This post lists my favorite records that I discovered in 2014. Not all of them are from 2014, but 2014 is when I first heard them. These are albums that “moved” me—I’m not an artist, I’m not a musician (although I did take piano lessons for three years, until my mother begged me to stop). I’m not saying that these are the best albums recorded in 2014, just the ones that I liked the best.
Reviewing my list, I have come to some interesting conclusions about my evolving musical tastes:
- In my 39th year, I’ve finally accepted the fact that I am not cool. Many people would find my taste in music to be lame and closer to the music department at Cracker Barrel than hip. I’m ok with that.
- I like songs that tell a story. That is what good country music does. Unfortunately, there is very little good country music played on the radio these days.
- I like sad songs
- I have a soft spot for harmony.
This list is not in any particular order.
1. She and Him – Classics
She sing pretty. I didn’t like their last album, but this one struck a note with me.
2. The Devil Makes Three – I’m a Stranger Here
I almost saw them at a concert this year where they were the opening act, but I missed it because my sister was in the restroom and almost left her ticket there. This album actually came out in 2013, but I didn’t know about it until 2014. I love their sound, combining ragtime, bluegrass, and other sounds with a drummer-less stomp.
3. Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap
This is a surprising album—it is hard to believe that the voice you hear is from someone so young. Acoustic with hints of young John Prine. Listening to his music, it is obvious that he had a religious background.
“First his family attended a Pentecostal-Holiness church, then an Assemblies of God congregation, where the services were charismatic and the theology geared more toward vigilance than comfort. Says Millsap, “Mine was like, ‘Any time you sin, you have to ask forgiveness for that sin particularly, or else if you die and you haven’t done that, then, sorry, you lose. You’re going to hell, because that sin was still in your heart.’ Which can be kinda stressful, especially if you kinda have a guilty conscience, which I did, and do.”
“Truck Stop Gospel” is a very interesting song that tells the story of an over-the-top preacher spreading the gospel at truck stops, and it treats the subject of the story with more respect than most Christians give to street preachers. it is especially jarring following the lead track “Old time religion,” a song about a not so well intentioned believer.
I also love the lyric in “At the Bar (Emerald City Blues)”: I’ve a weakness for waltzes, I’m a sucker for sad songs/ It ain’t my fault, it’s the way I’ve become/ Don’t get me wrong, I’m as happy as the daytime is long/ But in a melancholy melody is where I belong.
I told you I have this thing for sad songs.
4. The Haden Triplets – The Haden Triplets
This album, produced by Ry Cooder, is the triplet daughters of Jazz great Charlie Haden singing old time songs from the Carter Family and others. It was recorded in a 100+ year old house, and the acoustics and harmony on the album are amazing.
I have this dream of my family sitting around my house and singing with me. Unfortunately, I cannot get anyone to sing with me, so this is a good substitute.
My favorite song on the album is “Raining.” Because it is sad.
5. The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down
This one grew on me after listening to it several times. Their last album was good, but mainly covers of old songs. This is mainly new material, with beautiful harmony.
The highlight is “Iuca,” a murder ballad about two young people getting married. The harmonies will give you chills.
6. The River & the Thread – Roseanne Cash
This album paints a picture of the deep south, and the river runs through the songs. it is beautiful, peaceful, soulful music. Pretty close to a perfect album. She is joined by some very good musicians, such a Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, John Prine, and John Paul White. If you ever go on a road trip through the deep south, this is the album to listen to.
About a year ago I had a Facebook debate about what is the best song about a river. I would now vote for “A feather’s not a bird.”
7. Rock & Roll Time – Jerry Lee Lewis
I also am a sucker for what I call “Old guy about to die records.” Like Johnny Cash’s American Recordings albums. Someone singing, not because they have to, but because they love the music.
Setting aside that Lewis is 78 years old, this is just a great album. I imagine that if Elvis was alive today, this is the kind of album he would make. Great blues vibe. Highlights for me were Bob Dylan’s “Stepchild,” and the only cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” that I didn’t hate.
8. Reflections – Don Williams
Growing up on the farm, music was 1980’s country music. Don Williams is what country music is supposed to sound like. Plus he does a great cover of my favorite Merle Haggard song, “Sing me back home.”
9. Mandatory Fun – Weird Al
I have long argued for the musical talents of “Weird Al” Yankovic, and for two weeks in July the record buying public agreed with me.
Like many other pop artists in the past 25 years, the artists parodied by Al will be forgotten while Al is still making great music. The best songs on this (and any) Weird Al album are the original, non parody tracks. My favorite is “Jackson Park Express.”
Consider the following lyric:
I gave her a penetrating stare
Which could only mean
“You are my answer, my answer to everything
Which is why, I’ll probably do very poorly
On the written part of my driver’s test”
If you like that line, you will like this album. If you don’t, you have no sense of humor.