My Top Ten Favorite CDs of 2022

These are my favorite CDs released in 2022. My tastes lean towards Americana, roots, alt-country, and folk. In the case of close calls, I am likely to err on the side of the lesser-known performers who need more exposure.


Signs of Life by Foy Vance

(This is actually a 2021 release, but I never ran across it until well into 2022.)

Whenever I recommend Foy Vance to a friend or family, they invaribly come back to ask, "This guy's voice and songs are so amazing. How come I've never heard of him?" I have no good answer for that. His The Wild Swan was my top CD for 2016 and his Joy of Nothing was in my Top Ten for 2013. So, he has been on my radar for awhile now, but he seems to be a private man from Bangor, Northern Ireland. He's toured with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol, and Sir Elton John, but has never been much for promoting himself beyond playing every gig he could find.

"People say 'What's the music industry like?' And I say 'I have no fucking idea,'" Foy Vance explained to American Songwriter over a Zoom call from his home in Scotland. "I've never been in the music industry. My manager is in the industry, my agents, the PR guys, and the label are in the industry. That's their job. They do all that shit. It's my job to be interested and explore. And I would do that even if no one listened."

"Signs of Life"

Then without warning you looked in my eyes
I could tell that soon a sun was sure to rise
Every morning time after time
No longer longing all through the night
No more need to muster up a fight
It's just new becoming and the passing of time


Recently, with the pandemic, he took the opportunity to dedicate himself to his daughter from a previous marriage and to his young son from his most recent marriage and a move to Scotland.  With touring curtailed, he also found the time to curtail other habits of, as he says, "two bottles of wine and at least a half bottle of vodka . . . I'd start the day with codeine to get myself sorted, and I'd smoke joints throughout the day . . ."


"Hair of the Dog"

Don't remember a time when I didn't feel high
If there was a time at all
Codeine, nicotine green and alcohol


"But it became apparent very quickly, that I was just kind of going through the motions," he admits. "I've been on the road so long, I think it got ingrained in me like oil in the hands of a mechanic. It took a while to recalibrate to what you might call normal life " waking up in the same bed every day."


"When I woke up to what I was doing, how I was kind of being, how I was exploring my days, and how I can explore them a lot better, I regained an interest," says Vance. "It's always provided a sense of safety and security to me. And I think I just lost that by going on the road so long and, and not writing"which is what I love most."



"Time Stands Still"

Oh, but if time would just stand still
Oh, I'd be fine
If time would just stand still
Oh, I'd be refined
I'd find my will
If time would stand still


He said: "I lived up in Scotland and I still feel like Scotland is home because that's where our house is but we are on tour in London for a couple of years because that's where my daughter is at a theatre school, so we moved down for that. But the second she gets out of that school I'll be back up that motorway like a rat up a drainpipe.
"


"Percolate"

Now that room is cold and dark
And my days never seem to start
That's why I'm hoping you will come back soon

If I close my eyes
Or drink hard enough
You may come back riding on the moon

Til that day it seems my fate
Is to watch the coffee percolate
Then drink it in this dark and dusty room


"Here's the truth of the matter, I got into this because I love music " I fucking love it. I couldn't do without it. My life has changed because of it. It's been a revelation and a revolution, true salvation to me. And it remains that to this day," Vance shares. "And if nobody bought my record, I would still make another one. And have nobody bought that one. I would still make another one."


When I Go Ghost by Cory Branan

"It's rad", says Cory Branan (referring to his switch to a new record company) "to have a new home with nice folks at BlueElan Records who've threatened to turn me loose to make my kind of weird American music. This is his first release with the company and he says, he gave it hell.

"When in Rome, When in Memphis"

Some love is home, some love is just passing through
When in Rome, when in Memphis
So when you're out doing it like the locals do
When in Rome, when in Memphis
You might run into one of me most any old where
When in Rome, when in Memphis
When I go I ghost out into thin air
When in Rome, when in Memphis, when I'm in Asbury


"Matt White, my buddy that used to own the White Water Tavern [in Little Rock], took that photo," Branan says. "I liked the kudzu trying to grow an angel by the highway side." There's a tension between an angel's skyward aspirations on the one hand and raw, horizontal movement over asphalt on the other. And most of the album's characters are caught between the two."


