2006, Through Roots-Colored Glasses
It's the same old complaint every year, isn't it? You do what you can, you hear what you can, and you wait to see what takes root in your brain as a keeper.
Let's face it. A trip to the record store every Tuesday just doesn't cut it anymore. There's just too much new music out there, even if you confine yourself to a few select genres. You might be able to fool yourself into thinking you're keeping up if you just go by the shelves at your local indie store, but one pass through your favorite mp3 blogs or music magazines -- even the ones that match your tastes to a T -- quickly proves otherwise.
And even if you do know about something, what's to guarantee you'll even have time to hear it? I still haven't heard the Gob Iron disc (a collaboration between Jay Farrar and Anders Parker), the new Ghostface Killah or Clipse discs, Van Morrison's or Solomon Burke's country records, or Kris Kristofferson's return -- and those were fairly well publicized discs. As for that marvelous Frankenstein's monster of a Tom Waits set, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards? I've listened to it plenty, but still don't quite have a handle on it. And as I type this, the radio's playing a pretty interesting song by Anne McCue, an artist I've never heard -- one more for the list.
Heck, I didn't even notice that country music had gained dominance again, until I saw that Vanity Fair, of all places, published a country music cover. I guess this particular year, after I performed my civic duty by buying the Dixie Chicks record, I then tucked my head back in the sand, raising it only to catch fleeting glimpses of quality mainstream country by folks like Chris Knight and Alison Moorer. It was a good year to be a Willie Nelson fan, though, with the release of The Complete Atlantic Sessions and his Ryan Adams-produced Songbird.
Ah, but it's the same old complaint every year, isn't it? You do what you can, you hear what you can, and you wait to see what takes root in your brain as a keeper.
That said, here are the discs in a vaguely-defined rootsier vein that did it for the Field Studies crew this year (granted, there's only one of us, but if nothing else, that makes sure there aren't any fights over what to play):
Numero Group execs Tom Lunt
and Ken Shipley - Â©Jim Newberry
Numero isn't alone in unearthing quality soul, though. Rhino continues doing its thing with the What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977) box set, which contains four CDs of funky goodness (including a nifty alternate take of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady"). There was also the Soul Sides Vol. 1 compilation (Zealous), an offshoot of the Soul Sides website, an excellent clearing-house for obscure soul. The Now-Again label continued its run of strong deep funk finds with the Kashmere Stage Band comp, Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974. Throughout the '60s and '70s, thousands of soul songs were recorded and quickly forgotten -- some of them quite good, and some of them even the equal of the songs we now consider classics. If recent releases are any indication, these compilations are mining a vein that might not run dry any time soon.