So here goes my revised top ten/twenty. If you've enjoyed some albums that came out in 2010 that are on this list or ones that aren't on it, feel free to post ones that you feel are worth mentioning.
1. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
This guy is an artist I've really grown to like over this year, and this album is outstanding. The songs are written from the p.o.v. of characters in his new town, NYC. His work melds country, blues, and folk traditions. If there were an artist I would want to do an album of Hank Williams' covers, JTE would be the man. Favorite Songs: "Harlem River Blues," "Workin' for the MTA," and "Ain't Waitin'."
2. Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do
DBT is not known for its uplifting lyrics. Although the band does have some work that is darkly humorous, they're not a feel-good band. The Big To-Do got back to what the band does best: playing straightforward, guitar-oriented, twangy rock-n-roll with dark lyrics. Favorite Songs: "The Fourth Night of My Drinking," "This Fucking Job," and "Eyes Like Glue."
3. Frontier Ruckus, Deadmalls and Nightfalls
This band's sophomore release is just as good if not better than than its first, The Orion Songbook. I don't know how to classify these folks, but I like their old-timey/alternative instrumentation and willfully obtuse lyrics. Favorite Songs: "Nerves of the Nightmind," "Springterror," and "Pontiac, the Nightbrink."
4. Deer Tick, The Black Dirt Sessions
I saw these guys in concert this year, and they are a trip. To a degree, I think they're a reincarnation of The Replacements, and that's high praise from me. While I don't find this album as strong as previous ones, it's good stuff. Favorite Songs: "Twenty Miles" and "Mange."
5. Glossary, Feral Fire
This is a band, in my opinion, that more people need to know about. They're not flashy. They're not particularly hip. They just play good music. The band from Mufreesboro put out a solid album here. Favorite Songs: "Lonely is a Town," "Save Your Money for the Weekend," and "Hope and Peril."
6. The Hold Steady, Heaven Is Whenever
Guitar-oriented rock-n-roll with interesing lyrics. It's that simple. Favorite Songs: "The Sweet Part of the City," "The Smidge," and "Our Whole Lives."
7. Trampled by Turtles, Palomino
The Duluth-based "thrashgrass" band put out another good album this year. While I don't think "thrashgrass" captures their work, that's what the band calls itself for lack of a better desciptor. Favorite Songs: "Wait So Long" and "New Orleans."
8. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
As Mellencamp has said before, "It's never been cool to like John Mellencamp." His teaming up with T-Bone Burnett combined with the old fashioned recording process at historic American spots created an excellent album, one that grows on you. Maybe he is becoming "cool"? I doubt it, but who gives a @#$%. Favorite Songs: "Save Some Time to Dream," "No Better Than This," and "Clumsy Ol' World."
9. The Henry Clay People, Somewhere on the Golden Coast
Straight outta the O.C. Or something like that. Last.fm describes the band as "a type of no-frills, pretention-free rock that has sorely been missing from LA." I know little about the current L.A. music scene or most music "scenes" for that matter, but I like the album a lot. Favorite Songs: "Working Part-Time," "End of an Empire," and "This Ain't a Scene."
10. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
A loyal reader of this blog turned me on to these guys, so thanks TG Dem. While I usually have a weird revulsion to the British accents of certain bands besides the Beatles and the Spice Girls, Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More is a very good album I need to listen to much more often. Favorite Songs: "The Cave" and "White Blank Page."
Honorable Mentions (the next ten):
JJ Grey & Mofro, Georgia Warhorse
Mr. Grey still hasn't outdone his second album, Lochloosa (under only Mofro's name), but this is a strong effort.
Ryan Bingham, Junky Star
I found this album to be kind of uneven and lethargic at times, but it's still a good one. If you liked his first two albums, you'll like this one.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, self-titled
Ms. Potter has a very good voice, and the band that backs her rocks. The album is overproduced, however.
Punch Brothers, Antifogmatic
I'm thinking about seeing these guys in concert sometime. They meld bluegrass and chamber music.
Blue Giant, self-titled
This band has a strong debut album--alt-countryish, folky leanings.
Local Natives, Gorilla Manor
Daytrotter has been featuring the hell out of these guys. While they're a little poppy at times, the songs stay with you.
Truckstop Darlin', self-titled
Sure, they have a sketchy name, but the the band reminds me the Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, Uncle Tupelo, and Whiskeytown. I like those comparisons and the debut album.
Trombone Shorty, Backatown
This guy will make you get up and dance.
The Sheepdogs, Learn & Burn
This band seems to have taken in elements of classic rock and reformulated it for now. And they're from Saskatoon. How often do you get to say you like a band from Saskatoon?
Centro-matic/South San Gabriel, Eyas
Eyas is a EP, but if you can only download one song from this, download SSG's cover of Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long." They turn a party song into something completely different. Check it out.