Six Albums You Didn’t Hear in 2014 – BUT SHOULD

Best of 2014 – Six Albums You Probably Missed, But Should Check Out

So, what happens when your entire family gets sick right before the holidays?  Well, it kind of throws a wrench in everything, and sets you back several weeks.  Finally recovered, here’s our list of the Best of 2014 – albeit, a little late.

Better Than Ezra – All Together Now (The End Records) One of the real surprises of 2014 is just how good this new CD is.  Best known for their mid-Nineties’ hit “Good,” leader Kevin Griffin has consistently written great songs, heavy on melody and wit, even if the sales haven’t been what they used to be.  “Crazy Lucky” gets our vote for the “Best Single You Never Heard in 2014.”  “Undeniable” is funky, “Insane” is – well, crazy.  “I Fly Away” and “One Heart Beating” are sweeping anthems.  Pure pop perfection with not one a stinker. Read the full review

Devon Allman – Ragged & Dirty (Ruf Records) Finally, an album worthy of his namesake, yet not a copy of his famous dad’s (Gregg’s) work either.  Ragged & Dirty shows that Devon has grown as a vocalist, especially on the fine cover of the Spinner’s “I’ll Be Around.”  Yet, he’s also improved his guitar playing, made especially clear on the spellbinding instrumental, “Midnight Lake Michigan.”  He also gives a nod to the Allmans on “Can’t Lose Them All.” Read the full review

Lisa Mills – I’m Changing (Lisa Mills) She once fronted Big Brother & the Holding Company, so you’d figure that Mills can bring plenty of fire in her singing – and she certainly does that on songs like “Better Than This” and “I Don’t Want to Be Happy”  But, she shows a vulnerability in “I’m Changing” and a playfulness in “Eyes So Blue.”  “Take My Troubles” is a sexy, soulful ballad.  Then, there’s her re-vamping of Hendrix’s “Little Wing.”  This ain’t no Janis carbon copy here. Read the full review

Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue (Royal Potato Family) Walker emphasized a grittier guitar sound on his latest album, and the result is one of his finest efforts to date.  Songs like “Trouble (Don’t Want No)” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” benefit from this meatier approach.  His shows off his gift of being able to put a positive spin on the blues on songs like “Grab a Hold” and “Another Day.  “Tomorrow is a great track with a classic, sing-a-long feel.  “Way Too Far” saves the best for last, continuing Walker’s knack for writing timeless ballads. Read the full review.

Candi Staton – Life Happens (Beracah Records) An R&B pioneer returns to her roots – namely Muscle Shoals, where she had many hits.  She even enlists the help of producer Rich Hall (both are featured in the great music documentary Muscle Shoals, available for screening on Netflix).  Tracks like “I Ain’t Easy to Love” and “Commitment” come from a singer who has loved, lost, rebounded, and lived to tell about it.  Staton gives advice on “She’s After Your Man,” then slips into warm R&B on “Close to You.”  Staton can definitely still bring it – a real triumph. Read the full review

Davina & the Vagabonds – Sunshine (Roustabout Records) This band’s gift is taking vintage New Orleans’ jazz & blues and injecting it with a youthful exuberance.  Sunshine shows off a tighter, more cohesive sound, obviously the byproduct of their endless tour schedule.  “Sunshine” is horn-driven pop, while leader Davina Sowers embraces her bad girl side in “I Try to Be Good.”  “You Must Be Losing Your Mind” is the album’s tour de force – every member gets a chance to solo.  “Heavenly Day” is lovely in its sparse arrangement.  Read the full review