Best Of 2011
(strictly for fun ... and heated argument)
by Peter Jesperson
1. The Unthanks – Last
This stunningly beautiful, transcendent and fun record is largely about the singing for me – sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank are extraordinary individual and harmony singers. But it isn't just the vocals that seduce. It's their and the whole group's commitment to the songs – a mix of traditional, original and covers, so clearly and carefully rendered - that also makes this album such a winning proposition. If you've heard anything about The Unthanks you'll know they are committed rule-breakers. Which, in the trad-folk genre, makes them real oddballs. Their uniqueness is nowhere better shown than in their choice of cover songs. I first heard of The Unthanks from Glenn Morrow (longtime friend, founder of great indie band The Individuals and ambitious, long-standing indie label Bar/None). He called one day back in 2007, knowing I was a huge Robert Wyatt fan, to ask if I'd heard their cover of Wyatt's "Sea Song." I hadn't but immediately went out and bought a copy of the album, The Bairns (at that time under the name Rachel Unthank & The Winter Set). Floored by their disarmingly sincere interpretation of an old favorite (speaking of oddball!) song, I instantly became a fan. Over the years they've covered everyone from Wyatt to Nick Drake, Will Oldham and, in this case, King Crimson and Tom Waits, while not straying away from handed-down folk songs and covers by icons and champions of the form like Ewan MacColl and Anne Briggs.
I put this new album on for the first time one Saturday night. I was hanging out with my cats, listening, puttering around the music room, filing CDs away while the first three songs played and the album began to sink its hooks into me. Then track #4, the title song "Last," came on. The main melody, played solo on piano, introduces the song and it literally stopped me in my tracks and forced me to to sit down and listen without distraction. I was mesmerized. The production is perfect and, adding to the overall uniqueness, very modern. There are several moments where I feel like I'm listening to a Laurie Anderson album or something! The lyric is essentially about mankind not learning from its mistakes but with a very personal and romantic subtext in the bridge when the sisters trade lines about the tenants of an apartment building being "lonely," then both agreeing (in an utterly charming moment) that the boy from #23 is "lovely" ... followed by a very moving surge of strings that tugs hard on the heartstrings. It's not often one song stands above all others for me in any given year but "Last" is my favorite individual recording/performance of 2011, a magical 7-minute moment. The whole album is magnificent though and needs to be taken in in its entirety to be truly appreciated. I cannot express how much I admire the Unthanks fierce, artistic drive (and maybe even career-impairing bullheadedness!). Quoting the great British music journalist, Paul Morley, "Absolutely exquisite. A real work of art. I will be playing it at least forever."
The Unthanks – The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons – Diversions Vol. 1 – Live From The Union Chapel, London
This live recording, made in December of 2010, only just came out in late November (2011) so I'm still digesting it but it's clearly in line with the group's four other impeccable releases to date. A dream come true to hear them do more Robert Wyatt songs. Not being as familiar with Antony's recordings, that part has been an education for me, as well as being just plain gorgeous. And the between song dialog is precious. What I wouldn't give to have experienced this show in person!
2. The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy
An album that haunted me for weeks and weeks after first connecting with it. I love the mysterious way music can take such a strong hold well before the shape or the specifics of it become clear. Even after listening to it non-stop for months, it still gives me goosebumps every time I hear the initial notes of opener "Black Death 1349." The first song that really grabbed me was "Jesus Came To My Birthday Party," a catchy, wonderfully scrappy, pop-rocker. It's funny, I love so much music from Australia these days but, at first, I didn't know that's where TME were from. For some reason I had it in my head that they were American. Regardless, I thought this song bore a resemblance to Aussie band The Sleepy Jackson. The air of mystery is compounded by how little concrete info one can find about the band. Briefly, they formed in 2005; are from Townsville, Queensland on the northeast coast of Australia; often described as a collective; headed up by two gents and a lady - Jordan Ireland, Rohin Jones and Bree Tranter; did a lot of their early work on a Christian circuit of some kind.; have toured the U.S. opening for Mumford & Sons; spent a fair bit of time in Denton, TX, hence the song "Dan's Silverleaf," named after the cool indie rock club there, as well as recording parts of IWTYAAH in Denton-based band Midlake's studio; they've broken up twice and are supposedly done for good as of July 2011. In reading about the group online, one writer referred to them as "Cinematic Folk" and I think that's a fairly accurate tag. If these musicians never do another thing, this album would stand as an all-time favorite for me but I don't believe we've heard the last of the three immensely talented principals in this group. (http://www.themiddleeastmusic.com/)
The Middle East – The Recordings Of The Middle East – EP – More mystery here in that TME's first full length album had this same title. As the story goes, the album was released, the band apparently broke up (the first time) and the album went out of print quickly. They got some posthumous notice, reformed and released this EP, a truncated version of the album. It's every bit as great as the new album. The song "Blood" was featured prominently in the film 'Stupid, Crazy Love,' so hopefully, they at least made a buncha money on this one track. Trying to track down the original album, MUST have it!
