It is that time again for my picks for Chris Davis’s 2021 Albums of the Year. These are not in any particular order and are the ten best, in my opinion. I am sure they will be some left out, but I always factor in what I listened to most and what stands out to me as I look back. So, here goes:
- Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Volume 16: Springtime in New York – I have written extensively about this set. The early 1980s for Bob Dylan have been much maligned by a lot of critics, but I always found the albums represented here to hold up against the hands of time. Particularly, Empire Burlesque is a solid record with many great songs. Go back and give this era a listen. You will not be disappointed.
- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: The Legendary No Nukes Concerts – This live album took me back to the first time I saw the Boss in Dallas. While many years after this show, the energy was still the same. Bruce and boys and girls from E Street create a feeling that contagious and gets you ready to dance. “Legendary” is not hyperbole here. “Badlands,” “The Promised Land,” “Born to Run,” and “Jungleland” all shine.
- Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway – Ms. Hynde made a splash during the early days of the pandemic with live shows and releases of Bob Dylan classics and covers. This albums fantastic and conveys the heartache, mysticism, and longing that is Dylan to the core. The title track from Time Out of Mind along with “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight,” “In the Summertime,” and “Every Grain of Sand” are true standouts, but the whole album is awesome.
- Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers: Ramble in Music City – Another album that I previously reviewed. It reminds us how great Ms. Harris is and how she surrounded each era of her career with top notch musicians that match her ability to sing, write, and choose material that reaches back and takes us forward at the same time.
- James McMurtry: The Horses and the Hounds – New music from one of the best songwriters around captivated longtime fans like myself. I have heard it described as a “California feel,” but I am willing to follow this guy to the ends of the earth, as he seeks to find the great American song. (Spoiler alert: he has probably already written it.) “What’s the Matter Now” is so catchy that I have been singing it ever since first hearing it.
- Cooley, Hood, & Isbell: Live at the Shoals – Another previously reviewed collection of great songs.
- Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Barn – A new studio album from Neil and the Horse – count me in! This album stacks up to previously releases. I know I am a fan, but the Horse and Neil are soundtracks to my life. “Don’t Forget Love” and “Canerican” are my favorites. Keep on rockin’ in the free world, Bernard Shakey.
- Rodney Crowell: Triage – Mr. Crowell sometimes gets forgotten or overshadowed, but is a true singer-songwriter legend, and this new collection shows that he still has the goods to make his claim today. I saw him on the Outlaw Country Cruise a few years ago, and he still rocks live, too. The title track along with “Transient Global Amnesia Blues” stand out to me.
- Shannon McNally: The Waylon Sessions –It takes guts to do a full album of Waylon Jennings covers, and Ms. McNally has the guts to do it. She brings the songs home and owns them. The Rodney Crowell penned “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” and “You Asked Me To” soar to Outlaw Country heights. Check her out today!
- Steve Earle & The Dukes: J.T. –Mr. Earle’s poignant tribute to his deceased son Justin Townes Earle makes you want to tap your feet, shout, and cry. It is a terrible loss to the world in general, but especially the music world. However, Steve does a more than admirable job of paying respectful homage. This album ranks up with other memorial albums that SE has done in recent years: Townes and Guy. “Champagne Corolla” and “Harlem River Blues” are standouts.
Well, there you have it – Chris Davis’s 2021 Albums of the Year. Here is hoping that 2022 will be a great year for music and a great year for you and your family and friends. I wish you all blessings, peace, health, and love.