Compiled by Eric Sandberg with invaluable input from Mike Berman
2021 on the whole, has been a vast improvement over 2020. A real President, a vaccine, live concerts and sports fans back in the seats. There has also been a ton of great music. It's hard to pick ten, so we cheated a little.
#10: Bob Collum & The Welfare Mothers — This Heart Will Self-Destruct (Fretsore)
#9: I See Hawks In L.A. — On Our Way (self-release)
#8: Tie — Dolph Chaney — This Is Dolph Chaney (Big Stir)
Anton Barbeau — Oh Joys We Live For (Big Stir)
So what is a Dolph Chaney? for me, Dolph is the heir apparent to the late great indie power pop maven Tommy Keene. Chaney's thrilling, anthemic, melodies and introspective lyrics hit the sweet spot for me. Try not to leap out of your chair and play air guitar to "I Wanted You." You'll be pointing at your cat and mouthing the words, trust me.
#7: Tie — Richard Thompson — Bloody Noses/Serpents Tears (self-release)
Kate McDonell — Ballad of A Bad Girl (Dog Eared Discs)
#6: Spygenius — Blow Their Covers (Big Stir)
#5: When Rivers Meet — Saving Grace (self release)
#4: Big Stir Records/Spyderpop Records — 2021 Retrospective (Big Stir)
#3: Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave-Berry — Purple Kittens (self release)
#2: Guy Davis — Be Ready When I Call You (M.C. Records)
#1: Jackson Browne — Downhill From Everywhere (Inside Recordings)
Browne's first album of new music in seven years hearkens back to his earliest records. Working with a bevy of top notch musicians like David Hidalgo, Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher [from The Imposters], guitarists Val McCallum and Greg Leisz, who provides Browne's signature pedal steel flourishes that were originated by David Lindley. Jackson is older and wiser now — his voice, though slightly coarsened with age and five decades of live performance, is still easily recognizeable as he acknowledges his past mistakes before examining our current world as only he can.
"I'm way out over my due date, but I'm still lookin' for something, Jackson sings in the opening track. Nine sublime songs later, we'd say he found it.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.