"Angels in the Details"

I used to comb through the fine print
Triple checkin' immortality
Tryin' to grease my demons through them gates on a technicality
Now most day's I just board this train waiting for it to derail
Some days I wish I'd never been born
Not to go into detail


"Somebody on the precipice, making a decision " that's sort of the whole record," Branan says. "It stretches out, but it goes inward a lot, too. That's the crux of it, the stay-or-go sort of thing. But ... I didn't write these as a song cycle. It's just a bunch of songs I had about doubt, loss, depression, general stir-craziness. But I knew I didn't want to make a record that pondered itself, I wanted it to have motion. So I gave this record an overarching rule: The sadder the song, the more it had to move and groove."


"One Happy New Year"

There's another new year coming, baby
We both dressed up for this
Feel like I should say something
I got nothing
So just give it a kiss

And get the sharp end of your heart
As I twist in a tear
Got your name on my tongue
At the tip of the spear
Oh, we have fun
Oh, we have fun
Can we have just one "Happy New Year"?


"I find that if I get up in the morning, before I start the car, if I just start making connections and looking at things around me and actually seeing, you know, instead of just driving down the road, then I can write.  I had a good year. I wrote like fifty songs, which is how I wrote when I first started writing. I hadn't written like that in a long time."


"O Charlene"

'Cause the birds are still singing and the sun still burns
Swing low, diminishing returns
And I'm finally done with all my trying to get it right
I drink a flat Coca Cola in the cold sunlight

[Chorus]
And O' Charlene, I'm still just about
Be nice to see you if you still get out


"I just don't interest myself very much," he claims. "I'm as narcissistic as the next person that stands on the stage with a microphone, but I just don't find my life or whatever else to be that extraordinary. I do find that if I make something out of my emotions or construct something out of it and form it nto a shape that's outside myself, I can pour all of that into it."


"The Pocket of God"

She was an angel of the 4th Ward
When I plucked her off the street
So tenderly I took her indoors
Bought her some tits and fixed her teeth

You should've seen her crunch a number
Work a sucker, shoot a breeze
She started off on the club floor
Soon enough she had the keys


Jason Isbell appears on five songs, Garrison Starr duets with Branan on "Waterfront," and Brian Fallon shows up from The Gaslight Anthem.



Used to Be the Next Big Thing by Maple Run Band

I have to admit I had never heard of these folks until this 2022 release. I fell in love with the title and the strange cover art. I found the songs to be up to both.

The band coalesced around 2019 as a collaboration between Trevor Crist (vocals, guitar, piano, organ) and Nicole Valcour (vocals, drums). Along with bassist John "Spence" Spencer, they started performing together to showcase Crist's songwriting, with a sonic signature defined by Crist and Valcour's braided harmonies. Bill Mullins (Barbacoa, Blowtorch), joined shortly after, bringing his unique and expressive electric guitar stylings to the mix.

"Recording at home, and producing everything ourselves, is perfect for us because we have all the time in the world and a ton of freedom," says Crist. "...most of the songwriters that influence me typically aren't confessional, so as a result, I'm almost never the protagonist of my writing. I always try to find the voice of the character and let them speak in the song. Our last album had a number of storytelling songs but that were based on actual experiences or places that I'd been, but for this one I wanted to push it to be pure fiction."


"Used to be the Next Big Thing"

Well, I used to be the next bing thing
Had the whole wide world on a string
The marquee lights burned so bright
And the people had to hear me sing
I was the talk and toast of the town
People knew me when they saw me around
Everyone was my friend
Said they'd say they knew me when
I used to be the next big thing


Crist says he was reaching for a mid seventies soft rock album with a retro-vintage country sound.


"Damned Old Song"
I hear that screen door slamming again
And just like that you're gone
I roll myself out of the bed
And I turn the radio on

And there"s that damned old song again
The one we used to sing
The one we danced to cheek to cheek
When you still wore my ring


"Over the lockdown portion of the pandemic, I really spent a lot of time playing the Rhodes piano and the Hammond organ. Our first album was very acoustic guitar driven, but this one was really built on keyboards. We wanted to really tap into that retro-vintage country sound, but produce it almost like a 70s soft-rock album."


