Numbers 10 to 1.

10. Recovery by Frank Turner.

9. When you consider that this is just a single take at a radio station, this registers as a very impressive vocal performance.  I was a Fool by Tegan and Sara.

8. Rayland Baxter is not very well known.  He re-released six of his best songs with all new sparse arrangements, and backing vocals on an EP called ‘Ashkelon’.  It’s available on itunes.  I would get the whole thing, as it’s very good, and still costs less than a full CD. My favourite song from the EP, ‘The Cold Easy Life of a Loner’, is not available so you’ll have to settle for ‘Ghost, Again’.  I met Baxter’s backing vocalist and violinist at the Edmonton Folk Festival.  We were both standing in line at the Johnny on the Spots.  I think I said ‘Hey, that one’s available’, and she said ‘Thanks’.  I didn’t have any idea who she was until I saw her later on stage.  I’ve met a lot of famous people that way.  Except she’s not any more well known than Rayland Baxter is, but maybe one day both of them will be. Deservedly so.

7. Sara Watkins CD ‘Sun Midnight Sun’ is a great CD across the board.  She traverses a wide variety of styles on this CD, all in an acoustic, folk/ roots vein.  What distinguishes Watkins from the ‘Hey Ho’ crowd is the variety and innovation in the musical arrangements and writing.  ‘Take Up Your Spade’ is a bit of a sing along, not necessarily indicative of her other material.  Do try a few of her other tracks kicking around youtube.

6. I love this song.  Great groove and channels CSN from the ‘Deja Vu’ days. Carry on, ‘Wilderness of Manitoba’ with Echoes.

5. You might question why this song is all the way up at number 5.  This song resonates deeply with me in a way I can’t really analyze, so here it is. The recording is a bit home spun, but the song itself, along with the gorgeous and tasteful backing harmony, more than makes up for the hiss, wind pops and squeaky guitar strings.  Arrows by Evening Hymns.

4. This is the title song from ‘The Milk Carton Kids’ CD, ‘The Ash and Clay’.  The entire CD is just as good from the first song to the last.  Kinda mellow, but grows on you.  The duo sometimes insists that they’ve never heard of Simon and Garfunkel.

3. These days there are quite a number of vocal acrobats to be found, many of them new, and newer ones are being discovered daily on the TV talent shows and also pop up on youtube. In comparison to the rest of the pack, Serena Ryder not only has a great voice, she uses it in service to the song. She can hammer down on the big notes; her voice is rich in the lower register, like Adele’s; but she also has range, unlike Adele; and she can do a trill (at 3:20, for example); all of which you’ll hear in the song ‘The Fall’.  The only problem is that it’s not much of a song, lyric wise, and what’s with the actors kissing while Serena is singing?  Get a room.

2. Salty and Sweet by John Smith.  ‘Great Lakes’ by John Smith is an exceptional CD release.  Smith’s lyrics follow a classic style, at least as far as the imagery is concerned. His lyrical ability is rare.  There is a better audio rendition of ‘Salty and Sweet’ with Lisa Hannigan on harmony vocals, but no suitable live video.  Anyway, this is quite good enough, and listen closely to the great lyric.  I keep thinking the song is about a suicide a la Virginia Woolf, but maybe it’s nothing that dark.  See what you think.

1. Broken by Jake Bugg.  There’s something to be said for just a guy (or gal) with a guitar laying it on the line, or trying to.  It’s a risky proposition, and in that mode the singer is vulnerable.  The first time I saw Jake Bugg sing in concert (Glastonbury on the BBC), I wondered if his adolescent voice would hold out to the end of the line.  The unexpectedness of Bugg picking up his voice with such deliberation and force greatly enhances its appeal.  The guitar playing, the lyric and the vocals all signal a talent far beyond his years.  There could be many more years to come.  Let’s hope so.

You can also find youtube performances of this song with Bugg’s excellent rock-a-billy band, and one with full orchestra.  And he has written a number of other excellent songs as well.

In a couple more days, I’ll release a youtube playlist containing all the videos so they can be watched in continuous sequence.