Duncan Clark Poop 2017


There was a lot of good music last year but no -one album that I could call exceptional or better than the rest. Finding new music and especially new artists, continues to be a problem and is unlikely to improve soon. A loose ranking based on what I’ve been playing:
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1. COURTNEY BARNETT & KURT VILE – Lotta Sea Lice:
A collaboration that seems very natural and comfortable for both.

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2.CHRIS HILLMAN – Bidin’ My Time:
It was a great year to be a Byrds fan. The 2nd volume of Johnny Rogan’s exhaustive treatise on the band was published, a new Gene Clark anthology does him justice, Crosby releases his best album in decades and this disc containing a reunion of sorts of the surviving members, an unreleased Byrds song from the Notorious era and produced with a lotta love by Petty.

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3. OFFA REX – The Queen of Hearts:
Heartfelt homage by the Decemberists and Olivia Chaney to the halcyon days of British folk rock and Fairport, Steeleye and the Albion Band.

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4. SONGHOY BLUES – Resistance:
Of all the Northern African bands, this one seems to owe as much to American RnB as it does to the music of its native country.

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5. THE WAR ON DRUGS – A Deeper Understanding:
Picks up where Lost In The Dream left off.

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6. JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT – The Nashville Sound:
The very title of the album evokes mainstream country music but it’s songs like “Hope the High Road”, “White Man’s World” and “If We Were Vampires” sets him far apart from the pop that passes as country music these days.

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7. SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – Soul Of A Woman:
Final studio album from the Queen of old school soul. She will be missed.

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8. THE RAILS – There Are Other People In This World Not Just You:
The second album from a Pretender and a Thompson which evokes more than just superficial comparisons to to the Richard and Linda of yore.

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9. LITTLE STEVEN – Soulfire:
Jumps right back into his work from the 80s.

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10. LILLY HIATT – Trinity Lane:
Genetics run deep as she obviously inherited her dad’s gift for songwriting. The song “Records” is what got me hooked initially.

11. AIMEE MANN – Mental Illness: No great departure here but her songs remain consistently excellent.
12. GREG ALLMAN – Southern Blood: He may have had many a hellhound on his trail over the years but this eloquent farewell sounds like he was at peace with the world at the end.
13. BLACK JOE LEWIS & THE HONEYBEARS – Backlash: Funk, RnB and soul music with an edge that borders on punk.
14. REAL ESTATE – In Mind: Beats out the equally worthy new album by the Feelies to be the best jangly guitar band. From New Jersey.
15. LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM & CHRISTINE McVIE – Buckingham McVie: For all intents and purposes, a Fleetwood Mac album missing Nicks and none the worse for it.
16. COTTON MATHER – Wild Kingdom: Part 2 of the I Ching song cycle project as filtered through The Beatles.
17. THURSTON MOORE – Rock n Roll Consciousness.
18. THE SHINS – Heartworm: If there is a millennial equivalent McCartney (Wings era – not earlier), James Mercer would be a top candidate. He has a good ear for melody.
19. SKIPPINISH – The Seventh Wave: To this ear, bands from the Isle of Skye have always had a very distinctive sound. Its a mixture of trad and originals although for the most part you wouldn’t be able to tell without checking the credits.
20. MAVIS STAPLES – If All I Was Was Black: Jeff Tweedy deserves equal credit here as writer, producer and performer.
21. STEELEYE SPAN – Dodgy Bastards: You’ve got to give them credit. Maddy is still the heart and soul of the group but they have made personnel changes that seems to have charged the group with renewed energy.
22. RANDY NEWMAN – Dark Matter: In all the craziness of the past year, there has to be a Broadway musical out there somewhere. I don’t think that Lin -Manuel Miranda will be writing it very soon. Newman would be perfect and it sounds like he’s already started on it.
23. JOAN SHELLY – Joan Shelly: Another Tweedy project. Prolific songwriter who I saw in concert last year. Her accompanist on guitar (Nathan Salsburg) is her secret weapon.
24. DAVID CROSBY – Sky Trails: See #2 above. His 3rd album in 4 years, all of which have been stylistically different. Its also the most consistent work he’s done in years. The fact that it sounds like a tribute to the Laurel Canyon sound of the 70’s – coming from Crosby – is ironic but his cover of Joni’s Amelia is stellar.
25 DOUGHBOYS – Front Street Rebels: 60’s -70’s guitar rock from a group that’s been doing it that long.

OLD STUFF
LAL & MIKE WATERSON – Bright Phoebus: The Holy Grail for english folk rock. The traditionalists hated it at the time and it was too weird for everybody else. It then went out of print for more than 40 years. I had tribute albums to this disc but was unable to find the original in any form. It is the quintessential english album – as english as the Village Green.
GENE CLARK – The Lost Studio Sessions 1964 -1982: See #2 above. Interesting selection of non -Byrds rarities from the most misunderstood of the Byrds.
SHELAGH McDONALD – Stargazer: Very much in the Sandy Denny mold, she only made two albums before she pulled a Syd Barrett and disappeared from the public eye for several decades. Both albums are very good but the 2nd album showed a large leap in her original songs and is more interesting.
ROLLING STONES – On Air: Don’t you get the impression that this is barely scratching the surface?
FAIRPORT CONVENTION – Come All Ye: The First Ten Years: We went back to Croperdy for the festival celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary. The highlight was seeing all the surviving members of the original band that I started following almost 50 years ago at the warmup gigs in a small labor hall. The box set covers the first 10 years and 5 incarnations of the band with enough rarities that I didn’t have to make it worthwhile.

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