Crossposted at HickoryWind.
When you go outside at 5am and immediately start to sweat you know it's almost Christmas. And Christmas means Best Of end of year lists. Instead of an albums list (which I may do too, eventually), here is Flop Eared Mule's Official Best Songs of 2005 list. For today.
The number one song is a definite lock in but the others are pretty even so I haven't ranked them. Not confined to an arbitrary number like 10 either. I decided on a more relevant system: the amount of music that fits on your average blank CD.
Shelter from the Storm -- Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris from The Outsider
Those who know me know I'm fairly stingy in my praise for Dylan covers. But Shelter is a good candidate, Emmylou has a second to none track record and Crowell is a confirmed favourite so I was excited to hear this version. Lovely, and the lilting rhythm is orginal while also recalling the original.
Rhymer -- Mary Gauthier (... say "go-shay", y'all... ) from Mercy Now
I could have gone for the superlative I Drink (god, what a song), but since that was also of Mary's second album Drag Queens and Limousines, I picked this Harlan Howard cover for the heartachingly beautiful sadness she brings to it.
Long Time Comin' -- Bruce Springsteen from Devils & Dust
Ah, Boss. How many times is it you've saved rock and roll now? Four, five? In the recent Uncut cover story, coinciding with the Born to Run 30th anniversary reissue, Nick Hasted closes a otherwise good article with this wrong!wrong!wrong! observation: "In subsequent years, he would gradually abandon Born to Run's grand drive and romantic dreams, reducing himself to the resigned whispers of Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. His great songs would prove to be about compromise, ageing and defeat: the future he must has glimpsed for himself , without his breakthrough's roar of youthful release, 30 long years ago." But not so! Sure, Bruce's characters have had a parallel trajectory to his own, which means adding layers of experience and ambivalence but the original spirit of Born to Run has always been there. It's just that other things have been added, the Springsteen universe has expanded and nothing has been loss. Long Time Comin' is a wonderful melding of both things. A joyous spirit but obviously in the voice of man whose been around the block (ain't gonna fuck it up this time). He's still the best in the business. And what a lovely blessing this is:
Well if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kids
It'd be that your mistakes would be your own
Yea your sins would be your own
I Had a Real Good Time -- Delbert McClinton from Cost of Living
For playing at my funeral. FYI.
Tell Ol'Bill -- Bob Dylan from the North Country Soundtrack
Honey, why'd you have to ask?
Beautiful Despair by Rodney Crowell from The Outsider
Rodney gets his second just for the opening lines:
Beautiful despair is hearing Dylan
when you're drunk at 3am
Knowing that, no matter what
The chances are you'll never write like him
All You Can Cheat -- Robbie Fulks from Georgia Hard
There a number of honourable mentions from this Robbie-Goes-Countrypolitan album. I chose this because cheesy wordplay has a rich history in country music and, despite giving cheap laughs to the terminally ignorant, should be celebrated.
oh no wait, I have to include this one too ....
If They Could Only See Me Now -- Robbie Fulks from Georgia Hard
A sort of parallel universe bastard stepson to Lefty Frizzell's Saginaw, Michigan I reckon. Poor boy makes good, er, bad. Classic murder ballad.
When My Love Crosses Over -- John Hiatt from Master of Disaster
Cold River -- John Hiatt from Master of Disaster
Another more than solid album from Hiatt. He has a bit of a thing for rivers and rain and water in general as a metaphor doesn't he? Low key and dreamy love and life songs.
Move Along Train -- Marty Stuart feat. Mavis Staples from Soul's Chapel
It's a bit wrong to only have one song from this album here. Any number of the track coulda made the list.
Clay Pigeons -- John Prine from Fair and Square
I like John Prine. I don't go wacky over him like some, but I'm glad there are people who go wacky over him. It says something exceedingly good about the world, I think.
Streets of Love -- The Rolling Stones from A Bigger Bang
Let Me Down Slow -- The Rolling Stones from A Bigger Bang
Enough of this sensitive singer-songwriter shit.
Grapevine -- Tom Russell from Hotwalker
Cali-Okie honky tonk. Dustbowl refugees and the runaway American dream.
Me and Bobby McGee-- Dolly Parton feat. Kris Kristofferson from Those Were the Days
Just a ripped up fun version, great harp from my man Kris.
Hard Way to Fall -- Ryan Adams and the Cardinals from Jacksonville City Nights
My, he's sounding all growed up isn't he? I love the pedal steel, Ryan. You should do that more often.
Captain of A Shipwreck -- Neil Diamond from 12 Songs
Neil must get a mention in this most remarkable of years for him. A pretty stunning comeback under production guru Rick Rubin and finally a bit of cred.
and the number one song of the year ...
Woodrow by Tom Russell from Hotwalker
The album splits people about right down the middle - I fall on the "crazy love it" side of the fence but even if you don't, you can't go past this angry and beautiful ode to Woody Guthrie. Tom gets a few of his pet political and social gripes in their too. Idionsyncratic and a bit strange. How can it possibly be topped next year?