Top 10 Albums of 2018

Last Updated on June 27, 2021

1. Hawks and Doves – From a White Hotel

If you are going to call your band Hawks and Doves, there better not be any mixed signals. Portland, Oregon’s Kasey Anderson and his new band’s debut album ‘From a White Hotel’ was released last summer and it doesn’t disappoint. Kasey has always surrounded himself with great musicians and it’s no different this time around. Ben Landsvert (bass, keys, viola, guitars, vocals), Jesse Moffat (drums, percussion) and Jordan Richter (guitars) help make the raucous “The Dangerous Ones” a perfect album opener. (So let it burn, let it burn/Let the motherfucker burn/It’s election day/They shut the water off last week/ I guess it’s goin’ to burn either way).

Kasey’s distinctive voice and songwriting always impresses. Stand-out tracks “Clothes Off My Back” (“I ain’t no Steve Earle, but I feel alright.” sings Anderson) and the title track, “From a White Hotel” bookend the album. Visual artist, violinist and singer Caitlin Cary’s ‘King’s Motel’ cover art reigns over the album’s title, ‘From a White Hotel’.

Kasey Anderson’s songs are filled with candor, wit and wisdom. Portland’s music scene is that much more vibrant with the addition of Hawks and Doves, the band and their music will continue to soar to new heights.

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2. John Hiatt – The Eclipse Sessions

“About every 18 months, the moon, the sun and the Earth line up, and the moon and the sun appear the same size from our position on Earth. The moon blocks the sun from our perspective and casts a shadow on the Earth. A total eclipse of the sun occured over the United States on August 21, 2017. Those two minutes and 20 seconds turned day to night in Music City and led to the name of John Hiatt’s 23rd album, ‘The Eclipse Sessions’.

And twenty years ago, NASA astronaut Rick Linnehan went up to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and took John Hiatt’s “Blue Telescope” with him. Every morning he would wake up the crew every morning with it. Hiatt was using a $75 Harmony Stratotone guitar when he wrote the songs for ‘Perfectly Good Guitar’. Kenneth Blevins who has played drums for Hiatt for years and bassist Patrick O’Hearn who has worked with John in the past helped in getting these sessions started. Kevin McKendree (piano, organ, guitar) and his 17-year old son Yates (lead guitar) round up this great ensemble. The eleven songs that make up ‘The Eclipse Sessions’ were recorded in six days last year at Kevin McKendree’s studio, The Rock House, in Franklin, Tennessee , beginning on a Friday in August during the waning crescent moon phase and ending on a Sunday in October during the waning gibbous moon phase.

Hiatt connects this album with 1987’s ‘Bring The Family’ and 2000’s ‘Crossing Muddy Waters’. He didn’t know where he was going when he started out on any of those albums. The first song he wrote for ‘The Eclipse Sessions’ was “Robber’s Highway”, one of the most beautiful songs you will hear this year. It closes the album. Yates McKendree’s lead guitar on the opening track “Over The Hill” on Side B has a great JJ Cale vibe.

‘The Eclipse Sessions’ will have you revisiting Hiatt’s ‘Bring The Family’ and ‘Slow Turning’.

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3. Ry Cooder– The Prodigal Son

“Well I used to live on Broadway, right next to the liar’s house My number was self righteousness and a very little guide of mouth So I moved, yes I moved, and I’m living on Straight Street now”

a song by The Pilgrim Travelers, a gospel group from the late 40s and early 50s.

The arrangements of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Everybody Ought To Treat a Stranger Right” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload”, Blind Roosevelt Graves’ “I’ll Be Rested When The Roll Is Called”, The Stanley Brother’s “Harbor Of Love” and William L. Dawson’s “In His Care” are perfect. The production of ‘The Prodigal Son’ is flawless. Ry Cooder (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, keyboard) and Joachim Cooder (drums, percussion) produced this fantastic album.

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4. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Downey To Lubbock

“Both Downey, California and Lubbock, Texas have produced so many great musicians. ‘Downey To Lubbock’ is a Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore collaboration that was also produced by the pair. The album’s lead track, “Downey To Lubbock” is the only Alvin/Gilmore penned song. And other than Alvin’s “Billy The Kid and Geronimo” or the traditional “K.C. Moan” arranged by these two great musicians, the other nine songs are covers. Chris Gaffney’s beautifully sung “The Gardens” by Dave is followed by Jimmie Dale’s vocals on “”Get Together””, The Youngbloods’ peace-and-love anthem of the 1960s.

The other gems include:

Silverlake (Steve Young) Stealin’, Stealin’ (William Shade) July, You’re a Woman (John Stewart) Buddy Brown’s Blues (Lightnin’ Hopkins) The Gardens (Chris Gaffney) Get Together (Chester Powers) Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Lloyd Price) Deportee – Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Woody Guthrie/Martin Hoffman) Walk On (Brownie McGhee/Sonny Terry)

Some of the musicians helping out on this great album include Van Dyke Parks (accordion), Skip Edwards (organ), Don Heffington (drums), Lisa Pankratz (drums), David J. Carpenter (bass) and Brad Fordham (bass).

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5. Steve Forbert – The Magic Tree

“Vintage Steve Forbert. ‘The Magic Tree’ was originally meant to be a collection of unreleased demos that would accompany the release of Steve Forbert’s memoir ‘Big City Cat: My Life In Folk-Rock’ (now available). Things changed when producer Karl Derfler took the demos into the studio and overdubbed new tracks to the existing acoustic demos.