"When You're Around"

When you"re around my heart is a flutter
Since the first time I saw your sweet face
When you're around my brain turns to butter
Girl, I long for your embrace

Been such a long time since I"ve been lonely
Don't wanna feel that no more
Been such a long time you"ve been my one and only
You're still the only one I adore


"Nowadays it feels like you have to either be super earnest, or be a novelty act," says Crist. "But guys like Roger Miller and Buck Owens, and John Prine nailed that middle ground. I wanted to really explore that middle ground with these stories."


"Tumbleweeds"

There's not a story in this place
I haven't heard before
Just waiting for my wounds to heal
Since I got caught beneath your wheels

This town could use a little less of me
I could surely use a drink to get you off my mind
I'm usually better after I've had two or three
By the time it's time for closing time
I'm usually doing fine


Maple Run Band is from Vermont and has been described as Americana, roots rock, alt-country, 70s rock,  twang, jam-band, indie, retro, country-folk,  folk-rock, "hint of the Allmans", and paisley underground, among other things.  "



Ways & Means by The Deslondes

The New Orleans quintet"Dan Cutler (vocals/bass), Sam Doores (vocals/guitar), Riley Downing (vocals/guitar), Cameron Snyder (vocals/percussion), and John James Tourville (fiddle/pedal steel)"have weathered ups, downs, and everything in between only to strengthen the bond between them.

Ways & Means is their third album, and they are upfront and philosophical about the changes the group has gone through.

"The title reminds me of being young, getting into the music business, going through everything, and coming out of it," Downing observes. "We're taking a look right, left, and back at ourselves."


"Ways & Means"

You bought into the hype
You were the guileless type
You had hopes and dreams
You had hopes and dreams
You're right you're never wrong
That's how they string you along
They got ways and means


"We were letting go of a bunch of old dynamics that left us burnt out," adds John James Tourville. "However, we're focused on being productive and on the other side."


"South Dakota Wild One"

She was a South Dakota wild one
Grew up on the hippie farm
Just outside of a small town
Where life can grab you by the arm
I never knew about her daddy
But her momma had two strong arms
And a nice guitar pickin' man
Who tried to keep her warm


"I was in Lawrence, KS visiting my folks at the height of the Pandemic," Sam Doores remembers. "I was walking down Massachusetts Avenue on a Sunday morning and wondering what I had left to give the world. Perhaps, I was experiencing a mild existential crisis from living off unemployment and facing the cancellation of my album release tours. Luckily, my phone rang. John James asked how I'd feel about making another Deslondes record with so much genuine enthusiasm it was contagious. We all owe it to him. Instinctually, a resounding "Hell Yes' came out of my mouth."


"Howl at the Moon"

I look in a stranger's eyes
Don't know what's going on
Sometimes I'm imagining
You've done somebody wrong
These days I feel so strange
I've got to make a change
Go out on the open range
And howl at the moon
Howl at the moon


"We came to some personal agreements about how everything was going to go down in advance," Cutler says. "From experience, we realized what we liked and who was good at what. In terms of the studio, it was probably the easiest album we've ever made. Usually, we're too busy touring to put a lot of thought into pre-production and ideas. This was definitely the most prepared we've ever been beforehand."


"Bound by Love"

I'll do my little part
To create a work of art
I'll get up in the morning every day
I'll chisel little bits of you away

I'll trace you in my mind
It's gonna take a bit of time
And someday we're gonna finally see
It's the life that'll set you free

"To us, this is family. It's a part of our lives. When you hear our music, I hope you feel like you're hanging out with us. The band's back together now, and it just feels good,"  Tourville adds.

"Riley, JJ, Dan, and Cam are my brothers," Doores concurs. "We've all been through so much together. I don't think any of us will have that experience with another group of people again in our lives. Sometimes, we drive each other crazy of course, but we're family. I'd take a bullet for any of those geezers."




Chicamacomico by American Aquarium

Anywhere off Hatteras Island, Chicamacomico sounds made up, like some wine-drunk incantation or maybe a tongue twister"try to say it ten times fast. But as a former life-saving station built in 1874 on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the name is perhaps the perfect metaphor and title for American Aquarium's ninth studio album -- what better to represent an album about loss than a place built to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers?

