Music To My Ears

Lots of folks don’t buy albums anymore.  They download tracks.  Being old-school, I still like to read the liner notes and  look at the pictures on the package while I’m listening.  So for me the choice is a physical cd; a full album of material.  No snapshots.

To be honest, I value silence as much as music, but when I’m in the mood for listening, I’m not looking for an emotional roller coaster.  I want something that keeps me feeling happy, keeps my feet tapping, or reminds me of something I haven’t thought about in a while.

There are a lot of ‘old’ releases that fit the bill just fine for me, but, being a civilization that’s always looking for ‘new and better’, I want to share my list of favorite new releases with you.  I hope you will do the same, and leave me a comment about YOUR favorite listens!

Here are my 2012 faves, in no particular order:

TONY RICE:  The Bill Monroe Collection. (Rounder)

This is a compilation of recordings made over a 15-year period, featuring Bill Monroe favorites, played and sung by one of America’s favorite bluegrass musicians.

BILL EVANS:  Good Company (Native and Fine Records)

Evans teamed up with Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, The Infamous Stringdusters, and many more to present this varied collection of original, traditional and contemporary collaborations.  Mostly instrumental, with some great singing too, and a healthy dose of classic Beatles songs.

LIAM FITZGERALD and The Rainieros:  Last Call! (

Full disclosure:  I am a western swing/honky tonk head.  I LOVE this album.  It’s fun, ALL original, and so rhythmic you just can’t keep your feet still – and the name – a chip off ol’ Mt. Rainier!  If I could hire one party band, this would be it.

NEW MULTITUDES:  Music by Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames.  Lyrics by Woody Guthrie. (Rounder)

At the invitation of Woody Guthrie’s sister Nora, these four musicians set Woody Guthrie’s unpublished lyrics to music and recorded them on this EP.  To hear Guthrie’s lyrics plugged into 21st century arrangements makes one realize how timeless they are, and what a lyrical genius he was.  2012 is the 100th anniversary of Woody’s birth, and this is a good way to remember him.


It’s funky and fun, and it keeps my feet tappin’ – and the picking is great too.  A simple album that makes you want to dance.  Enough said.

RICKY SKAGGS:  Music To My Ears (Skaggs Family Records)

Ricky Skaggs is a bluegrass icon, but this album is a little different that previous releases:  a little less frenetic, and more lyrical.  Nice songs, nicely played by some of the best in the business.  I think it’s one of his best.

PETER OSTROUSHKO:  The Mando Chronicles (Red House Records)  Disc One:  Americana:

As a late-year release, this one is easy to overlook.  It’s only been out a few weeks.  This collection of arrangements includes everything from fiddle tune medleys  to Duke Ellington hits to a classical march.  Starring Peter Ostroushko, with Norman Blake and a few other guest artists.

HOT STEEL & COOL UKELELE:  Hapa Haole Hit Parade (

Yes, this is just what the title implies, and it DOES contain the hit single, “Makin’ Wicky Wacky Down In Waikiki”.  If you like that one, you’ll love the rest of the album, superbly sung by Erich Sylvester (who also plays uke on the album).  One listen, and I was hooked!  A must-have for your next luau!  Warning: If Hawaiian songs (like, ‘When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop’) are not your thing, then run away as fast as you can! You will hate this album.



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2 Comments on “Music To My Ears”

  1. Lucy Martin says:

    Thanks for sharing this list, Barb.

    I’m shocked (shocked!) to imagine anyone not liking Hawaiian music.
    (OK, the hapa haole stuff isn’t necessarily great Hawaiian music, but still!)

    Here’s something I noticed on NCPR’s community calendar that I would definitely attend if I lived closer to Canton:

    Barb Heller & Danny Gotham Holiday Concert
    Dec 18 07:00 pm
    Where: Unitarian Universalist Church, Canton, NY
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    3 1/2 East Main Street, Canton, NY

    Danny Gotham and Barb Heller play holiday guitar duets. If you need a little Christmas, come sing with us or just come to listen to the beautiful music. Refreshments provided. Proceeds benefit local charities.

  2. Barb Heller says:

    Yes, Lucy — it shocks me too!
    I’m REALLY shocked to see this listing for Danny and me on Dec. 18th at the Canton UU Church!! It should have read SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22nd at 7 pm!!!
    THANKS so much for bring that to my attention!
    Happy listening!

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