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Saturday, October 29, 2016

a home for the americana diaspora
October 22, 2016
Scott Foley, Purveyor of Dust

Took my first pass through a favorites list for 2016, singling out just under 40 records worthy of consideration for my top 25.  While I'm far from "done" done, I seem to have had little problem with this exercise.  Have I missed something this year?  Compared with last year, I whiffed on almost nothing in 2016.  But wait, there's still some deep red blood on the horizon, with the pending release of new records from Ryan Adams, Kent Eugene Goolsby, Girls Guns & Glory, and even Bonnie Whitmore, any of which could mess with my preliminaries.  As my wife cautioned me when I told her I might already have my top 25:  "But it's only October?!!"

We begin this Episode bidding farewell to Chris Porter, a talented, hardworking guy who deserved better.  A great voice and a worthy writer, who knows what might've happened if there were more time?  Porter would certainly have garnered more play on R&B ...  And acts like the Vandoliers are one good reason why I wait until the last weeks of the year to assemble my favorites list.  Their Ameri-kinda is brash, loose and reckless.  With his shredded but steady delivery, frontman Joshua Fleming comes across like Deer Tick's John McCauley or Adam Stephens of Two Gallants.  Also, I've always argued that americana has little formally to do with America.  Luke Roberts lives in Kenya, where his Sunlit Cross was recorded with assistance from Kurt Vile and John Neff of Drive-by Truckers.

Til recently, Kent Goolsby has reminded me a bit of an updated Pokey LaFarge, dragging elements of early folk into a more contemporary setting.  He's tended to play acoustic (and play it well), and has demonstrated a ready sense of self-deprecating humor.  With the addition of a previously unused middle name (he's now Kent Eugene Goolsby), he almost sounds like a new man on Temper of the Times.  The vibe here is darker, more overcast, with Goolsby plugging in for the vast majority of songs.  And his vocal delivery seems to have adapted an unheard layer of gravity on songs like "The Stone".  Lyrically, Goolsby comes across as a seeker of wisdom and contentment:  "The stone / You leave unturned / It carries the most weight".  Many stones are flipped on Temper, with the artist playing the role of prophet or "The Great Confessor".  The record's most rambling, bluesy cut recalls Ray Lamontagne or Parker Millsap, with some satisfying guitar lines and a hint of gospel spirit.  "I'm dusting off a language / One that we once spoke so well / Back when we believed that words were sung / To save us from ourselves".  Propelled by a tripping percussive groove, "Wishing Well" adds Anna Leigh Goolsby's backing vocals for an air of foreboding.  Temper also features contributions from the suddenly ubiquitous Joey Kneiser on percussion and production.  With lean accompaniment and no-frills production, Goolsby and co. have curated an album that embraces both simplicity and depth.  "Loveless Prayers" is a stunner, a hymnlike gem with more sweet guitar and a moving vocal:  "Now all you send / Are loveless prayers / To a god that you fear is dead / But you ain't alone / The cosmos will cradle you / And I will listen to every single one of them / Your loveless prayers".  I've been happy to share Kent (Eugene) Goolsby's work with R&B listeners over the years, recognizing him as an artist worthy of our ears.  That said, Temper of the Times arrives as an impressive statement, changing the game for Goolsby and revealing a promising glimpse at the future of his growth.  Goolsby returns to the acoustic for "Some Crosses", allowing his muse to shine thru and his voice to be heard.  Sure, it's only October, but I might have a little room near the top of my 2016 list for this under-the-wire underdog.

Because some crosses
They have six strings
And I will help you carry yours
If you gave mine meaning

- Porter & Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes, "Your Hometown" Don't Go Baby It's Gonna Get Weird Without You  (Porter, 16)
- Some Dark Holler, "Kerosene & Pills" Hollow Chest  (This is American Music, 12)
- Porter, "This Red Mountain" This Red Mountain  (Porter, 15)
- Brent Cobb, "Diggin' Holes" Shine On Rainy Day  (Elektra, 16)
- Vandoliers, "Wild Flower" Ameri-kinda  (State Fair, 16)  D
- Dan Layus, "Dangerous Things" Dangerous Things  (Plated, 16)
- Luke Roberts, "Silver Chain" Sunlit Cross  (Thrill Jockey, 16)  D
- Two Cow Garage, "Let the Boys Be Girls" Brand New Flag  (Last Chance, 16)
- Todd Farrell Jr, "Pawnshops" All Our Heroes Live In Vans  (TFJ, 13)
- Shovels & Rope, "Buffalo Nickel" Little Seeds  (New West, 16)
- Reckless Kelly, "Moment In the Sun" Sunset Motel  (No Big Deal, 16)
- Whiskey Myers, "On the River" Mud  (Thirty Tigers, 16)
- Mavis Staples, "Down In Mississippi" We'll Never Turn Back  (Anti, 07)
- Steve Earle, "Think It Over" Guitar Town (30th Anniversary Deluxe)  (MCA, 16)  D
- Caitlin Rose, "Sinful Wishing Well" Own Side Now  (Theory 8, 11)
- Blue Rodeo, "Superstar" 1000 Arms  (TeleSoul, 16)  D
- Luke Winslow-King, "Act Like You Love Me" I'm Glad Trouble Don't Last Always  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Tami Neilson, "So Far Away" Don't Be Afraid  (Outside, 16)
- Dwight Yoakam, "What I Don't Know" Swimmin' Pools Movie Stars  (Sugar Hill, 16)
- Greensky Bluegrass, "Miss September" Shouted Written Down & Quoted  (Big Blue Zoo, 16)
^ Kent Eugene Goolsby, "Some Crosses" Temper of the Times  (KEG, 16)
- Becky Warren, "Dive Bar Sweetheart" War Surplus  (Warren, 16)
- Alejandro Escovedo, "Sunday Morning Feeling" Burn Something Beautiful  (Fantasy, 16)
- Girls Guns & Glory, "Rock 'n Roll" Love and Protest  (GGG, 16)  D
- Jack Grelle, "Heart's For Mine" Got Dressed Up To Be Let Down  (Big Muddy, 16)  D
- Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, "Dirt, the Bells & I" Constant Stranger  (Big Legal Mess, 16)
- Phil Cook, "Old Hwy D" Old Hwy D  (Phil Cook, 16)  D
- Drive-by Truckers, "Guns of Umpqua" American Band  (ATO, 16)
- JJ Grey & Mofro, "Brighter Days" Blackwater  (Alligator, 01)

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