Video Review of the Year 2022

Photo credit: Jason Quigley

It’s that time of year again, folks, when we look forward to some festive fun and reflect on another year that has flown by (they do seem to be getting quicker).  Throughout another turbulent year, our heads have been swimming with 24/7 rolling news about protests in Iran and the terrible plight of refugees from Ukraine.  Our politicians played a strange game of hot potato with the role of Prime Minister while former Health Secretary Matt Hancock got grubby and ate grubs in the jungle, apparently looking for some forgiveness.  I’ll leave our dear readers to decide if he deserves any.  In the meantime, while the Westminster elite played political games or busied themselves on reality television, a cost of living crisis engulfed the rest of us and workers in various fields and industries decided that their pay could not continue to fall behind soaring inflation.  For the first time in the 106-year history of The Royal College of Nursing, nurses voted for industrial strike action because it turns out that valuing their contribution to society takes more than giving them a little clap once a week.  The sporting year has been rounded off by the most controversial World Cup I can remember.  There was high quality football and plenty of surprising upsets.  But this tournament will be remembered as much for issues over migrant workers and ‘One Love’ arm bands and the memorable images of the Iranian team refusing to sing their national anthem and the German team with their hands over their mouths, symbolising their feelings about being silenced.  It’s been some year.

Thank goodness, then, for the music.  We have continued to return to something like ‘normal’ with live shows and festivals proving to be wonderful, communal, transcendent experiences once again.  I’ve been lucky enough to catch the Black Deer Festival, the Maverick Festival, Our Man in the Field, The Delines, The Killers, Handsome Family, Black Water County, Frank Turner, Jarrod Dickenson and Annie Dressner and David Ford.  All brought a huge amount of joy into a sometimes bleak world.  Quality new album releases were plentiful and I had more new videos to sift through than I knew what to do with.  Music continues to be a great power for good and a means of escape.  The creativity of our favourite artists is amazing.  Here’s to the musical year that was.  Probably my personal highlight of the year was going back stage at the Black Deer Festival to meet the fabulous blues star Jack Broadbent and film him playing one of the year’s best songs in his trailer.  ‘Midnight Radio’ is from his recent album ‘Ride’, a bluesy delight from a truly talented guitarist.  Read more about it here.

Photo Credit: Andrew Frolish

The only self-imposed rule for the review list below was that only one video could be selected from each month of the year. Inevitably, that means that many great songs and artists from 2022 are not represented.  Whatever is left out, it’s still a helluva collection of fine music.  Reminisce and enjoy.  Here’s to more great music in 2023.

January – The Delines ‘Kid Codeine’

We were delighted to premiere the third single from ‘The Sea Drift’ in January.  Like many songs by The Delines, this has the feel of a condensed novel, peopled by thoughtfully-drawn characters.  Willy Vlautin said of the video: “The video is set in my favourite neighbourhood of Portland, St. Johns. A neighbourhood in the midst of a big gentrification swing. Amy was brave enough to be on camera and we tried to hit the old haunts, a lot of them closed down and ready to be bulldozed. I’m a big boxing fan and I wanted to incorporate Andy Kendall ‘The Scappoose Express’, one of the most famous boxers of the area. The fight we used was his title shot against world light heavyweight champion Bob Foster. Kendall got knocked out in the fourth but still what a feat. We were lucky enough to work with Gregg Schmitt, who’s one of the coolest cinematographers in the NW, and also a great editor in Zach Jones, who ran with the idea that both characters, Kid Codeine and ‘The Scappoose Express’, are now just ghosts to a city in a major economic boom and transformation.”  Amy Boone’s soulful, characterful voice is brilliant in one of my favourite songs of the year.

February – Amy Speace ‘Cottonwood’

‘Cottonwood’ was the first single from Amy Speace’s ‘Tucson’, which is an incredibly personal, open-hearted record based on the deep impact a traumatic event had on her life.  She said of the album: “All of my records have an honest vulnerability, and touches of autobiography.  But I’ve never done an album like this.  To stand in my truth and talk about it, finally — it’s not like, ‘Yeah, this happened, I’m fine.’  I still don’t know what to make of this and it still affects me. But I’m working through it, and I’m able to look at it. So, I realised there’s power in speaking the truth. And if I can talk about it—and it’s scary—maybe it will give someone else hope, too.”  The song is named after the treatment centre, Cottonwood de Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona, where Speace stayed in 2020 to address her anxiety, depression and past trauma.  It was here, then, that she really began to deal with the abuse she suffered, so it serves well as an introduction to the narrative and feelings that unfold across the record.  She explains: “It’s a love song, in a sense, to the place that healed me.”  This is powerful, emotional music, delivered with grace and sensitivity.

