So you may ask yourself, why is this article coming out at the beginning of February? It's because these two guys are done with year end reviews. If you know Tim Brennan and Devin Grant, you know how much they live it up at night. It took them a good week to find their way home from their New Year celebrations, another week trying to make it up to the wives then a whole lot of discussions about “Did that really happen?” Once they were able to get the tattoo laser removal scheduled, they sat down and did their best to recall some of the local, and national music highlights of 2013. Certainly they missed a few in this list, and they invite you to fill in the holes by commenting at the bottom of this article. Also, if anyone sees a pink bunny costume on King Street, please return it to these guys. That’s the last place they remember seeing it.
Devin's favorite local CDs of 2013
A Fragile Tomorrow - Be Nice Be Careful
A superb snapshot of a band on the rise, this power pop/rock quartet, which features three brothers, delivered a beautifully crafted album of songs that bring to mind acts like early R.E.M., Cheap Trick, and Crowded House. They also rock live, and have had the chance to open for a number of notable acts this year, including The Bangles, K's Choice, and Toad The Wet Sprocket. Look for a live EP taken from their first ever European tour, coming next month.
Brave Baby - 40 Bells
These guys totally snuck in under my radar, but when I saw them open for Slow Runner at the Charleston Music Hall last September, I was blown away by this band's live act. I immediately walked out to the lobby and bought a copy of their CD, which is sublime. The band has a great rock sound that actually makes me hesitate to compare it to anyone. Seriously, Brave Baby is that original. Normally I'm all about saying "This local band sounds a lot like this giant international band," but these guys have a sound all their own while still being accessible to the average music listener.
Megan Jean & The KFB - The Devil Herself
I wrote the first piece ever on this band when I saw them play at Tin Roof a few years back. Megan Jean and her then boyfriend (now husband) Byrne, knocked me out with their dark, beautiful music. They'd just moved here from New York, and over the course of the last few years they have become true road warriors, playing up and down the East Coast, earning the chance to play the main stage at FloydFest, and doing what they love on their own terms. The duo's latest release, The Devil Herself, is a great collection of songs that showcase Megan's awesome voice, Byrne's clawhammer banjo playing, and the way these two musicians blend their talents in a manner that has won them fans all over the country.
Rachel Kate - With Love and Hate (Sad Songs for Happy People)
After happily contributing to Rachel Kate's Kickstarter project, I finally got to hear the studio versions of songs I've been hearing Rachel Kate sing live for the last year. In all honesty, the album didn't quite match the raw power of hearing this gifted singer live, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a spectacular release. If you only know Rachel Kate from her days in her previous band, The Shaniqua Brown, then prepare to see another side of this truly original artist. There's much more of a country/folk vibe here, and it's great stuff.
Charlton Singleton - Soul Cavern
Another Kickstarter project to which I contributed. Full disclosure: I went to high school with Singleton, but that just means that I've been able to watch him grow and mature as an artist. He was serious about his craft as a student at Wando High School, and through the years he's delved into all kinds of styles and sounds. If you haven't yet seen him lead the Charleston Jazz Orchestra at the Charleston Music Hall, then you're doing yourself a serious disservice. This beautiful jazz album, Singleton's second solo release, shows him as an artist with fully realized musical ideas, many of which are presented here. It's gloriously laid-back music, perfect for listening to after a stressful day at work. Well, that's what I use it for at least.
Devin's favorite national CDs of 2013
Dawes - Stories Don't End
Last year I got to see this band open for Bob Dylan at the Family Circle Stadium, then again at the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, on Daniel Island. With a sound that takes you back to the Laurel Canyon sound of 70's California rock, Stories Don't End will remind you of great acts like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills & Nash. They are ridiculously good live too.
Jason Isbell - Southeastern
I'm going to go ahead and say that Southeastern was my favorite album of 2013, and "Cover Me Up" might be the best song of last year. 2013 will, at least for me, mark the year that Isbell finally stepped out from under the shadow of his former band, Drive-By Truckers. He was great in that band, and wrote what are still many of my favorite Trucker's tunes, but as a solo artist he's always been "That guy who used to be in DBT." After a stint in rehab, Isbell went into the studio saying "This time I want to remember it all." The result was this gorgeous, deeply personal album that shows how southern rock need not be a cliche. I'm still kicking myself for missing Isbell play the Pour House last year after the release of this masterpiece, because it's likely the last time we'll get to see him play a venue that intimate.
Elvis Costello and The Roots - Wise Up Ghost
It's Elvis Costello making music with The Roots. If I have to explain why this is cool then we're galaxies apart, in terms of musical taste.
Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
While I normally abhor modern country music, hearing Kacey Musgraves' album "Same Trailer Different Park," was like rediscovering good country music. Lord knows there isn't enough of it out there these days. Musgraves is a savvy and smart songwriter, a great singer, and she's not afraid to inject some very modern subject matter into a music style that is known for its more conservative listenership. Then again, Loretta Lynn sang about The Pill and domestic violence way back when, so Musgraves can certainly sing about toking up, kissing girls, and other risque things. She doesn't clobber the listener over the head with those references, but instead, slips them in to a set of very catchy songs. This is easily the best country album I've heard in the last 10 years.
Tim's favorite local CDs and other notable locals of 2013
Stop Light Observations – Radiation (Modern Rock of an epic length. Is SLO ready to make the leap from Wild Wings Last Band Standing winner to national stars? I get the sense they think they’re ready.)
Ryan Bonner – Only When It’s Burning (AAA/Rock. Album Of The Year according to Charleston City Paper.)
Mel Washington – Houses (Soulful Alternative Country. This one was a nice surprise I missed early in the year and enjoyed in December) and Celebration (tastefully recorded Christmas songs)
Gaslight Street - Heavy Wind (Southern Fried Soul)
Guilt Ridden Troubadour – Gone (Southern Rock)
Sol Driven Train - Underdog (Bluesy Jam)
Company – Bird Sculls (Atmospheric morbid symphony.)
Fowler’s Mustache – Goodnight, Mother Earth (Modern Take on Classic Rock)
Stay tuned all this week as Tim and Devin continue with their 2013 review.
Front image from Allthingsnext.com