At the end of every year (or at least the last seven or so), I put together a CD of songs from that year that I found particularly enjoyable. It's not necessarily a best of (time constraints and a rule of one song per artist limit things a bit), but it's close enough. This year's offering, unimaginatively titled "Songs From 2009 That I Like (Or, A Coaster)" (though I'm pretty sure some of them wound up titled "Songs That I Like From 2009 (Or, A Coaster)," because it was late and I was tired...consider these the Billy Ripken error cards), hit the streets a few weeks ago. What follows is some thoughts on my choices.
1. "Seven Nation Army" by the Oak Ridge Boys (from "The Boys Are Back")
The normally laudable country music website The 9513 recently called this one of the worst country songs of 2009. They're dead wrong on that one. When I first heard mention of the song on The 9513, I was prepared for the worst. I laughed the first time through, and then immediately wanted to hear it again. I have yet to grow tired of it. Joe Bonsall's high tenor in the background is aces.
2. "County" by Slo-Mo (from "Gimme What You Got")
This was a late addition to "SF2TIL(O,AC)," I liked this song the first time I heard it, when someone posted a clip of a live performance on Facebook, but I didn't get around to buying the disc until November (the day I met Danny Bonaduce, in fact). To the best of my knowledge, no one's making music that comes close to sounding like what Slo-Mo (the band, as opposed to the man) is doing.
3. "The Long Way" by The Bottle Rockets (from "Lean Forward")
An even later addition, again mainly because of laziness in purchasing habits. Another good one from the boys from Festus.
4. "So Damn Easy" by Maybe Pete (from "Pancakes and Martinis")
I resisted the urge to include the song on "Pancakes and Martinis" that features my vocal stylings (inexplicably buried in the mix) and went with this one instead. You should buy the CD. Well, you should buy all the CDs from these artists (maybe not the Oak Ridge Boys; I only bought the single), but you should buy Maybe Pete's first. I'll sign it free of charge. (Note: This song was swapped out with "Bumble Bee" by Heavy Trash in Version 2.0, the version that went to members of Maybe Pete.)
5. "It Comes To Me Naturally" by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles (from "The Stars Are Out")
You can't go wrong with an NRBQ cover. If a band covers "Captain Lou" in 2010, I guarantee prime placement on next year's disc.
6. "Doin' the Devil's Work" by John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives (from "Spills and Thrills")
I'd known of John Paul Keith for awhile, via his inclusion in the Viceroys, who preceded the V-Roys, featuring Mic Harrison and Scott Miller, former (and, in Miller's case, current) Sigman Year-End CD artists. But it wasn't until I saw him at Southpaw in Brooklyn that I heard his music. And I like it.
7. "Washing Machine (Revisited)" by Amy LaVere (from "Died Of Love")
I'm glad she re-recorded it, because I had a hard time leaving it off of the 2007 disc. This version is a little harder than the original, and the entire EP is pretty great. Buy this one right after the Maybe Pete one. They're both EPs, so you can definitely afford to get both of them.
8. "Wash & Fold" by Daddy (from "For A Second Time")
Nothing wrong with the Bo Diddley beat. Another great band, with Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack at the helm.
9. "Think It Over" by Trampled By Turtles (from "Duluth")
Fast songs are fun, no? Go see Trampled by Turtles live if they pass through your town. Or near your town. Or anywhere you can get to in under two hours or so. You'll never have more fun watching guys sitting on folding chairs play music.
10. "Hung Up On Me" by Those Darlins (from "Those Darlins")
Also pretty fun live. And they're back in the NYC area in February. See you at Maxwell's February 3, OK?
11. "I Hate Your Ugly Face" by Kris Kristofferson (from "Closer To The Bone")
At the age of 11, when Kristofferson claims to have written this song, I was way too consumed with professional wrestling to compose a line like "Your skin is tan like leather/It looks just like a heifer's." So, I blame Hulk Hogan for torpedoing my songwriting career before it even got started. Thanks, brother.
