5 Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son – The Band of Heathens
Band of Heathens developed from a side project of several Austin songwriters at Momo’s, each of whom were pursuing other projects of solo work and sideman gigs. As they continued the residency and players flowed in and out of their scene, Gordy Quist, Ed Jurdy, and Colin Brooks realized that these Good Time Supper Club “Heathens” might just form a band of their own. Ultimately, the band became the Band of Heathens, and their first two live CD’s captured their great live vibe sharing creativity and connection amongst themselves and with the audience. Since their first studio record produced with Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Band of Heathens have continued to tour heavily, playing 150-250 dates per year. CONTINUE
4 Sweeten the Distance – Neal Casal
Neal Casal’s tenth solo album, Sweeten the Distance, needs to be in your car for every road trip, both the adventures across wide distances and the ones in traffic that you must abide. At first, the music is pleasing, but does not necessarily grab me, until I realized I had listened to the entire album more than once without ever clicking forward or changing it. As I turned it down to listen to my GPS, I realized that I was singing several of the songs in my head–although they had not appeared to be “catchy” on the surface. It took about a day to realize that Sweeten the Distance was one of my favorite first-to-last albums in a long time. CONTINUE
3 The Grifter’s Hymnal – Ray Wylie Hubbard
Ray Wylie Hubbard thinks of himself as a folk singer, who finally learned to finger-pick guitar when he was forty-one. As Hubbard sees it, adding the blues rock to his songwriter lyrics finally helped him find his groove. Ray frequently cites “grit, groove, tone, and taste” as the hallmarks of a great song, and strives to reach that with the songs he writes and performs, as well as the ones he produces for other musicians, from Band of Heathens to Chelle Rose. Hubbard’s most recent album, Grifter’s Hymnal, combines these essential song elements with a lineup of his friends and peers: George Reiff, Rick Richards, son Lucas Hubbard, fellow songwriters Liz Foster and Charlie Shafter, Billy Cassis, Brad Rice, Audley Freed, Ian McLagan, that Joe Walsh, and the Ringo Starr. Players like that could cover nursery rhymes and make an amazing rock and roll record. CONTINUE
2 Women & Work – Lucero
Lucero (Sp., trans. “bright star”) transformed from their twang-punk origins (in response to and reaction against their country roots) to their full-fledged Memphis rock and roll band status over eight albums and fourteen years, although it’s seemed like an overnight extreme makeover to some of their fans. As music fans, many of us have our go-to favorites and the rest of our playlists meander through other favorites and new obsessions, like the children’s game The Blob, ebbing and flowing in random directions, pulling in little bits here and there from all sorts of places–ultimately redefining its basis by the elements picked up along the way and ending up as something totally different and unintended in the end. CONTINUE
1 Falling Off the Sky – The dB’s
The dB’s met each other by the age of 8 or 9 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Chris ultimately formed the trio with Gene Holder and Will Rigby in the late 1970′s, adding Holsapple after they requested him to audition on keys. Chris Stamey stayed with the band for the first two albums, then moved on to play with Alex Chilton for many years. Over time, the original lineup changed, and within a decade, The dB’s as they were had run their course. Peter Holsapple moved through many other bands, including a long run as the “fifth member of R.E.M.,” on the road with Hootie and the Blowfish, and playing with the Continental Drifters, as well as a recurring acoustic duo with Chris Stamey, both live and for a couple of records. CONTINUE
Methodology: We started with all of our radio shows from December 2011 through November 2012, and analyzed which shows had the highest streams and downloads, then divided by the number of days available for listening, and simply ranked them from least to most. When it all worked out, the Top 25 Best of 2012 stood out significantly from the rest.
NOTE: December radio shows roll over into eligibility for the Best of 2013 list–not fair to them for this year.