If you were listening to New West Records’ An Americana Christmas sampler over the holidays, you would have heard tracks from the likes of Dylan, Cash, Emmylou and other Americana legends. Tucked in alongside those songs was a catchy little number called “Everyone Deserves a Merry Christmas.” With wry lyrics about a jailhouse celebration and a chorus that begs for a sing-along (“Everybody deserves a Merry Christmas/It don’t matter what stupid things you’ve done…”), it’s an excellent introduction to Ronnie Fauss, if you’ve not had the pleasure of listening to this Texas singer already.
For those in the know, Fauss has been worth following for several years now. After several EPs, he released his full-length debut, I Am the Man You Know I’m Not, in 2012 on Normaltown Records, a New West imprint. Mouthful of a title and all, it was one of the year’s best debuts and showed off his songwriting skills and his penchant for grin- and tear-inducing songs.
Fauss released his follow-up, Built to Break, late last year, with no trace of a sophomore slump in sight. If anything, Break is a more ambitious and diverse-sounding record than its predecessor and has turned up on more than a few year-end best-of lists.
The countdown concludes with our top twenty singles of 2014. Check out the first twenty entries here, and look for our countdown of the year’s twenty best albums tomorrow.
“The Devil is All Around”
Shovels & Rope
LW #5 | JK #13
The soulful husband-wife duo that comprises Shovels and Rope delivers a no holes barred analysis of trials and temptations, which boils down to the idea that the devil is all around, which means that one must do what he can to push against such a devastating force. – Leeann Ward
Does failure to reach a consensus indicate a year that lacked quality, or a year that had enough interesting singles that subjective taste is enough to prevent a consensus?
This was the dilemma faced by the Country Universe staff as we compiled our Best Singles of 2014 feature. We followed our usual routine. Each writer submitted their list of the twenty best singles of the year, and our numbers guru Jonathan Keefe used his time-test algorithm to produce a collective ranking.
But this year, there was only one single that appeared on four out of five lists. The rest: three or less. Rather than shorten the list to showcase only those songs chosen by multiple writers, we decided to stick to the usual forty slots, and let quite a few songs embraced only by one writer to have their place in the sun.
The result is probably the most diverse singles list we’ve ever published, and provides a great counterpoint to our upcoming albums list, which showed far more consensus than any previous albums list has.
Today, we start with the lower half of our top forty singles. Look for the upper half tomorrow, and our albums list on Wednesday.
“Truck Stop Gospel”
Raspy-voiced newcomer Parker Millsap takes it to church on one of the year’s best-drawn character sketches, adopting the persona of a truck driver whose cab doubles as his pulpit. – Jonathan Keefe
It’s one of those life/blog paradoxes: we dedicate a lot of words to the new – new releases, new issues, new news – and yet, when it comes down to it, our personal, non-internet selves spend just as much time trying to get up to speed on things we’ve missed. History is fat, full of great stuff that happened while you were preoccupied with playing on jungle gyms or raising babies. There’s always something to catch up on if you set your mind to it!
Like right now, for instance, I’m discovering the music of the 90’s. I was under 10 and on a Pacific island for most of those years, and was honestly only marginally aware of the “country” classification for most of them. So I’ve been diving in.
Although the 90’s are regarded by many as a very strong period for mainstream country, my current catch-up squeeze is the alt-country group Old 97’s, and one song in particular: “The Other Shoe”, from their ’96 set Wreck Your Life. It’s a catchy, clunky little tune about a creepy husband who tells his wife he’s leaving for Phoenix (the specific phrasing is an apparent nod to Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” – cute), only to hide under their bed and await the appearance of her lover, whom he promptly guns down along with his adulterous wife.
It’s a very simplistic sort of murder story, and Rhett Miller’s rough ‘n’ tumble singing style is probably polarizing, but I keep coming back to it because of it’s just got one of those unstoppable hooks. “The oTHER! shoe to faaaaallll.” It occurs right after the following sample cuts off, Grrrrr:
What music have you been catching up on recently? Any good finds?