The Postcard2 Top Recordings of 1999

By Don Yates

When I first started counting ballots, I had really no idea who was going to end up on top of the P2 list this year. In retrospect, it really isn't that surprising, and the final list once again looks very much like the albums that generated the most interest this year on P2.

Before we get to this year's list, I'd like thank everyone who contributed to P2's 4th annual year-end poll. We didn't get quite as many voters this year compared to last year's record-breaking 153, but there were still a respectable 132 folks voting. OK, I doubt very few of 'em are actually respectable, but you know what I mean.

As with the last three years, I've listed all of the new releases that received more than 10 points. As in past P2 polls, I felt it was necessary for at least two people to vote for a particular release for it to make the list, so that's why the minimum score to make the P2 list was 10.5 for new releases and 5.5 for reissues. Some releases received two or even three votes and still failed to get the minimum point number, so they also didn't make the list. Votes were cast for 340 albums this year, with 118 of them getting enough points to qualify for the list.

For those releases that did make it, they are listed in order of the total number of points they received. In case of a tie, the number of *votes* for each release was the first tiebreaker. The second tiebreaker was the number of *first-place votes* each release received. Each release that received at least 10.5 points is listed, followed by the total number of points, then the number of votes, and then the number of first-place votes (if any).

The fella on top shouldn't have been that much of a surprise to me or any other P2er who's been around here awhile. After all, he's been on top three out of the four years we've conducted this poll. The only year he wasn't on top was the year he didn't release an album. More than anyone else, Steve Earle is the guy most likely to unite rockers and country lovers on P2, apparently even when he's playing bluegrass.

Speaking of bluegrass, P2 took another step this year towards assimilation by the bluegrass borg. Not only is the number one album a bluegrass record, but another one just missed the top 10 (Dolly Parton at #12), and a host of others made the P2 list, from the Del McCoury Band (besides sharing #1 honors with Mr. Earle, their own fine album ended up at #38) to Jim Lauderdale & Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Lynn Morris, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, J.D. Crowe & the New South, and Longview. More bluegrass albums made the list than ever before, and they charted higher than ever. It may have taken Steve Earle to get one to #1 on the P2 list, but there it is.

Like Earle, the rest of the P2 top 10 aren't strangers to crossing and mixing musical genres, with most of them being either country-flavored rock artists or rock-influenced country performers. Somewhere in that vast middle ground between alt-rock and trad-country is where most of P2 continues to meet.

Despite many of us proclaiming the year to be a banner one for hard country, it's still far from being a central focus for P2. While Buddy Miller, Marty Stuart and the Derailers all lean that way to one degree or another, the first thoroughly hard country album to make the list was George Jones at #14, followed by Roger Wallace's fabulous debut at #15.

P2 is getting more country-friendly all the time, but rock hardly plays second fiddle around here. Wilco's alt-country track record may have helped push the twang-free Summerteeth up to #5, but other twangless rockers also scored high, from troubadours like Tom Waits (#6) and Richard Thompson (#10) to quirky psychedelic rockers like the Flaming Lips (#16).

It was another pretty good year for women on the P2 list, with the female-led Damnations TX at #2, Kelly Willis at #4 and Julie Miller at #8, and two others (Dolly Parton, Mandy Barnett) just missing the top 10. Still, the place where rock and country meet remains a male-dominated place and will likely remain so for some time to come.

It was nice to see some folks represented from outside the standard P2 sphere of rock and country. Soul singer Macy Gray made an impressive showing at #22, and electronic dance man Moby also charted high at #25. Other non-rock/country folks to make the list include Cuban singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Eliades Ochoa, Arhoolie's soul-searing compilation of live sacred steel recordings, hip hoppers the Roots and Mos Def, and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. It was probably the best showing so far from those who fall outside of rock and country. Still, it's not like the P2 list was a bounty of musical diversity. Roots rock, country, alt-rock and singer-songwriter types pretty much sums it up. Within those boundaries, however, P2 folks did their usual fine job of separating wheat from chaff.

