Hey ya’ll! It’s been a little while, but rest assured I have some more tunes on the way. Until then, I’d be humbled if you would take a ride over to my new photography blog, Visual Detox. I’ve been taking some interest in the aesthetic side of things lately, and any feedback/comments would be much appreciated.

I’ll be back soon with a whole bunch of albums! Thanks guys.

www.visualdetox.wordpress.com

Jeff

“Outlaw Country” is a term that gets thrown around quite liberally. But how many “outlaws” can say they shot a man in the face for running his mouth?

But the real story of Billy Joe Shaver is his true to form inability to be kept down. From his early days of being one of the most notable Nashville misfits who would epitomize the Outlaw Country counterculture to his ultimate legacy of a Texas country legend, the man has been through more trials and tribulations than any of his peers. Not only did he face the aforementioned legal drama, but he also lost his wife, mother, and son in the span of one year. As if these tragedies weren’t enough, Billy Joe himself almost experienced a quick reunion with his loved ones a year later in 2002; he suffered a massive heart attack onstage at an Independence Day show in his home state of Texas.

It is sad enough to be the plot of a movie, but this was no fiction. This was the life of one of the most resilient men in country music’s storied history. The greatest aspect of this story is that , at 72 years old, Billy Joe Shaver is still playing strong and mighty.

Here are the first two albums from an Outlaw Country legend.

OLD FIVE AND DIMERS LIKE ME (1973)

WHEN I GET MY WINGS (1976)

Sorry about the delay with the top 5 post! I know I’m about 2 weeks later than when I had promised, but here it is.

5. MCRACKINS – It Ain’t Over Easy

Yep, I know what a lot of folks might be thinking. Either “whoa, these dudes are still around?” or “whoa, this guy really has the Mcrackins in his top 10 list of 2010?”. Well the obvious answer to both inquiries is “absolutely”.While it’s true that the days of Ramones styled pop punk hit its peak in the mid 90’s, there are still a handful of bands carrying the banner proudly and these guys are one of them. Propelled by the insanely infectious single “Candy”, the album is typical of the genre where as it is over before you know it. Long live the Mcrackins.

It Ain’t Over Easy

4. TWO COW GARAGE – Sweet Saint Me (Suburban Home)

It’s hard to believe that Two Cow is already on album number five. “Sweet Saint Me” is their second album for Suburban Home and it is most certainly their most adventurous to date. While their previous efforts have walked that straight amped up alt country line, the band’s latest incorporates a wide range of influences from Springsteen to Petty to Westerberg. A great rock n roll album.

Sweet Saint Me

3. I CAN LICK ANY SONOFABITCH IN THE HOUSE – Sound Of Dying (Suburban Home)

Another product of Suburban Home is Portland’s I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House. Although “Sound of Dying” is their first album for the label, these guys put out a few records in the early part of the decade before calling it a day. They reunited recently and recorded this gritty country punk album that would fit nicely between Jason & The Scorchers and Green On Red records.

The Sound of Dying

2. THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – American Slang (Side One Dummy)

I’m assuming that the new future legends of New Jersey need no introduction. If you haven’t picked up this album yet (I scored the vinyl No Idea exclusive wohoo), then I’d advise it to be your first priority of the new year. Catchy yet dynamic, tender yet muscular, and slick yet gritty, these guys are the cream of the crop.

AMERICAN SLANG

1. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot)

No longer just “Steve’s kid”, JTE has in my opinion established himself as the leader of the alt country pack with his 4th LP, “Harlem River Blues”. Utilizing a more full band than his previous efforts, the artist gives us a wild ride of an LP that kicks off with the anthemic title track. Other standouts are the rockabilly jam Move Over Mama , the somber Dando-esque Christchurch Woman, and the piano driven, atmospheric closer Rogers Park. But truth be told, there isn’t one number in this set that doesn’t connect with this listener. Hence, my number one album of 2010 is “Harlem River Bluesby Justin Townes Earle.

