others finding an international audience seemingly overnight for their other bands. Thus has been the whirlwind impacting what has ultimately become Where the Lies Begin, The Pollies’ debut record on This Is American Music record label. CONTINUE

10 That Old Southern Drag – Patrick Sweany

AmericanaFest always amazes me: such an incredible collection of roots music showcases, where it is impossible to catch every “must see” show. I quickly discovered in 2010 that I have two favorite venues, The Station Inn and The Basement, and when debating which performances to catch, I stay put in one of those locations. This completely unscientific method is how I caught Patrick Sweany‘s showcase at Americana 2011. I did not think I could make it to another venue and back to catch a show during his same time slot, so, even though Sweany was not on my obsessively plotted “grid” or even on my radar musically, I stuck around and was blown away. For me, that experience is what makes this particular music festival stellar; I always find my new favorite band by happenstance. CONTINUE

9 Blue Light – EP – Jimbo Mathus

Jimbo Mathus describes himself as “original,” a word with layers of meaning for him and that he uses frequently in conversation. Mathus is one of those rare, self-taught experts in the humanities, well-versed in art history and poetry, local history and its impact on the arts, music, theatre, and subcultures–without ever being pretentious. He immersed himself in studying these areas to satisfy his own curiosity, not to impress anybody else. Most likely, these topics will not even arise while you go cat-fishing together with Jimbo. CONTINUE

8 Live in Europe (Audio Version) – James McMurtry

Some songwriters craft tunes with the intent of making social commentary, but rarely do those same songs last through two Presidencies and manage to incite emotion from both sides of the political aisle. Such is the case for James McMurtry, who observes what he sees, but does not claim control of where his songs may go for listeners. “People are listening for themselves in popular songs,” he says, which is why his lyrics speak to human situations that do not neatly fall into “Left” or “Right” boxes. People are much more complicated than that. CONTINUE

7 Dance in the Sun – The Deadfields

While not newcomers to the music business, The Deadfields are newly formed and new to making authentic music borne of the love for the songs and enjoying them for their own sake. This may not seem revolutionary, but for a collection of musicians who swore off “the business” of making music to fit audience demographics, genuine expression and pleasure through songs have been their own coup d’etat. Their self-produced record, Dance in the Sun, begins to show their break from their past, but to truly appreciate how engaging and infectious The Deadfields’ music is, you really must see them live. They have already written more than an album’s worth of new songs, and hopefully will move more closely to capturing the energy and joy of their live shows. CONTINUE

6 Long Live All Of Us – Glossary

Glossary is one of those bands that several other bands have mentioned in interviews as being their favorite band.  Oddly, that’s become Glossary’s calling card: your favorite band’s favorite band…that you’ve never heard of.  Songwriter Joey Kneiser even sums it up, “Your fans are out there.  They just don’t know you exist yet.”  For a band who has been together at its core since the mid-1990′s and released several albums to critical acclaim, Glossary just cannot escape “cult band” status.  Their writing is straightforward and solid, their playing is top-notch, and their sound is influenced by many genres, but maintains a cohesive rock-based sound without varying so much as to lose its identity nor being so overly influenced as to become neo-anything.  Glossary records sound like Glossary. CONTINUE


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