| January 1, 2024

Music of 2023

LUCINDA WILLIAMS – I think we can stop our worrying about Lucinda Williams. She makes a statement with her release “Rock N Roll Heart,” and we don’t have to turn it up to hear it. She’s back. And if songs like, “Last Call For The Truth,” don’t strike a cord? I just can’t help you. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a damn good band backing her up, and yes, you can hear a more pronounced waiver in her voice. Yes, that’s Bruce Springsteen and Patti backing vocals on the title track.That’s something most of us have nowadays, isn’t it? Not a single song is too short, or too long – a rarity with the younger generation these days. And the musical journey inside of fifty-minutes is loaded with variety, ups-and-downs … just like life itself.

“Can anybody see what’s going down | Can anybody see what’s going down | They’re sending in all the clowns | That’s what’s going down … | This is not my city | This is not my town | this is not my city | this is not my town | They say you can’t go home again | you can’t go home again | Nothing’s the same as it was back then | You can’t go home again …”

“This is not my Town” – Lucinda Williams

GOVERNMENT MULE – The reality of Southern Rock is that it crashed a long time ago, a day early and a dollar short of the biggest big time. However, Warren Haines, his time with the Allman Brothers and back at it with Government Mule is as great as the Southern Rock Sound gets in 2023, actually greater than it ever was. Who the hell wants to live in the past? Twenty-three’s Govt. Mule release “Peace … Like a River” blindsided me with its freshness, variety and true grit. Like Led Zeppelin? Get the CD with the bonus EP “Time Of The Signs,” and play “Stumblebum” way loud.

WILCO & SON VOLT – If my head still has a soft spot, it’s for Wilco. From the earliest days of my modern enlightenment, with the classic releases and subsequent disbanding of Uncle Tupelo, I have attached my musical wellness to that of the band Wilco, Jeff Tweedy, Son Volt and Jay Farrar. This was a good year.

Both the Wilco release “Cousin,” and the Son Volt release “Day of the Doug” are in the 2023 playlist. Small portions of “Cousin” are for those of us who had our minds bent by, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” way back in 2002. I imagine the 20th. anniversary of that classic album inspired portions this close “Cousin.” Jay Farrar, adopted Austin as home a couple of decades back, and all of his music more closely resembles Uncle Tupelo, unlike Tweedy’s adventures. Son Volt releases are fairly uncommon, so I am typically starving for one by the time it hits the shelves. Based on these releases: It’s pretty obvious these two frontmen would never have made it into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame as a couple. If Uncle Tupelo wasn’t such a revolutionary sound meld, they would be a shoe-in for the HOF.

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit continue to climb the mountain of sound with their release, “Weathervanes.” The tread of relationship angst may be wearing a bit thin, but the quality of the lyrics and the music keeps me coming back for more. Where does he get this stuff? Jason Isbell writes the real. Nice reference to Son Volt, by the way. You want a jam? Listen to “This Ain’t it.” Taste some Neil Young with the closing tune, “Miles.”

“I was raised in the church | I was washed in the blood | and we were all saved before we even left home … | I thank God you weren’t brought up like me | with all that shame and certainty …”

“White Beretta” – Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

CHARLEY CROCKETT – Much like the early discovery of Yellowstone actor and Oscar winner Ryan Bingham, I have difficulty not getting all sentimental about Valley Boy Charley Crockett. “The Man From Waco” he isn’t, but he is from Texas, and with diverse tunes, like “Trinity River?” How can I not like this guy? “… such a dirty little river …”

Leon III is what? Pronounced Leon the Third. Heck if I know, but I did think I recognized a voice on the “Live En Cyclorama” release … so I began to dig. Remember Wrinkle Neck Mules? And remember their side gig – the Howler Brothers clothing startup business thing? Dig … dig … and there we have it: Andy Stepanian, has that “thing” with his voice, I dare say, will make him richer than a Howler Monkey. There’s some serious Will Johnson influence here, and I love it! “Live En Cyclorama” is far from perfect, but has moments of greatness.

LUCERO is a band that lingers just in front of the background. They work well with others, that much is certain. “Should’ve Learned by Now” is pure Lucero. Easy to listen to, and road worthy as much as any in this list. Try listening to “Raining for Weeks,” and tilt your head back, and open wide and taste it. You may begin to understand my winter on South Padre Island. Listen to “Should’ve Learned by Now” for a riff kickback to an ’80’s band called, “The Call.” 

JOSHUA RAY WALKER – You gotta love Superstar Joshua Ray Walker. We have prayers for his quick recovery as we start 2024, and surgery looms for prostate cancer. His sound bending release, “What Is It Even?” flexes his muscles, and reaches new audiences. I hope all goes well for him. I look forward to him winning some of those Country Music awards from our last mention – Chris Stapleton.

CHRIS STAPLETON – What would we do without Chris Stapleton scooping up all the awards every time he goes into the recording studio? The hit, “White Horses” is a formula song, but I’ll bite this one every time. Let’s all say hello to 2024 with a truly great song, “Mountains of My Mind,” and get ready for whatever comes next “… somewhere salvation is waitin’ down the road … I still can’t climb the mountains of my mind.”


I hope you realize I kept the old formula for 2023! No retreads, and no “Greatest Hits” are here. I hope this brings some new light to your ears. Twenty-three was a damn good year in music. It felt like the musicians shook off the COVID isolation, and while still afraid of real gutty social commentary, they are at least sticking their heads above the foxholes left during the pandemic.

“The memories of a man in his old age | are the deeds of a man in his prime … | for life is a short warm moment | and death is a long cold rest … | you get your chance to try | in the twinkling of an eye – eighty years with luck, or even less”

Roger Waters “The Dark Side of the Moon Redux” – 2023

The Dead Drift Playlist for 2023 Is:

  1. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “This Ain’t It”
  2. Charley Crockett – “Trinity River”
  3. Lucinda Williams – “This is Not My Town
  4. Govt. Mule – “Dreaming Out Loud”
  5. WILCO – “Soldier Child”
  6. Son Volt – “Juan Mendoza”
  7. Lucero – “Raining for Weeks”
  8. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “King of Oklahoma”
  9. Joshua Ray Walker – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  10. Leon III – “Fly Migrator”
  11. Chris Stapleton – “Mountains Of My Mind”

LINER NOTES – I missed something musically this year. I know, because I always do! There is way too much great music to be found in the digital bins these last couple of decades. No excuses, except I am not as good a music listener/locator as I once was. The daily struggle doesn’t lend itself to free ear time much at all anymore. If you, YES YOU, have a suggestion of music I missed, I WILL BE all ears for that creative contribution – just step right up and say something.

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Category: Music

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