3. Nathaniel Rateliff – In Memory Of Loss
Nathaniel is one of the greatest and most original talents I've come along in years. Hard to say what's stronger here – the singing or the songwriting. As my friend Dave Ayers (who turned me onto this album and signed Nathaniel to a publishing deal at Chrysalis Music) said, it's like the guy has five completely different voices. When I first heard the album, I thought Nathaniel resembled Kurt Wagner from Lambchop. Then when I listened further, I thought I heard bits of Bob Marley; then some kinda pre-rock vocal pop-jazz like Mel Torme or something; then there are Leonard Cohen-ish moments. The writing is so strong and so damn original, it still sort of startles me when I put it on. And once I finally caught him live – at SXSW and then at The Troubadour in LA – I was a goner. Though the album was released (in the U.S.) in 2010, I didn't hear it until 2011 and it was one of the things I listened to the most all year. (http://nathanielrateliff.com)
- Shroud EP, Daytrotter / Communion 10" vinyl live mini-album
Both of these were played almost as much as the album. "Shroud" was added to the European version of the album and is definitely in my top 5 or 6 Nathaniel songs.
4. Glen Campbell – Ghost On The Canvas
After a 50+ year recording career, to go into a project knowing it was your final album must have been a heavy task for Glen and producer Julian Raymond. And yet, they pulled it off about as perfectly as it could have been done. Glen wrote and chose covers (both with Julian's assistance) that are so well-suited to the concept that what you effectively have is Glen's life flashing by before your very ears. His cover of the Guided By Voices "Hold On Hope" is my fave. The two songs written by Paul Westerberg are tremendous, especially "Ghost On The Canvas" (which PW had released in 2009 on a fabulous 6-song EP through Amazon). A brilliant and moving record. And don't miss the video for the title song with its Westerberg cameo and nod to the "Bastards Of Young" video. (http://glencampbellmusic.com/)
5. Tommy Stinson – One Man Mutiny
Not only is this record a complete knockout from start to finish but I think, hands down, it's the single best release by any of the ex-Replacements to date. Feisty rockers, pretty ballads and even a couple of acoustic numbers; one of them, "Zero To Stupid," has a vaguely country feel - which is both surprising and refreshing as Tommy's always been a bit country-phobic; the other, the title song, really brought a smile to my face the first time I heard it as I believe there's a thread from Loudon Wainwright III's "One Man Guy," a song that we used to play a ton in the Replacements' van back in 1985. One of the most impressive things about this record is the singing, Tommy has never sung better. It's obvious there was a lot of care put into the vocal tracks. Big props also to Tommy's wife, Emily Roberts, for her expert backing vocals that add so much. And "Seize The Moment" might just be Tommy's best song yet. I've paid close attention to and have frequently been involved with Tommy's work since he was 12 years old and this one make me especially proud of him. When I told him I thought it was the best thing he'd ever done he replied, "Well, that's good, right? Means I'm still getting better." Amen. (http://tommystinson.com/)
6. Tommy Keene – Behind The Parade
"Deep Six Saturday" into "Already Made Up Your Mind" is arguably the best one-two-punch album kick-off of the year, still takes my breath away every time. The horn in the former was an inspired move, shades of "So You Wanna Be A Rock n' Roll Star." Tommy Keene is an artist who defies rock rules by continuing to make one great record after another some 30 years into his career. This one might be his best ever. As we like to say around the house, "Power-Pop at its finest!" (http://www.tommykeene.com/)
7. Eisley – The Valley
To my ears, Eisley are one of the best vocal groups in rock and have been for several years now. The Valley is, for the most part, a frankly emotional record written on the rebound from two rather public broken relationships and it contains some of their finest and most touching songs. Particularly "Sad," "Ambulance," "Smarter" and maybe their rockin-est song ever "Better Love" – which contains one of the quintessential Eisley moments when they sing, "'Cause I've finally found out / you're on my side / with a bullet for the bad guys / Hallelujah" – it makes my heart pound every time! This difficult to birth 3rd album, fraught with unfortunate major label shenanigans, was finally released on respected indie Equal Vision. It's stronger than the 2nd while not quite as solid as the 1st. Though the writing has clearly grown, they still have a ways to go in that department but the singing is stronger than ever. Overall, they're wearing their maturity well and I firmly believe Eisley's best work is still ahead of them.
