Best local album: Cara Jean Wahlers and Grover Parido, Goodnight Charlotte
How did this quiet, intelligent, duet-like release from an acoustic guitar player and cello player get to the top of my roots-rock/Americana list already brimming with worthy candidates? And especially from a guy (me) who unabashedly thrills at the gritty side of loud guitars, drums and the Hammond B-3? It happened because Wahlers's hauntingly beautiful music and lyrics evoke black-and-white movies and Grover Parido's cello quietly cuts into your heart.
Other favorites: Bobbie Lancaster, S/T; Scott Kellogg, Silver In Their Veins; Rusty Bladen, Homegrown Treasures, Jethro Easyfields, Bloodletting
Best non-local album: Paul Thorn, Pimps & Preachers
A truthful, soulful, storytelling writer in the John Hiatt mold who brings a seen-it-all voice to the songs, and can still make them rock. Thorn creates goosebumps with only his acoustic guitar and lyrics. Gumbo blues mixes with moments of straight ahead rock and roll, and usually with a lyric that twists and turns its way into your ear. The title cut offers Thorn's ironic take on right and wrong.
Other favorites: Alejandro Escovedo, Street Songs of Love; Tom Petty, Mojo; Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues; Mic Harrison and The High Score, Great Commotion; Kid Rock, Born Free; Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song; The Gaslight Anthem, American Slang; Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, S/T
Favorite NUVO interview: Charlie Daniels
We talked via cell as he sat in his tour bus outside an Oklahoma concert hall. The country music legend gave thoughtful answers and was unfailingly polite. It felt like an interview with someone who knew his place in country music was secure. Was he political? Not party-specific; more idea-based. He pointed out the good and bad on both sides, despite his reputation as a right wing-leaning fiddle player. But we mostly talked music and concerts. Daniels has been on the road for almost 50 years. He just has knowledge, man. It was like interviewing Willie Nelson's younger, non-stoner brother. When it was all done, he said, “Thanks," and remarked he was "going to go exercise.”
Other favorites: Rev. Peyton, former (and returning?) Mellencamp guitar player Larry Crane, Truth and Salvage Co.'s Tim Jones
Best show: Truth & Salvage Co. at Birdy's
Without question, my favorite show of 2010, and a small club opportunity for Indy to see the crazy-talented band of players who channel the rural rock and woodsy harmonies of The Band more than any other influence. The boys slide in some pre-"Hotel California" Eagles sounds and have a healthy tendency to play Black Crowes-influenced weedy rock and roll. The unmistakable connection between musicians on stage pushed the Birdy's show to become musically magical. I interviewed singer and guitar player Tim Jones a week before the show, and the once Bloomington-based leader of Old Pike, now California man, had a throwback spirit that oozed through my cell phone. He talked of his love of music, love of playing gigs and love for his band. It certainly proved truthful, and translated into the best show of the year.
Other favorites: The Gaslight Anthem at The Vogue, Elizabeth Cook at Stadium Tavern, John Mellencamp at Hinkle Fieldhouse
Best album you probably didn’t hear: Southside Johnny, Pills and Ammo
The 2010 record from the "other" Jersey guy (sorry Jon Bon Jovi) makes a case for the legend that is Asbury Park music. Southside Johnny Lyon has been playing music for more than 40 years. He’s to be applauded for making an album like this which is full of retro vibe and new energy. Southside and the Jukes have a reputation for being a consistent live act, and Lyon has remained true to his don’t-mess-with-me, “ah, fuggedaboutit” stage persona. This is his best album since the glory days. Warm production, vocal shouts and the freakin' Jukes horns. Nice.
Other Forgotten Favorites: Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs; John Prine, In Person & On Stage; John Hiatt, The Open Road