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The best music of 2012

This has been a pretty good year for music fans, whether you’re into rock, pop, or country. Below are ten of my personal favorites (in alphabetical order) that have hit the store shelves in the past twelve months…

Best albums, best song on the album
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls, “Hold On”
Flo Rida – Wild Ones, “Good Feeling”
Jim Avett – Second Chance, “Pictures in the Attic”
KISS – Monster, “Back to the Stone Age”
Lynch Mob – Sound Mountan Sessions, “Slow Drag”
Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back, “Ain’t It Enough”
Shooter Jennings – Family Man, “The Deed & The Dollar”
The Steel Wheels – Lay Down, Lay Low, “Rain in the Valley”
Two Gallants – The Bloom and the Blight, “My Love Won’t Wait”
Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth, “Blood and Fire”

I didn’t have time to check out the full releases of every artist from this past year, and there were other records that didn’t measure up to that “hit play and forget the skip button” status. Here are a few songs from those categories. Download the MP3s for these tracks…

Best songs on other albums
Allen Stone – “Sleep”
Alberta Cross – “Money for the Weekend (Pocket Full of Shame)”
Bang Tango – “Our Way”
Hank Williams Jr. – “We Don’t Apologize For America”
Psy – “Gangnam Style”

I also caught up on a few 2011 releases during the past year. Here are five titles I missed when they were first released; check them out, if you are so inclined…

2011 albums, songs
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound – Want More, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
Primus – Green Naugahyde, “Lee Van Cleef”
Umphrey’s McGee – Death By Stereo, “Booth Love”
Various Artists – This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, “All He Wants is You” by Shawn Colvin
Wood Brothers – Smoke Ring Halo, “When I Was Young”

Finally, Awolnation‘s “Kill Your Heroes” has been in heavy rotation on a new Cincinnati radio station for a while, and it’s a very catchy tune…

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The Steel Wheels – Lay Down Lay Low (2012)

One of the best releases of 2012

The Steel Wheels
Lay Down Lay Low
independent, 2012
43 minutes

It is unlikely you will ever hear The Steel Wheels on commercial country radio, and that’s a real shame. True musicianship has never been appreciated by the masses. From the mandolin to the fiddle to the beautifully harmonized vocals, Lay Down Lay Low is an example of everything that is right in the world of music today. Fortunately, there are music fans that refuse to be force fed by commercial radio, and the Americana movement has never been stronger than it is today. Thus, The Steel Wheels are getting some recognition, even if it is less than they deserve.

Don’t let the “independent” status fool you; Lay Down Lay Low is a slickly produced record that is a pleasure to listen to. From the opening strains of the fiddle on “Breaking Like The Sun” to the sensitive mandolin on “One Night” ending the album, The Steel Wheels never disappoint.

Highlights include “Rain In The Valley,” which has the feel of an old-timey spiritual; “Nola’s Last Dance,” an upbeat instrumental; and “Endure,” which would fit in on any playlist with traditional country and western tunes.

Tracklist:
1. Breaking Like The Sun
2. Lay Down Lay Low
3. Rain In The Valley
4. Nola’s First Dance
5. Andrea
6. Halfway To Heaven
7. Indian Trail
8. Endure
9. Know Her Name
10. Fridley’s Gap
11. Spider Wings
12. One Night

The band:
Trent Wagler (vocals, guitar, banjo, percussion)
Jay Lapp (mandolin, guitar, vocals)
Eric Brubaker (fiddle, vocals)
Brian Dickel (bass, vocals)
also featuring Oliver Craven (fiddle, resonating guitar, vocals)

Watch the video for “Rain In The Valley” below:

Learn more about The Steel Wheels.

Purchase The Steel Wheels – Lay Down Lay Low.

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