P2 honored most of the best of what mainstream Nashville had to offer this year, with Marty Stuart cracking the top 10 and George Jones also making an impressive showing at #14. Sure, Stuart's The Pilgrim received zilch commercial radio airplay, and Jones didn't get much, but both albums were released by Nashville major labels. Other albums that did get mainstream country airplay and also made the P2 charts include Alan Jackson (#40), the Dixie Chicks (#43), and Gary Allan (#103). It also would've been nice to see newcomer Brad Paisley make the P2 list, but that's really the only notable omission. Music Row didn't offer up much in the way of quality albums this year, despite all the talk about the pendulum starting to swing back to the traditional.

ow that I've ruined all of the excitement for you, here's the P2 best of 1999:

New Recordings:

Artist - Title (Label) Points-Votes-First Place Votes (if any)

1. Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band - The Mountain (E Squared)301.5-48-7
2. Damnations TX - Half Mad Moon (Sire) 267.5-47-4
3. Buddy Miller - Cruel Moon (Hightone) 254.5-46-4
4. Kelly Willis - What I Deserve (Rykodisc) 220.5-41-4
5. Wilco - Summerteeth (Reprise) 190.5-30-7
6. Tom Waits - Mule Variations (Epitaph) 183.5-28-4
7. Old 97s - Fight Songs (Elektra) 181.5-31-5
8. Julie Miller - Broken Things (Hightone) 164.5-31-3
9. Marty Stuart - The Pilgrim (MCA) 156-25-1
10. Richard Thompson - Mock Tudor (Capitol) 153.5-20-7
11. Derailers - Full Western Dress (Sire) 148.5-23-3
12. Dolly Parton - The Grass Is Blue (Sugar Hill) 141.5-25-2
13. Mandy Barnett - I've Got A Right To Cry (Sire) 135.5-23-3
14. George Jones - Cold Hard Truth (Asylum) 107-19
15. Roger Wallace - Hillbilly Heights (Texas Roundup) 102.5-20-2
16. Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (Warner Bros) 94.5-13-6
17. Wayne Hancock - Wild, Free & Reckless (Ark 21) 90.5-13
18. Cisco - Wishing You Well From The Pink Motel (Propellant Transmissions) 89.5-13-2
19. Souvenirs - King of Heartache (Will) 85-15-3
20. Alejandro Escovedo - Bourbonitis Blues (Bloodshot) 84-17
21. Robbie Fulks - The Very Best Of Robbie Fulks (Bloodshot) 81.5-15-1
22. Macy Gray - On How Life Is (Epic) 73.5-11-1
23. Backsliders - Southern Lines (Mammoth) 71.5-12-2
24. Gourds - Ghosts of Hallelujah (Munich) 68.5-14-1
25. Moby - Play (V2) 64.5-9
26. Drive By Truckers - Pizza Deliverance (Soul Dump/Ghostmeat) 64-9-3
27. Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway (Atlantic) 63.5-9-2
28. Return Of The Grievous Angel (Almo) 62-9-1
29. Joe Henry - Fuse (Mammoth) 60-10
30. Nadine - Downtown, Saturday (Undertow) 56.5-11-1
31. Meat Purveyors - More Songs About Buildings and Cows (Bloodshot) 56-16
32. Ex-Husbands - All Gussied Up (Tar Hut) 52.5-10
33. Sparklehorse - Good Morning Spider (Capitol) 51-9
34. Freakwater - End Time (Thrill Jockey) 47.5-10
35. Tom Russell - The Man From God Knows Where (Hightone) 46-6-3
36. Randy Newman - Bad Love (Dreamworks) 44.5-6-2
37. Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings - Love Songs to Myself (Permanent Press) 44-8
38. Del McCoury Band - The Family (Ceili) 43.5-9-1
39. Fred Eaglesmith - 50-Odd Dollars (Razor & Tie) 40.5-10
40. Alan Jackson - Under The Influence (Arista Nashville) 40.5-9-1
41. Sally Timms - Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments For Lost Buckaroos (Bloodshot) 40-8-1
42. Beth Orton - Central Reservation (Arista) 40-6
43. Dixie Chicks - Fly (Monument) 38.5-10
44. Terry Allen - Salivation (Sugar Hill) 36.5-7
45. Jim Lauderdale & Ralph Stanley - I Feel Like Singing Today (Rebel) 36-6-1
46. Ray Wylie Hubbard - Crusades of the Restless Knights (Philo) 35-8
47. Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs (Merge) 35-5-1
48. Tom Petty - Echo (Warner Bros) 34-6-1
49. Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars) 33.5-5-1
50. Ibrahim Ferrer - Buena Vista Social Club Presents (World Circuit/Nonesuch) 32.5-6
