Year in Review: 2009's Best Alt-Country Proves that Yes, Willie Nelson is Still a Badass
Josephine isn't quite another masterpiece equal to What Comes After the Blues or Magnolia Electric Co. Singer-songwriter Jason Molina, after all, is best digested in chunks of ten tracks or less, while Josephine checks in with fourteen. But the new album nevertheless features some of the best songs of Molina's career, in part because the tragic 2007 death of bandmate Evan Farrell lends an extra gravity to lonesome, teary-eyed country tunes like "Shenandoah" and "Whip-Poor-Will."
Somedays the Song Writes You
Is there a 68-year-old alive who sounds as effortlessly cool as Guy Clark? He's been remarkably consistent over the course of his career, never making a truly bad album (even in the '80s, when everyone else he knew was making them). With the arrival of Somedays the Song Writes You, it's becoming more and more apparent that he'll keep writing gorgeous, economically constructed country-folk songs like "Hemingway's Whiskey" ("Hemingway's whiskey/Warm and smooth and mean/Even when it burns, it'll always finish clean") till they lay him in his grave.
M. Ward doesn't really break any new ground on Hold Time, but when you're one of the most distinctive singer-songwriters of your generation, additional innovation isn't really necessary. Everything you'd expect from Ward is here, from an expertly reimagined cover tune (Buddy Holly's "Rave On") to a classic Sun Records-worthy rave-up ("Never Had Nobody Like You") to the requisite slow-burning piano ballad (the title track). Considering that his uniformly excellent tunes also pretty much saved the Monsters of Folk record, it's safe to say that Ward had a good year.