March – Michael Weston King ‘Sugar’

This was another song we were very pleased to premiere on AUK.  In ‘Sugar’, the guitars are fluttering, bright and shimmer with melody.  King’s vocal, characterful, distinctive and soulful, follows a beautifully tuneful route through the song, at once feeling both new and familiar.  ‘Sugar’ is an instant classic that I loved immediately from the very first few notes.  It was written on a songwriters retreat in Louisiana organised by The Buddy Holly Foundation.  Peter Case, one of King’s favourite artists, was there too.  King recalled: “On the final day, he and I, along with Louisiana musician Sean Bruce, were teamed up and this song, ‘Sugar’ was the result of our endeavours.  Written in The Blue Moon Saloon where I had been staying for the week, it was Peter’s idea to write a song with this title. Whether it actually is about sugar, you can decide.  My thanks to Peter and Sean for a joyous collaboration, and also the brilliant David Dalglish in Glasgow for his terrific work on the video.”  The song is taken from ‘The Struggle’, Michael Weston King’s first solo album in ten years and one of the records of 2022.

April – Father John Misty ‘Goodbye, Mr Blue’

With gorgeously delicate finger-picking guitar and a wistfully warm, conversational vocal, Father John Misty, AKA Josh Tillman, delivers the beautiful ‘Goodbye Mr. Blue’.  The song brings to mind the 1970s country singer-songwriter sound and, indeed, ‘Goodbye Mr. Blue’ is so carefully crafted and smoothly performed that it stands comfortably alongside songs from the likes of Harry Nilsson and John Denver.  Lyrically powerful, the song uses the death of a couple’s cat, Mr. Blue, to symbolise the unravelling of their relationship.  It’s one of my song picks of the year.  The Noel Paul-directed cinematic video, produced by Nadya Tabutoba and Georgi Abrashev, is a piece of art in itself.  Filmed on location in Bulgaria, it contains wonderful symbols and images that reinforce the song’s themes, from the gorgeous European Bee-Eater (Merops apiaster) that has made its home in a landscape scarred by human machinery to the use of bolt-cutters at the end.  It’s cleverly and artfully shot and remains with you alongside the tuneful beauty of the song.

May – Abbie Gardner ‘Only All the Time’

Watching Abbie Gardner play the Dobro is mesmerising.  Greatly skilled, she makes it look effortless and she also plays with a delightful sense of joy, taking pleasure in the performance and sharing her infectious smile.  The former member of Red Molly plays her Dobro with energy, performing here with a distinctive, rhythmic style, and her voice is warm and melodious, soaring in the choruses.  In song, Dolly Parton asked the question ‘Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?’ Gardner said: “Red Molly covered that song, and it occurred to me that since it was written as a question, we had the opportunity to answer it. We’d like to say, yes, Dolly, we think of you, ‘Only All the Time.'”  The song is a wistful, sensitive reflection on what might have been. It’s taken from ‘DobroSinger’, an album that received an impressive 9/10 from Americana UK.  Check out Viv Fish’s review here.  You can also find a series of videos on YouTube in which Gardner teaches how to play the Dobro, making it accessible to all.

June – Robert Vincent ‘Come Pick Me Up’

Here, a classic song from a revered American songwriter is covered by one of the finest singer-songwriters from the UK.  Surely, it’s what Americana UK is all about.  Once again, we were pleased to have the privilege of premiering this video.  Vincent said of the song: “‘Come Pick Me Up’ by Ryan Adams is another favourite of mine. I love the album ‘Heartbreaker’ that it comes from; early noughties Adams serves as a huge influence on my own song-writing. It’s a great album, a great song and I really wanted to perform this one with the band and I really wanted to have a string arrangement on it. I thought that would be lovely. Once again, Amy Chalmers did a fantastic job of arranging the string section.”  The acclaimed Vincent has earned multiple artist and album awards from Americana Music Association UK and here on Americana UK.  This song appears on his recent collection of covers, ‘Undercover’, which was released in September 2022.  Enjoy.

July – Annie Dressner & David Ford ‘Some Folks Are Just Lucky I Guess’

In July, we premiered this single from David Ford and Annie Dressner, just before they embarked on their ‘Summer Holiday Tour’.  At the heart of this lovely, melodic song are the pair’s voices, which combine perfectly, skilfully moving together and apart in a harmonic dance.  Dressner and Ford are highly-regarded solo performers who formed a friendship after playing on the same set in early 2022.  They began to join one another on stage for one or two songs each evening of the tour and then this led to a hugely productive collaboration.  Within two days of combined creativity, they had most of the material that would become ’48 Hours’, an album named named for how swiftly the music poured from them.  The duo explained: “‘Some Folks Are Just Lucky I Guess’ is one of the six songs off our album titled ’48 Hours’.  As the song says, ‘the chances were billions to one’ that we would, in fact, meet, become friends, write an album within 48 hours, two days after meeting and be putting this album out at all!  We hope that you enjoy it!”  Check it out – it’s brilliant.

