Lists are never perfect. The idea is to remind myself what captivated me throughout the year, and to let others know what they might have missed. And then, I try to say a little more to contribute to thinking about the music of 2013. So, here is what I liked the most on the day that I wrote the list.
"Don't cry baby!" Insistent. The guitar echoes with an urgently blasted chord followed by plangent trail of single notes. "Please don't cry." Pleading. The guitar cascades down the blues scale, with an eloquently delicate tone to each note.
Not exactly a master, yet much more than a dabbler, Jimbo Mathus occupies that great middle ground of American roots rock. Like so many before him, Mathus gets by with mixture of moxie and sweat; a basic understanding of blues, country and rock 'n' roll tropes; and a willingness to wear one's heart on one's sleeve while never stepping too far outside a certain worldly toughness.
When asked what music I've liked, usually I can only think of the last thing I happened to have heard that day. But for this list, I did exhaustive research, running down the 200 plus albums which gave me some amount of pleasure in the last 12 months, and deciding which ones were my very favorite releases.
Janiva Magness has made quite the name for herself these past 15 years as a soulful blues singer of precision and power. As such, one would not expect songs written by the likes of Matthew Sweet, Paul Thorn or Ray Wylie Hubbard to be on her radar.
"First of all," said Paul Simon the night he was handed the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1976, "I'd like to thank Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album this year."