On The Record: Top local releases of 2014
As part of our year-end package in last Friday’s Austin360 section of the American-Statesman, we picked our personal top 10 local releases of the year. Those lists of favorite records didn’t necessarily skew toward some of Austin’s highest-profile albums of 2014, so what follows is an additional list of 10 major Austin records that came out in the past 12 months.
Below that is another bonus list — 10 notable 2014 records that may not be entirely local, but feature strong Austin ties. And finally, our personal lists from Friday’s paper are recapped at the end. All lists are presented in no particular order.
Spoon, “They Want My Soul.” Britt Daniel, Jim Eno and company made a big move by leaving Merge Records for the major-label affiliate Loma Vista. “They Want My Soul” equaled the chart performance of their last record, 2010’s “Transference,” by debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
Willie Nelson, “Band of Brothers.” Willie co-wrote most of the album’s 14 tracks with producer Buddy Cannon, marking the first time since 1996’s “Spirit” that he’d put out an album of primarily new original material. It debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and hit No. 1 on the country chart.
Shakey Graves, “And the War Came.” Alejandro Rose-Garcia broke through to national audiences with his first record on the influential indie Dualtone, appearing on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show and playing a major Americana Music Association outdoor concert in Nashville with the Avett Brothers.
Ruthie Foster, “Promise of a Brand New Day.” Like its two predecessors, Foster’s latest received a blues Grammy nomination, though its contents also draw heavily upon folk and gospel.
Eliza Gilkyson, “The Nocturne Diaries.” Also nominated for a Grammy, in the folk category, was the latest collection from one of Austin’s longest-tenured singer-songwriters; it’s Gilkyson’s first Grammy nomination since 2004’s “Land of Milk and Honey.”
Marcia Ball, “The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man.” Ball has had plenty of Grammy nominations herself, and while her fifth album for the Alligator label didn’t get one, it’s another sure-fire collection of broad-ranging rootsy material from this Austin-via-Louisiana institution.
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, “Our Year.” Austin’s first couple of country music took a long time to release their first collaborative record with last year’s marvelous “Cheater’s Game,” but they issued their second disc quite quickly, turning a bit more toward covers this time (including the title-track remake of the Zombies hit).
Jamestown Revival, “Utah.” Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance moved back to Austin after a couple years in Los Angeles and issued an impressive album that got picked up by major label Republic Records this fall for national release.
Christopher Cross, “The Secret Ladder.” Cross is also back in Austin from California, though he was out there for decades after breaking through to pop stardom in the 1980s. He’s been a welcome presence at the All-ATX HAAM benefit concerts, and he played a memorable Waterloo Records in-store when this record came out in September.
Dale Watson, “The Truckin’ Sessions Trilogy.” Part reissue, part new release, this triple-set from Austin’s increasingly high-profile honky-tonk man gathered his two previous “Truckin’ Sessions” volumes and added a fresh batch of similarly themed material.
10 NOTABLE 2014 RELEASES WITH AUSTIN TIES
Spanish Gold, “South of Nowhere.” Only one member of this trio lives in Austin, but guitarist Adrian Quesada is a major presence on the local scene, and this was one of the year’s most auspicious debut records.
Delines, “Colfax.” Another terrific debut, this disc from the Portland, Oregon, band spearheaded by Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin spotlights the spectacular lead vocals of Amy Boone, who made her mark in Austin in the 1990s with the Damnations. The group reportedly had a brief in-studio reunion in Austin in December to record a track with Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell for an upcoming Ted Hawkins tribute album.
Various artists, “Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne.” This impressive collection featured major national names such as Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt, but because it was issued by Austin label Music Road, it also featured quite a few locals, including Bob Schneider, Shawn Colvin, Jimmy LaFave, Kevin Welch and Eliza Gilkyson.
Delta Spirit, “Into the Wide.” Dualtone Records issued the fourth album from this rock band that has ties to Southern California and Brooklyn but includes singer-guitarist Matt Vasquez, who grew up in Austin and moved back here this year.
Billy Joe Shaver, “Long in the Tooth.” Though Texas legend Shaver doesn’t technically live in Austin, he’s here enough to have honorary status, and he got lots of attention for this release (including a duet with Willie Nelson on David Letterman’s show in December).
Amy LaVere, “Runaway Diary.” Rootsy bassist and songwriter LaVere hails from Memphis, but expect to see her around these parts a lot more after her recent marriage to Austin guitarist Will Sexton, who’s featured on the album.
