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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

ROUTES & BRANCHES
June 30, 2012
Scott Foley

According to one authoritative website I consulted, the halfway point through 2012 is "like around July 1".  Close enough for americana ...  This being the case, I figured I could observe this potentially auspicious declaration with one of my own.  I decided to, like, pull together a list of my favorite albums of the year, so far.  While I do this habitually at the end of each year, 2012 and 1/2 will mark my first half-year favorites list.  Rather than count up or down to my favorite disc, the following nominees are arranged by date of appearance per iTunes.  Of course, given that we're staring down another half year to go, many of these will likely be edged out by forthcoming albums once I settle on my year-end list.  In other words, don't hold me to this informal statement.  There are still releases cresting the horizon from the likes of Avett Brothers, Band Of Horsies, Zoe Muth, Calexico, Kelly Joe Phelps, Two Gallants, Mumford & Sons and more and more and more ...

So, has it been a good year for americana, alt.country and roots music?  Eh ... I would say it's average to just below average, with welcome glimpses of brilliance here and there.  My musical engine tends to run in large part on new artists, but only five of the following mark the respective artist's national debut, whereas familiar names like Escovedo, Earle and Lucero are more conspicuous.  Two nominees (Arliss Nancy and Lumineers) hail from The Centennial State, though a couple others did make the shortlist on what is actually a very strong year for Colorado music. 

I present to you the Routes & Branches Half-Year Favorites List for 2012:

Farrar Johnson Parker Yames, New Multitudes  (Rounder, 2/28)
Delta Spirit, Delta Spirit  (Rounder, 3/13)
Lucero, Women & Work  (ATO, 3/13)
Sara Watkins, Sun Midnight Sun  (Nonesuch, 3/22)
Sons Of Bill, Sirens (Gray Fox, 3/26)
Arliss Nancy, Simple Machines  (Suburban Home, 3/27)
Justin Townes Earle, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now  (Bloodshot, 3/27)
Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls  (ATO, 4/03)
Lumineers, Lumineers  (Dualtone, 4/03)
Trampled By Turtles, Stars & Satellites  (Banjodad, 4/10)
Diamond Rugs, Diamond Rugs  (Partisan, 4/24) 
Father John Misty, Fear Fun  (Sub Pop, 5/01)
John Fullbright, From the Ground Up  (Blue Dirt, 5/08)
Turnpike Troubadours, Goodbye Normal Street  (Bossier City, 5/08)
Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, There Is a Bomb In Gilead  (Alive Naturalsound, 5/15)
Kelly Hogan, I Like To Keep Myself In Pain  (Anti, 6/01)
Alejandro Escovedo, Big Station  (Concord, 6/05)
Rhett Miller, Dreamer  (Maximum Sunshine, 6/05)
Elizabeth Cook, Gospel Plow  (31 Tigers, 6/12)
Shovels & Rope, O' Be Joyful  (Dualtone, 7/31)

Now, on to our Episode ...

* Mavericks, "Born To Be Blue"  Suited Up and Ready  (Valory, 12)
*  Possessed By Paul James, "Shoulda Known Better"  Feed the Family  (Hillgrass Bluebilly, 10)
*  Oakhurst, "I'll Be Alright"  Barrel  (Self, 12)
*  Farrar Johnson Parker Yames, "Wherabouts Can I Hide"  New Multitudes  (Rounder, 12)
*  Mindy Smith, "Tin Can"  Mindy Smith  (Giant Leap, 12)
*  Jerry Jeff Walker, "My Favorite Picture Of You"  This One's For Him  (Icehouse, 11)
*  Brothers Comatose, "Modern Day Sinners"  Respect the Van  (Self, 12)
*  Iris Dement, "Sweet Is the Melody"  My Life  (Warner, 93)
*  4H Royalty, "Virtues Spices & Liquors"  Where UFOs Go To Die  (Self, 12)
*  Blasters w/Exene Cervenka, "Jackson"  Fun On Saturday Night  (Rip Cat, 12)  D

*  Kathleen Edwards, "Back To Me"  Back To Me  (Universal, 05)
*  Michael Rank, "Straw Man"  Kin  (Louds Hymn, 12)  D
*  James Luther Dickinson, "Well Of Love"  Free Beer Tomorrow  (Artemis, 02)
*  Wandering, "You Are My Sunshine"  Go On Now You Can't Stay Here  (Songs Of the South, 12)
*  North Mississippi Allstars, "If I Was Jesus"  Mercyland: Hymns For the Rest Of Us  (Mercyland, 12)
*  Avett Brothers, "Live and Die"  Carpenter  (American, 12)  D
*  Casey James Prestwood, "Rebel On My Side"  Falling Apart At the Seams  (Self, 11)
^  Old Crow Medicine Show, "Carry Me Back To Virginia"  Carry Me Back  (ATO, 12)  D
*  Elizabeth Cook, "Hear Jerusalem Calling"  Gospel Plow  (31 Tigers, 12)
*  Old 97s, "Barrier Reef"  Too Far To Care  (Elektra, 97)
*  Lucero, "Like Lightning"  Women & Work  (ATO, 12)
*  Joy Mills, "History Repeats"  Trick Of the Eye  (Self, 12)
*  Whitey Morgan, "Turn Up the Bottle"  Whitey Morgan & the 78s  (Bloodshot, 10)
*  Lumineers, "Stubborn Love"  Lumineers  (Dualtone, 12)
*  Cory Chisel & Wandering Sons, "Over Jordan"  Old Believers  (Readymade, 12)  D
*  Denver, "Way It Is"  Way It Is  (Self, 12)  D
*  Justin Townes Earle, "Can't Hardly Wait"  Midnight At the Movies  (Bloodshot, 09)

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