It’s that time of year!
Rather than a “Top 10” or “Best of” list this year, I’m opting to mention just some of my favorite releases and performances in the last year — the stand-outs that resonated with me all year long and that I found myself spinning again and again. By no means comprehensive nor in any particular order, today I’m mixing some of those “faves” into this final edition of All-Wheel Drive in 2019:
Mark Joseph: Mystery Train (From his album release, The Musician and The Muse — a stellar album from a local musical legend, in the tradition of the best of American blues and soul. This album should make Mark Joseph a national name!)
The Highwomen: Old Soul (The debut self-titled album from these country music powerhouses — Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires — is most definitely one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s one for the ages, filled with joy, laughter, tears, pain, and sh*t-kicking honky-tonk soul. And I love that these ladies are kicking the music industry in the a**.)
Willie Nelson (w. Lukas Nelson): Just Breathe (This track is actually from Willie’s 2012 Heroes release, but it’s a song that really resonated deeply with me this year. A beautiful duet from Willie and his son, Lukas.)
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) (Best advice I’ve heard in a long time. ‘Nuff said!)
Courtney Yasmineh: The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Minneapolis singer/songwriter and someone who I admire so much for so many reasons — released a fantastic collection of covers from some of HER favorite songwriters — Songs From The Open Road. A beautiful album and right up there with The Highwomen for a top album for me this year. I really hope that 2020 is the year that Yasmineh finally gets the acclaim she deserves.)
Joseph: NYE (An appropriate tune given the date! Off the latest album from these three sisters, Good Luck, Kid.)
Jade Bird: Ruins (Another powerhouse female vocalist, kicking some behind this year.
J.S. Ondara: Saying Goodbye (An incredible debut album, Tales of America, from this Kenyan artist, who found his voice and inspiration in the music of Bob Dylan, and beyond all odds, ended up in Minneapolis to launch his astounding career. An immensely talented artist. That voice! Another Grammy contender on my year-end list, up for Best Americana Album.)
Bain: Around The Sun (featuring Lady Midnight) (This Minneapolis R&B outfit put on one of my very favorite live performances this year — a fantastic performance at the Parkway Theater, along with a backdrop of stunning imagery from filmmaker Phil Harder.)
The National: Rylan (Admittedly one of my very favorite bands, but I did not expect to be so moved by their latest release, I Am Easy To Find. Definitely a departure musically for the band (the addition of female voices!) — a gorgeous new direction. The album was released with an accompanying short film of the same title directed by Mike Mills. So beautiful and I dare you to watch it without collapsing in a puddle of tears.)
Jessica Manning: I Still Wait (My favorite musical “discovery” of the year. Based on Minneapolis. Her debut album What If I Run? came out in 2017. How the heck had I never heard of her before? So good.)
Maggie Rogers: Give A Little (Everybody’s heard the tale of how Maggie Rogers was “discovered,” and her debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, proved her talent far beyond the hype. Will she take home the Grammy for Best New Artist?)
Robyn: With Every Heartbeat (w/ Kleerup) This song is actually from her 2007 self-titled album but since Robyn’s 2018 release Honey, I feel like 2019 was the year that Robyn was the go-to for boys & girls around the globe (including yours truly) when ya just wanna get lost in the music and LET GO.)
Billie Eilish: bad guy (I really tried my darndest not to get sucked into all things Billie Eilish, but her vibe is so darn infectious! Another contender for a Grammy for Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Wow. And she only just turned 18!)
Lizzo: Juice (Her MPR Music Tiny Desk Concert performance had me smiling so hard it hurt! Truth (hurts)! 😉 I love her vibe and it’s so great to see Lizzo get so much acclaim this year. And yet another contender for Best New Artist, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year! Lizzo and Billie Eilish go head-to-head! Oh, and they’re both up for Best Pop Solo Performance. Note to self: gotta watch The Grammys in January!)
The Key Kids: Division Street (My favorite in-studio performance of the year, by Northfield’s own ‘Key Kids,’ Madelyn Hartke and Charley Markson. Infectious indie pop with a rockin’ edge. Get your hands on a copy of their debut album, Townie — it’s fantastic!)
The Beatles: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer (Hard to believe Abbey Road was released 50 years ago! This album remains a favorite.)
Led Zeppelin: All My Love (One of my all-time favorite bands and, like The Beatles, it’s been so fun this year sharing my passion for the music I grew up listening to with my son. Finally he thinks his mom has good taste in music!)
Prince: Nothing Compares 2 U (Yes, Prince released a “new” album this year, Originals. Being able to hear the original cuts of these iconic tunes is amazing. And another remind how much I really miss Prince.)
Happy New Year and here’s to enjoying more great music together in 2020 on All-Wheel Drive!