By Davis McGraw

I suck at keeping up with new releases, but I’m a sucker for show & tell. Here are five records that I heard in 2011 and deserve a good listen.

5. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes: Havin’ A Party With Southside Johnny (1979)
[Goodwill in Laconia, August]
Johnny found his way into my collection near the end of a brief serendipitous streak, and for that I thank him. Much like the Boss, these boardwalk boys know their escapism back & forth.

4. Ry Cooder: Paris, Texas (1985)
[Burlington Records, September]
I remember watching Paris, Texas for the first time while anxiously communicating with two women via text, and even then the soundtrack demanded most of my attention. Has there ever been a truly bad Ry Cooder album? Once you’ve been in The Magic Band, I don’t think it’s allowed. Rest in Beef, Mr. van Vliet.

3. Frank & Jesse: Let It Come Down (2011)
[USPS, June]
Frank & Jesse are fronted by a guy named John Salvage who happened to play a pretty notable role in getting me out of my skull and onto the stage, so I’m fortunate enough to have great memories to accompany these tunes. That said, anyone with a taste for bars, cars and nervous breakdowns should seek this one out.

2: The Upsetters: Super Ape (1976)
[Some hip little vinyl shop in Somerville, October]
This one I bought for its inexplicable cover while browsing off a hangover with the Grayskull boys. As luck would have it, The Upsetter(s) (Lee “Scratch” Perry) introduced me to a whole new world of murky-ass dub Reggae groove that I might never have heard. Lesson: great albums deserve crazy sleeves.

1. The Dillards: Roots and Branches (1972)
[Free bin at Newbury Comics in Lebanon, March]
The Pilgrims and I were at Newbury Comics about to play what would prove to be our last show with our original drummer. He was late; I was sick and pissed off. Not wanting to harsh any vibes, I cruised to the back of the store and started thumbing through the free bin, which yielded some well preserved lounge music – notably a great recording of “Brazil” for those extra paranoid days – and this Dillards record.
I knew enough about the Dillards from my Byrds habit to know that they were comparably impressive – Gene Clark actually made a couple of great albums with Doug Dillard – but I wasn’t quite prepared for the gut-punch of Roots and Branches. In a perfect world, this slice of heady neo-bluegrass would’ve been held up favorably next to anything by Gram Parsons but, much like paradise, I guess it takes a little luck and a lot of searching to land real bliss and crunchy electric banjos.


Dedicated to 2011: I won’t miss you, but I sure as hell won’t forget.