Getting this in by the skin of my teeth -- 11:59 E.D.T. -- but so long as I'm starting it on Wednesday....
1. "Muswell Hillbilly" / Tim O'Brien
From This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies (2002)
This is what I get for buying every single Kinks tribute album that's ever been releasaed. But I do love O'Brien's totally country rendition of this title track to my all-time favorite Kinks album -- tons of fiddle and banjo, just like Ray imagined it in the first place. It's a totally credible country track: "They're gonna make me study elocution / Because they say my accent isn't right / Well, they may try to change my way of living / But they're never gonna kill my Cockney pride" -- you tell 'em, Brother Ray!
2. "More Than Sorry" / Ben Harper
From Both Sides of the Gun (2006)
I've seen this guy live a couple of times, and he always brings down the house. His sound is a little too chameleon-like -- the downside of being such a versatile talent -- I'm always surprised when it comes up and I check to see that it's Ben Harper singing. He's not rocking out so much on this one -- it's more acoustic and folky, which suits Harper's Cat Stevens-like voice. Tryin' SO hard to get that girl to accept his apology...
3. "Don't Disappear Now" / Marshall Crenshaw
From Life's Too Short (1991)
"We didn't stop making love for thirty-one days" -- that deeply sexy line always ambushes me in this superb MC track, tucked away on yet another neglected album. Crunchy guitars, smackin' drums, and Marshall's pleading vocals -- pure rock and roll, in its finest distilled form.
4. "Shout" / The Isley Brothers
From Instant Party Disc Regular Strength (compilation)
Every once in a while it's instructive to hear a vintage track like this -- 1959 fer crissakes! -- and realize that we have invented nothing in the past 50 years. Tempo changes, call and response, maniac whoops and hollers, and best of all, the "Little bit softer now part" where the whole thing dwindles down to a whisper, only to come whomping back full force -- "A little bit louder now!" Who can hear this without getting out on that dance floor?
5. "Santa Bring My Baby Back" / Marshall Crenshaw
From MC Rarities (compilation)
Okay, now you know what a Marshall Crenshaw geek I am. Some other Crenhead sent me this compilation of odds and sods, and the whole bit went straight onto my iTunes. But come on, you gotta love a track like this -- the sort of Christmas novelty tune that every band used to record way back when. Marshall's just having loads of fun, speeding through this peppy holiday tune -- and you can't help having fun with him.
6. "Solid Air" / John Martyn
From Solid Air (1973)
If I hadn't been reviewing records for my college newspaper, I'd never have discovered the amazing English folk-jazz virtuoso John Martyn. Hard to believe that I got this record for free, way back when. Talk about timeless music -- you can sink right into the plush environment of guitar + keyboards + sax and get lost in Martyn's vocal ramblings. Where is it going? Who cares?
7. "When I Was King" / Graham Parker
From Struck By Lightning (1991)
C'mon -- you just have to laugh, and then marvel over the songwriting abilities of Mr. Graham Parker. I can't even tell you how many amazing turns of phrase Graham stuffs into this sharp satiric number, along with a compelling guitar riff and infectious reggae rhythm. Exhibit X in the case for naming Graham Parker Neglected Genius of the Year.
8. "Give It Up" / Amos Lee
From Amos Lee (2005)
This is how you update Philly soul for the indie crowd. That funky organ and chunky guitar, topped off with Amos Lee's mellifluous vocals. "But I would give it all up for you / Yes I would give it up, settle down, stop fuckin' round." Sounds like a contract worth signing.
9. "She's About a Mover" / Sir Douglas Quintet
From The Complete Mercury Masters (compilation)
Well, hell -- it's 1965, and all the kids seem to be listening to these British Invasion Bands, so why not toss out a loveable little tune "in the style of"? Doug Sahm was really from Texas, not Liverpool -- but if that's the sound you want, the insanely versatile Sahm could turn it out, with a side note of grunge and psychedelia.
10. "Mixed Greens" / Jim Ford
From The Sounds of Our Time (compilation)
Okay, so I bought this record just because Nick Lowe said Jim Ford was one of his musical heroes. What really matters is how much I loved it once I owned it. Loungey 1970s country-soul with a particularly laidback, loose vibe -- nobody nailed this better than Jim Ford. Another neglected genius.