chris virtue 2018Another bumper year for the discerning music fan with some cracking releases and choice gigs. It’s a fine time be a punter and the challenge will be keeping this review of the year to just 10.

Speaking of challenges, as I get older and my brain gets more addled, trying to remember what I had for breakfast is enough of a challenge, let alone trying to remember what I happened in the first half of the year. So, if I left something or someone off, be kind.

Amy Helm – This too shall light
Amy is the daughter of Levon Helm and Libby Titus and she (Amy) was a regular member of her dad’s band in the latter stages of his career. This is only her second solo album (she’s nearly 50) and with a pedigree like hers, you just have to check it out. In short, it’s a wonderful mixture of country, folk, soul, gospel and rock. Great voice and great backing. One of the albums of the year.

Other albums worth mentioning in the US sort of country space include Kim Richey (Edgeland) and Dawn Landes (Meet me at the River). Both excellent singers and songwriters. Kim’s ‘Leaving Song’ is one of the songs of the year.

Even – Satin Returns
Any year that has Even gigging and putting out a new record is a good year. And 2018 is even! Satin Returns is an Even record and that’s all you need to know. Power pop at its finest. Top show at the Bowlo and I’m going to miss the Melbourne and Sydney xmas shows by a day. Life can be cruel.

A couple of great compilations
2018 saw excellent local compilations from Mark Lucas (Prisoners of the Heart) and John Kennedy (Second Best). For those who don’t have these guys in their collections, here’s your entry points.

Doc Watson live at Club 77.
Did a lot of driving between Canberra and Sydney in the second half of the year and this was on high rotation. The album (only released this year) comes from a show in 1958, well before the flat picking legend’s breakthrough show at Newport in the early 60s. Incredible player and personality. Did you know that he was a big influence on a young Zimmerperson’s playing?

2018 was the year of Glitoris with their first LP and a headlining tour. I’d been wanting to catch them for ages and the stars had never lined up. The album is topical and totally in your face and the launch at the Basement in Belconnen was outstanding. Punk is in good hands.

By the way, I saw three of the four bands on offer that night and they were all top notch. Make it a new year’s resolution to get to the gig early otherwise you could be missing something awesome.

Jen Cloher at the Lansdowne
Jen’s self-titled album was my record of the year in 2017 and her show at the Lansdowne in (in March I think) was one of the best of the year. Great band with Courtney on lead guitar for a bonus. 2019 should be a biggie for Jen. Courtney needs to play more lead. She’s a very good soloist.

Nikki Hill - Feline Roots
Only just got this and it’s on high rotation. I saw her at the sadly now defunct Newtown Social Club a couple of years ago. She has the best soul and rock voice going around and the twin guitar attack from her band is hot. Think vintage Rolling Stones riffs played fast and furious without the bullshit. Hanging out for a return visit. Album of the year contender.

Old blokes (and a girl) doing the business.

(1) The Aints! I saw three of the Aints shows over 2017 – 18 and the album – The Church of Simultaneous Existence is another contender for album of the year. Ed told me during the year that he thought he had retired and then this project came along. Surprisingly, it’s more forward-looking than backwards and the horn section is killer.

(2) Dave Hole. A new album – Goin' Back Down - his first self-produced and self-released. He knocked back renewing his contract with Alligator because at 69 he reckons he’s too old to do the requisite touring. Great album and he jumped around at his show at the Bridge like a young Pete Townsend. Too old? Pigs arse.

(3) Albert Lee. This guy is three days younger than Keef. True. What’s also true is that Albert Lee – probably the greatest guitarist that no one’s ever heard of - put out an excellent live album (Live at the Iridium) and played a stunning show at the Factory. Fast and fluent, country and rockabilly, and nothing like you’d expect from someone in his mid-seventies. If I’m half as active when I’m his age I’ll be more than happy.

(4) Perry Keyes - Jim Salmon's Lament. Seriously good return to form album from a man I liken to a musical Peter Corris. No one writes songs about inner Sydney like Perry does and this album is up there with his best. The launch show at Camelot was awesome.

(5) Re-tros Before the Applause  This, the third album from the Beijing-based three piece, came out in late 2017 but I’ve only just got wind of it so it makes the list. Their full name is “Rebuilding the Rights of Statues” and they are another reason why you should get to the gig early. They opened proceedings at the Gang of Four’s Gaelic Club show a few years back and I became an instant fan. This one has more synth than previous releases and rocks. Could this be the first Chinese band to go global? They’re certainly good enough.

(6) The Light Brigade - Going Underground
Love this and well done Bob Short! Fantastic and fun tribute to the Velvets (with one song from the other Bob in there) with the songs sounding like nothing you’ve ever heard. To call it a covers album is telling only part of the story because some of the tracks morph into something else but still capture the intent of the originals. You need this album. Did I hear riffs from 1969, Third Stone from the Sun and Hall of the Mountain? Amazing!

(7) PP Arnold
I had the privilege of interviewing her while she was on her way to meet her band (mostly You Am I) for the first time. What a show. What a woman.

(8) Peter Black – May be if I took my headphones off
Latest and best from one of my favourite studio guests. Lots of sublime pop and this one rocks out more than the others that I have. Looking forward to more from the Hard Ons and Nunchukka Superfly in 2019.

(9) 2RRR fundraiser and Big Daddy K 30th anniversary gig
Thanks to the bands who helped us out. All were outstanding – On and Ons, Aberration, Baddies and Los Mezcaltones. I’d never seen the Mezcaltones before and they were a revelation.

I think that’s more than 10. I told you it would be a challenge. Sorry to anyone I should have included but forgot.

Have a monster of a 2019.