– Eisley Family Christmas EP
Another late in the year release that's still sinking in. A great and fun addition to their catalog and the canon of Christmas music in general.
8. A.A. Bondy – Believers
One fabulous record after another, this is Bondy's 3rd and best to my ears. An excellent collection of songs. His best singing and production so far. (http://aabondy.co/)
9. Tinariwen – Tassili +10:1
In a way, similar to The Unthanks, this is a group that I would never have expected to see in my 'Best Of' list. But the music got under my skin and I just couldn't stop playing it. The group's name means "desert" in Tuareg, a language spoken in the Sahara regions of of northern Africa where they are from. At times, it almost sounds Native American. Hypnotic, guitar based music, often with chant-like vocals and adorned with flutes, a one string violin and percussion. Melodic, rhythmic and very beautiful. (http://www.tinariwen.com/)
10. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic
Nick has made a series of wonderful records since he found his latter-day voice, a mix of Brill Building craft and simple, Ricky Nelson-esque mood pieces. Nostalgic and full of wry humor, though much of it has quite a melancholy air, this is one of his best. One of the highlights of the year for me was an appearance Nick did in LA at The Grammy Museum where he did a 60 minute Q&A followed by a six-song solo acoustic set (including a stunning take on Magic's "Sensitive Man"). One comment Nick made during the interview segment really struck with me – he said, "My enemy is earnestness." It was said at least partly in jest but I knew just what he meant. (http://nicklowe.com/)
11. Middle Brother – self titled
A Supergroup of sorts, sporting members of the bands Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. I had foolishly not paid attention to those groups until I heard this remarkable record. Described as a "chance collaboration," there's a quality and a freshness here not often found under those circumstances. Their terrific cover of the semi-obscure Replacements song "Portland" made me sit up and take notice. "Million Dollar Bill," "Daydreaming" and "Wilderness" are three of the best songs I heard all year. And it's one of Jennifer's favorite albums too! (http://www.middlebrother.com/)
12. Dan Stuart - Dan Stuart presents: 4 Songs (EP)
As I only half-jokingly said to my pal Terry the other day, "Dan Stuart seems to be single-handedly keeping Johnny Thunders-esque ballads alive!" (Jennifer hears some Alex Chilton in there too) Dan is an alumnus of the great Green On Red, Danny & Dusty and The Slummers. These are his first solo recordings in 15 years. I don't mean to cast stones but I gotta say, to me these four songs pack more power and depth than full albums by many, more successful, so-called cutting edge artists of the day. This EP also has in abundance something that's all-too-rare in music these days - an actual sense of humor. The haunting, vaguely Twin-Peaks-esque "4am" totally slays me and "Gonna Change" (which I suspect is about a father's separation from his son) is one of my most played songs of the year, the performance has made me weep more than once (and, speaking of Thunders, if I found out this song was secretly one of his, I wouldn't be surprised). Mention must also be made of the phenomenal sound, the production is a huge part of what makes this such a fantastic record. Seek it out. Buy it. Support this great artist. http://marlowebillings.com/
13. The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time
A much coveted reunion, the definitive line-up came back, effortlessly sounding like they'd never left. The album has classic 'Hawks material like "Hide Your Colors," Cinnamon Love" and "She Walks In So Many Ways" alongside songs that break some new ground for them, like "High Water Blues" with its extended jam. Perhaps not as strong as anything in their original canon but a welcome addition to their discography nonetheless. (http://www.jayhawksofficial.com/)
Tomorrow The Green Grass & Hollywood Town Hall expanded reisssues - Beautifully put together with a plethora of bonus cuts. Essential to all serious record collections.
