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Look, I'm as ready as any of you to put 2016 behind me, but I have a little unfinished business. Besides, all of the great music put out and discovered was one of the best parts of an otherwise crappy year. So, I have the final batch of "Earie" Awards to hand out, and then later today, I will unveil the Band/Artist of the Year Award for 2016.
First off, one outside the shuffle.
The "Rockified Country" Award goes to Saint Luke's Drifters. I first met Mitch Laney of the band at a Richie Owens show a while back. Then, I saw his band play a show with Richie. Their sound reminds me at times of Jason and the Scorchers or the early Georgia Satellites when Dan Baird was a part of that band. But, they have some really unique qualities. I think they do country music better and more purely than either of those bands. And, when they rock, they bring it. Their live shows always yield awesome covers to go along with their original songs - like ones on their 2016 release Trials and Tribulations. The album was mixed by Eric Ambel (who by the way I got to briefly meet during Americana Fest this year).
Now let's do the final shuffle of 2016 for real, ya'll,,,
"Moments Removed" + "Circle" by The Gypsy West
The "Post-Accomplices" award goes to The Gypsy West - a long time E2TG favorite who returned in 2016 with Modern Atlas which was produced by Chris Peck (who had been the primary member of another old E2TG fave - The Disappointment). Modern Atlas was a welcome return and a change of pace - Alex Giorgetti - the primary member of the band - having relocated from Brooklyn to Boston. You may recall, the band previously released the three EP concept project called Accomplices - set in a dystopian future?. Modern Atlas is at once more personal and more global in its approach. At least that is my take. But, it is unmistakably a The Gypsy West album.
"Black Sunday" by Danielle French
The "Best Scented" award goes to Danielle French. Her album is called Miss Scarlett and the Madmen: Dark Love Songs. This was a cold inquiry that in typical E2TG fashion ended up having connections (French spent some time in Nashville doing vocal training with Julie Christensen and she stayed with my friend Marilyn). The CD she sent me was exquisitely packaged and included a rose scent (thus the award). Happily the music inside lived up the packaging - great songs and great vocals.
"Honey Jar" + "It'll Pass" + "The Walk" by Chase Walker Band
The "Not Legal Yet" award goes to Chase Walker Band - a hard rocking blues rock band based in California (however Chase Walker relocated to Nashville to attend school). Chase has been on The Voice, and the band have won numerous awards in the blues scene. Their album Not Quite Legal is filled with great songs which move from traditional blues to songs like, "The Walk" which demonstrate the link between the blues and hard rock music. I have really been digging this album in 2016.
"Pause" by Luella
The "Hot Dog" award goes to Luella. I already handed out an Earie to her band Crackerboots, but I would be remiss if I did not mention her main project. Backed by Tim Carroll - Luella specializes is original songs and highly original cover songs which serve to highlight her unique and wonderful voice. Fortunately, Nashville residents have several opportunities a week to see her perform - including every Friday with Tim Carroll at The 5 Spot. (By the way, Crackerboots will be playing every Saturday at The Family Wash). This song takes me back to the Fran's Eastside days.
"Based On a Story That's True" by Dog Without Warning
The "Sans Alarm Canine"award goes to Dog Without Warning. This Bay Area band is another that I would likely have missed out on except for Couch by Couchwest. The released a series of singles which culminated in the released of Based On a Story That's True in 2016. (We have the title track today). I love their sound. They have an amazing ability to seemingly reinvent themselves with every release while maintaining a cohesive and distinctive sound throughout. And damn, this song is catchy as hell!
"The Coat" by Ben Arthur
The "Answer is Clearish" award goes to Ben Arthur. Although, I have been spinning his album Call and Response for some time, it was finally officially released in 2016. My review was unfortunately one of the casualties of all of the stuff that went down for me in 2016, but it is one of the best albums of the year. The songs are all "Answer" songs to other songs, poems, short stories etc. But, even when the source is obvious - like "Sympathy for the Devil" or "Atlantic City" - the songs stand apart from the source was original works of art. In some cases, the source is not obvious or known (at least to me), and in those cases it is fortunate that this is not a novelty - and that it is a fine album even when not understood as containing "Answer" songs. I highly recommend this album. Ben Arthur is an inspiring songwriter whose work with SongCraft Presents provides a unique view into the process of songwriting. (By the way, Matthew Hendershot (of 2013 Band of the Year - The End Men) has worked with Arthur on the Songcraft project - creating yet another weird E2TG connection.
"Hitman" by SuperCrashingStar
The "Immigrant" award goes to SuperCrashingStar - this NYC based band is one of the most original bands I have heard in quite some time. Their music is electronica-inspired indie rock/pop. All I really know, is that I always love what I hear from them. I know their self-titled album was released late in 2015, but I first heard it early in 2016. Their next album The City arrived in my inbox in 2016, and I have heard a few newer songs which make me excited for 2017.
"Cocaine Kisses" by Strange Majik
The "Rock 'n' Roll Redux" award goes to Strange Majik. A member of The Dead Exs (an early E2TG fave) - Strange Majik's music moved on toward more psychedelic sounds, but his 2016 album Raised on Rock 'n' Roll (while containing bits of that new sound) was very much a return to roots. It also very effectively compressed the history of rock and roll music into an album of original songs. Really one of the grooviest albums of the year, and the one most likely the get me to move my ass. You may recall I wrote a review of the album back in May.
"The Day We Lost the War" by Zach Schmidt
The "Buck 'n' Stuff Enabler" award goes to Zach Schmidt. It seems fitting to end the final Earie shuffle with one of my favorite people - East Nashville singer-songwriter Zach Schmidt who released one of the best albums of 2016 and who toured hard in support of it. He often plays with Adam Kurtz of Buck 'n' Stuff so that's why I named the award what I did. Today, our final shuffled song of the 2016 "Earie" season is the title track from that album. Seriously, you need to get out there and listen to and buy this album. If you do not believe me, listen to Rolling Stone and other folks who are telling you the same thing.
Well... stay tuned. I will be back shortly to name the Band/Artist of the Year Award. I just need to tabulate some things and count ballots from my distinguished panel of judges (okay it's just me). See you soon.