August – Our Man in the Field ‘Thin (Unplugged)’

In June 2020, the original version of ‘Thin (I Used to be Bullet Proof)’ premiered right here on AUK in the lead up to Our Man in the Field’s debut album, ‘The Company of Strangers’.   It was one of the strongest songs from a very fine album and was nominated for the AMAUK UK Song of the Year Award in 2021.  This year, we premiered a new stripped back, acoustic version that was just as beautiful as the original.  As ever, guitarist, singer and songwriter Alex Ellis is ably supported by Henry Senior on pedal steel and Dobro.  On writing the original version, Ellis said: “I wrote it from the point of view of a person looking back at their life and recognising how time has changed them. At the beginning they are dictating a letter to someone. The words in the letter are the words of the chorus and the letter is to explain what the person is about to do. I wanted to leave that part open so the person could be leaving a job or a place or any situation and the listener can make it whatever they want.  To me the person in the song has realised that there is still time left to change their circumstances and get back to who they used to be. I’ve known a lot of people who have followed the traditional path of school, university 9-5 job – but then realised that they spend most of their life doing something they don’t like and missed out on so much. Most people don’t want to take a risk and change their situation and for some it’s impossible not to once they realise.”  While we wait for the new album to be released, enjoy this.

September – Charley Crockett ‘I’m Just a Clown’

There’s a genuinely timeless quality to Charley Crockett’s music and the video for ‘I’m Just a Clown’, filmed and edited by Bobby Cochran, reinforces that impression.  The song is full of rhythm and upbeat strumming, with electric guitar, horns and keys adding texture and depth.  Ultimately, what makes it stand out is Crockett’s distinctive, sonorous voice; that rich, warm baritone is typically outstanding.  One night on tour, Crockett and his band were driving through Waco when the subject of country singer James Hand was a source of conversation and musical inspiration.  Crockett explained: “We were driving over the Brazos River and started talking about James Hand, who passed away in the pandemic.  One of the guys was playing accordion and I started singing a melody.  At first, we were having fun with it.  We weren’t making fun of James or anything, but we weren’t taking the song seriously. But sometimes, it’s those songs that you’re not taking seriously that end up being the ones that stick and begin to take on a whole other meaning.”  This was the beginning of Crockett’s latest album ‘The Man from Waco’, which we gave an impressive 9/10.  Read the review here.

October – Dean Owens ‘La Lomita’

Just in time for Halloween, we premiered this new spooky-looking, atmospheric video from Dean Owens that was inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead Festival.  It’s an inventive visual, in which a fully made-up Dean Owens delivers an engaging vocal.  Owens said of the song: “The song is inspired by the story of a small chapel, La Lomita, which sits right on the US/Mexican border. 155 years old, it’s one of the oldest in the US and has long been a place of refuge, and a symbol of hope for migrants, refugees and wanderers. It was in danger of being demolished to make way for Trump’s wall.  Fortunately (thanks to a determined local protest, and a regime change) it has won a reprieve for now.  Joey (Burns) took the lead on producing this. He knew exactly what I was aiming for and it was so much fun letting Sergio Mendoza loose with his box of tricks.”  The song is taken from ‘Sinner’s Shrine’, the outstanding collaboration with members of Calexico.

November – Morton Valence ‘It’s a Brand New Morning’

From yet another 9/10 album (see the review here), and yet another great video premiere on AUK, here is ‘It’s a Brand New Morning’ from London-based duo Robert Jessett and Anne Gilpin.  Both the video and the music possess a restlessness, a relentless energy that match the song’s theme.  The rolling percussion is fluid, over which warm bass pulses and rhythmic guitar provides the foundation for the duo’s voices to rise up, finding unexpected melodic patterns.  There are interludes in which ethereal strings spin and swirl, adding to the sense of sonic freedom, even urgency, with each musical layer helping to create a touch of something cosmic.  Smart video.  Great song.  Fabulous eighth album.

December – I Have a Tribe ‘Teddy’s Song’

The gorgeous ‘Teddy’s Song’, the latest single from Irish songwriter Patrick O’Laoighaire under his I Have a Tribe moniker, is a lovely way to see out the year.  It’s beautifully arranged and produced and the result is quietly epic.  O’Laoghaire said of the song: “Teddy is my uncle who was very handsome and very gentle and very loved. He had working sheepdogs called Cap and Prince and Sylvie and they always listened to him. Teddy is also the name of my dog, a sheepdog who wandered in the gate one day and stayed. He had that name already when he arrived. He is very handsome and very loved and he never listens. The dog lives his own way and I learn a lot from the dog. Sometimes he looks at me very deeply for a long time and I wondered if he knows that he’s the teacher and I’m the student. I asked him this once, and he went and got a stick and told me to throw it.”  Teddy the dog is definitely the star of the accompanying video.  O’Laoighaire explained that Teddy is such a good teacher because, “…the dog’s only concern is what is happening exactly at this moment. Mostly he is concerned with playing and responding.”  And that’s a pretty good lesson for us to take into the new year.

So, there’s a year’s worth of great songs and videos condensed into a short list that can’t possibly do justice to all the great music released this year but does make for a pretty good playlist to enjoy by your Yuletide fire.  Give yourself a Christmas present this year and explore all of these artists in a little more depth.  Dig into their musical histories and make a point of checking out their most recent material.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy Christmas….and looking forward to more great music in 2023.

About Andrew Frolish 1414 Articles
From up north but now hiding in rural Suffolk. An insomniac music-lover. Love discovering new music to get lost in - country, singer-songwriters, Americana, rock...whatever. Currently enjoying Nils Lofgren, Ferris & Sylvester, Tommy Prine, Jarrod Dickenson, William Prince, Frank Turner, Our Man in the Field...
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