1. Drive by Truckers – Brighter Than Creation's Dark
I began 2008 as a casual fan. By December, I was a full blown, no holds barred DBT disciple. What changed? The arrival of Brighter Than Creation's Dark. 19 songs and guess what? They all work and contribute to the opus. The lyrics are rich and address themes as diverse as Crystal Meth, Iraq and daily freaking life. My favorite cut is Self Destructive Zones, a tidal wave encompassing the recent history of what Mike Cooley sardonically describes as angst-rock. Cooley rules, but as always, DBT is driven by Patterson Hood. If you caught the Truckers in Ft. Lauderdale at their September show, you’ll remember PH extolling you to "Please don't elect that motherfucker to a third term!" Awesome. I’m down with Hood/Cooley in 2016.
2. Chris Knight – Heart of Stone
Knock you over with a feather, right? CK made the list. After all, this space is named (this is not an ego blog) after a Chris Knight album. My most anticipated album of 2008 did not disappoint. Is it my favorite Knight album? Nope. There are a few throw away songs like My Old Cars that distinguish it from previous releases. But mercifully, Knight’s fierce songwriting can be found throughout. The signature bare-bones production allows the rapsy vocals to shine though on romps like Home Sick Gypsy and my favorite, Danville. Crooked Road appears sans band and the results are predictably powerful.
Damn these hard times / Damn the coalmines / Damn the good dreams gone cold / And while I’m at it, damn this crooked road...
4. Lowlands - The Last Call
There’s a simple reason that Lowlands has managed to relegate several of my all-time favorite artists like Reckless Kelly and James McMurtry to the ranks of this year’s Honorable Mention category. They made a better album. The Last Call is another blogosphere find for 2008. And there’s not a single album that’s gotten more play at APGG headquarters. Ghosts in this Town hooks you in from the start with its hard driving sound and lyrics. New music has gotta have that hook. The rest is Alt-country history. An original sound that has this blogger thirsty for more. Oh, here’s the best part. They’re from Italy! Now if they could only help jettison that Berlusconi fellow… Something tells me they won’t be playing his inauguration.
5. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Several years ago, I saw KISS and Aerosmith co-headline the same tour. Someone's gotta have top billing, right? But who? The Drive By Truckers/The Hold Steady - Rock n' Roll Means Well tour presented the same prediciment and they alternated, depending on the venue. And with good reason. Both bands rule. The Hold Steady is The Ramones meets Springsteen (sense a theme here) and with improved production, they've created their best album to date. Track #2 features Sequestered in Memphis, their best track ever. 2008 brought them to my conciousness as well as the Late Show with David Letterman. The Hold Steady, my friends, have truly arrived.
Very Honorable Mention: