Author Silas House blogs about writing, the writing life, books, movies, nature, religion, politics, and other things that generally concern conscious people. House is the author of the bestselling books Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, Something's Rising, Eli the Good, and Same Sun Here. HIs novel Southernmost will be published in June 2018. Find out more about him and his writing at www.silas-house.com
Favorite Music of 2014
My top ten in alphabetical order:
The River and the Thread-Rosanne Cash's meditative travelogue of the South gets better with every listen.
Self-titled-Hozier. What a voice, what a songwriter. His massive hit "Take Me To Church" was worn out this year but the album as a whole is a masterful debut and cements his place as one of the most important new artists out there today.
Wildewoman-Lucius. My daughter introduced me to this band and I've been loving them ever since. Seeing them live is wonderful but they're one of the rare duets who translate just as beautifully to recordings. I love the 80s vibe mixed with soul and country. Music that is joyous and poignant.
Lost on the River-The New Basement Tapes. A supergroup composed of Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and produced by T Bone Burnett, takes some of Dylan's best lost lyrics, adds to them, and ends up with one of the most beautiful albums in recent memory.
American Middle Class-Angaleena Presley's (Pistol Annies) debut solo record could be the soundtrack for contemporary Appalachia. It's that honest, that subversive, and that complex. A completely original and uncompromising album from an artist who is ahead of her time. Presley shines a light on the heart of modern rural life, exposing its joys, sorrows, hypocrisy, and everything in between.
Self-titled-Parker Millsap. I attended a concert of Millsap's in New York City where he opened for Patty Griffin. His set drew a five minute standing ovation from one of the toughest audiences in the world. His music is keenly intelligent, moving, and singable.
Fair Warning-The Rails. This one hasn't been released in America yet, although it's a hit in England. This duo (including Kami Thompson, daughter of Richard and Linda, sister of Teddy) not only has some of the best harmonies of recent memory but has also assembled an album full of longing and beauty. I love every single song on this one. You can get a free download of their song "Bonnie Portmore" (my favorite on the album) by going to www.therailsofficial.com
In the Lonley Hour-Sam Smith. I'm not much of a sucker for pop albums but I was for this one.
Lazeretto-Jack White. The king of contemporary rock n roll has always loved country music and he has perfectly merged the two here. If you ever have the chance to see him live, do it. Amazing show.
The Way I'm Livin'-Lee Ann Womack. The country album of the decade. Womack has that unmistakeable voice, that great knack for songcatching, and is a true class act. Even if you're not a country fan, this is a record to put on repeat.
Other favorite albums of the year, arranged alphabetically:
Tori Amos-Unrepentant Geraldines
The Secret Sisters-Put Your Needle Down
First Aid Kit-Stay Gold
Hurray for the Riffraff-Small Town Heroes
Lydia Loveless-Somewhere Else
Nickel Creek-A Dotted Line
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers-Hypnotic Eye
Linda Thompson-Won’t Be Long Now
Lucinda Williams-Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
Singles, in no particular order
Call Me-St. Paul & the Broken Bones
The Devil Is All Around-Shovels and Rope
Take Me to Church-Hozier
Figure It Out-Royal Blood
Dontcha-The Internet. This is a pretty perfect pop song. Makes me want to dance.
When I Get My Hands On You-The New Basement Tapes
Your Southern Heart-Rosanne Cash
Don’t Just Sit There-Lucius
Heart is a Drum-Beck. One of his best songs, ever. I can't get it out of my head.
No Rest for the Wicked Lykke Li. A haunting song.
I Hate to See Your Heart Break-Paramore. Maybe my favorite single of the year. A perfectly written country-influence pop song by an underrated band.
Left Hand Free-Alt-J. So weird, so much fun, so catchy.
Rude-Magic!-The catchiest song of the year, and one of the most fun, if not the most profound. But beats most of what's at the top of the charts.
Latch-Disclosure (with Sam Smith)
Always N Forever-The Orwells.
Blue Collar Jane-The Strypes. This band is big in Ireland. I wish American teenagers could get excited about rock and roll that is this much fun.
I hate it when I hear people say that there's no great music out there. There is. It's just not usually on the radio. Dig deeper and find it.
[Forgive the spacing issues throughout: Blogger is not cooperating right now] Since the Oscars happen tonight...This could make for a divisive conversation, but just remember that this is only my opinion as a normal moviegoer. I'll try to keep my focus on the Best Picture race. I think that Oscars shouldn't be for favorites but for great productions, great filmmaking, a great combination (especially the technical aspects) of all the best things that make movies great: technical aspects, performances, writing, direction, set design, everything. Basically, Best Picture is for a film on which just about everything is working together perfectly. Five of my favorite movies of the year weren't nominated for Best Picture, and I think they should've been. The first two of these are Hostiles and Wind River and what's most interesting to me about these omissions is that they make such nuanced statements about the way Native people have been treated in this country. In…
There are two places in
Southeastern Kentucky I think of as my true homes:the small community of Lily, in the foothills of Laurel
County, and, fifty miles east, Rockhouse Creek, in the lush mountains of Leslie
County.I will focus on Rockhouse
here, mainly because it is the dark, lovely topography of my collective memory,
but also because it is the epitome of Central Appalachia, the kind of place
that journalists-who-don’t-know-what-they’re-talking-about always zoom in on
with their statistics and opinions. In fact, Rockhouse is located just a few
miles from the communities that were recently the focus of a piece called
“What’s The Matter With Eastern Kentucky?” by Annie Lowrey in The New York Times that referred to Appalachia and the Deep South
as “the smudge of the country.” Well,
I am that smudge.My people are
that smudge.My homeland is that
smudge. And we are much, much more than that.In fact, we would fight for that smudge.Many of us have.Many of us have lain down to be
The March I was a year old, it rained for two weeks in the South. My mother tells me that she could never get my diapers dry because she couldn't hang them out on the clothesline (we didn't have a dryer, of course) and even when she hung them all over the house, our tiny little trailer was too damp for them to dry.
"Everything we had in the world was in that little trailer," my mother told me last night. At the time of the flood my father had been back from Vietnam about five years and worked as a mechanic in a local gas station. My mother was a part-time assembler at the refrigerator factory in the next town over. They worked all the time. I have very few memories of them being still. Our trailer sat snugly between the rise of the L&N railroad track and the normally placid waters of the Little Laurel River, which was now becoming swollen and violent. In other words, there was no chance we'd make it through fourteen days of continuous rain. They watch…