 

Readers, I’m curious to see what albums you thought I missed and which of my choices should have made room for them.

 10. TILTWHEEL – “The High Hate Us” (ADD Records)

 Thought this San Diego pop punk band has been anything but prolific in their 15 year existence (one prior LP, a few singles, and singles compilation), Tiltwheel has earned quite the cult following over that time. It is also fair to say that if Tiltwheel didn’t exist, a good amount of the No Idea Records “beardo-punk” bands would never have struck a chord. Finally, after a decade, Tiltwheel released their sophomore LP and it is the best pop punk album of the year!

9. JESSE MALIN AND THE ST. MARK’S SOCIAL – “LOVE IT TO LIFE” (Side One Dummy)

Since the mid 1980’s Jesse Malin has been putting out top-notch rock n’ roll records via one incarnation or another.  After cutting his teeth as a child prodigy in the New York City hardcore scene, he ventured into the glam punk direction with D Generation. Though they became the torch bearers of  the genre created by The New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, and The Dictators, D-Gen only put out three albums before calling it quite in 1999. Shortly afterwards, Malin scrapped his next full band project, Bellvue, and embarked on a solo career. Now, after four LP’s, a live album, and two ep’s under the solo moniker, Malin has released the debut LP from the St. Mark’s Social.  With a sound somewhere in between the abrasive, yet catchy punk of his D-Gen days and the Westerberg influences of his solo material, “Love It To Life” contains the catchiest rock n’ roll song of 2010, All the Way From Moscow.

8. GRINDERMAN – “2” (Anti)

If you have been living in a cave (ha ha ha ha get it?) for the past few years, Grinderman is the current audio assault from the man himself, Nick Cave.  Seeing as the four members of Grinderman comprise the entire current line up of the Bad Seeds, you can basically know what you can expect. Let me rephrase that ; you know what sort of madness to expect. How it manifests, though, is anything but predictable. Electro, blues, punk, hard rock and even freakin’ stadium rock elements are all present on “2”. Thoroughly annihilating the stale concept of genre divisions, Cave and crew bring you a set of songs that can be describes as epic, chaotic, abrasive, and catchy ; yes catchy as all hell.

7.  FAKE PROBLEMS – “Real Ghosts Caught On Tape” (Side One Dummy)

The second of three Side One Dummy albums on my best of 2010 list, “Real Ghosts Caught On Tape” is the third LP from Florida’s Fake Problems. Originally started in 2006 by Chris Farren as a one man side project, Fake Problems has evolved into a full-fledged four member band. On “Real Ghosts”, this expansion has progressed to an even more full capacity with the addition of strings and a horn section on a handful of the tracks. While the basic pop punk roots are still evident, the songs on “Real Ghosts” display an incredible progress as far as songwriting abilities go. Often times, Farren’s vocal style comes extremely close to having the ability to be mistaken for Ted Leo. In fact, despite the Against Me and Gaslight Anthem comparisons Fake Problems get, I would have to say they share far more of a similarity to Ted Leo’s Pharamcists than either of those bands; and that is just fine in my book.  Overall, “Real Ghosts”  is one of the easiest albums of 2010 to take in from front to back and then over again. The hooks are huge, the musicianship is tight, and the songs are top notch.

6. RYAN BINGHAM AND THE DEAD HORSES – “Junky Star” (Lost Highway)

Anyone who saw Jeff Bridges lay down the performance of his great career in the 2009 film Crazy Heart also were introduced to Ryan Bingham, the mastermind behind the movie’s heartbreaking theme song, The Weary Kind.  Though the movie’s success yielded a giant leap in his mainstream popularity, Bingham has been recording tunes and touring constantly since 2006. After a self released debut album in 2006, Lost Highway signed Bingham and his band The Dead Horses to a contract the following year. The band’s debut for the label , 2007’s Mescalito, was an alt country masterpiece that yielded critical and fan acclaim alike. In 2008, Bingham and the Horses released Roadhouse Sun. It was shortly after this that Bingham was approached by T Bone Burnett with an offer to participate in Crazy Heart’s soundtrack. This proved to be a breakout moment in the singer/songwriter’s career as The Weary Kind earned him an Academy Award , a Golden Globe Award, and an AMA award in 2010. The momentum continued after the release of  “Junky Star”; the album hit number 8 on the Billboard Rock Charts and peaked all the way at number 2 on the Billboard Country Charts.

