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REVIEWS
Outlaw Magazine Writer’s Picks 2012: Dave Pilot
Published on December 17th, 2012

We’ve asked a few of our contributing writers to pick their ten favorite releases of 2012. These are, of course, in no particular order and there were so many outstanding releases this year, inevitably we’ll have left out some great ones after it is all said and done.  Our intent is that maybe there are some amazing albums that have escaped your attention and these lists will get your ass to Amazon or Itunes or your local record store (are there still any?) and fill up your ever music-lovin’ senses with something new.  There’s not much overlap in the Writer’s Picks, as each has their favorite genre. Dave Pilot is, of course, about all things Texas.  But he’s let another state or two slide in to this list. He’s known for finding gems others have yet to discover. Let him open your ears to some great new discoveries…

Dave Pilot: 10 of My Favorite Records from 2012

These are in no particular order, and shouldn’t be construed as such.  I don’t get into comparing and ranking records, because frankly comparing what one artist’s work means against that of another artist isn’t apples and apples.  Not even apples and oranges.  It’s apples and fuckin’ squirrels.  Music is an intensely personal affair, and it touches each of us in different ways.  So these aren’t Dave’s “top 10” from 2012.  Nope.  Just ten records I liked a lot that have found permanent homes in my truck.  My tack room.  My house.  And, well, my heart.   Many of these, but not all, I wrote about this year for Outlaw.  Some may have been released prior to 2012, but only came to my attention this year.  And that’s about all the criteria in play. So here goes.

Eric Strickland and the B Sides, Honky Tonk Til I Die  – In a year that saw a resurgence of traditionally based country music across the independent landscape, this record was a standout.  Strickland and his bandmates hail from the provinces out in North Carolina, and are proof positive that the beating heart of country’s genius still takes root amongst the pines.  Terrific record top to bottom, with a few genuinely topnotch tracks.  A band I’ll be watching closely in coming years. REVIEW.

***

Rickey Dickens, Hangin’ On – Another stone country record, this time from the Florida the tourists don’t know about.  Ten originals and one John Hiatt cover, all from the heart of an IT guy whose soul can’t be contained by the cubicle prairie.  “Pawn Shop” is one of my favorite tracks of the entire year.  The whole album gets down deep and goes with evenings like Jameson goes with coffee.  Genuinely soothing stuff with just a hint of deeply pleasant burn.  Outstanding. REVIEW.

 ***

Randy Thompson, Collected – If not my personal favorite record this year (and that’s a big if), certainly the one that I’ve gone back to most consistently.  While it has the distinct advantage of being one of the earliest to come through my mail slot in 2012, there were a host of others that came in early and haven’t gotten near the airplay this one does.  Crunchy, emphatic guitars wrapped around as compelling a vocal as I can recall.  Masterfully written songs, masterfully delivered.  Collected is a pro’s record, but it’s also one of those albums that gets you down deep on a visceral level and latches on to stay.  Thompson’s take on Utah Phillips’ “Rock Salt and Nails” leaves an indelible mark, but the originals here are even more powerful.  The rare record that works every bit as well at sunrise as it does as sunset, albeit for different reasons.   Here there be art, boys and girls.  Genuinely great art. REVIEW.

***

Chris Wall, El Western Motel – Okay, maybe this one ain’t fair since I’d be a happy sonofabitch if Chris recorded the phone book and released it as a record.  But more often his work is an Encyclopedia Britannica of loves lost and lives won and battles fought and souls tried and (maybe) redeemed.   There are some truly great songwriters lurking in the mythic history of what has become American music.  Wall fits in right there at the top with the very best of them.  This record, his first release in a decade, is a blindingly brilliant exposition of self-recrimination, apologetics, defiance, and nostalgia that’s not ready to hang up the spurs.  Best work Wall’s ever done, hands down.  I often say when talking about music and the distinction between entertainers and artists is that the latter are the ones who pour out their souls on their six-strings.  That road goes through Chris Wall, and has for a very long time. REVIEW.