14. The Parson Red Heads – Yearling
Brimming with warmth and optimism, echoing the folk-pop-rock of The Byrds and Big Star among others, this record is straight up my alley. Even though the band has been releasing records since 2006, this only their 2nd full-length (their discography includes 3 EPs, a 7" single as well as the 1st album – all highly recommmended). Their most outstanding attribute is their ability to sing live every bit as magnificently as they do on record. (http://www.theparsonredheads.com/)
15. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Here We Rest
A perfect contemporary example of the influence of place on art, the Sheffield-Muscle Shoals based Isbell trades in the region's rich rock-soul tradition as well as any artist in existence these days. And that's saying something. The singing is particularly impressive, one of my favorite vocalists of the last 20 years, soulful in the real definition of the word.
16. R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
Confident, aggressive and rockin, my favorite since New Adventures In Hi-Fi. And now, sadly, it's their last. In November, after 32 years, R.E.M. announced they were breaking up. They leave behind a formidable legacy of pure class, of consistently honorable behavior in a business where that is a rare property and making artistically successful if not always publicly well received albums right up to the very end.
– Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage
A pretty perfect career retrospective, the songs are so well selected and sequenced. And worth buying just for the liner notes. One of the three new / unreleased recordings, "We All Go Back To Where We Belong" is especially great.
17. Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys
A band I just seem to like everything by, this is their best work since 2003's Transatlanticism. It's feel-good music with depth and rhythm.
18. The Milk Carton Kids – Prologue
An artful update on both The Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel (among other things), I found this irresistible. The song "One Goodbye" sounds so much like a long-lost Phil Everly solo track it makes me shiver! (http://www.themilkcartonkids.com/)
19. NRBQ – Keep This Love Goin
Terry Adams ressurects the band name with startlingly great results. Minus the guys from the definitive Q line-up - Joey Spampinato, Al Anderson and Tom Ardolino (R.I.P.) - this is still very much NRBQ. (http://www.nrbq.com/)
20. Son Of The Velvet Rat – Red Chamber Music
Head 'Rat,' Austrian George Altzeibler writes deliberate, often austere music. When he sings, "I'm happy in a way" on the song "For Free," you know he's not kidding around. But closer inspection of the album overall reveals a sense of humor that might not be obvious on first listen. Writing in English (his second language), the lyrics have a sometimes charmingly awkward quality that ends up serving the songs well. The lyrics are real poetry that work as well on the page as they do when sung. Certainly for fans of Dylan and Cohen, SOTVR's music most resembles the latter (especially LC's album Various Positions) but also reminds me of artists like Pearls Before Swine and more recently, Vic Chesnutt and Lambchop. Lucinda Williams is a big fan of Georg's work and guests on two tracks. The gorgeous album closer, "Silence Is A Crown" was one of my most played of the year. (http://velvetrat.mur.at/)
21. Young Man – Ideas Of Distance
From St. Paul, living in Chicago and recording for the uber-hip NYC label Frenchkiss Records, Young Man (Colin Caulfield) is another artist that has an air of mystery around him. The artwork for this album doesn't even have song titles on it fer godssakes! Last year's fantastic debut, the Boy EP, was soft indie-pop (with some intricate acoustic guitar work). When I saw Colin and band live at SXSW 2011, it was electric, Television-esque, twin-guitar interplay. IOD is more like the EP. (http://www.myspace.com/colincaulfield)
22. Teddybears – Devil Music
The Teddy Bears are a Swedish band that's been together since 1991, headed up by three gents – Patrik Arve and brothers Joakim and Klas Ahlund. They are wildly diverse playing everything from rock and pop to rap and electronica. Devil Music is a totally-for-fun blast of a dancey pop record, full of imagination and inventivenesss with cameos by Ceelo Green, Robyn, B.o.B., The B-52's, The Flaming Lips and Charles Bukowski (!). (http://teddybearsrock.com)
23. Jonathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit
Modern-day Laurel Canyon, trippy, dreamy, folk-rock music. The song "Desert Raven" was one I played constantly all year, the riff reminds me somehow of the great, early Steve Miller Band records. (http://songsofjonathanwilson.com/)
24. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Dirty Radio
This is a group from Portland that first knocked me out onstage, then WOW-ed me with this debut album. Sallie's voice may be an acquired taste. Smart, 21st century indie rock infused with some jump blues. (http://www.sallieford.com/)
25. Bon Iver , Bon Iver
Worth the price of admission for "Calgary" alone, this album is another beauty, a strong follow-up to the incredibly-tough-act-to-follow debut. (http://boniver.org/)
26. Tristen – Charlatans At The Garden Gate
A favorite new artist, I was obsesssed with several of her songs this year. She has a clear-headed, sassy confidence I can't get enough of. Hard to classify, she plays rock with catchy pop overtones and dash of alt-country. One to watch. (http://tristen.com/)
27. Garland Jeffreys – The King of In Between
Though Garland is an old favorite, I might not have paid attention to this new album had I not caught him on Letterman in November when he and hs crack band (most of Ian Hunter's 'Rant Band') performed the outstanding opening track, "Coney Island Winter." It was some of the rock I've seen on TV in ages! (http://garlandjeffreys.com/)
28. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
Folky, church-ey blues music, the songs are tremendous, the production is too.
