Dave Roger’s Best Folk Albums of 2015

Dave Rogers, aka Professor Bebop (Friday, 11 pm to 1 am)

Alphabetical Order (Artist/Album/Label) with thoughts
Steve Earle & The Dukes – Terraplane (New West) – Bluesy, stripped down and in the gully music mixing electric and acoustic elements, this is Steve Earle with one foot in the country and the other near the sidewalk but off the curb. A Professor Bebop certified “wax devoid of cracks”!

Rhiannon Giddens – Tomorrow Is My Turn (Nonesuch) – Giddens unleashes the full array of her vocal range and technique from folk to country to stage to gospel and even an original. This initial solo disc clearly announces that Giddens is the complete chanteuse. If there’s any flaw here, it may just be that the performances are too perfect. Sometimes, I can live with that just fine!

The Mike Henderson Band – If You Think It’s Hot In Here… (EllerSoul) – Blues-rock-country mix of smoking guitar (especially that slide!), chattering piano, and declarative vocals that require your body to move! The blues covers are as bad as your bad self can tolerate!

Duffy Kane – Dead Man Walkin’ (Freedom Train) – This is truly intriguing blues rock (with a country twinge) and some thought-provoking political messages. Kane’s guitar style is highly influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan and his lyrics are powerful and communicate his deep patriotic feeling while warning of the loss of the ideals of the original constitution. Deeply thought-provoking and great playing!

Doug MacLeod – Exactly Like This (Reference Recordings) – Veteran singer/songwriter/guitarist MacLeod treats us to his 25th release and it is a definite winner! All of the songs are originals and the sound is unadorned, acoustic, and infectious. MacLeod weaves great tales and the straightforward directness of his performances just draws the audience in. Nothing, including his voice or guitar style, is incredibly flashy, but each song and overall performance has its own style and strength. He also gets solid support from Jimi Bott (drums), Denny Croy (bass) and Mike Thompson (keys).

The Mavericks – Mono (Valery Music) – After a long hiatus, the Mavericks treated us to their second disc in as many years and it is as good as any they’ve done. Beautiful vocals by Raul Malo (so much like Roy Orbison but maybe even better) and terrific band performance featuring Malo on guitar and piano, Eddie Perez on lead guitar, Jerry Dal McFadden on keyboards and Paul Deskin on drums. This celebratory Latin rock is as infectious as it is joyous and romantic.  This group is soooo smooth it is hard to hear them without dancing or swaying and tapping your toes!

James McMurtry – Complicated Game (Self-produced) – James McMurtry writes, sings and plays guitar and piano like a gritty down’n’outer. Through the years he has earned equal standing with the best, like Steve Earle, whose constantly changing musical styles and topics have surely been influential. His lyrics, characters and storytelling are a match for any Americana folk rocker. This one focuses on life mostly in the deserted and decaying outbacks of the Gulf where times are hard and hope is always tempered with resignation, but like the title says, life’s a complicated game.

JD McPherson – Let The Good Times Roll (Rounder) – McPherson is back with his swampy, primal, rockabilly r&b, a low key reincarnation of Gene Vincent or Johnny Burnette (from the Trio days). This cat IS the real, let-me-electrify-your-soul, updated reincarnation of the original rockabilly blues! JD is not an impersonator, but rather today’s version of the fire that blended hillbilly and r&b and created rock’n’roll. The man has a touch of blues, more than a touch of Little Richard in his voice and enough swagger to “domino your lame act”! The band – McPherson (vox, g), Jimmy Sutton (killer bass, vox, percussion), Jason Smay (drums, vox), Raynier Jacob Jacildo (keys, vox) and Doug Corcoran(sax, steel, keys, vox) – just DO the primal rock’n’roll to the limit.

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – So Delicious! (Yazoo / Shanachie) – Stomp down, get down, outta town, old time music from this gritty Brown County, Indiana trio! Trio? With Reverend Peyton on slide and finger style guitar and harmonica, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton on washboard and other percussion, and Ben “Birddog” Bussell on drums and other percussion and everyone singing, it’s the sound that’s BIG, not the number of players. All of the songs are originals and the performances are irresistible, especially if you are drawn to the raucous sounds of blues like those from the North Hill Country. There is a sizable slice “blue collar classist” attitude, but don’t be looking for any apologies.

Richard Thompson – Still (Fantasy) – By many counts this is Thompson’s 40th disc and it certainly rates as one of his strongest. Ballads, rockers, retrospectives, subtleties, and humor and it’s all typical of the the best of his performances throughout his career. Mostly quartets of guitars, bass, and drums with some added background vocals, even producer Jeff Tweedy joined in at times with his own guitars, keys and effects. Don’t let the fact that it’s last on this list put you off — the list is, after all alphabetical!

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