"Every day, I'd take a break at lunch to go on a run, and there was this giant water tower that said Chicamacomico. I looked it up, and that's what North Hatteras Island used to be called by the Algonquin tribe that settled it. It means "sinking sand.' "



"Chicamacomico"

This winter just won't end

Lord, knows what we've been through
It's been the kind of year that damn near broke us clean in two

Let's head down to the shoreline and wash off all this blame
Swim out past the breakers just to curse the maker's name
Try to find that piece of us we lost all those years ago
Out on the sinking sands of Chicamacomico


Barham has never been one to back away from the darkness or the more difficult subject matter. the loss of his mother and grandmother, the loss of a child, the loss of youth and time and the creative spark that drives him.

"The darkest corners of my writing is where I think folks find the most light and that is a really powerful feeling as a writer. It's what allows me to operate in that world and not get bogged down," he explained. "Knowing that I'm going into the dark place not just for me, but for anyone else that is willing to listen, makes it far easier to face those dark emotions head on."


"First Year"


It's finally here that time of year when your favourite flowers start to bloom
And the showers of April cascade into the summer we call June
Yesterday was my birthday, first one since you been gone
All my friends say it gets easier, all my friends have been known to be wrong


"When these massive life changes happen, we feel like we are the only ones facing these problems. Talking about them openly, giving them a name and dragging them into the light makes them seem a little less daunting, a little more conquerable," Barham said. "I hope this album serves as a salve to anyone who has experienced this sort of loss over the last few years. I hope it makes them feel a little less isolated and disconnected. I want them to know that someone out there is going through the exact same shit and that they are not alone."


"Little Things"

I was standin' in the kitchen doin' the dishes we left from the night before
Then she walked in with a gap-toothed grin roarin' like a dinosaur
I've spent my whole life with one foot out of the door
And it finally took puttin' down what I was workin' on to see what I was workin' for

[Chorus]
'Cause it's the little things that get me through to tomorrow
Oh it's the little things that keep me in the fight
It's coffee in the mornin', it's singin' her to sleep each night
Yeah it's the little things that let me know
That everything's gonna be alright


Few songwriters write with such authority and direction as Barham, and it is a testament to the humility and trust of his bandmates"Shane Boeker, guitar; Neil Jones, pedal steel; Rhett Huffman, keys; Ryan Van Fleet, drums, and Alden Hedges on bass that they follow him into such dark places.


"All I Needed"

I turn the radio on
And out come a song I didn't recognize
The way the singer was singing
My heart was connected, I was hypnotized
How can something that I've never heard in my life
Pull me back into the light?

[Chorus]
It's a time, it's a place
A lyrical sucker-punch to the face
I was runnin' on empty and life was really gettin' me down
It was a hook, it was a line
It was a savior in three quarter time
I was out there losing my mind
When all I needed was a song


"I don't think anybody has made it through the last two years without losing someone, whether to suicide or overdose or Covid or just getting old, just the myriad things plaguing us right now."Barham says.



Together Alone by Sarah Borges

When the life-altering pandemic hit hard, a homebound Sarah Borges did the one thing she knew how to do better than almost anything else. She picked up her guitar and started writing songs.


"Together Alone"

It"s the little things, I'm missing now
Now that they"re gone
Lines across faces and photos from places
Our shadows growing long

Remember me at the summer's end
The leaves are falling now
Even though we might now meet again
I"ll love you anyhow



"I think my self-editing tool is always fierce, and it's what prevents me from being more prolific," Sarah says. "I feel like I'm always writing in blood, like I have to stick to what I wrote the first time. But when you're home alone, and it's a pandemic, and you don't know if anyone will ever even hear the songs, all bets are off. You can write what you want and feel free to cross it out as many times as you want."


"Wasting My Time"
Been a while now, since I've seen my friends
Don"t know when I'm gonna see "em again
Without them around, it's harder to pretend
That I know where I'm going

But it"s all love and roses in spring
Then the winter snow kills everything, you know
Is it raining?


Borges would record her guitar and vocal demos on her iPhone using her clothes closet as a vocal isolation booth, then send them along to longtime mentor Eric "Roscoe" Ambel's home recording setup. He's a venerable producer and guitarist who's played with
everyone from Joan Jett & The Blackhearts to Steve Earle and The Dukes
.  He'd listen carefully to the rudimentary tracks, and then sort out who in his musical Rolodex might play what, where, when, and how.  The tricky part, Ambel says, was that "I had to think of not only great
players, but great players that could do a very good job recording themselves at home."


"I got songs to them in a very specific building order. Basically, we all went back to the "70s in recording style, working on one song at a time until it was complete. Time and geography didn't really matter," says Ambel. "It was exciting to be on the virtual receiving end of all
these great songs and performances."



