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The 2019 Graham Awards

Here's my annual 10-best list. As in previous years, these are albums drawn from the eclectic little musical zone that the Mixed Bag inhabits. In fact, being "commercial pop" pretty much disqualifies it from this list. These album are drawn from the annual larger Best of 2019 list which I present on the WVIA radio series.
Back some years ago, I used to give out a bunch of tongue-in-cheek awards for dubious accomplishments. A cynic (or curmudgeon) could say that that includes most of what has gotten to the top of what passes as the music charts. But this time, before getting to my top-10 list, I wanted to give out some honorary mentions. While some of my larger best of lists includes music by teenagers and early 20-somethings, I would like to mention four worthwhile albums by octogenerians who are still doing work that requires no apologies for age: Willie Nelson, John Mayall, Mavis Staples and Judy Collins, with the latter two celebrating their 80th birthday in 2019. So now, here's the list starting with #10.

10. Annie Gallop: Bookish. A starkly beautiful and melancholy album of engaging story songs.

9. Heather Pierson: Lines and Spaces Fine New Hampshire singer-songwriter pianast who easily moves between jazz influence and bluegrass.

8. The Currys: This Side of the Glass. A pair of brothers and a cousin being family vocal harmonies to bear on their appealing folk-rock songs.

7. The Bros. Landreth: 87. Another family group, this one from Canada, create very tasteful melodic rock.

6. The Infamous Stringdusters: Rise Sun. One of the best contemporary bluegass bands around creates a kind of "concept" album with their sophisticated songs segueing together like the old days of prog rock.

5. American Football: American Football (LP3) Melodic progressive rock, tasteful playing, intelligent arrangements and songs.

4. International Orange: A Man and His Dog. A great instrumental rock and fusion band from NYC with satisfying electric music that does not wear with repeated listenings.

3. Marc Cohn and the Blind Boys of Alabama: Work to Do A great paring of a soulful singer-songwriter with the iconic African-American Gospel group, who have been together since the 1930s. A combination of new studio songs plus a live performance.

2. Bruce Hornsby: Absolute Zero. Probably the veteran pianist-singer-songwriter's most musically ambitious, unfortunately undermined by bad audio quality.

1. Mavis Staples: We Get By. For soulful music with a message, it doesn't get much better than this. At 80 years old, Ms. Staples is still a force of nature.

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