Memphis to Manchester Best of 2009

2009 was not that different from past years in that I was completely immersed in music. The main problem in trying to present a radio program like Memphis to Manchester (which airs every Thursday, 7 to 10 a.m. CT on 88.1 and streaming at, a show one hopes make listeners feel something – exhilaration, anger, joy, sorrow, sexiness, humor, groove or some combination, thereof – is that you realize that the more music one becomes exposed to, the more one realizes how much more there is out there to discover.

It’s a rewarding journey, something I’ve never grown tired of, but I find myself just as often going back to discover artists and musical styles I’ve missed than I do to find new artists. This is my longwinded way of saying that I’ve only heard a small fraction of artists’ new 2009 releases that I’ve intended to hear.

The amount of music being produced is so vast that I won’t even pretend to say that I can produce a list of top 10 2009 releases which doesn’t omit or overlook so many worthwhile releases that came out in 2009.

My criteria for the releases I’ve heard that made my top 10 list is simple – if I think I will still care about and be moved by the release ten years from now, it will be considered for my top 10. I’ll let the critics debate the merits & impact of a band like Animal Collective, for instance. Music is so subjective. But I do think the Allen Toussaint release (my choice for best release of the year) or the melody of a Neko Case song like “Magpie To The Morning” will still resonate to me years from now while I’m not convinced that a band like Animal Collective will. I might be wrong. Who knows? And my top 10 release if prepared a week from now would probably differ from this list. Nothing scientific going on here.

Top 10 Albums of 2009

  1. Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi – Nonesuch
  2. Buddy & Julie Miller – Written In Chalk – New West
  3. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career – 4AD
  4. Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – What Have You Done, My Brother? – Daptone
  5. Leonard Cohen – Live In London – Columbia
  6. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone – Anti-
  7. Visqueen – Message To Garcia – Local 638
  8. Chuck Prophet – Let Freedom Ring – Yep Roc
  9. The Swell Season – Strict Joy – Anti-
  10. Grace Basement – Gunmetal Gray – Undertow

More Best of 2009 after the jump.

Bubbling underneath: Eleni Mandell – Artificial Fire – Zedtone / Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications – Rough Trade / Bettye LaVette – Change Is Gonna Come Sessions – iTunes / Richmond Fontaine – We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River – Arena Rock / Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs – Matador / Diane Birch – Bible Belt – S-Curve / Son Volt – American Central Dust – Rounder / Melody Gardot My One & Only Thrill – Verve / Rosanne Cash – The List – Manhattan

Favorite Shows of 2009

1. Leonard Cohen – Fox Theatre
2. Ponderosa Stomp including Flamin’ Groovies reunion, Classie Ballou, Otis Clay & The Hi-Rhythm
Section, Barry & The Remains, Dennis Coffey, etc. – House of Blues, New Orleans
3. Bettye LaVette – Sheldon Concert Hall
4. Bruce Springsteen – Scottrade Center
5. The Swell Season – The Pageant
6 Chuck Prophet – Wood House Concerts
7. Patty Loveless – Sheldon Concert Hall
8. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Nokia Center, Los Angeles
9. Camera Obscura – The Metro, Chicago
10.(Tie) Andre Williams @ Twangfest – Blueberry Hill Duck Room
10. (Tie) Trashcan Sinatras – Firebird
10. (Tie) Neko Case – Pageant

Some Songs I Loved in 2009
(No particular order and far from inclusive)

1. Beck – Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat
2. Jarvis Cocker – Angela & I Never Said I Was Deep
3. Malcolm Middleton – Red Travelin’ Socks
4. Trashcan Sinatras – I Hung My Harp Upon The Willows & Should I Pray
5. Melody Gardot – Your Heart Is As Black As Night & If The Stars Were Mine
6. Bruce Springsteen – The Wrestler
7. Wynonna Judd – Ain’t No Sunshine
8. Eleni Mandell – Don’t Let It Happen, Artificial Fire & Needle and Thread
9. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You, People Got A Lot Of Nerve, Don’t Forget Me & Magpie To The Morning
10. Buddy & Julie Miller – Long Time
11. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Sugarfoot & Bobby Booshay
12. New Mastersounds feat. Dionne Charles – Looking For An Answer
13. Bob Dylan – Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
14. Magic Christian – The Real Thing
15. Los Lobos – And It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down
16. Felice Brothers – Katie Dear
17. Camera Obscura – French Navy, The Sweetest Thing, Honey In The Sun, Tougher Than The Rest & The Blizzard
18. The Linemen – Reconsider
19. Sam Phillips – Was It All In my Head, O Holy Night, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
20. Tripwires – It’s Easy When You Know How
21. Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – Am I Asking Too Much, What Have You Done & I’ll Take The Long Road
22. The Eels – My Timing Is Off & Ordinary Man
23. God Help The Girl – Come Monday Night
24. Wussy – Las Vegas
25. Lee Fields & The Expressions – Do You Love Me (Like You Say You Do) & Money I$ King
26. Son Volt – No Turning Back, Dust of Daylight & Dynamite
27. Chris Isaak – Cheater’s Town
28. Grace Basement – Tilly Lingers & Warships
29. Handsome Family – Little Sparrows
30. Joe Henry – The Man I Keep Hid
31. Dynamites feat. Charles Walker – If I Had Known
32. Bottle Rockets – Done It All Before, Shame On Me & The Long Way
33. Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers – Middle of Nowhere
34. Chuck Prophet – Barely Exist & Love Won’t Keep Us Apart
35. Richmond Fontaine – The Boyfriends
36. Yo La Tengo – Periodically Double Or Triple & If It’s True
37. Rosanne Cash – Saisfied Mind
38. Visqueen – So Long & Jimmy vs. James
39. The Swell Season – Low Rising & In These Arms
40. Rickie Lee Jones – The Gospel of Carlos, Norman & Smith
41. The Remodels – This Is Love & When You Walk Into The Room
42. Mayer Hawthorne – Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’
43. Julie Fowlis w/ Eddi Reader – Wind and Rain
44. Norah Jones – Chasing Pirates & It’s Goona Be
45. Lloyd Cole – Coattails

I’m barely scratching the surface here. 2009 was a good year for music.


  • Roy Kasten

    For a guy who’s heard only a fraction of releases in 2009, you sure heard the right ones.

  • Chris Osborn

    Thanks for the list! There are a few there I like, too. Loved the Neko Case release this year. Visqueen’s release was very good, too. Camera Obscura – I am so pleased to see this record on your list. I really like ti, but I was afraid it was going to be one of those “guilty pleasures” nobody else knew I liked!

    Also – the Bettye LaVette show at the Sheldon was amazing! Glad you mentioned her show.

    Only one minor addition I’ recommend on live shows – Amy LaVere at the Wood House for KDHX supporters. She is terrific!