In 1988, Nils Lofgren played guitar on ‘Streets Of This Town’. Long time Steve Forbert guitarist Clay Barnes also played on that great album and plays on ‘The Magic Tree’. Forbert has always had great support with some excellent musicians. It is no different with this album which includes James DePrato of the Mission Express (“That’d Be Alright” – electric twelve string guitar, “Tryna Let It Go” – electric guitar, “Lookin’ At The River” – lead guitar).

If 1988’s ‘Streets of This Town’ was Forbert’s best since his 1978 debut, ‘Alive On Arrival’, then this year’s ‘The Magic Tree’ is his best since ‘Streets of This Town’.

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6. Jesse Daniel – Jesse Daniel

Jesse Daniel is the newest outlaw on the scene, bringing that new California Country to your ears. Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Billy Joe Shaver are all influences.

Moving that radio dial to 107.5 and you might luck out with “Soft Spot (For The Hard Stuff)”. But on the album, the dial stops on “California Highway”. You will hear Jesse singing “I can’t recall the last time that the highway gave me this much peace of mind.”

Jesse Daniel is the next big fish to come out of California. He and longtime friend Henry Chadwick produced this great debut album.

 

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7. Levi Parham & Them Tulsa Boys and Girls – It’s All Good

Damn right, it’s all good. More great music out of Oklahoma. A native of McAlester, OK, Levi Parham follows up 2016’s ‘These American Blues’ release with the remarkable ‘It’s All Good’, his third full-length album. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album was released on the Tulsa, OK based label, Horton Records.

It’s all good when you have both the ‘Tulsa Sound’ and the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ on the same album. “My Finest Hour”, the closing track on ‘Side A’ really has that Muscle Shoals sound / Allman Brothers / Derek Trucks vibe. The saxophone adds so much to the beautiful “Kiss Me In The Morning” on ‘Side B’.

Them Tulsa Boys and Girls really come swingin’ like heavyweights.

Paul Benjaman – guitars – band leader
Jesse Aycock – guitars – idea man
Dustin Pittsley – guitars – go to guy
Aaron Boehler – bass – America’s sweetheart
Dylan Golden Aycock – drums – good vibes guru
John Fullbright – keys – rosy pearl
Michael Staub – sax – chef sexy BBQ
Lauren Barth – vocals – resident therapist
Lauren Farrah – vocals – special sauce
John Calvin Abney – vocals – secret space cowboy
Levi Parham – vocals / guitars -the least of these

 

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8. Ruen Brothers – All My Shades Of Blue

English brothers Henry (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) and Rupert Stansall (vocals/lead guitar) have the sleeper hit album of the year. ‘All My Shades of Blue’ was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin. Ruen Brothers is an amalgamation of the brothers’ first names. The album channels the music from your old ’50s vinyl collection.

In 2013, the brothers earned global attention when their iPhone-shot video for “Aces” impressed a BBC Radio 1 host, who subsequently played it back-to back three times. The track leads off Side Two of this infectious album.

‘All My Shades of Blue’ was recorded at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studios in Malibu, CA and features drummer Chadwick Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), guitarist Dave Keuning (The Killers), Matt Sweeney (Chavez) and the late keyboardist Ian McLagan (Faces, Small Faces).

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9.Richard Thompson– 13 Rivers

A common misconception about rivers is that they all flow south. The truth is that rivers flow downhill due to gravity. There are countless of rivers that flow northward. Then there’s Richard Thompson’s ’13 Rivers’ (especially the limited edition, cream & black double vinyl), his first self-produced record in over a decade. ’13 Rivers’ flows beautifully from one song to the next, from Side A to Side B, then Side C to D, the thirteen songs here are the rivers, beginning with the six-minute “The Storm Won’t Come”. The production is perfect, reminding me of 1982’s ‘Shoot Out the Lights’.

At 69, Richard Thompson’s guitar playing is remarkable as always. Regular Thompson collaborators Michael Jerome (drums, percussion), Taras Prodaniuk (bass) and Bobby Eichorn (guitar) help make this a powerful and very up-tempo album.

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10. William Elliott Whitmore – Kilonova

First album in three years for Iowa based singer-songwriter William Elliott Whitmore. ‘Kilonova’ is Whitmore’s seventh album and debut for Bloodshot Records. William didn’t write these songs, but damn, can he ever play and sing them. This collection is something he’s been wanting to put forth for a long time. His interpretation of these songs are an astronomical marvel. It all starts with the opening track, “”Fear of Trains”” from Magnetic Fields’ 1994 album, ‘The Charm of the Highway Strip’ and followed by “”Busted””, a song that was originally recorded by Harlan Howard in 1965. The song was a hit for both Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.

Whitmore’s banjo takes over on Brett Gurewitz’s “Don’t Pray On Me” before ZZ Top’s “Hot Blue and Righteous” from 1973’s ‘Tres Hombres’ and Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising” from 1959’s ‘Songs of Our Soil’ end Side A.

“Ain’t No Sunshine”, the single that first introduced singer-songwriter Bill Withers to the public, is beautifully interpreted. William Elliot Whitmore’s voice really shines on this great song. Unique interpretations continues with Scott Young’s “One Glass at a Time”, 50s folk singer Jimmy Driftwood’s “Run Johnny Run” (playing banjo) and the gospel-like “Country Blues”, an old folk song first released in 1927 by Dock Boggs. The stand out “Bat Chain Puller” from Captain Beefhearts’ Don Van Vliet could well be mistaken for a Tom Waits song. It closes this wonderful album.

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