Favorites of 2014

Last year’s list was dominated by Jason Isbell.  This year it is Sturgill Simpson’s turn.  Here’s Tank with our foreword.

Flat out in all categories, Sturgill Simpson has captured my soul in ways I didn’t think were possible any more. It’s so hard for me to compare things like art and music to say what is my “favorite”, but I’m giving him the nod here because a) he’s not in my immediate listening circles, b) there’s an energy about him that makes you want to go lose your voice at his shows c) his music has made my friends go out and see music with me all over the state. In no way can I say he’s better than people I love and respect. But I can say that he released a fresh album, he’s a damn hard worker, and he invigorating fans and musicians alike. We should all strive to do that. – Ryan “Tank” Hargrave

It’s been another great year for music all around.  Here are the records, songs, acts and scenes that shaped our 2014.

Favorite Albums

 Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.  It should come as no surprise that Simpson’s sophomore effort tops my list of favorites of the year.  His debut record graced this list last year.  He took the momentum of that first record, slapped it into a 4-day studio visit and delivered the finest record of the year in any genre.  Lyrics, sounds, themes and tones combine together to create a tour de force.  This isn’t alt, Americana or Texas (despite what the Grammys say).  This is country music.  The kind that you used to be able to find on the radio dial.  Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is a game-changer.  Easily the record of 2014. -Brad Beheler

Hard Working Americans – Self Titled.  Todd Snider and crew have taken great songs by great songwriters, reworked them, and linked them together into a concept album about the poor, down-on-your-luck, outliers of society.  Songs like “Welfare Music,” “Wrecking Ball,”  “Straight to Hell,” and “Down to the Well” evoke such strong emotions from the listener that it is hard to listen to them back to back.  Thankfully, they also know how to rock and provide ample rockers on the album like “stomp and Holler” and “Another Train.” -Ghost To Most

Josh GriderLuck and Desire. Grider’s been knocking around for over a decade.  He’s established himself as an artist to take note of, but this record encompasses a wide array of styles that truly showcase the best of what Grider can do.  Bouncing between serious (“High Enough” and satirical (“One Night Taco Stand”  tones, Grider has shown that it’s no lucky fluke he’s made a successful career out of music.  -BB

Adam Hood – Welcome to the Big World.  Hood has always been an artist that is adept at mixing his deep-rooted influences into a sound that is all his own.  Country, soul, blues and rock seep out of his Alabama twang.  This is perhaps Hood’s most personal and striking record.  It’s also, arguably, his best collection of songs (and that’s truly saying something).  Honest, raw in all the right places and smooth when you  need it to be.  Welcome to Adam Hood’s world. -BB (I second this. Nicely done Hood. -HL)

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye – Psychedelic Tom and The Heartbreakers still have plenty left in the Americana Rock gas tank. This record starts out with a big guitar hook on “American Dream Plan B”.  “I’m half lit. I can’t dance for shit, but I see what I want I go after it. I got a dream I’m gonna fight till I get it right.” This has been my theme song for chasing the dream in 2014. Another track that stands out to me is “Power Drunk.” It’s musically the most classic sounding Heartbreakers track on the record for the old school Petty fan. “Burnt Out Town” goes straight up Blues Roadhouse Boogie. This is a killer rock record. One of my favorites of the year and in the Heartbreakers collection. -Hogleg

Nikki Lane – All or Nothing – This album has grown into one of my favorites of the year.  Each track on the album stands by itself and blends into a great album.  Stellar songwriting and a unique sound come together under the production of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.  Highlights include “Right Time” and “Sleep with a Stranger.”  -GM

Florida Georgia Line – Anything GoesScared the shit out of you didn’t I? Anything doesn’t go. Not up in here. Not up in here. -HL

Stoney LaRue – Aviator.  Building on the trend he started with Velvet, LaRue continues to evolve and grow artistically.  He continued his artistic collaboration with Mando Saenz and it benefits both of them immensely.  The songs here are mature, stout and  full of heart.  There’s a vulnerability and human quality that was missing in LaRue’s early work that he now proudly displays alongside his brashness. -BB

Sturgil SimpsonMetamodern Sounds in Country Music.  What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been printed already?  It is different from all the rest.  The songwriting is superb.  But the album and his voice have such a throwback sound which resonates with the listener and makes it familiar to both young and old alike. -GM

Zac Wilkerson – Self Titled – Zac and Walt Wilkins done went and made a sweet Americana Blues and Rock record. Great lyrics, great voice and Walt took this record exactly where it needed to go for this young artist. I hear a little Sean McConnell when I listen to Zac, but with more blues and grit. Zac is an up and coming talent no doubt about it. I got them “Poor Man Blues” too. All the time. Lord help me! -HL

