Review: 50 Years of Chasing the Magic: 2019’s Music in Review


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What a year of music it was in 2019. In fact, I’d say it was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. This was my second trip around the sun with Americana Highways and I’m both humbled and proud to be a small part of what our Editor Melissa Clarke has created. It’s a lot of work as a contributor, but it would be an impossible task without out the assistance we receive from all the band publicists, managers and staff. Same should be said of the venue teams. But most of all, my thanks to all the bands and artists. How dull my life would be without you.

There’s bound to be speculation about some of my omissions. I didn’t hear every release. There are definitely some albums I’m still looking forward to giving full attention to. (Tyler and Sturgill’s releases immediately come to mind.) With that said, my wife would tell you that I’m one of those music “nerds.” Therefore, I enjoy narrowing down my music to a near obsessive level. So, with that in mind I attached a stipulation. I only considered releases I either personally reviewed or ones that I heard 100%, and with multiple listens.  I expect I’ll have other favorites as I work to catch up with those releases I still want to check out. But for now, these the releases I listened to the most.

Albums of the year 2019

1. Billy Strings Home. Not sure how this one missed my initial radar, but my current excitement around his music is comparable to my love of all things Grateful Dead. My favorite album of the year without question.

2. Benjamin Tod A Heart Of Gold Is Hard To Find/ Lost Dog Street Band Weight Of a Trigger. Maybe cheating a bit, but both deserve mention. Not since Townes has a singer-songwriter captured life’s pains as astutely as Tod does here. That’s impressive.

3. Mike Oberst Six Feet Of Earth. Stopped me in my tracks when I heard it. Its warmth and familiarity resonated with me deeply.

4. Los Coast Samsara. They mightily impressed me opening for St. Paul & Broken Bones. Clever, catchy, funky and bold. A band to watch.

5. Tedeschi Trucks Band Signs. Heartwarming, comforting and emotional. The band captured their grief and hope all at the same time in album that’s beautiful and rich through and through.

6. Tanya Tucker While I’m Still Living. Don’t call it a comeback. Relaunch is the preferred description. Whatever you call it, it’s proof that Tanya Tucker is still kicking ass.

7. John Paul White The Hurting Kind. Old school country brilliance. Captures the ghost of Nashville’s grandest and most resplendent times. JPW is one of my favorite vocalists of any genre.

8. Allison Moorer Blood. Powerful, honest songs that capture and express despair, loss, as equally as they do perseverance and family. I speculate it could easily be a  Grammy Winner.

9. Malford Milligan Life Will Humble You.  Leave it to Malford to release such great album, and one I wasn’t expecting.  It’s a personal and introspective blues album that makes me homesick for Texas.

10. Ted Russell Kamp Walking Shoes. An eclectic, substantive, country album.  It’s familiar, organic and fun. Great songwriter, musician and one heck of a nice guy.

Concerts of the Year 2019

It was quite a year of live music for me. I saw 53 actual events with a total of 152 actual sets of music, reviewing and photographing each one for contributions. I spent countless hours this year attending, photographing, editing and writing about nearly every concert I could squeeze in. I drove countless miles, and immersed myself nearly fully in the music and the chase of that magic it holds. I’ll turn 50 years old within hours of completing this year-end piece. What sticks with me the most about those 50 years is how important music has been throughout it. As far back as I can remember there’s been music. One band or song after another has added too, and built one impressive soundtrack for my life. In 2019 I threw caution to the wind somewhat. I  re-ignited my high adventure tendencies and tried to catch more shows in a year than I’d done before. I continued to explore and expand my boundaries and escape my comfort zones. I tried to disintegrate the confines of genres within music by seeing as many new bands as I could, and I’m pretty satisfied by the results. Truth is, I probably need to scale things back in 2020. I guess we’ll see.  My wife would also tell you that I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. So anyway, here’s my ten favorite live experiences of the year:


9/16 Glen Hansard – It’s basically indescribable how great this show was. The songs, the presentation, that band. Not only this years favorite show, but also probably of the past few years. Do not miss the opportunity if it presents.

12/13 Charlie Daniels Band  I expected a nostalgia show and was put in my place by an 83 year old man. An 83 year old man and band that put on one of the most electric shows of the year.

7/11-13 Woody Fest – Easily the best music festival I’ve ever been a part of. The sense of family would prevail regardless of the lineup. But, thankfully the lineup is as outstanding as the people doing all the work behind the scenes. Can’t wait for 2020.

7/2 Dead and Company — I admit, I had questioned John Mayer as Bobby Weir’s choice to further the magic bus that was the Grateful Dead. I underestimated Mr. Mayer, and his respect of the songs and scene won me over and got me back on road. It felt like going home.

11/12 Tedeschi Trucks Band, Southern Avenue – Perfect line-up,  perfect execution. Lots of heart and soul, and of course that unexplainable ‘x-factor’.

8/13 Lost Dog Street Band, Matt Heckler, The Tillers – This show lead me to some of my favorite music of the year, with Benjamin Tod/Lost Dog Street Band, Mike Oberst (Tillers) both also occupying my albums of 2020 list. I also wouldn’t have discovered GemsOnVHS without this show., , , , ,


2/23 BJ Barham early & late – A night of BJ acoustic and in storyteller mode. I’ll  never miss it and hope for many more opportunities. It’s special.

3/29 Willie Nelson and Family – An all access day spent with a good friend, behind the scenes and in the thick of things. A unique and likely once in a lifetime experience.

10/2 Ahi, Chloe Beth – Disappointing attendance created an opportunity for an even more intimate and special performance from Ahi. It also gave me the opportunity to finally catch local songstress, Chloe -Beth. ,

11/17 Drive-By Truckers – My return to the ROCK SHOW. It’s good to be back.

10/24 Jesse Malin, Diane Gentile – Malin’s album “Sunset Kids” just missed making my top 10 for 2020. A night of Malin’s NY swagger and catchy hooks, as well the equal confidence of Diane Gentile whose songs, Little Steven Van Zandt considers some of the “coolest in the world”.  Like Malin’s album, Gentile’s EP “Little Things” counts as an AOY honorable mention  too. ,

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