Category Archives: Album Recommendations

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 28

Los Lobos – Kiko


This is another one that goes in the “perfect album” category. Album with a capital “A.” This is a single work of art. It is not 16 songs. It is a single work of art. It is perfection from start to finish.

Los Lobos took a quantum leap forward with this album, and as Steve Berlin once noted, the band has lived on the other side of the shell they broke through every since.

They were already a great band, and thanks to La Bamba, they were a famous band. With Kiko, they achieved something else altogether—true artistry. Mastery. Genius.

It’s an extraordinarily textured release that calls on the spirits of so many regions, sounds, spirits, and genres, yet it’s never dilettantish, never skittery, never self-conscious. It’s simply a multi-layered, narrative and impressionist masterpiece.

I hesitate to recommend a single track to start with, because you simply MUST listen to the whole thing, in order, start to finish. That said, I know sometimes you need a point of entry to orient yourself before you take the journey. So start with Wake Up Dolores.

Then promise me you’ll do the right thing, and listen to the whole album. The WHOLE album. Start to finish. Promise me.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 27

Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps – Blue Jean Bop


If you made the statement that rockabilly guitar begins and ends with this album—the debut from Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps—the only argument I could possibly mount would be to say you really have to include the self-titled second album as well, since Cliff Gallup plays on that one too.

Because Cliff Gallup is of course the greatest rockabilly guitar player ever.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 26

Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Cole Porter Songbook


It was Ella’s birthday yesterday. So I am recommending this album, because it contains my favorite Ella performance of all time.

This is a very hard distinction to make, mind you, and obviously. She delivered interstellar performances in the thousands. She was a living goddess. Her voice, and her power to use it, were gifts from the gods.

Still, this song is my favorite of them all.

The album is legendary, and justifiably so. It was Ella’s first recording for Verve. It was the first in the series that would become known as the Songbook series. It is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

It also contains my favorite Ella song of all time.

Miss Otis Regrets.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 25

Blind Boy Fuller – Volume 1: 1935-1938


No self-respecting Country Blues fan has a music collection that lacks Blind Boy Fuller. He’s canonical. And once again, JSP does it right with these remasters.

He’s excellent. Blind Boy Fuller is excellent.

He’s also tragic. His was a life of hardship, and continued mistreatment at the hands of a system that repeatedly failed him. He worked hard, was bloody damn good at what he did, and was ill most of his life. He died too young, and his legacy has been tarnished by inaccurate attempts to paint him as violent, irresponsible, and self-destructive. The truth is, his fate was to be constantly trying to get help from a system that refused to acknowledge his craft and his work ethic in positive ways. He recorded over 120 songs, was well-known and popular, and died essentially penniless and destitute.

Shame on us all for that!

Musically, he is kind of a “bridge” artist, with the chord progressions and finger-picking techniques of the Piedmont written into his bouncing style, and the rough-hewn Delta rawness emanating from his National Resophonic and his gruff but melodic voice. The blend is both beguiling and harrowing; sly and serious.

He is so, so good. Don’t leave home without him.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 24

Benny Goodman – Complete Capitol Trios


Benny Goodman’s legacy is a complicated one, to say the least, and I don’t intend to unravel it here. Instead, what I intend to do is recommend to you a record that should go a long way towards reminding you that all other matters aside, the man could create musical beauty of unparalleled grace with nothing more than a clarinet, a piano, and a drum kit.

There are no revolutions afoot here. There is no wildness of youth. There is no gravitas of age. This is middle-period music of a master. It’s perfection. It’s a clinic. It’s timeless.

It’s required listening.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 23

Dwight Yoakam – Guitars Cadillacs Etc, Etc.


The first 12 seconds of the song “Twenty Years” can and will tell you exactly what you need to know and understand about this album.

If you can’t understand that, then I can’t do nothin’ for ya, man …

This debut album introduced two HUGE talents to the world; Mr. Dwight Yoakam, and Mr. Pete Anderson. Country Music—the writing, singing, performing, and guitar picking of it—would never be the same again.

I mean, I WORE this thing out when it came out.