……check back tomorrow for numbers 1-5 !

Well I hope everyone had a rock n roll Thanksgiving. One thing I am thankful for is the city of Memphis and its history of churning out bad ass music. One of those bands is ’68 Comeback. Named after Elvis’s career resurrecting live television special of 1968, ’68 Comeback is the brainchild of prolific Memphis blues rock n’ roller Jeffery Evans. Consisting of Evans and a revolving cast of Memphis musicians, ’68 Comeback has released nearly two dozen recordings from the band’s inception in 1992. The band is considered a staple of the Memphis garage scene that has produced Jay Reatard (RIP), The Oblivians, The Reigning Sound, and The Compulsive Gamblers.

Here are two of ’68 Comeback’s albums, 1994’s “Mr. Downchild” and 1999’s “Love Always Wins”. Jack White, you can learn a thing or two for Monsieur Evans.

“Mr. Downchild” (Sympathy For The Record Industry 1994)

MrDownchild.zip

“Love Always Wins” (Sympathy For The Record Industry 1999)

LoveAlwaysWins.zip

One of my most distinct memories of high school, was taking the bus after class to my favorite place in the world, Brass City Records.There always seemed to be something new to listen to down there, and many times the albums I’d pick up to check out had something in common; they were from a label called Grass Records out of New York. They seemed to put out records at a much quicker pace than any of the other indies of the time and they were always pretty damn good. As the years went on, releases from the label all but disappeared. Which leads me to the story of why this was the case.

When it comes to musical quality and style, the story of indie label Grass Records is that of a true vintage 90’s nature. But as was the case with countless other bands and labels of the era, politics, greed, and the increasingly popularity of shitty music all contributed to a good thing going terribly wrong.

Founded in 1992 by Syosset, NY native Camille Sciara, Grass Records entered into a deal with the now defunct indie distributor Dutch East. The label’s first acquisition was a band Texas who later achieved notable commercial success, The Toadies. Over the next few years, Grass enjoyed a well deserved reputation for seeking out and signing some of the best kept secrets across the country. From bands who went on to maintain relative longevity such as Conor Oberst’s first band Commander Venus, New Radiant Storm King, The Wrens, Braniac, and Pollen to bands such as Ditch Witch, Seade, and Pencil who released a gem or two before disappearing, Grass Records was a symbol of diversity and integrity in the independent music scene.

Unfortunately, it all came to an abrupt halt in 1996. Alan Meltzer, president of distribution giant Alliance Entertainment Corp, decided that he wanted to pursue a new pet project; the endeavor of running a record label. After being offered what I can only imagine was a hefty sack of cash, founder Sciara took on the duties of A & R chief. The period directly following the purchase seemed harmless enough. The individual responsible for bringing us these great bands over the past few years – Sciara – would basically continue to handle the most important creative aspect of a label, finding its talent. Furthermore, Meltzer’s initial enthusiasm towards the discovery, development, and success of deserving bands was indicated by statements that appeared in a Jan 17,1996 edition of finance publication Business Wire:

“Throughout my career in the industry I’ve always tried to remain on the cutting edge of music marketing and distribution. Discovering Grass Records and the incredible Grass artist roster replete from top to bottom with cutting edge alternative music, provided a perfect fit.”

and

“What appealed to me about GRASS was the diversity of artists. This fit right in to what I wanted to do, which is to provide a platform for developing bands. We will remain an independent alternative music label, with no plans or interest in getting into any other kind of music”

Less than a year after these comments were made,Grass Records became Wind-Up Records and Sciara was replaced as head of A & R by Meltzer’s own wife.The most criminal and tragic casualties of this transition were the bands; every band who had been on the Grass roster at the time of the buy-out was dropped from the label. In lieu of new records from old mainstays and debut records from promising new indie bands, the label has since presented us with bands like Creed, Finger Eleven, Evanescence, and Five For Fighting.