29. Lucinda Williams – Blessed
Lu's hit a good rhythm, putting strong albums out much quicker than she used to. Maybe her best this century. (http://www.lucindawilliams.com/)
30. Husky – Forever So
A fine new Australian band. Melodic, folk-ish rock. On first listen one could be forgiven for thinking it was an Angus Stone solo project. Which translates as "Right Up My Alley"! As Rolling Stone Australia said, "Forever So is breathtaking in its ambition, a shimmering fog of kaleidoscopic story telling, each song a Nick Drake-esque fairytale delivered with full indie-orchestration." (http://www.huskysongs.com/)
31. Kenny Vaughn – self titled
Delightful to hear a longtime friend of mine finally release his debut solo album. In the 70s, Kenny led a Littleton, CO-based trio called The Jonny III that frequented our underground rock club in Minneapolis, The Longhorn, and for me it was love at first sight. He knocked my socks off then and still does in this fun record full of classic and cornball country craft, honed now over many years as one of Nashville's most sought after guitarists. Kenny's playing is just insanely great, one of my personal favorite guitarists ever. (http://www.kennyvaughan.net/)
Singles & EPs
Angus & Julia Stone – "Love Will Take You There" – Breaking Dawn Part 1 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Classic A&J intro leads into one of their most sophisticated folk-pop songs to date, replete with gorgeous strings. No album from them this year so this is a most treasured piece by arguably my favorite group of the last few years. Pure class. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eashb-IzvIk)
Skylar Grey – Invisible – One of my most played songs of the year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AI0BJKeY8Q&feature=related)
Stackridge – Beside The Sea / Dummies – A wonderful single from legendary British Pop-Prog Rockers. The B-side is classic Stackridge. (http://www.stackridge.net/)
Alabama Shakes – EP – Promising debut, "Hold On" is undeniably great. (http://www.alabamashakes.com/)
Theo Altieri – EP – Great teenage British Pop. (http://theoaltieri.com/)
Howler – EP – Fantastic new Minneapolis band. (http://www.howlerband.com/)
Live Shows (in Los Angeles unless otherwise noted)
24 – Jenny O - Spaceland
1/31 – Ian Hunter – The El Rey Theater
7 – Jenny O – Bootleg Theater
12 – Leslie & The Badgers – Hotel Cafe
15 – Joseph Arthur – Bootleg Theater
17 – Lucero / Olin & The Moon – The Echoplex
10 – The Majestic Silver Strings – The Grammy Museum
16, 17 & 18 - SXSW – The Barr Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff, Young Man, Bob Geldof Keynote Speech, Buxton, Robert Ellis (band & solo), Ponderosa, Old 97's, Jenny O, Quiet Company, Lohio, Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Bahamas, Wagons, Eisley, Rhett Miller & Murry Hammond, The Head & The Heart, Leslie Stevens, John Grant & Midlake
23 – Ponderosa – NBC TV offices (morning) & Bootleg Theater (evening)
25 – The Parson Red Heads – The Echo
14 – Cleveland Confidential Book Tour – Grammy Museum
25 – The Head & The Heart – The Troubadour
29 – Nathaniel Rateliff – The Troubadour
4 – Rhett Miller – The Autry Museum
15 – Eisley – The Troubadour
24 – Robert Ellis – The Echo
10 – Maxim Ludwig & The Santa Fe Seven
29 – Luluc – Hotel Cafe / The Parson Red Heads – The Echo
2 - John Hiatt – Q&A / performance - The Grammy Museum
4 – John Hiatt – Mimosas & Music at Gary Calamar's House (morning) / The Troubadour (evening)
14 – Chris Blackwell Q&A – The Grammy Museum
16 – Nick Lowe – Q&A / performance – The Grammy Museum
17 – Old 97's – The Wiltern
6 – Tommy Keene – Silverlake Lounge
7 – Ceremony for Buddy Holly's Star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame with performances by Jenny O and Gary Busey; and speeches by Phil Everly and Peter Asher!