Lew Card – Low Country Hi-Fi – I like Lew Card alright, but I love this record more. Lew comes from a long line of frontier men and outdoor types. You’ll hear and feel that simplicity of life and song in this record. I dig that most about this record. I haven’t had a collection of songs get stuck in my head like the tracks on Low Country Hi-Fi in quiet sometime.  “It’s the same ole shirt. It’s the same ole shoes. It’s the same ole Lew.” Great record. Get it on vinyl for sure. -HL

Yes, I’ve got Sturgill wood too. I think we have that cat covered in all categories as it should be. Dude has had a superb year. I want to put him and Eady on tour together. What does a honky gotta do around here? I’ve been wondering the same thing. I just listen to the two albums as one extended playlist. And I don’t skip around. It’s generally a two hour set. I call it my Sturgill Session.  -HL

Favorite Songs

Sturgill Simpson – “Livin’ the Dream”.  Other songs initially got more buzz, but this one encapsulates all that is great about Sturgill Simpson.  Honky-tonk swagger, lyrics that are simple on the surface, yet deep at the core.  -BB

“Ain’t no point getting out of bed if you ain’t livin the dream.” Ain’t that the truth. Great Country Song. -HL


Sean McConnell – “Praise the Lord”. It was a close race between this song and his “Bottom of the Sea.”  Both are great songs but “Praise the Lord” encompasses such emotion and thought provoking lyrics that it was stuck in my mind and on my playlist most of 2014. -GM

Adam Hood – “Postcards and Payphones” – Co-written with Will Hoge, this tune is one that Hood has been playing live for quite a while but has now found its studio home.  Typical tale of being on the road and missing home, but with an overtly personal twist. -BB

Kelley Mickwee – “Dark Side of Town” – From the haunting intro to the backbeat to Kelley Mickwee’s voice, this cover of the Eliza Gilkyson song grips the listener and takes them on a wild ride.  I don’t know if it is an anthem of sorts for those that love live music and where it takes us, but there is nothing like real music in a rundown bar.  This song just paints a picture of that for me. -GM

Wade Bowen – “West Texas Rain” – Taking Bowen’s soul-stirring vocals to a zenith buoyed by some of the heaviest lyrics on a Texas record in years. -BB

Parker Millsap – “Truck Stop Gospel” -After hearing about four bars of this song on Dallas’ KHYI, I was hooked.  Hard to believe that Parker Millsap was nineteen years old when he recorded this song.  It is one of those songs that demands your attention and by the middle of it, you are tapping your feet and rocking along to it. -GM

Favorite Discoveries

Haley Cole – Cole first grabbed my ear by recommendation of some other artists at Greenfest who exclaimed that she was the next big thing and that we should check her out immediately.  They were right and I’m kicking myself for being late to the party.  -BB


Jonny Burke – Evidently Jonny Burke has been around for a long time, but I saw him on the LSM awards with the Turnpike Troubadours, went to his website and was blown away by his 3 song EP.  Cannot wait for some new music.  Rumor has it he recently recorded a live album at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Ft. Worth. -GM

Leroy Powell – When Hogleg gets excited about an act, we all find out with a fury.  Powell is a name I’d heard and checked out intermittently.  But, 2014 was the year I delved in deeper and discovered what a talent he truly is.  I’ll be delving onward.  Cool cat, cool tunes. -BB (Yes Bradley, Yes. -HL)

Haley Cole – She kickstarted a new album for 2015 and I cannot wait.  Infectious energy and a passion for what she does.  See her live if you can.  If you are ever down San Marcos way, she will probably be playing at Cheatham Street.  -GM

Caroline Rose – Caroline Rose blew through Texas this year like a tumbleweed, playing all over Texas from Houston to Marfa in about a week’s time.    Her outlook on life was a like a warm summer’s breeze and is reflected in her writing.  Check out her story and her song “I Will Not Be Afraid.” -GM

Favorite Live Acts

Shinyribs – I haven’t seen a performer capture an audience the way Kevin Russell does since the halcyon days of Rusty Wier.  This Austin treasure has quickly catapulted beyond his Gourds-era heights on the back of a live show that is equal parts dance party, revival and concert.  -BB

William Clark Green – Infectious energy and great songs that provide a great backdrop to a night out.  Even his ballads and love songs are rocking. It seems like everybody has a great time.  He just has a great vibe about him and his live show never disappoints. -GM

Adam Hood – Hood often tours Chuck Berry style and jams with whatever conglomeration of local musicians  he can slap together.  This fly by the seat of your pantedness leads to some incredibly cool and explosive onstage collaborations.  He’s also in command when in an acoustic setting.  He’s a sly entertainer that knows how to keep an audience’s attention no matter the setting. -BB

American Aquarium – Go see this band.  They love what they do and it comes across at every show.  With a new album out in 2015, these guys will be relentlessly touring the country bringing their brand of music with a passion and energy that leaves you wanting more every time. -GM