A damn shame. Anyways, here are just a handful of some of the great records the original Grass Records gave us.

                                   

TOADIES – Pleather (1993)                       EDSEL – Everlasting Belt (1993)          

pleather.zip                                                      (ed: link removed by request of Jon from Comedy Minus One-being reissued                      by Comedy Minus One in September! Go buy it!)

                                    

NEW RADIANT STORM KING-                                      BRANIAC-

Rival Time (1993)   time.zip                              Smack Bunny Baby (1993) baby.zip

                                      

PENCIL – Skantron (1994)                           POLLEN – Bluette (1994)

pencilskantron.zip                                                       bluett.zip

                                    

     DITCH WITCH-                                                  LIQUOR BIKE –

Everywhere Nowhere (1994)                     Neon Hoop Ride (1994)

             EvNo.zip                                                       LiquorBike.zip

                                  

SEADE – Perf (1995)                                     LOOMIS- You’re No Tiget (1995)

perf.zip                                                                 loomisnotiger.zip

                                

THE WRENS – Seacaucus                  COMMANDER VENUS – Uneventful Vacation

seacaucus.zip                                            theuneventfulvacation.zip

 

 

Laughing Hyenas were a Michigan blues/punk/noise band which featured ex Negative Approach vocalist John Brannon and former Necros members Todd Swalla and Kevin Ries. The band released all 3 of their LPs and both of their EPs on Touch and Go Records during the span of their decade long existence (1985-1995). John Brannon currently sings for Easy Action.

LAUGHING HYENAS –  Hard Times (Touch and Go 1995) 

hardtimes.zip

 

Though exhibiting a strong leaning to the grunge sound of its contemporaries , Orange County trio Smile also incorporated pointed senses of melody and psychedelia into their powerful sound. The band released three LPs during their 1992 – 2003 tenure, all of which on the Headhunter/Cargo label. Smile was briefly signed to Atlantic Records, but the label released the band from their contract during the recording of their second album, Maquee. Recorded in the summer of 1994, the album was eventually released the following June by Headhunter.

SMILE – Maquee (Headhunter/Cargo 1995)

Maquee.zip

     

Another staple of the late 80’s/early 90’s noise rock scene was Chicago band Tar. Tar formed in 1988 out the ashes of Illinois punk band Blatant Dissent, of which vocalist/guitarist John Mohr and drummer Mike Greenlees were members. In addition to releasing three singles and three LPs on the Amphetamine Reptile label between 1988 and 1991, Tar logged extensive tour miles with the likes of The Jesus Lizard, Jawbox, and Arcwelder. The band jumped ship to Touch and Go for their 1993 EP, “Clincher” and their follow up LP from that same year, “Toast”. Although 1994 saw Tar calling it quits, in 1995 Touch and Go released a collection of songs recorded throughout the previous year and a half by Steve Albini . Appropriately titled “Over and Out”, the album marked the band’s final release.

TAR – Over and Out (Touch and Go 1995)

Over and Out.zip

 

Meanwhile , across the pond, the industry big wigs were in a scramble to find the English counterpart to America’s Nirvana. Discovered during this quest were a trio from Derby called Bivouac. Forming in 1990, the band released a handful of singles and one LP on U.K. indie label Elemental before being signed to Geffen in 1994. After recording two singles for Geffen and playing supporting slots for Fugazi and The Jesus Lizard, Bivouac released their major label debut, “Full Size Boy” . The album hit the streets in June of 1995 to a chorus of critical praise but an indifferent public. As with countless other talented bands of that era with, Bivouac’s fate was sealed shortly after when Geffen dropped the band from its roster. With no label and minimal following, the band broke up early in 1996.

BIVOUAC – Full Size Boy (Geffen 1995)

full size boy.zip