Song for song, pound for pound, Hillbilly Deluxe is probably the better album, but this thing was just SUCH a shot fired cross the bow, man, you just have to tip your hat in respect …

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 22

Fred McDowell – Long Way From Home


Back on February 9th, I recommended the album Levee Camp Blues by Fred McDowell (or “Mississippi Fred McDowell” as he’s sometimes termed). In that post, I mentioned that Levee Camp Blues is tied with one other Fred McDowell album for my all-time favorite. This is the other album.

It’s oddly a very different album. It’s shorter, the songs are more “familiar” in terms of their origin stories being in the general country blues canon, and most notably of all, it’s recorded very, very differently.

Levee Camp Blues is notable for its intimacy, its warmth, its clarity, its “naturalness.”

Long Way From Home is very different. It’s sparse, loaded with reverb, and flat-out haunting.

It’s a pretty hard collection to find, actually. It’s part of the Original Blues Classics series on Milestone, and it was recorded in 1966. I got it on vinyl when I was still in high school, and I was floored by it. It was just SO fuckin’ cool.

This album has always been—and continues to be—a huge influence on my songwriting and my playing. Honestly, if you go listen to “Preacher Boy and The Natural Blues”—my debut release on Blind Pig Records—after listening to this record, it’ll be REAL obvious whose spell I was under at the time.

Recommended track to start with: Milk Cow Blues. For my money, it’s the best version of this song ever recorded.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 21

Billie Holiday & Lester Young: Complete Studio Recordings


Obviously, I picked the “complete” recordings, because I love everything they did together. The music they MADE together was divine.

His was her voice, from the horn, and hers was his horn, from the voice. She that named him Prez, he that named her Lady Day. Tragic figures, elegant figures, melodic figures. Heroin and sadness took the one, alcohol and sadness the other. But in that America, when you could be so great and still so scorned, how could they not have been saddened?

“Most of the cats in the band were wonderful to me, but I got tired of scenes in crummy roadside restaurants over getting served. Some places wouldn’t even let me eat in the kitchen. I got tired of having to make a Federal case over breakfast, lunch and dinner. You had to smile to keep from throwing up. As they say, ‘There’s no business like show business.'”

This one’s for the sound engineers who pressed record whenever these two played. For first they were here, and then they were gone.

Love is like the faucet
It turns off and on
Sometimes when you think it’s on baby
It has turned off and gone

365 Days of Album Recommendations – April 20

Willie Nelson – Teatro


It’s of course the infamous 4.20 today, and I saw something pretty funny earlier—it read “It’s 4.20, make sure to leave cookies and milk out for Willie Nelson.”

Which of course reminded me of Willie Nelson, which of course reminded me of Willie Nelson’s actual greatest record, which is this one.

And yes, it’s Daniel Lanois again. With all the atmospheric ghosty-funky vibey things he does … but that’s not really what this album’s about. It’s about 3 things. It’s about having Emmylou Harris sing the LOW harmony. And it’s about ACTUALLY hearing Willie Nelson play HIS guitar the way HE plays it. And finally, it’s about these two cats:

Tony Mangurian – drums, percussion
Victor Indrizzo – drums, percussion

Because they’re the true secret weapons of this incomparable album. The gumbo funk they drop behind Willie’s spasmodically excellent Tex-Mex nylon angularities is just devastatingly tasty.

It’s a killer, killer album.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 19

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska


I’m getting ready to read Springsteen’s new autobiography, so I needed to get my head into the right sonic space, and if I had to pick one Springsteen album above all others, it would be this one.

If nothing else, listening to this album ought to out least make you pine for the days when the word ALBUM meant something. When we thought of ALBUMS the way we thoughts of novels, or plays, or paintings. We used to think of them as miniature self-defining and self-completing universes, with themes, and relationships, and … purposes.

This is a completed circle. It is a closed ecosystem.

It was a massive, massive artistic accomplishment, and it was a bloody brave move to release it. No major artist in the history of rock n’ roll music had ever—or HAS ever—taken such a decidedly unexpected—and completely non-commercial—left turn at the height of their careers. And Springsteen was at the HEIGHT. At this point, he had become The Boss. He was Bruuuuuuce! He was the Hungry Heart.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Suddenly, the man who spent 4 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 decided to release an album recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder. An album whose very first lyric was this one:

I saw her standing on her front lawn just twirling her baton
Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died

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