12. "Happiness Bleeds" by Wussy (from "Wussy")
Though their name originally brought me to one of their shows, I continue to like what I hear from Wussy. And, just so you know, when I saw them, they acknowledged the Yusuf Islam/"Wild World" influence on the "la la la"s.
13. "Kingfish" by Levon Helm (from "Electric Dirt")
Happiness is Levon Helm singing a Randy Newman song with a full horn section. And, in case you were wondering, the best-sung line of the year is "I'm a crack-uh."
14. "Mama's Pearl" by Robbie Fulks (from "50-Vc. Doberman" [mp3 only])
Fulks says he plans to release his long-awaited Michael Jackson tribute CD in 2010, so there's a better-than-average chance that Fulks will reappear on next year's CD. I assume this song will be on that CD, so get your money ready. Or go buy "50-Vc. Doberman," a collection of 50 mp3s that Fulks is offering on his website for $35. There are plenty of great songs from his own pen among the 50.
15. "Kiss" by Killian Mansfield (from "Somewhere Else")
Read this, then buy the CD, or at least make a donation to the Killian Mansfield Foundation.
16. "Sad Clown" by The Droge & Summers Blend (from "Volume One")
I was excited to find word of a new Pete Droge CD (I still think "Necktie Second" and "Find a Door" are pretty damn fine albums) and glad to see that he and Elaine Summers got hitched. They write and sing really good songs, and this is the best of the lot on the EP. Here's hoping "Volume 2" is coming soon.
17. "Tin Man" by The Avett Brothers (from "I And Love And You")
Hey, did you know I like the Avett Brothers? This was probably the song I was most looking forward to hearing on their new CD, and I wasn't disappointed (plus, there's a tuba on it).
18. "Ellis County" by Buddy & Julie Miller (from "Written In Chalk")
Every disc involving Buddy Miller generally has at least one song that completely knocks me out. This was the one off "Written in Chalk" that did the trick.
19. "Greencastle Blues" by Todd Snider (from "The Excitement Plan")
He sure does have quite a few songs that mention run-ins with cops, but this one's particularly good.
20. "Cigarettes and Wine" by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (from "Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit")
I generally don't like songs that run over six minutes, but if Isbell wrote a 15-minute song with lyrics like these, I'm pretty sure I'd love it.
21. "Forgetful Heart" by Bob Dylan (from "Together Through Life")
Yes, "Must Be Santa" was the better Dylan performance in 2009, but I couldn't put a Christmas song on the disc, no matter how great it was. So, I went with this one, which went right past me on the first few listens but took hold after seeing Mr. Dylan sing the song center stage at the Bethel Woods pavilion in August. That "if indeed there ever was a door" closer is a doozy.
22. "I'm Right Here, My Love" by Scott Miller & The Commonwealth (w/ Patty Griffin) (from "For Crying Out Loud")
I've heard this song enough now that it doesn't leave me emotionally drained at the end, but it took a few dozen listens to make that happen. Patty Griffin makes everything better, but Miller's lyrics gave her a pretty good head start.
23. "The Crooked Line" by Elvis Costello (w/ Emmylou Harris) (from "Secret, Profane and Sugarcane")
This is the best track on a CD that's a little too polished to be great, and it's placed at the end because ending with "I'm Right Here, My Love" would have been way too depressing.
Songs that almost made it: "My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died" (The Sweetback Sisters), "Hey Ya" (Booker T. Jones), "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" (Will Hoge), "True Colors" (Caroline Herring), "I Wish It Was Friday" (Chuck Mead), "Que Sera, Sera" (Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women), "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)" (David Rawlings Machine), "Box Store" (Deano Waco), "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" (Del McCoury Band), "Maybe I Can Paint Over That" (Guy Clark), "They Killed John Henry" (Justin Townes Earle), "Shankill Butchers" (Sarah Jarosz), "The Sound Asleep" (Sometymes Why), "Willie Mays" (Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin' Team), and "I Go To Sleep" (Works Progress Administration)