Editor’s Note: This year, we asked our bloggers to name their Top 10 shows of 2019 or choose their Top 10 photos of the year. We will run them over the course of mid-December as our Best of the Year posts.
Editor (again): After much consideration, the prolific Mark Engleson chose his top 10 shows for 2019.
Lucinda is my favorite artist, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is her finest work. It’s a masterpiece, recognized as one of the all-time great albums (and the best in the Americana genre). Hearing all of these songs together was an absolute treat. Lucinda, who is always engaging, added wonderful depth and context, as did the fantastic slideshow that played behind the band.
I had the good fortune to catch Shemekia on an evening when PBS was taping for a future special. With the red light on, Shemekia gave the audience a show. A second-generation blues musician with a gorgeous, powerful voice, she also has excellent taste. You might not expect to hear John Prine at a blues show, but it was in the mix. Pure, soulful American music.
With a band name like the Fabulous Superlatives, the bar of expectations is set pretty high. These guys are killer pros who can do it all. The evening’s menu included samplings of rockabilly, Americana, psychedelia, surf music, gospel, and bluegrass. The innovative arrangements pushed an already impressive performance to even greater heights.
Dawes’ muscular grooves and tender lyrics echoed vestiges of the great Americana and folk-rock tradition, bringing to mind Crosby, Stills, and Nash, The Band, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, even the Grateful Dead. Even when they played heavy, the band never got in the way of Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals. An evening of pure rock ’n’ roll magic.
Drawing on the sounds from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, Jenny’s performance ranged over Americana, folk-rock, classic country, disco, R&B, and a Capella. She has a distinctive voice, and her songwriting, especially with this year’s On The Line, has reached an advanced level. She is a born entertainer who knows how to wow a crowd. This was a fun, fun evening.
In most solo acoustic shows, the performer has one, maybe two guitars. Steve had four acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and a bouzouki (a sort of Greek mandolin). Night in, night out Steve brings it. In his 50th year of live performances, he is blazing and righteous.
Neko has a strong case — get it? — for being my most unique personality of the year: at times profound, at times unbelievably goofy. Her songs are absolutely gorgeous, and Neko, live, is an absolute trip.
Drawing on their conservatory educations, the duo brought together the worlds of folk and classical music. Immersed in cross-Atlantic traditions, Rhiannon and Francesco shared their boundless enthusiasm for the history of folk music.
The scion of the Cash family delivered a spellbinding performance more than worthy of the family name. It was perfect music for a Friday night — thoughtful and reflective with flavorings of southern Americana, enhanced by the stateliness of the venue.
The Wood Brothers have a rare combination of musical training, a diverse skill set rooted in classics, and an outright sense of fun. All three were on display in the first of two shows at 9:30 Club.