Behold the Texas 30, Plus Albums 40-31
Besides producing a personal Ely favorite in Springsteenian opener "All Just to Get to You" -- where the Boss actually sings backup -- Letter to Laredo effectively left behind his lord-of-the-highway past in favor of acoustic-tinged reflections on the Southwestern landscape colored by Teye's flamenco guitar. Add in his Flatlander buddies Butch Hancock (via "She Finally Spoke Spanish to Me") and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Laredo makes a solid case as the Ultimate (Mature) Joe Ely Album.
32. St. Vincent, Marry Me (2007)
A personal pick for the most peculiar album in this entire project, Marry Me is as different as its Texas 30 brethren as chocolate and cheese. Those records are sweaty and full of furrowed brows, but Marry Me is austere and artful, without a scratch on it. It's the sort of album that keeps a vise grip on its emotions, making it an ideal for a cocktail party where the guests resent each other enough that the whole thing could become a chair-flipping, glass-shattering free-for-all. But it's very pretty too.
31. Lyle Lovett, The Road to Ensenada (1996)
After a few albums of big-band swing and gospel, Lovett returned to country music with no hard feelings and a hatful of great songs like, well, "Don't Touch My Hat." He can do sophisticated honky-tonk ("Private Conversation") or playful Western Swing "(That's Right) You're Not From Texas"), or be typically eccentric ("FIona"), but Ensenada is consistently excellent and one of Lovett's finest albums.
Yep, that's all there is... here. See Nos. 30-1 in this week's cover story. Thanks for reading.