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#2 Jeffrey Foucault – Salt as Wolves: My obsession with Foucault is well documented. The first time I heard Stripping Cane, I was moved in ways I didn’t think possible. He is the consummate poet. With each song he pulls back the curtains and allows his listeners to watch a new vignette unfold before them. While previous recordings have been acoustic forward, Salt as Wolves comes from the dirt, gritty guitars, driving drums, and open space. Foucault offers a respite from the drive with tunes like, “I Love You (and You are a Fool)” which feature a nice down tempo and a clean Tele telling part of the tale. “Blues for Jessie Mae” is another down tempo number with a thick slide for accent and subtle guitar riffs played in the distance while Foucault’s voice sits up front, inviting you to bear witness to the moment. Tremolo is used liberally throughout the recording, but I never tire of it. Salt as Wolves was cut live to tape in three days at a studio in rural Minnesota. The energy and precision that it takes to accomplish a task of that magnitude can be heard in the details. This is another recording where I cannot solidify the standouts. The disc works as a whole, each song supporting the totality of the movement. Foucault’s voice always sounds incredible, and this recording is no different, each tune features the thick, rich, sound of a father’s baritone, and while he is two years my junior, I would happily sit at his feet and let him teach me about life.
#1 the Oh Hellos – Dear Wormwood: Brother and sister harmonies backed by an insanely large touring band complete with two drummers, three (sometimes four) guitarists, fiddle, banjo, keys, bass, and whatever else they want to bring to the show…what’s not to love? Right now, I need you to forget everything else you have read on my Top 10 of 2015 because this CD transcends all of that. This recording is about an emotion that is often foreign to me, joy. That’s not to say I am not happy. I am. I have a great life, a life I am grateful to have, but I don’t often stop long enough to appreciate it. However, when I put on this CD, everything disappears and I am overcome with this sense of exaltation. It is not just the words or the music. It is the energy that the combination creates. The album moves from moments of calm to sheer an unbridled exuberance, “Dear Wormwood” taking you through both in 5 minutes and 16 seconds. This often happens on my Top 10 lists, I seem to have the least to say about the #1. It’s because my reasoning isn’t explainable. It is an emotion that I have in response to music, and I am hopeful that you will have the same response when you listen to this CD.