"Rock and Roll Hour"

I got money in the bank, but I got to get it spent
Gonna spend on hotel rooms
Forget to pay the rent
And as for the telephone and electric power
Gonna put it all in the gas tank
Take us to the rock and roll hour

"All I know is that when I was a kid in Taunton, MA, and the Boston Music Awards would happen, they would run the winners in the paper the next day. And they've run the winners in the paper the times that I've won, and the feeling of having your grandma be proud of you because your name's in the paper because you won a gosh-darn Boston Music Award is priceless! Of course, it's an honor to be nominated, but when you win it, you feel great."


"13th Floor"

I"m gonna take the elevator
Right up to the 13th floor
Gotta tempt fate sooner or later
Otherwise, what you doin' it for?


"The record feels really comfortable, like a second skin already. It's a good representation of who I am, both musically and personally," says Borges.




Nightmares by Gasoline Lollipops

This album is not altogether new.  It was a new release in 2022, but it features three new songs and seven GasPops favorites, rearranged to showcase the acoustic-based, intimate yet spacious extraordinary sound quality of Octave's Pure DSD high-resolution recording process. I am fine with this mix as I'm not fully versed in everything the band has done in the past.

Frontman and singer/guitarist Clay Rose was raised by an outlaw truck-driving father and a country songwriting mom in rural Nashville, Tennessee, and he's complemented by a simpatico band " Gasoline Lollipops ("we're sweet, yet explosive," notes Rose) are two-time winners of a Best Colorado Band award and have toured throughout the US and internationally.

"My dad was a truck driver and an avid music lover. From the time I was four years old, I'd ride coast to coast with him. He taught me how to listen to music, with your whole self, your heart, your body, mind, and spirit."

"Pop's  Song"

Hey Son, how ya been?
I hear Los Angeles can turn boys to men"
"Yeah well, hey, Pop, you know, it's not quite like that.
It's more like they turn dreams into cold, hard facts.
And I feel like going home. I feel all alone."


"I've definitely pounded enough nails now to remember what that life is like; it's hard to be an aging rockstar, but it's way harder to be an aging construction worker," Clay said. "If I go two weeks without playing a show, I'm losing my mind, it's more than just a job or a hobby for me, it's therapy. It's really necessary for my sanity to continue playing music, so in the face of all that, we've become motivated again to get back on the career path. We're getting strategic about it and mapping out tours for the summer. We're going to give it another push because what the fuck, we're still here, we're still sucking air, might as well."


"Midnight Dance"

But it's a seed that grows the garden, baby
It's the thought that makes the mind
So, content yourself with dirty weeds and roses
Tangled up with mine

And have a midnight dance
while the children sleep
Lay your head against my chest
We can't save 'em, they're in too deep
But we'll do our best, yes
We'll do our best


Clay Rose is joined by Don Ambory (electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin), Scott Coulter (keyboards, harmonica), "Bad" Brad Morse (bass), and Kevin Matthews (drums, percussion) in Gasoline Lollipops, with guest backup singers Carly Ricks Smith, Giselle Collazo, and Kate Farmer. As well as being inventive, this group is made up with exceptionally fine musicians. They impress by how much they do not call attention to themselves, but rather what they can add to the composition.


"Devil's in the Ace"

My heart is like a ghost town
my veins are empty streets
I'm a wedding gown
after the great divorce
I try to keep my head down
and my mind off of defeat
but the nightmares just come with greater force



But despite the extra work and expense, including months booking two separate tours for their previous album All That Money Can Buy, Rose says "relief" was the first emotion he experienced upon learning of the impending shutdown.

"I felt relief that I didn't have to go out for four months and miss vital steps in my baby daughter's life," Rose said. "And I felt so relieved that for a moment I thought, maybe I shouldn't be playing music anymore, that I got so caught up in the career path that I didn't see the signs telling me I was done. And I even told the guys in the band that I thought maybe I was done."


"Fast Train"

I have not been well
I've been drinkin' too much whiskey
and thinkin' too much hell
I just wanna be free
but I can't deny the weight of these chains
bearing down on me

(Chorus)
Just give me a fast train
the fuck outa here
Give me a hard rain
make it all disappear
I just wanna lay my head down
and sleep while I ride
wake up when it's over
over on the other side



"My feeling is that shows will kinda be in two parts. We'll do the ethereal, new, intimate, exposed, raw album " and then we're just gonna have a cathartic, shit-kicking barn burner," he said. "For me, that's where the exorcism really takes place. I have a lot of baggage to unpack." 


