Written by Bill Whiting
10. Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, Buddy and Jim New West Records Two roots rocking greats combine their talents to produce a briiliant gold mine of exquisite song craft. Pure pleasure exists when the pair dig into “South in New Orleans,” “It Hurts Me” and “Vampire Girl.” Have mercy.
9. John Hiatt, Mystic Pinball New West Records Hiatt returns to a lively,rollicking form on “Bite Marks,” ” Wood Chipper,” and “My Business.” Mr. Hiatt easily navigates the folk, rock and blues terrain, adding sparkle and sass to “Blues Can’t Even Find Me.” A true gem.
8. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp Jagjaguwar Tramp was Van Etten’s breakthrough recording, a tasty slab of folk infused alt pop/rock mastery. Hitting all the right notes, her voice shakes and quivers on the instant classics, “Warsaw,” “Give Out,” and “Serpents.” A must own for any collection.
7. Heartless Bastards, Arrow Partisan Records The Heartless Bastards roll out west, and set their grooves on fire with pulsating grace and distinction on “Down in the Canyon,” “The Arrow killed the Beast,” and “Skin and Bone.” Erika Wennerstrom’s artistry continues to amaze and influence on the thundering and majestic, “Marathon” and “Got to Have Rock and Roll.”
6. Joe Bonamassa, Driving Towards the Daylight J&R Adventures This tightly rocking set of blues is one of Joe Bonamassa’s very best, and the journeyman guitarist peaks out on compositions from Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf and Bill Withers. A favorite? Try the Tom Waits’ penned “New Coat of Paint.” ‘Nuff said.
5. Band of Horses, Mirage Rock Sony Records Ben Bridwell and co. continue to produce their eclectic brand of country rock magic with the help of legendary studio wizard Glyn Johns on the winning project, Mirage Rock. Timeless pieces such as “Slow Cruel Hands of Time,” “Dumpster World,” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” drift peacefully about, as if in a dream. A wonder disc full of treats.
4. John Mayer, Born and Raised Sony Records John Mayer may not be able to tour temporarily, but he churned out one of 2012’s essential recordings on Born and Raised. His laid back vocals wrap around cool west coast melodies, and his string bending prowess continues to amaze. Bringing to mind the best work of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Crosby Stills & Nash, Mayer somehow keeps it triumphantly cohesive and grounded on the charmers, “Queen of California,” “The Age of Worry,” and “Shadow Days.” A keeper.
3. Xavier Rudd, Spirit Bird Side One Dummy Xavier Rudd weaves a hypnotic spell on his listeners with the one of a kind album, Spirit Bird. Taking all out to the vast Australian wilderness, Rudd mixes intricate instrumentation with powerful native harmonies on the glowing and transfixing songs, “Full Circle,” “Lioness Eye,” and “Follow the Sun.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
2. Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Magic Door Silver Arrow Records Chris Robinson, Neal Casal, George Sluppick, Mark Dutton, and Adam MacDougall combined some serious groove mojo amongst the collective of the mightily swinging CRB to deliver the jam rock goods on the jaw dropping improvisational marvel, The Magic Door. Sharp and intoxicating, Robinson’s vocals color the jazzy landscapes of “Vibration and Light Suite,” “Appaloosa” and Hank Ballard’s “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go.” which leads us to………
1. Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Moon Ritual Silver Arrow Records Like a trippy California spaceship landing on your front lawn, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood invited all to climb aboard and set sail to distant uncharted country jazz rock universes on the focused and beguiling Big Moon Ritual LP. Just as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, The Byrds, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Quicksilver Messenger Service had done many years before, the CRB locks it all in on the expanding rhythms of “Tulsa Yesterday,” “Tomorrow Blues,” and “Beware, Oh Take Care.” Get on the bus, take the ride, and kick off your shoes………….
It all leaves one in anticipation of what awaits in 2013. Until then………….