51. Johnny Dowd - Pictures From Life's Other Side (Koch) 32-6
52. Hot Club of Cowtown - Tall Tales (Hightone) 31-6
53. Ricky Skaggs - Ancient Tones (Skaggs Family) 30-6
54. Guy Clark - Cold Dog Soup (Sugar Hill) 29.5-6-1
55. John Prine - In Spite Of Ourselves (Oh Boy) 28.5-5
56. Alison Krauss - Forget About It (Rounder) 27.5-6
57. Hadacol - Better Than This (Checkered Past) 27-5
58. Lynn Morris - You'll Never Be The Sun (Rounder) 27-4
59. Mary Janes - Record #1 (Delmore) 26.5-6
60. Mike Ness - Cheating At Solitaire (Time Bomb) 26.5-5
61. Madrugada - Industrial Silence (Virgin) 26-3
62. Cindy Bullens - Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth (Artemis) 25.5-3-2
63. Sovines - Truckers Welcome (Kingpin) 25-6
64. Mark Lanegan - I'll Take Care of You (Sub Pop) 25-5-1
65. Oh Susanna - Johnstown (Stella) 24.5-4
66. Ron Sexsmith - Whereabouts (Interscope) 24-5
67. June Carter Cash - Press On (Risk/Small Hairy Dog) 24-4
68. Jimmy LaFave - Trail (Bohemia Beat) 24-4
69. Jack Logan - Buzz Me In (Capricorn) 23-5
70. Built To Spill - Keep It Like A Secret (Warner Bros) 23-4
71. Jesse Winchester - Gentleman 0f Leisure (Sugar Hill) 23-3-1
72. Guided By Voices - Do The Collapse (TVT) 22.5-4
73. David Olney - Through A Glass Darkly (Philo) 22-3
74. Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment (V2) 21-3-1
75. Bottle Rockets - Brand New Year (Doolittle) 20-6
76. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver - Winding Through Life (Sugar Hill) 20-4
77. Tom Roznowski - A Well Traveled Porch (Bellbuckle) 20-2-2
78. Roots - Things Fall Apart (MCA) 19.5-4
79. East River Pipe - The Gasoline Age (Merge) 19.5-3
80. Dirk Powell, Tim O'Brien, John Herrmann - Songs From The Mountain (Howdy Skies) 19-4-1
81. Beck - Midnite Vultures (Geffen) 19-4
82. Waco Brothers - Wacoworld (Bloodshot) 19-4
83. Los Lobos - This Time (Hollywood) 19-3-1
84. Peter Bruntnell - Normal For Bridgwater (Slow River) 19-3
85. Jon Dee Graham - Summerland (New West) 19-3
86. Gomez - Liquid Skin (Virgin) 18.5-4
87. Carl Sonny Leyland - I'm Wise (Hightone) 18-3
88. Sacred Steel Live! (Arhoolie) 18-2
89. Continental Drifters - Vermilion (Razor & Tie) 17-3
90. Eliades Ochoa - Sublime Illusion (Higher Octave World) 17-2
91. Star Room Boys - Why Do Lonely Men & Women Want To Break Each Other's Hearts (Checkered Past) 16.5-4
92. Owsley - Owsley (Giant) 16.5-3-1
93. J.D. Crowe & the New South - Come On Down To My World (Rounder) 16-3
94. Katy Moffatt - Loose Diamond (Hightone) 15-4
95. Jim Lauderdale - Onward Through It All (RCA)15-2
96. Pinetops - Above Ground and Vertical (Soundproof/Monolyth) 15-2
97. Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings - Sweet Ona Rose (Cavity Search) 14.5-4
98. Patty Booker - I Don't Need All That (PMS) 14.5-3
99. Darrell Scott - Family Tree (Sugar Hill) 14.5-2
100. Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Oh! The Grandeur! (Rykodisc) 14-3
101. Pretenders - !Viva El Amor! (Warner Bros) 14-3
102. Bare Jr. - Boo-Tay (Immortal/Epic) 14-2
103. Gary Allan - Smoke Rings In The Dark (MCA) 13-3
104. Black Heart Procession - 2 (Touch and Go) 13-2
105. Mary Gauthier - Drag Queens In Limousines (Groove House) 13-2
106. Shaver - Electric Shaver (New West) 12.5-3
107. Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys - Forever Always Ends (Bloodshot) 12.5-2
108. Blue Mountain - Tales Of A Traveller (Roadrunner) 12-5
109. Toni Price - Low Down and Up (Antone's) 12-3
110. Eric Anderson - Memories of the Future 12-2
111. Black Crowes - By Your Side (American) 12-2
112. Longview - High Lonesome (Rounder) 12-2
113. Dave Schramm - Hammer and Nails (Catamount) 12-2
114. Rico Bell - Dark Side of the Mersey (Bloodshot) 11-2
115. Bill Frisell - Good Dog, Happy Man (Nonesuch) 11-2
116. John Linnell - State Songs (Rounder) 11-2
117. Mos Def - Black on Both Sides (Rawkus) 11-2
118. Gerald Collier - Low Tar Taste (Aces and Eights) 10.5-3

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