Favorite Musicians

Nate Rodriguez – A favorite of mine no matter the year, Nate Rod eclipsed his previous work by continually gigging as a sideman and finally putting out some of his original songs.  Whether on vocals, guitar or drums, Nate left everyone that saw him wondering why he wasn’t more well known.  The looks on Adam Hood and Waylon Payne’s faces at Greenfest kind of summed it all up. -BB

Nick Dennard – Dennard’s versatility as Jason Eady’s lead guitar player and some nights (Adam Hood’s co-lead guitarist) among other notable onstage appearances have made him a talent to be recognized.  His greasy Keith Richards by way of Roy Clark pickin’ is a sight/sound to behold. -BB

Lincoln Durham – I was honored to spend 1/2 my 2014 watching this dude slay it every night. It’s tough to get that out of your skull. Not really trying to forget. LD, hardest working dude on the road I’ve had the pleasure of being around. Killin’ it every night -HL

Favorite Venues

River Road Icehouse – New Braunfels – The expansion and remodeling job that Nick and his crew have done is remarkable.  They’re taking the property to its utmost potential.  The mix of local and regional acts that he books of all styles also helps to make this a venue to reckon with. -BB and HL

Magnolia Motor Lounge – Ft Worth – Best venue in DFW. The Magnolia provides a home for both local and smaller touring acts that pass through town.  These guys know great music and are constantly outdoing themselves with the talent they bring in.  An intimate venue that can throw one hell of a party one night and be packed but quiet as a listening room the next.  Crowd respects good music. -GM

CinemaWaco – For the second consecutive year I must nominate this Waco venue that flies under the radar.  Best vibe in Texas. A gem hidden in the rough.  The Ian Moore gig there last spring was one of the best I saw all year.-BB

Kessler Theater – Dallas – Best listening room for bigger acts in the DFW area hands down.  The sound is great.  The crowd is respectful.  The venue really brings out the best in the artist and almost forces the artist to open up and communicate with the crowd on a deeper level. -GM

Granada Theater – Dallas – An eclectic booking calender, some of the best acoustics in DFW and a full advertising slate on 1310 The Ticket featuring the strangest promos ever make this venerable Dallas venue a 2014 winner for me. -BB

Love and War in Texas – Plano – If not for anything else, check out the Shiner Sunday’s when the weather is warm.  There is not a better place to sit outside and listen to great music with a cold beer in hand. -GM

On The Rocks – Canyon Lake – Least favorite. Bring a van full of kids. -HL

Favorite Artists

Sturgill Simpson – This is an artist and songwriter at his creative apex. Not sure what else can be said that hasn’t already.  He’s real. His music is real.  And it’s all really good.  He owned 2014. -BB

Todd Snider – I don’t know if there is a more real or truer artist out there than Todd Snider.  I don’t believe he has a fake bone in his body.  If you have never seen him live, you are missing out.  He will keep you engaged from start to finish.  You will laugh, cry, think, but most of all, you will walk out of that room feeling great.  He is also a workaholic that constantly has something to share with his fans.  He wrote a book (I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like), has two movies out (East Nashville Tonight & The Last Waltz), a side band (Hard Working Americans), and tours constantly as a solo act.  On top of all that, he also “persuaded” Billy Joe Shaver to put out his new album.  -GM

Jason Eady – Eady continues his country music crusade with another ace of a record and the live show to back it up. -BB

Ryan Adams – No one puts out more music than Ryan Adams.  His new “comeback” album is pure Ryan Adams, full of raw emotion set to music.  He seems to have grown up and is mature enough to take everything in stride.  He makes music seem so easy.  He has also begun putting out a new 7” a month of new music, something he says will continue forever.  His live show in Dallas was one of the best shows of the year because he seems to truly be enjoying himself. -GM

Josh Grider – Grider continues to expand his fanbase by firmly keeping a foot planted in two separate camps.  He’s able to maintain the respect of songwriter fans via songs such as “Pontiac”; meanhwile he grows his audience on the strength of the tongue-in-cheek Robert Earl Keen/Hayes Carll-esque “One Night Taco Stand”. It’s a win-win for him and us. -BB

Sturgill Simpson – see above. -RH

Thank you everyone who is part of our little community. Our hope is to share good music with you throughout the year. We hope to open your ears to something real out there. Until next time -HL, RH, BB




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44 thoughts on “Favorites of 2014

  • December 19, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I would have added Frank Foster’s Rhythm and Whiskey, Jason Eady’s Daylight & Dark, Jason Boland’s Dark & Dirty Mile, and Jackson Taylor’s The Whiskey Sessions. Probably listened to these more than any other albums this year.

    Also, thanks for the mention of Haley Cole. Her new album is coming out in a few days. Hope you guys give her a little coverage for the release. She deserves it.

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