13 – Eisley – Chain Reaction – Anaheim, CA
14 – Paul & Dan Kelly – NBC-TV offices (morning) / Hotel Cafe (evening)
15 – Paul & Dan Kelly – Hotel Cafe
16 – Oh Mercy – Hotel Cafe
19 – Bon Iver – The Shrine Auditorium
21 – Wagons – Hotel Cafe
27 – Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin – The Greek Theater
4 – The Jayhawks – Hotel Cafe (lunchtime show) / The Troubadour (evening)
17 – Rubber Kiss Goodbye – The Satellite
2 – The Barr Bros (if these guys come within a hundred mile radius of you, go see them, one of the greatest musical experiences one can have in the 21st century)
4 – Color Me Obsessed – LA Premier
17 – Joe Ely – The Mint
21 – Leslie & The Badgers – Silverlake Lounge
8 – Buxton - 826-LA
In the "How Did I Get So Lucky" department, last August I was invited to a recording session being run by producer-engineer Andy Freeman, who wanted to show me what he could do with his new Record On Location mobile gear. It didn't hurt that the artist was one of my favorite bands in the world – Eisley! The sessions took place in the band's hometown of Tyler, TX in guitarist Chauntelle's house. The 107 degree temperatures outside did nothing to diminish how cool I felt to be a fly on the wall. The highlight was when I got to hear Sherri play a demo of a new song of hers called "Deep Space" for the rest of the band, then watch and listen as she and sister Stacey slowly worked out the initial harmonies. It was heavenly. Andy, the band and crew were incredibly gracious to me. I can't thank them all enough. And the recording set up was massively impressive and highly recommended. (http://recordonlocation.com/)
In the "Unexpected Meetings" category, in September I went to see Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin at The Greek Theater. I work with Buddy and he had some audio masters to give to me so we made tentative arrangements to meet either in the Green Room before the show or back stage after. I'd arrived earlier than expected and was sitting by myself in the Green Room reading when my dear old friend Robin Hurley said hello. Robin's a great guy, has worked at 4AD and Rhino and, in 1988 while working for Rough Trade, had the wisdom to seriously push that label's envelope by signing Lucinda Williams and made the record I will likely always consider to be her finest. But I digress. Robin and I chat and I am vaguely aware of another person with him, just out of my peripheral vision. Before I can turn to see who it was, Robin says to this person, "Do you know Peter Jesperson?" and I turn to see Robert Plant holding out his hand to me. He was clearly attempting to be incognito with glasses on and a wool hat pulled down over his hair but at close range you couldn't miss him. It happened so quickly, I didn't have time to get nervous. I'm one of those people who unabashedly loves every record Led Zepplin ever made as well as having great respect for Robert as both a music historian and as a mad music fan himself. Robert and I stand and chat for a few minutes. We talk about our mutual love for Buddy and the sound at The Greek. I mention how cool I thought it was that he had covered a rather obscure song – "The Only Sound That Matters" by TX indie band Milton Mapes - on his new album and Robert tells me the back story on how he came to hear it. I must admit I was more than a little dumbfounded by how friendly and genuine he was, very relaxed, no pretense whatsoever. After the show, I meet Buddy backstage. It's the typical madhouse, with everyone running around preparing for headliner Emmylou Harris to go onstage so Buddy offers his dressing room as a sanctuary to get away and talk for a bit. In we go. He gives me the audio files and we catch up on what each of us had been doing. Then, there's a knock on the door. It's Robert, asking if he can join us to get away from the hubbub. So we all three hang around for 15 or 20 minutes and just shoot the breeze. Needless to say, it was a remarkable experience. Nothing like meeting a true hero and having him be even cooler than you ever imagined. And by the way, Buddy & Patty's set was amazing, as always!
John Hiatt – Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns
I don't generally write about the records I work on but I have to say that being involved with this John Hiatt record is an experience I will treasure forever. My involvement was minimal - on the label side of the production for the album package, collecting the credits, lyrics, etc. and putting it all in order for the art director. But I felt a part of it nonetheless and, as the final mixes were coming in, I started to get the sense that it was beyond just another great Hiatt record. It was a landmark for both artist and label. I think Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns stands as one of John Hiatt's very best (right up there with Bring The Family) and is a serious candidate for best thing New West has ever released.