Charlie Mars, “The Money.” The Mississippi singer-songwriter visits often — he had a couple months of weekly residencies at the Saxon Pub this year — and he used an Austin backing band for the third album in what he calls his Texas trilogy.
NRBQ, “Brass Tacks.” The legendary East Coast bar band features only Terry Adams from the original lineup, but the shuffles opened up the drummer’s chair for Austin ace Conrad Choucroun, whose mug is pominently featured on the album cover.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, “Love Yourself.” The band hails from California, but when your frontman is Willie Nelson’s son, the connections to Austin are natural.
Bobby Patterson, “I Got More Soul.” Dallas is home for the classic old-school R&B/soul crooner, but this record was made in Austin with Zach Ernst from the Black Joe Lewis band.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH’S TOP 10
Gary Clark Jr., “Live.” It might be unfair to put a major national release in amongst the locals, but every Austinite should be proud to own this electrifying work from a homegrown instrumental genius that perfectly builds on Austin’s blues rock roots legacy.
Brownout, “Brownout presents Brown Sabbath.” An unholy marriage of congas, horns and vaguely satanic declarations come together to form the greatest Latin funk/heavy metal mashup ever put to wax.
Golden Dawn Arkestra, self-titled (EP). Expansive, psychedelic jams unwind into layered compositions, rich with texture, rhythm and groove.
Mindz of a Different Kind, “Sarah Bellum.” Laying “vivid rhyme schemes” over lush hip-hop grooves sliced with sharp cuts and scratches, this free mixtape establishes the crew of Cipher Austin alums as one of Austin hip-hop’s next great hopes.
Gina Chavez, “Up.Rooted.” With her clear and beguiling alto, Chavez guides the listener on a musical journey through Latin folk rhythms, hip-switching cumbias and straight-ahead pop.
Sour Notes, “Do What May.” I love the band’s loosely retro indie-rock joints, but it’s the gorgeous swells bubbling up on songs like the heartachingly melancholy “In the Meanwhile” that seal the deal.
Magna Carda, “Like It Is.” Austin’s full-band hip-hop crew is maturing into something fantastic. They slipped this platter of smooth grooves and smart rhymes in under the wire to provide the perfect soundtrack to ease you through the holiday stress and into 2015.
Ume, “Monuments.” Epic, driving, hair-whipping, head-banging blasts of hard rock from the soon-to-be-famous local trio.
Blxpltn, “Black Cop Down.” Take no prisoners, kick down the doors afropunk that captures the simmering social rage that’s come to the forefront of the national consciousness in the last six months.
Roger Sellers “Primitives.” Loop pedal artists are a dime a dozen these days, but Sellers is some kind of musical mad scientist. He’s thoroughly captivating live, and his electronic compositions are utterly engrossing.
PETER BLACKSTOCK’S TOP 10
Stephen Doster, “Arizona.” Brilliant, sophisticated pop songcraft from an Austin mainstay who plays regularly around town but hadn’t issued a record since the 1990s.
Willie Nelson & Sister Bobbie, “December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1.” Willie’s “Band of Brothers” was his higher-profile 2014 release, but there’s a subtle beauty to this collection with his piano-playing sibling.
Mastersons, “Good Luck Charm.” Another collection of great rootsy pop by this husband-wife duo who also play in Steve Earle’s band.
Ian McLagan, “United States.” A bittersweet but superb last album from the legendary British keyboardist who became a beloved Austin fixture in his final 20 years.
Christine Albert, “Everything’s Beautiful Now.” The Grammy exec put her creative talents back into focus with an exquisite set of personal originals and well-chosen covers.
Elias Haslanger & Church on Monday, “Live at the Gallery.” A terrific document of arguably the most rewarding residency gig in a city that’s full of them.
Ray Benson, “A Little Piece.” Asleep at the Wheel will be back in full swing next year, but Benson wisely spent much of 2014 promoting a solo record that revealed more about his own heart as an artist.
Betty Soo, “When We’re Gone.” One of Austin’s rising talents fully came into her own with this challenging yet accessible singer-songwriter record.
Timberos Del Norte, self-titled. Deep danceable grooves driven by ebullient horns and vocals mark this collection of Cuban music that sounds like it could have come straight out of Havana but was made right here.
Various artists, “All ATX: British Invasion.” The annual disc benefiting Health Alliance for Austin Musicians reached a new high this year, with local acts taking on a variety of 1960s classic rock and pop songs from the U.K.
Are you an Austin-area act with a new record coming out? Let us know at email@example.com.