Fly Music Top 10

| January 1, 2019

BETWEEN THE GROOVES – How I Decide What Makes the Annual Fly Fishing Music Top 10

Baby it’s cold inside, but I have my best (hairy) friend Finn under my elbow, himself trying to get warm on day one of the new year 2019. He endured that long road trip back from Houston, and is content to chill on the couch and catch a little snooze on another North Texas gray day.

I probably never in all these years explained what exactly I am thinking when I assemble my opinion of the Top Ten music releases that epitomize a fitting background of sound for our adventures.

Actually that is one of the criteria – the music has to “fit” into (my opinion) the background of travel, play, fly fishing, fly tying, eating & drinking and, unwinding and getting completely wound up. That, listeners, is a tall order. I listen to a lot of music to get to this list, and for every one that makes the list, five don’t. And my ideas of what qualifies for your listening have expanded over the decade.

Another thing is the truth that I only choose a portion of this music for me. I pick the majority of finalists for the collective “us” – music I think we could all listen to and agree upon to some extent. 

I also have a tendency to lean toward Texas artists whenever they decide to grace our ears with their sounds. That is, and always will be a clear and present bias.

Since I choose music that I hope we can “all listen to and agree upon,” I always choose a variety of music. The 2018 list is probably the most diverse list of sounds I have ever forced upon you. Sure, I will throw out a red cape to the bulls on occasion, but this year? This year is BOUND to generate some intense opinions – for those who bother to listen. 

Now that Finn is twitching in his sleep (probably chasing flats carp), I think it’s time to wrap this long explanation up for another year. Look back at this (if we make it to this time next year) as a reference point in the music portion of Texas Fly Caster’s raison d’etre.


“Providence Canyon” – Brent Cobb

A bit of a John Denver feel to this release. Masterful songwriting. There are some songwriters who are songwriters for a reason. Cobb can sing, but I would understand if his voice turns some off. Not me. It’s so easy to get caught up in his lyrics that vocals become secondary.


“Shannon in Nashville” – Shannon Shaw

If there’s a single thread to my selections this year, it’s the sound of a roomy venue, with no one there and the vocals having space to reverberate my failing tooth fillings. That, and the “gretschy” guitar sound beach rock, tight beats and sparing but there keyboards. Her voice definitely bucks todays female vocal trends.


“The Blues is Alive and Well” – Buddy Guy

Do I need to explain? “A few good years is all I need right now. Please please Lord send a few good years down.” Come on. Can we get more true and real than that right now? He’s been called a “mean” blues guitarist by his peers, and I know what they mean. Aggressive is what Buddy Guy is all about. He plays that guitar into sweet submission. There can’t be too many more releases by Buddy Guy, so we need to savor every one that remains.


“Hollywood Africans” – Jon Batiste

Listen to Jon Batiste’s version of “What a Wonderful World,” and tell me what YOU think. I have been felling myself slip toward the bayous of Louisiana lately, and if you close your eyes, visualize the dark, bare light bulb lit Preservation Hall as I saw it December 31, 1982 – before the floods, before the restorations. This music fits that vision perfectly.

This is where the decisions began to get tough. “Hollywood Africans” could have easily finished a LOT higher.


“Among the Ghosts” – Lucero

Wikipedia calls the band Lucero an  “American country-punk rock band,” and I can kind of live with that, although “Among the Ghosts” is hardly punk. Some of the music qualities remind me of late Police, although the recording lacks that clarity, and the keyboards are definitely NOT punk. This band cleanly fills a huge space between my ears, a space left by Kings of Leon – just as thoughtful but less powerful (so far). Another band that fought its way through the rankings as it now gets EXTREMELY tough going. Listen to “Back to the Night,” and get back to me on that.


“Vanished Gardens” Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams

You had me at Lucinda, but who’s this Charles Lloyd? Get ready for this because it will try the tastebuds in your ears. Charles Lloyd, it turns out, is an 80-year-old jazz sax and flute player who’s been around. How he and Lucinda found each other, I do not know. But imagine lap steel, sax, some more jazzy guitar, more sax and Lucinda. How can we go wrong? Well, we didn’t go wrong – this is fantastic. It unfolds pieces like a true jazz performance – over time and in its own time. You will play this one at least twice on the first sitting. I think it’s because I wasn’t sure what I just heard. I’ll say it again FANTASTIC!


“Con Todo El Mundo” – Khruangbin

Let’s break some eggs between your ears! This band is mostly instrumental, has that beach sound I am gravitating toward, but at the same time it is unlike anything I have heard before. This is a three-piece from Texas that is here at Number 4 because you need to hear this as much as I do. Easy listening-ish by my standards, it’s another one of those recordings that has plenty of “air” in the soundscape. This isn’t a CD to “focus” on. Just let it run, kick back, turn on the cruise control and wait for the smell of saltwater to hit your nose.


“The Crossing” – Alejandro Escovedo

I heard an interview with Alejandro Escovedo the other day. Apparently, he is now 65-years-old! That is a number I find hard to believe. “The Crossing” is a timely story dealing with our Texas border (US – Mexico border). Listen HARD, very HARD to this one. There have been some musical revolutionaries raising their voices in the last two years, but not enough and not loud enough. Escovedo emerges to give (this part of) the story some rock-and-roll backing. I am intrigued by the sheer amount of narration (or near narration) that appears throughout this year’s Top 10. I guess I took the John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons,” a broadway one-man-show too seriously? Anyway, I understand more each day why I was so discriminated against as a minority growing up in the Texas Borderlands. 


“The Tree of Forgiveness” – John Prine

Most songs have words, and words (to me) have meaning. John Prine does not waste words – each has value. He may have made a Top 10 in our past, but I definitely took issue with his vocals. Now, I understand. It’s the words. Prine gets some heavyweights dropping on in this one – Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires and Dan Auerbach – as if he needs help! If you like words like I like words …


“Find a Light” – Blackberry Smoke

Words are certainly as helpful as our thumbs (more on that later), but I owe Blackberry Smoke. These guys somehow missed my finely tuned radar for … fifteen years! Sometimes I not only find something new, I am forced to backtrack and hear what I missed from years past. I downloaded all the Blackberry Smoke I could find and binged. And I am still binging on it. I confess, I missed these guys. They definitely made me think. They have been called the inheritors of the Lynyrd mantle, although he first time I heard them I thought I was hearing one of the bands descended from the Black Crowes’ Rich or Chris Robinson. Although similar in sound, Blackberry Smoke drives a bit harder and a bit cleaner than the Robinson brothers. Need motivation when you are lining up your rod, and the weather is overwhelming, or the scene is vast? “Find a Light” is the fuel that will get steel your disposition

There have been years past with “Honorable Mention” and “Tie” finishes, and this one should have some mentions.

The Mark Knopfler release “Down the Road Wherever,” the John Mellencamp release, “Other People’s Stuff,” just out, “Simulation Theory,” by Muse, Neil Young’s “Songs for Judy,” which I have not even heard — ALL GET the Texas Fly Caster stamp HONORABLE MENTION for 2018. What are your 2018 favorites???

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Category: Culture on the Skids, Music

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