Uncle Jesse’s Favorites of 2014

SantaFe.com - December 29, 2014

He's making a list, and checking it twice...

UNCLE JESSE’S FAVORITE SONGS of 2014

10) KEITH URBAN – Somewhere in My Car
I just can’t resist those tasty guitar licks.  This one’s best when cranked up loud.

09) KACEY MUSGRAVES – Follow Your Arrow
Many have written on the theme, “Just Be Yourself.”  Kacey puts a cute new twist on it.

08) ERIC PASLAY – Song About a Girl
When someone says, “Don’t think of a purple tiger,” what happens?  Eric cleverly (and catchily) evokes the imagery he’s lampooning.

07) BROTHERS OSBORNE – Rum
Their sound really caught my ear this year.  It just oozes summer.  Whatever they got in the water in Maryland, I’d say it’s working.

06) MADDIE & TAE – Girl in a Country Song
These two deserve some kind of award for waving a musical middle finger at some of the more popular hacks in country music with their debut, all while sounding as polished as anyone on the radio.

05) THE CADILLAC THREE with FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE, DIERKS BENTLEY and MIKE ELI – the South
These guys are rockin’ my socks off so far.  They said they were aiming for something anthemic, like “Sweet Home Alabama,” and I think they nailed it.  Successfully blurs the lines between country and southern-fried rock.

04) TOBY KEITH – Shut Up and Hold On
When I first heard it, I thought, “Is Toby trying to emulate dubstep with those octave-spanning verses?”  Whatever the formula, I was addicted to this one for months.  I know it ain’t everybody’s cup of tea, but kudos to Toby for being brave enough to try something other than the same-ol-same.

03) ERIC CHURCH – Give Me Back My Hometown
“The Outsiders” is very nearly as good an album as everyone says it is, and this is a jewel among jewels.  If Eric keeps writing songs this big, pretty soon there won’t be a stadium big enough to hold him.  He may not sound as “outlaw” as the next guy on my list, but I think he deserves to wear the label (unlike some others I could mention).

02) STURGILL SIMPSON – Life of Sin
Holicky smoke!  This is easily my favorite newcomer of the year.  Somehow simultaneously manages to be both traditional and modern.  The subject matter can get a little out there at times, like maybe he’s been hanging out on Willie Nelson’s bus too long, you know what I mean?  But it all works in his favor.  He gets to wear the “New Waylon” crown until Jamey Johnson puts a new record out.

01) GEORGE STRAIT – I Got a Car
Lots of songs make me want to sing along, or ask that pretty lady to slow dance, but this was the only song this year to make me cry.  It’s not even a sad song!  It’s just so damn beautifully constructed and when they play those guitar strings, it’s like they’re strumming at my soul.  God bless George Strait for reminding me that it’s okay to feel.  If he never puts out another song (and I sure hope he does), this one would be a great last blast.

UNCLE JESSE’S FAVORITE ALBUMS of 2014

STURGILL SIMPSON – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
I reckon just about every country music dee jay would dismiss this as “precise-and-therefore-unnecessary-throwback-material,” and Sturgill’s sound is indeed nostalgic.  But, unlike most country music makers, he’s not afraid to make you think, and not afraid to wear his imperfections on his psychic sleeve.  If songwriting was a skill which could win wars, Sturgill would be king of the Earth.

ERIC CHURCH – The Outsiders
This is probably not the album anybody expected Eric Church to make after the home run that was 2011’s “Chief.”  It is a challenge to the listener and to other country artists.  There are times when it doesn’t even sound like country, except now that Eric Church has recorded it, these sounds are country.  He wears the rebel image well and hopefully will take this album’s success as a cue to continue experimenting.

STONEY LaRUE – Aviator
This Tex-Okie’s managed to sharpen his skills to a fine point over the years, and I can’t for the life of me figure why he isn’t more well known outside red dirt circles than he is.  Listening to this album is like watching a movie with a terrific soundtrack.  His sense of lyricism and melody is nearly unrivaled and I can’t wait to catch him playing live.  Plain and simple storytelling at its finest.

UNCLE JESSE’S FAVORITE LOCAL ALBUM of 2014

JAMES CAROTHERS – Honky Tonk Land
Recorded in Nashville with top-notch players, this New Mexican’s laid down a formidable foundation to grow his career on.  His deep growl works best on the more serious numbers, but he’s got quite a humorous side too, as evidenced on the tongue-in-cheek single, “New Country Singers.”

UNCLE JESSE’S VOTE for ENTERTAINER of the YEAR

Jason Aldean.  Luckily there isn’t more foliage surrounding the Isleta Amphitheater in Albuquerque, ‘cuz he would’ve burned the whole town down.  Not even from stray pyrotechnics, neither, just blazing heat!  You know the show’s solid when you’re clear up on the lawn and can’t even see the action but everyone’s still getting down and singing along just the same.  The parking lot was a sea of shiny, gargantuan, jacked-up trucks as far as the eye could see.  I didn’t think there were that many trucks in the entire state!  Here’s the set list in case you missed out (just do yourself a favor and don’t let it happen again):

Jason Aldean - September 19, 2014, Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque, NM

Hicktown
My Kinda Party
Tattoos on This Town
Amarillo Sky
Big Green Tractor
Johnny Cash
The Truth
Take a Little Ride
Fly Over States
Two Night Town (first time played)
When She Says Baby
1994
Night Train
Don’t You Wanna Stay
The Only Way I Know (with Brian and Tyler of Florida Georgia Line)
Burnin’ It Down
Dirt Road Anthem
Crazy Town

Encore:
She’s Country

# # #