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In the last few days, I have had more than more conversation about how Nashville's embarrassment of musical riches can be easy to take for granted. On any given night, we can wander out to your favorite neighborhood bar and be likely to see any one or more than one or all of the following: world-class musicians, musicians who have backed up the biggest names in the music business, top-notched songwriters (young and not-so-young). All of this while mingling with other incredibly talented musicians, songwriters, photographers, journalists, artist managers, publicists, etc - in a totally loose and casual environment.
Saturday - I took my daughter to see Fats Kaplin and Kristi Rose at The 5 Spot - with Wes Langlois, Justin Amaral, and Daniel Seymour. Plus special guests Paul Burch and Kevin Welch.
Last night, I headed to Dee's in Madison for the weekly Madison Guild Monday - this week hosted by Megan Palmer and featuring the "Backyard Bitches" featuring an incredible line-up of talented songwriters - some backed by equally talented musicians.
Well - just four more shuffles for 2017. This is one of those four - so let's get to it!
"Don't Let the Demagogue Get You Down" by Strange Majik (feat. Cherrye J. Davis)
EARIE ALERT: Last year, Strange Majik - aka David Pattillo released Raised on Rock n Roll - a rollicking exploration of American music of the last 50 years. Following the election of the current President, Strange Majik went to work - doing what artists should do when confronted by oppression and evil... the result was two EPs that continue the musical direction of his past release while lyrically addressing the forces of evil which seem to have taken route. The first release was this rally cry which I have returned to often as the weeks and months of seemingly unchecked madness eroded much of my good faith and hope. This was from the first of the two EPs - called Soul Crisis, and so I am giving Strange Majik (a long-time E2TG favorite) the "Crisis Intervention" award for 2017.
"Poisoned Rivers" by Mike Younger
EARIE ALERT: One thing that I believe most people can agree on is that "We the People" are more divided then ever. We are told that those who disagree with us are THE ENEMY. Ordinary things become politically polarizing. Some would say this was the plan of the powerful - because the little people if united could be more powerful than any leader, party, or lobbying force. The lies were are told and sold can and must be rejected by We the People. At least, that is my takeaway from this powerful track from Little People Like You and Me -the latest album by Nashville singer-songwriter Mike Younger. Once again, I point to the role of poets and bards which is vital in these times. The Earie for "People Power" award goes to Mike Younger.
"Ley Lines" by Cellarscape
EARIE ALERT: Again, I am struck by the quality and quantity of music that I have been introduced to in 2017. Cellarscape - which is the recording project of Paul Terry - a singer-songwriter-musician and more from the UK. Cellarscape played their first show in 2003, and in 2017 they released their most recent album Exo Echo. The album came to my attention and certainly found favor with my shuffle function. This beautiful track is one of my favorites on the album. So, the "Echo Pop" award goes to Cellarscape for their unique sound and commitment to moving pop and indie sensibilities forward.
"The Street Where I Was Born" by Jon Magnusson
EARIE ALERT: Again - not being particularly bound by calendars allows me to write about the music that had the most impact on me in 2017. I was aware of and had featured Jon Magnusson prior to 2017, but that awareness and appreciate greatly increased in 2017. There is a wistful and yes, sentimental feel to much of Magnusson's music. Sentimentality can be difficult to effectively pull off. It is all too easy for sentimentality to seem maudlin or trite. That is probably why sentimentality in music and art gets a bad name. But sentimentality and triteness are not necessarily synonymous - and Jon Magnusson's music is an object lesson in how to avoid that trap. The key is honesty, sincerity, and excellent songwriting. So, I give Magnusson, the "Sentimental Journeyman" award.
"Interstate Blues" by Bark
EARIE ALERT: Last years, Tin Man - marked a point of (at least) pause for Tim Lee 3 and the emergence of Bark from side project to the primary musical outlet for Tim and Susan Bauer Lee. Year of the Dog is the full-length follow up to the eponymous EP. As you may recall, Bark played our 5th Anniversary Show at The 5 Spot last year, and they have remained a favorite to see live whenever I have the chance. Their music is swampy and bluesy and gritty. I am handing out the "Woof!" award to Bark. As a bonus Earie I want to codify something I have long stated - the "Best Laugh in Rock and Roll" award goes to Susan Bauer Lee of Bark. Check out a 30 minute documentary about Bark - from Mississippi Public Television in the video playlist.
"Poisoned the Well" by Vanessa Collier
EARIE ALERT: Looking back at 2017, I am grateful for the wide-variety of music that I get the chance to hear and write about. Thanks to a couple of my sources, I have the great opportunity to hear a lot of blues and blues-influences music. One of my favorites in that vein for 2017 was Philadelphia singer-songwriter-saxophonist Vanessa Collier and her latest album Meeting My Shadow. Note this is the second song in my shuffle with Poisoned in the title. So, I award the "Shadow Blues" award to Vanessa Collier.
"Too Much Is Never Enough" by AJ Hobbs
EARIE ALERT: Around the time, I received L.A. "by-God" country music artist's album Too Much is Never Enough to feature, he made an appearance in Nashville at $2 Tuesday. That night, he was backed by "Earie Award Winners" Buck n Stuff - who also played. Now, as I have listened to AJ Hobbs' album, I am thoroughly convinced that this would have been one of my favorite albums of 2017 even if he hadn't played the show with Buck n Stuff - the fact that he did pretty much sealed the deal. Despite the marketing and promotion efforts of the majors, this is what I think about when I hear the term country music. I give AJ Hobbs the "No Such Thing As Two Much" award for 2017.
"Early in the Moanin'" by The Soul of John Black
EARIE ALERT: Finally, we close out this shuffle and this portion of the Earie Awards with The Soul of John Black and the title track from his latest album Early in the Moanin'. The Soul of John Black is the recording project of John Bigham who has an incredible resume that includes the names Miles Davis, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Fishbone. This album hit me like a breath of fresh air, and it is for sure one of my favorite albums of the year. The "Early Bird" award for 2017 goes to The Soul of John Black.