2013: Full Power

by Jason Warburg

Despite railing on a semi-regular basis against the tyranny of genres in music, I spent an awful lot of 2013 within the confines of just two of them, and the two could hardly have been more different—progressive rock and Americana. But as the saying goes, if you’re going to dig, shouldn’t you mine where the gold is?

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Best One I Missed Last Year (I Do That A Lot)

Gary Clark Jr. – Blak And Blu

I prefer this title for this award to the leading alternative: Jason Is Slow Sometimes. Gary Clark’s major-label debut is a blazing inferno of blues-infused psychedelic r&b, the kind of stuff that got me giddy enough to compare one song to “James Brown and Al Green strapped to a cruise missile, with Lenny Kravitz on lead guitar and a fat horn section providing the rocket fuel…”

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Best Album I Would Have Reviewed If They’d Been Willing To Send Me A Physical


Tedeschi Trucks Band – Made Up Mind

Call me a dinosaur or a stubborn cuss or whatever you like; I don’t review downloads. An album is a multi-dimensional experience for me that necessarily includes holding physical product in my hands, leafing through the liner notes and considering the track list and artwork while I’m listening. Of the nearly 700 albums I’ve reviewed to date, I can still count the number I’ve reviewed off a download on one hand. And even a band I admire and enjoy as much as TTB isn’t going to get me over that mental barrier; the experience is not complete without physical product in my hands. So, to artists and managers and promoters alike, I say, with all due respect: deal with it.

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Comeback Of The Year

The Mavericks – In Time

Welcome back, guys; you’ve been missed. Here, 15 years later, is the logical successor to 1998’s magnificent Trampoline, drawing together the strands of Tejano, nightclub jazz, rockabilly and salsa that have always made the Mavericks one of the most unique and entertaining acts around.

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Best Americana Releases / Indies of the Year

Casey Frazier – Regal
D.B. Rielly – Cross My Heart + Hope To Die
Scott Kurt – Down This Road (EP)

These guys all get it; they meld traditional American roots music with killer songwriting and performing chops to deliver moments of musical brilliance shot through with hard-won wisdom. Any one of these discs suits a night at the bar like a cold draft with a slice of lime.

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Best Album That Just Never Reached Me

Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing

My fellow prog-heads raved about this one all year long. I loved-loved-loved the last two discs from Porcupine Tree, brimming as they were with Mr. Wilson’s easily stipulated musical excellence. The band Wilson assembled for this album is beyond brilliant. And this album, after several listens weeks or months apart, left me flat. I can’t explain it; it just never reached me. That happens sometimes; no harm, no foul, we’ll try again next time.

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Best Neo-Prog That Wasn’t Big Big Train

Days Between Stations – In Extremis
Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut

In my year of prog (an unintentional by-product of my other life), Big Big Train loomed large, but others did share the spotlight, in particular this pair of duos-with-a-strong-supporting-cast.  Sound Of Contact might lean a little more mainstream versus Days Between Stations’ eclecticism, but both embrace, celebrate and extend the prog genre with their dynamic visions.

 
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Best Prog Supergroup (Department of No Vocals)

Levin Rudess Minnemann - LRM

They killed it; simple as that. Three world-class players, 12 tremendous tracks, one distinctly memorable album.

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Album of the Year

Big Big Train – English Electric: Full Power

No contest here; it’s not even close. It’s been an amazing 15 months for the boys from Bournemouth, kicking off last September with the release of the magnificent English Electric Part One, followed this March by Part Two, and this September by the release of the epic, reconfigured-with-four-new-tracks double album English Electric: Full Power. Not just the prog album of the year, this is the album of the year, period. A panoramic musical vision, fully realized by a stellar cast of players, delivering a sense of time and place (20th century industrial England) with a sharpness of observation and depth of emotion that is simply unsurpassed. English Electric: Full Power is a truly magnificent achievement.

 


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