Albums by Mike Flanigin and Sweet Spirit topped our respective lists of favorite records by Austin artists this year, but the well ran deep in 2015. Between our individual top-10s (with honorable mentions) and an extended roundup of other notable local albums and EPs that came out between January and December, we give notice to 67 releases in this year-end edition of Austin360 On The Record.
- For more lists, including our favorite records beyond the local sphere and our top shows of 2015, check out the full story at mystatesman.com or in Friday’s American-Statesman..
Mike Flanigin, “The Drifter” (Black Betty). In many respects, it’s hard to call this a Mike Flanigin solo album, which is why the B3 organ player didn’t put his name on the cover. But his collaborations with Kat Edmonson, Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Alejandro Escovedo and Billy Gibbons yielded the most distinctive and rewarding local album of 2015.
Joe Pug, “Windfall” (Lightning Rod). Pug has largely flown under the radar in Austin even as he sells out large Midwest and East Coast clubs. But he’s one of the city’s very best singer-songwriters, as evidenced especially by this album’s set-closing masterpiece “If Still It Can’t Be Found.”
Patty Griffin, “Servant of Love” (PGM/Thirty Tigers). Nominated for a Best Folk Album Grammy, Griffin’s latest is in fact hard to categorize in any one genre. Its many moods and textures are a big part of its allure, alongside the ageless radiance of her voice.
Joe Ely, “Panhandle Rambler” (Rack ’Em). Teed up to be 2016’s official Texas State Musician, Ely united the variety of directions his music has followed on this late-career gem. Several originals are long-view keepers, but it’s his exquisite cover of Guy Clark’s “Magdalene” that resonates most deeply.
James McMurtry, “Complicated Game” (Complicated Game Records). Seven years due for a new studio album, McMurtry delivered with a dozen tunes that measure up well against his considerable catalog. The personal and the political effortlessly intertwine in songs that lean acoustic but never sound soft.
Shinyribs, “Okra Candy.” The Gourds feel like a distant memory at this point, given the wide territory Kevin Russell has carved out with Shinyribs. As memorable as the funkier tracks “Red Quasar” and “Walt Disney” are, it’s pretty easy to get trapped for days in “Donut Taco Palace.”
Uncle Lucius, “The Light” (Boo Clap/Thirty Tigers). Set against one of the most contentious political campaigns in memory, Uncle Lucius’ illuminating “Age of Reason” deserves to be an anthem for these times. It’s the high point on an album of wide-ranging Americana sounds that spotlights frontman Kevin Galloway’s distinctive singing.
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie” (Legacy). It’s only half-local, granted, but Willie gets a pass on any and all rules, especially when he brings a fellow legend like Merle into the mix. Haggard certainly could have been a Highwayman, and the two play off each other with that kind of natural ease on a mix of old and new material.
Asleep at the Wheel, “Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys” (Bismeaux). Both Willie and Merle show up here, too, along with more than a dozen guests both local (Carrie Rodriguez, Robert Earl Keen) and non-local (Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show). But Ray Benson and the Wheel gang keep the focus on Wills in their third tribute to the king of western swing.
Friends of SIMS: “Celebrating 20 Years of Listening.” It’s rare for compilations to hang together as something more than an entertaining hodgepodge, but producer Kyle Ellison created something special on this covers collection, with considerable help from a wide range of locals both prominent (Charlie Sexton, Alejandro Escovedo) and lesser-known (Sally Allen, Jeremy Nail).
More local favorites: Casper Rawls, “Brave World”; Carson McHone, “Goodluck Man”; Rite Flyers, “Electromode”; Texas Horns, “Blues Gotta Holda Me”; Zoltars, self-titled; Lee Barber, “The Missing Pages”; Robert LaRoche, “Patient Man”; Jesse Sublett, “Eldorado”; Standing Waves, “Here Comes the Twist” EP; Aaron McDonnell, “Battle Bend” EP.