January 1, 2021 by Jay Minkin
The Best of 2020 – Year End Review
I was long overdue to get away. It’s been a long nine months since Joshua Tree National Park and the little cafes that play music all night and all day. With my new career as a special education teacher assistant, vacation time revolves around the school calendar and Martin Luther King weekend was the window to head somewhere. My bucket list of destinations still had places needing crossed off, but which one logistically works best? The wheel kept pointing to Memphis: 1) It was drivable 2) A wealth of historical significance 3) Great southern comfort food 4) Major bonus points for music and nightlife. When planning a trip, I tend to view the concert calendar to see if anything special happens to be going on while I’m in town. And to my surprise, there was.
Well, that’s as far as I got. Then came the Nashville tornado and COVID-19. My last big show was seeing Brandi Carlile live at The Ryman Auditorium on my roadtrip. Six weeks later, just days after the tornado, Hayes Carll & Allison Moorer was my final small hall show at Music Box Supper Club. COVID-19 put an end to the rest of the year as Playhouse Square, Blossom Music Center, The Rolling Stones, Tanya Tucker, Nelsonville Music Festival, the 50th Anniversary of May 4th with Joe Walsh and David Crosby and so many other live events became collateral damage. We lost Bill Withers, John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charlie Daniels, Justin Townes Earle, Eddie Van Halen, along with so many other icons in the entertainment field.
The music community suffered and took big hits. From record store and live music venues closing to local artists and friends unable to make a living doing what they love most – playing live in front of an audience. Terry Allen and The Panhandle Mystery Band sang “Abandonitis” that played on repeat in my brain. But artists persevered. The amount of new releases and re-releases was staggering. The modern Americana Mount Rushmore – Lucinda Williams, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton – all released new records. Records from Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, The Secret Sisters, and Steve Earle just kept coming along with new artists like Jamie Wyatt, Charlie Crockett, Tennessee Jet, Jesse Daniel, and Waylon Payne that were beyond stellar.
Friends Justin Gorski aka DJ Kishka or Big Hoke and Emma Swift also persevered and released vinyl albums. I found comfort supporting unknown artists like Drew Holcomb & Ellie Holcomb who created a keepsake with their Kitchen Covers live streaming due to COVID-19 cut to vinyl. Hayes Carll Alone Together Sessions was another release that an artist cut due to touring coming to an abrupt halt. My favorite indie record stores, Grimey’s and Square Records, kept feeding my vinyl addiction with special releases like signed copies from Brent Cobb, The War & The Treaty, and Margo Price as well as colored vinyl reissues by John Hiatt.
“Oh Pandemic” by Linda Gail Lewis or the Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin collaboration “World’s In a Bad Condition” are both songs that sum up the year. Listening to Sirius XM radio showshosted by Dwight Yoakum, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and Steve Earle had me filling in the blanks of my record collection with vintage Nashville, Texas, and Bakersfield recordings. I watched live streams from Alex Bevan, Brent Kirby, Thor Platter, Ray Flanagan, Rachel Brown, and other local troubadours who lost their stages to perform live in front of an audience. The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern remains closed and on life support awaiting long overdue stimulus relief dollars. Only the outdoor beer garden at Forest City Brewery and the GAR Hall hosting socially distanced events on the village green in Peninsula gave rays of light during the warm weather months. It was these special moments where I could see my brothers and sisters, friends and usual suspects, fellow audiophiles and concert goers that make up the threads of the local music scene and community.
So in an unprecedented year, the 2020 “Best Of” or “Album of the Year” goes to the Music Community as a whole. Thanks for persevering and giving us the gift of music during trying times.
Album of The Year Awards:
2019: Tanya Tucker – While I’m Livin’
2018: Shooter Jennings – Shooter
2017: The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Anymore
2016: Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
2015: Chris Stapleton – Traveller
2014: Jamestown Revival – Utah
2013: Jason Isbell – Southeastern
2012: Amy Cook – Summer Skin
2011: Kasey Chambers – Little Bird
2010: Peter Wolf – Midnight Souvenirs
2009: Jason Isbell – Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit
2008: Griffin House – Flying Upside Down
2007: Bruce Springsteen – Magic
2006: Rosanne Cash – Black Cadillac