"Jesus Aint Dead"

But them wafers ain't meat
they're just made of wheat
no one ever got drunk off of blood
So pass that wine around, my friends,
redemption will just have to wait.
We'll be drunk by the time this world comes to an end,
and I'll see you at the old pearly gates.





Make Myself Me Again by Christina Vane

Born in Italy to a Sicilian-American father and a Guatemalan mother, Cristina Vane has always had a tenuous relationship with identity and place. She grew up between England, France and Italy, and was fluent in four languages by the time she moved to her fathers' native United States for university at 18.

"I've been trying to peel back the layers, to understand who I am, and I think that process has translated to this record," she explains, "The production is straightforward, more minimal, and a bit of a return to my rock roots but still paying homage to the music I've explored since then".

"Make Myself Me Again"

Sometimes I lose, sometimes I win
I'm gonna make myself me again
I'm giving up on givin' in
I"m gonna make myself me again


After graduating from Princeton with a degree in Comparative Literature, Vane moved to Los Angeles where she worked at McCabe's Guitar Shop, and spent every free moment working on her music, studying fingerstyle guitar with mentor Pete Steinberg. Those years pushed her into deeper exploration of country blues picking and old folk guitar styles. In the last few years she's taken a deep dive into old-time and bluegrass music, adding clawhammer banjo to her arsenal of instruments.


"Sometimes Baby"

Hard times, oh they will come and go
Your intentions will someday show
Sure as rainfall the winter's blow
You can't get away from yourself


"I'm essentially a rock kid who is obsessed with old music. I am an Americana musician and songwriter " I play slide guitar, fingerstyle guitar, clawhammer banjo, and I sing, write and perform all my songs. I tour for much of the year, and in my spare time I write, record and release new music. I also sometimes do some commercial acting on the side. I am most proud of trying to stay true to myself and following my passions for this very niche music that has lead me to beautiful communities of people. I am also very proud of my tenacity and not losing sight of my vision!"


"Colorado Sky"

Let me tell you about the Colorado Sky
About the soft pink clouds, about the wood piled high
Lord, once you get under that Colorado Sky
You can't help but feel like a lifetime passed you by



"I have learned that the cliches are mostly true.  I think that while common sense may not be common, people have this sort of instinctual ability to sniff out bullshit, and that ultimately you are doing yourself a disservice by trying to cater to other people! The truer you are to what's inside, it seems to me, the more magic the music."


"A Little Bit of Me"

There's a little bit of me in all that you do
We may never speak again but I know that it's true
I used to think I'd rather die that forget you
God bless this mess, god bless you too

Seek a straight and narrow way
My patience might just slip today
You pass me up, you leave love cold
but that story, babe, is the worst you've told


After being exposed to all of this music that I love, I'm slowly figuring out how to find my own voice," she says, "It is the sound of growing up".





Dark Enough to See the Stars by Mary Gauthier

"Writing helps me sort out confusion, untangle powerful emotions, and ward off desperation. It helps me navigate the powerful emotional weather systems of life."

As she has so eloquently accomplished over the past 25 years, acclaimed singer- songwriter Mary Gauthier has used her art once again to traverse the uncharted waters of the past few years. "I'm the kind of songwriter who writes what I see in the world right now," she says.


"Dark Enough to See the Stars"

At the bottom of my tears, on the backside of my fears
At the center of the pain, I hear my voice call out your name
Days go by, nothing works, I can't believe how much this hurts
I don't know where you are, it's dark enough to see the stars


On Dark Enough to See the Stars, she mourns recent devastating losses: the deaths of John Prine, David Olney, Nanci Griffith, and her beloved friend Betsy.


"How Could You Be Gone"

I keep starin' at the clock Stumblin' 'round the house in shock I don't know what I feel I can't believe that this is real

I don't know what to wear I don't know who will be there I wanna call you, I wanna cry I don't wanna say goodbye


"It's complicated " because all around the edges was the pandemic. But you've got to express your joy " a joy that's not free from pain. There's grief all around us, but there's this ability to still love and still be aware that the sky is beautiful and the hand that I'm holding is filled with love..."  Her love Jaime Harris sings harmony on many of the cuts.

