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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Knox Harrington Five (KH5): Best Songs of 2010

It seems that I get later and later every year in declaring the best songs of the past year.  Hell, with my prolonged real-life/day job-driven absence from our glorious site, it may have felt like I was never coming back.  Well, here I am. Focused and ready to bring you more of the finer things of life in Western Canada. So, without further ado, here are the best songs that found their way into 'ol Knox's ears in 2010, presented in reverse order to have you on the edge of your seat by the time you hit #1.

5)    "When It Rains" - Born Free - Kid Rock

Yeah, you heard me, Kid Rock.  Gone are the days of palling around with midgets (rest in peace Joe C.) and wowing kids at frat parties.  With his last two albums, Kid Rock  has demonstrated that he can write, he can sing and he can put on one helluva damn show, as evidenced by last year's appearance at the Calgary Stampede.  "When It Rains" showcases Kid's talent and his recent commitment to being "true blue" musically. This track from his most recent, Rick Rubin-produced album, Born Free, is a tale of days gone by and abject loss that while at times sounds like it is close to the razor's edge of cliche, manages to rein things back in to remain more Bob Seger and less New Country cornball.  The fact that he refuses to put his music on I-Tunes shows a rare commitment to integrity and rebellion seldom seen in today's music industry.  I know it sounds crazy, but give this one and "Born Free", the new album's title-track, a whirl.

4)    "Let The Whiskey Take The Reins" - The Grand Theatre - Vol. 1 - Old 97's

I admit it.  I'm a bit of an Old 97's fanatic, so I may be a tad biased.  That said, The Grand Theatre is the 97's finest hour since Too Far To Care.  This track, among other great moments on this album, is a brooding, liquor-soaked track that features Ken Bethea's high, lonesome guitar ramblings and Rhett Miller's near-whisper vocals, both harkening back to many of Knox's longer nights in small town bars and taverns around Canada's west.  This one begs for multiple spins, especially if one does as the song's title instructs. Check out "You Smoke Too Much" too.  Pure Murry Hammond gold.

3) "Greyhound Guitar Man" - Transgression Trail - The Joey Only Outlaw Band

Any band that features a marijuana leaf, an assault rifle and a garlic clove as its logo is ok by 'ol Knox's standards.  That band ascends to something greater when they blast out straight ahead, rip-roaring cowpunk, the way it was intended to be.  The Joey Only Outlaw band does just that on this track about the ravages of life as a Canadian folk-punk-country musician relegated to bus travel.  Great music, great lyrics and a breakneck pace launched this track into this year's KH5.  Make sure you also take in one of Only's live shows - unreal.  I had the pleasure of seeing them on an oddly quiet night at the Palomino in Calgary during the Stampede last summer when they opened for Fred Eaglesmith (whose new song "Shallow" was a KH5 contender too by the way).  I entered the bar having no idea who they were and I left a committed fan.  The fact that the drummer played with a beer can on his head was just a bonus.

2)    "That's How I Don't Love You Anymore" - The Guitar Song - Jamey Johnson

When a guy loses his wife and his recording contract almost simultaneously and then locks himself in a buddy's basement, good things happen musically it seems.   At least that's the way it seems to have worked for Jamey Johnson, who started out as a cookie-cutter Nashville product and became something physically resembling the love child of Canadian music icon Tom Wilson (see Junkhouse, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings), Rob Zombie and the aforementioned Rick Rubin, with the musical chops of Kris Kristoffersen, Steve Earle and George Jones.  With lyrics like "four habits and a carnal sin have left me in a crooked state of mind" and "now I just pour the poison in and act like it's my new best friend", I was pulled in like a bass chomping down on a Rapala Rattlin' Rap.  Throw in a stalker-esque bass line and an off-kilter drum beat with deep, rootsy lyrics and you have one of the best songs this decade, never mind this year.  Check out the whole double-album that spawned this gem.  Rock solid.

1)    "Another Year Again" - Darker Circles - The Sadies

The top of the heap this year is a band that has been around a long time and has been putting out great album after great album, albeit with a dash of inconsistency.  It seems that it took producer Gary Louris of Jayhawks fame to bring the boys to the promised land.  That is where this song resides.  Somewhere between the music from the old school Spiderman cartoons, a Tarantino film and a Sergio Leone film, this song strikes a chord.  The usual brilliant guitar work of the Good brothers, and lyrics about time passing a man by, deliver a clever one-two punch that simply blows your mind each time you here this one.  A classic to be sure.


There you have it - 2010's best.  Download them, enjoy them, and tell me the ones I missed.


Posted by Knox Harrington on January 23, 2011 in Canadian music, Music | Permalink


Been a long-time Knox...Nice to see you around.

Posted by: Publius | 2011-01-24 6:12:56 AM

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