The BEST OF 2017 Music Reviews by the Rock Doctor!
So it’s all come down to this- my “Best Of 2017” list. There are many thousands of albums released each year, and it’s impossible to hear them all. In the last 12 months I have published 221 album reviews in Gonzo. I whittled that down to a list of 92 contenders but that’s a long way from a dozen, so some hard choices had to be made. Some records that I thought were sure to make the final cut (Prophets Of Rage, Bruce Cockburn, David Gilmour) fell by the wayside, but the final goal was a list of twelve and by the time the smoke cleared, that was accomplished. This Top Twelve List is by no means definitive… but it would be nice to think that some of your favorites might be on here, and that you’ll consider checking out some of the albums you’re not familiar with.
#12 – BELLE OF THE WEST Samantha Fish (Ruf)
This is Fish’s 5th studio album in 8 years. Whereas previous discs have been loaded with firepower and Samantha’s smokin’ guitar playing, Belle of The West is a detour into acoustic textures with a deeply soulful, rootsy approach. It’s a great record.
KEY CUTS: Blood In The Water, Daughters, Poor Black Mattie
#11 – SUBWAY STORIES Ilana Katz Katz (Vizz Tone)
This is the 3rd CD for this unusual Boston artist. She’s a fiddler, a singer, a novelist and visual artist, but far from a dilettante that merely chooses to dabble in music. Subway Stories is a truly impressive slice of blues. No less than guitarist Ronnie Earl calls her “brilliant and soulful”, and that’s just what she is.
KEY CUTS: Subway Blues, Tribute To Slim Harpo, Don’t Forget, Motherless Child
#10 – THE DRIFTER & THE PREACHER Barney Bentall (True North)
Barney has recorded over the years with The Legendary Hearts, The High Bar Gang and The Grand Cariboo Opry as well as under his own name. While The Drifter & The Preacher has a pop/rock vibe I haven’t heard from him in awhile, it combines elements from all of his musical styles with classic melodies to wonderful effect.
KEY CUTS: The Miner (with Dustin Bentall), Moon At The Door, Won’t Change The World (with Jim Cuddy)
#9 – WITCHY FEELIN’ Savoy Brown (Ruf)
Talk about your perfect album title. With a swampy vibe throughout and some hellaciously sleazy slide guitar, Witchy Feelin’ is magnificent.
KEY CUTS: Guitar Slinger, I Can’t Stop The Blues, Close To Midnight
#8 – HYDROGRAD Stone Sour (Warner Music)
It’s the 6th album from Slipknot honcho Corey Taylor’s side group and it kicks loads of ass. How does it compare to Slipknot? No idea as I’m not very familiar with that band but it’s a great rock album.
KEY CUTS: Taipei Person/ Allah Tea, Song #3, When The Fever Broke
#7 – STOMPIN’ GROUND Tommy Castro & The Painkillers (Alligator)
Tommy Castro hits the ground running with his new release. Full of energetic songs, great playing and a real Friday night spirit, Stompin’ Ground boogies its ass off like nothing else I’ve heard this year.
KEY CUTS: My Old Neighborhood (reminds me of John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain”), Nonchalant, Further On Down The Road
#6 – THE CARNIVAL IS BACK IN TOWN Brock Zeman (Busted Flat Records)
It’s a dark place, a sinister landscape with occasional glimmers of hope and redemption- such is Brock Zeman’s thematic 13th album. You know some of the people in these stories- you might even be one of them. Written over the course of a year but a decade in the making to get it right, Carnival was destined to make this list.
KEY CUTS: The Carnival Is Back In Town, The Carnival Has Left Town, Drinks (The Clown)
#5 – LIVE AT BRIGHTON ROAD Dani Wilde (VizzTone)
Oh wow. It’s not very often an album by somebody you’ve never heard before comes along and gives your heart a good squeeze, but Dani Wilde’s brilliant new set has done just that. Rather than performing in front of a crowd in a club or theatre, this is Dani and her band playing live in the studio. Split into halves labelled The Acoustic Session and The Electric Session for obvious reasons, Live At Brighton Road is absolutely stunning.
KEY CUTS: The Living Years, Bumble Bee, Don’t Quit Me Baby
#4 – THE LUCKIEST MAN Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters (Stony Plain)
Ronnie is one of my all-time favorite blues guitarists, an emotional player that touches you in a way that few others can. This, his 11th album for Stony Plain (and 25th overall), is a traditional blues record that delights and mesmerizes at every turn.
KEY CUTS: Ain’t That Loving You, Never Gonna Break My Faith, Long Lost Conversation
#3 – SPIRITUS Jane Lee Hooker (Ruf)
Some blues just have that certain je ne sais quois, and the latest from this New York punk/ blues collective has it in spades. Spiritus is powered by ragged (in a Stones sort of way) playing that captures the spirit of the blues in a very real and authentic way.
KEY CUTS: Be My Baby, Black Rat, Turn On Your Love Light
#2 – MIGRATION BLUES Eric Bibb (Stony Plain)
One of today’s most respected and prolific bluesmen may have just outdone himself. Migration Blues, Eric Bibb’s new album is inspired both by history and the current refugee crisis we are witnessing today- and it’s spellbinding.
KEY CUTS: Delta Getaway, We Had To Move, Masters of War, Mornin’ Train
– HEADSTRONG Pink Cream 69 (Frontiers)
This is the 12th studio album from these German hard rockers and it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year. PC-69 celebrates their 30th anniversary with a killer new studio album that also includes a live disc of songs from across their catalogue. Under the word “awesome” in the dictionary there should be a picture of the Headstrong cover.
DISC ONE: Man Of Sorrow, Whistleblower
DISC TWO: Talk To The Moon, Welcome The Night