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17

Jan

2013

Top 20 of 2012: Kezzie Baker

By Kezzie Baker. Posted in Bluegrass, Folk, Rock | No Comments »

I will admit it.  At the end of each year, I attempt to come up with a “best-of” list of my own but struggle to identify even a handful.  This is partly due to the fact that I am so bad about paying attention to the actual release dates of albums that I will invariably include several recordings that are older than I thought.  This time, however, I had no trouble at all.  2012 proved to be a stellar year for releasing good music.  Here are my picks for the best of the best, in no particular order:

 

O’ Be Joyful by Shovels & Rope (Dualtone Music Group).  (AMERICANA)  Shovels & Rope is Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, a husband-and-wife duo.  Their website says they “sing harmony driven folk, rock and country songs using two old guitars, a kick drum, a snare, a few tambourines, harmonicas, and maybe a little keyboard sometimes.”  There’s plenty of that on O’ Be Joyful, plus fiddles, banjos, and some wonderful, slightly off-kilter horns that take the genre to a new level (“Hail, Hail,” and “Tickin’ Bomb”).  Clanky percussion is prominent on most of the tracks.  Songs like “Carnival” demonstrate the duo can dazzle with slow-tempo ballads, too.  It’s just quirky enough that it may not be for everyone, but if you like an old-timey country sound with a rockin’ edge to it, this album just might be right up your alley. ( Listen to samples here.)

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Last night I was at the Calvin College Fine Arts Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for what turned out to be one of the more memorable shows I’ve ever attended. I was there for Tinariwen (on whom more below). I had never heard of the opener, Kishi Bashi, not even via the use of his music (as I now learn) in a familiar Windows 8 commercial, and even if I had made the connection I would not have expected his music to be my thing. Support bands you’ve never heard of are often a bit of a lottery, and as two guys with a violin and a banjo took the stage I was ready for anything, but little expected what followed. Working with an amplified violin, various looping devices, and the assistance for half the set of Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees on banjo and bass, Kishi Bashi (real name K. Ishibashi) strung together a series of loop-based pieces that defied genre categorization. He is blessed with formidable skills on the violin, a pure and powerful voice, and apparently boundless energy and musical imagination. Picture Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós singing bluegrass-classical-folk-pop-experimental pieces structured like miniature progressive rock epics interspersed with beatboxing and driven by double-speed loops created live and you’ll be half way there.

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