My Favorite Recordings of the Decade

Florencia Viadana

As the 2010’s come to a close, there are a ton of “best of” lists floating around. I’m not going to do a best of because I don’t understand how you rank things like that. But, I thought I’d share some of my favorite music from the past decade. Basically, this is music that I ran across in 2010 or after that caught my attention and made it into my regular rotation. I’m only going to list one album per artist, and reissues don’t count. These are in chronological order.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals – Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: This is just good, old-fashioned rock music. If she had come up in the early to mid nineties, she would have been huge.

Brad Mehldau – Highway Rider: Brad is always reliable. This is more experimental than most of his releases. He uses a bigger band than usual. It’s full of good tunes, great players, and nice arrangements.

The Derek Trucks Band – Road Songs: Everything Derek Trucks touches is worth a listen, but this is his band, at their peak, live. It’s really incredible. It’s a great combination of original material and covers. And it was probably their last album.

Soulive – Rubber Soulive: This album is just plain fun. It’s Soulive doing a whole album of Beatles covers. So, the songs are great and the trio is in fine form.

Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone: Anyway you look at it, Mavis is one of the all time great voices. She had her share of hits 40-50 years ago, but has really enjoyed a renaissance since the turn of the century. This album is wonderful.

Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What: This is Paul Simon’s best since Rhythm of the Saints. It’s stunning. His band is amazing and his songwriting is as good as ever.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Soul Time!: Grace Potter was rock, and this is good, old-fashioned soul. She has a great voice. It’s great party music.

Branford Marsalis Quartet – Four MFs Playin’ Tunes: The title perfectly sums up the album. In jazz, calling someone an MF is a high compliment. They deserve it.

The ABC&D of Boogie Woogie – Live In Paris: A, B, C, and D are the first letters of the four bandmember’s names, Axel Zwingenberger, Ben Waters, Charlie Watts, and David Green. There simply isn’t enough boogie woogie in your life, trust me. This album can help you remedy that.

Dr. John – Locked Down: When I first heard this album, I said it’s the album that the Black Keys wish they could make (and it is produced by Dan Auerbach). But it’s really more than that. It’s a funky and swampy gumbo from one of the masters.

The Holmes Brothers – Brotherhood: Everything by the Holmes Brothers is pretty amazing, but if I have to pick a favorite, it’s this one. It’s got tons of soul.

Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone: She describes her music as “organic moonshine roots music” and that’s as apt a description as any. It’s unique and wonderful. It was really a toss up between this and her next album, The Order of Time. I went with this one because I’ve been listening to it longer.

The Slide Brothers – Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers: Sacred Steel is one of my absolute favorite styles of music. Here you get Calvin Cooke, Aubrey Ghent, The Campbell Brothers, and Robert Randolph all in the same place.

Jimmy Greene – Beautiful Life: Fair warning on this one, you will cry when you listen to it. Jimmy Greene’s daughter, Ana Grace, was one of the children killed at Sandy Hook. This album is all about his daughter. It is heartbreaking, but it is so beautiful at the same time. Some of the biggest names in jazz come together for the project.

Gary Clark Jr. – Live: Gary Clark Jr. is always worth listening to, but live is where he’s at his best. The recording is loose and tight at the same time, ragged and groovy.

Cyrus Chestnut – Midnight Melodies: This is a great set of live jazz. Cyrus is a great jazz player who comes out of a gospel tradition, so his music’s got some serious soul.

The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome: This is what you get when you have one of the biggest bands ever and just let them have fun. They are clearly having a blast playing these covers, and it’s great for the listener, too.

Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution: Esperanza Spalding caused a bit of a stir when she won the best new artist Grammy even though she’s not a pop act. This album is intense. The vocals are great. The bass, guitar, and drums mesh perfectly. All of her albums are great, but this is the standout.

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By: This is a little bit of a cheat as it’s the second time Derek Trucks appears in this list. This is the band he formed with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, after suspending the Derek Trucks Band. This is another band where all their stuff is great, and their live shows are amazing. This album happens to be perfect.

Selwyn Birchwood – Pick Your Poison: Birchwood is a young blues guitarist from Florida. This one was a toss up with his debut album, Don’t Call No Ambulance. They’re both great. I think I picked this one for the album cover.

Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm – Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm: Robert Cray has been putting out great music since the 80s, but I think he’s really hit his stride in the last decade. Hi Records was Al Green’s label when he recording his classic hits. It’s fun to hear Robert Cray recreate that vibe.

Living Colour – Shade: The band called this one their blues album. But it’s still loud and rocking. I love what they do with the covers, Robert Johnson’s Preachin’ Blues, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Who Shot Ya, and Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues.

Jon Batiste – Anatomy of Angels: Jon Batiste is most famous for leading Stephen Colbert’s late night band. He is fantastic in his own right. Similar to Cannonball Adderley, there’s a joy, a bounce, to everything Batiste plays. It’s infectious.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish: Kingfish has been the talk of the blues world since it came out earlier this year. It’s refreshing to hear a kid (he can’t even drink yet) carrying on the tradition.

Ronnie Wood with His Wild Five – Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry: Similar to the Rolling Stones’ entry in this list, this is just an all time great having a blast playing music that he loves.

I didn’t listen to nearly as much new music over the past decade as I would have liked. That’s one of the problems with having a kid. But this is a list that should keep any music lover happy.

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