"Amsterdam"

It's been a heartbreak year I'm so glad to be back here Walking these old streets with you Wide awake, a dream come true

Alright, feeling alright In Amsterdam tonight Alright, feeling alright In Amsterdam, Amsterdam tonight


"That's always been the point. To write the best possible songs, and to elevate the art form, and to travel down the trail that my heroes blazed"Dylan, Springsteen, my friend Steve Earle, plus Rodney Crowell and Lucinda Williams. There's a whole lot of people on that road, and that's the road I want to be on."


"Truckers and Troubadours"

Truckers and troubadours Black coffee and metaphors Steering wheels late nights and songs Wake up in the morning, we're gone On the stage, on the road, pack it up, pull the load Thousands of miles left to do, always just passing through

Truckers and troubadours Our other half walking the floors Can't wait to make it back home Counting the days 'til we're gone Gear jammers rhymers not made for these timers In love with the strange and the new, always just passing through



Invisible Pictures by Jeremy Ivey

"This is the kind of songwriting I've always been drawn to," says Jeremy Ivey. "The perpetual motion, the intricate melodies, the sprawling arrangements. This album is the real me."


"Downhill (Upside Down Optomist)"

The upside-down optimist says as he climbs
"Don't you worry about me. This happens all the time."
He's got a bright disposition but he knows how it ends

'Cause it's all downhill, my friends
Yeah, it's all downhill from here


"When you sing a melody in your head, you can either put three chords around it or nine," says Ivey.  "This time, I aimed for nine."

Born in San Antonio, he suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy during infancy as a result of his birth mother's battles with drug addiction. Doctors at the time said he would likely never learn to walk or talk, but Ivey proved them wrong, managing to become not only a gifted multi-instrumentalist, but a profoundly poetic writer, to boot.

"Orphan Child"

I'm an orphan, honey
I'm a no-name nomad livin' in this great unknown
This place is good as any and I've been to so many
I'm an orphan child
Yes, I'm an orphan but I'm better on my own


For years he traveled the country, picking up work in kitchens and playing guitar to make ends meet. In Colorado, he lived in a tent; in Boston, he struggled with homelessness. Eventually, the road led to Nashville, where he began collaborating with (and eventually married) another searcher named Margo Price.

"When I met Margo, she was working as a waitress in a bar," recalls Ivey. "We were both stuck with these dead-end jobs and shared the same dream of getting out and traveling the world making music."


"Grey Machine"

He walks in a raven's shadow
Blinded in the first new snow
Counting footsteps to the door
Where no one says hello

[Chorus]
He gets a beer and he watches her work
She's the best thing he's ever seen
They're gonna run away, so far away from the grey machine


In just the past few years alone, he'd welcomed a daughter into the world, survived a particularly brutal bout of COVID, and watched the entire music industry slip into freefall. With touring off the table for more than a year, he decided stretch himself compositionally, returning to the complex, harmonically sophisticated music that had fascinated him in his younger years but had taken a backseat since his move to Nashville. 

"A whole lot of different people with a whole lot of different musical backgrounds came in and out of the studio while we were recording," says Ivey. "When Andrija Tokic, the producer, heard a sound in his head, he'd just go find the player who could make it happen."


"Black Mood"

I'm in a black mood
I've got rusted gears inside
Live-wire sparks strike like snakes
But I don't show it
What good would it do for you
To see a man trapped in his mistakes?

[Chorus]
He's just a child with a face that's melted down
Goin' gray and faded out
Between the cracks of his smile, there's a death
Between every breath


"I try to put a little bit of hope into everything I do," Ivey reflects. "No matter how heavy, no matter how dark things may get, there's always a little bit of light shining through."

Special Mention:

Don't Marry No Railroad Man by J.P Harris' Dreadful Wind and Rain

This is just an amazing piece of work. Not bluegrass or even Appalachian music, more just old-time songs passed down through generations that Harris learned for his own amusement and added his own take on them so that he could pass them down to the next generation in the form he knew them.  I am grateful. I would recommend giving them a listen so you might be grateful, too.

Honorable Mentions:

Stardust & Satellites by Steve Poltz

Palomino by First Aid Kit

Bloor Street by Kiefer Sutherland

Mercy Street by Cody Jinks