And big ole #1: Deer Tick

It’s not the trashy mustache John McCauley usually wears (not pictured). It’s not the raucousness during shows, the fact that he oversleeps for interviews, or even our shared RI connection. It’s the fact that, after all’s said and done, “The Black Dirt Sessions” is still one of the best alt-country albums we’ve ever heard. Composed of Ian O’Neil, Chris Ryan, and Dennis Ryan, their brilliant debut “War Elephant” put them on the national stage, and for all its merits, we’re arguing “Black Dirt” is even better. With a mostly acoustic setup, it’s dark, crushing, and absolutely fantastic. McCauley’s agitated voice and a piano sounds, well, not all that desirable, but it works marvelously here, and if you don’t give it a try, then we feel sorry for you. As strong now as it was when it kept us glued to the stereo months ago. Raise a Coors: happy holidays, John Joseph McCauley III.

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