***

Mark Allan Atwood and Brimstone, Burned At the Crossroads – Talk about a refreshing change of pace, and a Texas band that remembers how to rock without sacrificing substance.  Atwood’s vocal is right there in the ‘80s hair band vein, because he used to play in that world, but as with the best of those big acts back in the day he never lets substance and nuance get evicted from his delivery in favor of throaty yells.  The musicians in the band are top notch, and songs like “From the Water” and “Ghost” demonstrate the very best of the wide range Texas music has historically ridden.  Terrific stuff, and a record that won’t settle for anything less than repeated listens. REVIEW.

 ***

Kevin Deal, There Goes the Neighborhood – Been a fan of Deal’s work for well over a decade, in part because his hardbitten characters and his stories about honest appraisal of troubles and perseverance in the face of pain evoke for me the best of what Springsteen used to do.  Same bubbling well of optimism in the sewer of a pessimistic universe that’s generally colored the Boss’s work runs through this Texas stonemason’s catalog.  And with this record he pulls back the veil on some of the reasons why.  It’s a Gospel recording in rough country attire, and it’s fantastic.  Never preachy or boringly didactic, just simple homespun and hardworn bareknuckle truth.  A standout release from a terrific artist not enough people know about yet. REVIEW.

***

Jerrod Medulla, Speakeasy Outstanding example of an artist remembering the wide range of Texas music and unafraid to take it all on and be different, put out something genuine and intriguing and real.  Immensely easy record to get lost in, and one that wears well over time to boot.  Medulla’s still a wet behind the ears youngster, but his talent doesn’t have a ceiling.  Given the distinct differences between this record and his first release, or even the widely varied styles within Speakeasy’s track list, there’s no telling where this kid will go.  Hopefully, wherever he wants to.  Voices like his are rare, and the ability to interpret both his own songs and covers with jaw dropping intensity, passion and power sets him apart from the pack.  It was the aforementioned Springsteen, after all, who called Medulla’s management personally to tell them Jerrod’s cover of “I’m On Fire” was the best he’d ever heard.  This kid’s legit. REVIEW.

 ***

Richie Allbright, Kickin’ Down the Doors – Perfect example of the stone cold country revival that’s out there these days.  Allbright’s voice is a potent mix of attributes from the great ones, as if he were some bastard love child of Merle Haggard and David Allan Coe.  People just don’t sing like this anymore, but Richie surely does.  Evocative, mesmerizing, pure-dee powerful stuff.  And with songs to match.  “Down Her Memory Lane” would have been a number one hit for Waylon in the ‘70s, and “Where The Rainbow Hits The Ground” would be a chart topper today if the listening public at large had even an ounce of soul.  This is country music, the raw and gritty kind, the sort of new old songs that remember why wordplay is important and demonstrate just what exactly an honest-to-God tunesmith can do.

***

Robby White and the Texas Gringos, Small Town Outlaw – The best and last album from this band is littered with standout tracks that can make the hair on your neck stand up.  Robby has moved on to a new gig, collaborating with North Texas legend Ronny Spears as a duo that’s reviving honky tonk with a vengeance.  The top notch Texas Gringos are now The Dirty Pesos, backing Tom McElvain, and their release would get a nod here if it was a full record as opposed to a damn good EP.  But with Small Town Outlaw, this lineup caught some lightning in a bottle.  Their cover of Mike Ethan Messick’s “Juarez” is for my money the most electrifying song released in Texas in 2012.  White’s vocal on his soulful and deeply heartfelt rendition of “Harder Cards” is the stuff legends get born from.  And his own songs, like “They Don’t Play Hank” (a co-write with McElvain) and “A Texan’s Prayer” indicate that if there’s one guy in the DFW metroplex region who can take up the torch of the state’s best songwriters, it’s Robby White.  Time will tell, but this guy has the chops to grab a seat alongside Kevin Higgins, Brian Burns, and Chris Wall as one of the best around.  And Small Town Outlaw is where the potential finally began to fully show. REVIEW.

~ Dave Pilot

 

Dave Pilot lives in north Texas with his first good wife (don’t ask about the other one), seven horses, and five dogs.  When his wife’s not looking, he tries to figure out ways to feed the 987 or so cats to the coyotes out behind the fenceline.  When he’s not trying to raise his kids to turn out better than he did, he’s hitting historical sites on his way to honky-tonks from Denton to Port Aransas. Visit Dave Pilot on Facebook.

 

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