Garret’s Winter Survival Pack

Winter Survival Package – Pearl Jam, Cake, Gregg Allman, etc.

Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward

There is only one way to kill cabin fever and that’s with good music. Though the unrelenting snowfall and harsh winds of winter have left some of us frustrated and many of us ready for sunnier days, below are a handful of releases chronicling the finest recordings of the last few months.

Pearl Jam – Live On Ten Legs

Once again Pearl Jam proves why they are the only relevant reminder of the grunge era. Yet, it seems almost an insult anymore to clump the Seattle rockers with the rest of the bottom-of-the-barrel forgotten faces and overplayed melodies of a time yellowing within the pages of history.

Live On Ten Legs provides the perfect sequel to Live On Two Legs (1998) and puts the band where it belongs, which is in the upper echelon of rock royalty. Where the rest of their peers faltered, entered rehab, or met horrific demises, PJ pushed forward by isolating themselves from the madness, ultimately finding their niche of unparalleled creativity and a formula for evolution we constantly marvel at with each subsequent release.

Key Tracks: “Just Breathe” / “Alive” / “In Hiding” / “The Fixer”

Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Just when you think they’re ready for the “Where Are They Now?” label, rock misfits Cake crack the whip and unleash another batch of radio-friendly jingles dealing with the usual societal shenanigans- mustaches, teen pregnancy, government control, and the eternal struggle between males and females.

One wonders how the group is able to truly keep a unique sound without ever once coming across like a cookie cutter ensemble. It is a true testament to the Sacramento alternative darlings that their intent, approach, and final product in the studio are routinely executed to perfection.

Key Tracks: “Sick of You” / “Federal Funding” / “Mustache Man (Wasted)”

Gregg Allman – Low Country Blues

With a never-ending tour schedule and constant health issues nagging him, it is an inspiration Gregg Allman even finds time for himself, let alone the unveiling of his latest recordings.

In his recent endeavors, he taps legendary producer T Bone Burnett for his first solo outing in almost 14 years. The entire album, except for the Allman/Warren Haynes melody “Just Another Rider”, is an array of Delta blues covers, ranging from Muddy Waters to Sleepy John Estes, Skip James to B.B. King.

Each piano stroke and vein-busting howl exposes and ultimately silences any personal demons. Allman seems like a man at the end of a long, arduous journey, one that has put wrinkles on his face and left him aged and weary. But, if anything, Low Country Blues shows he is ready another go-around because only the weak lie down and fade away.

Key Tracks: “Devil Got My Woman” / “Just Another Rider” / “Floating Bridge”

Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band – Legacy

Like whiskey and Demi Moore, the Bostonian bluegrass boy only gets better with age. On Legacy, Rowan calls upon a Rolodex of old friends, which includes Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and Tim O’Brien.

Within these collaborations bubbles up the beauty of bluegrass, a beauty that resides in the friendship, solace, and ultimate fruits that emerge when pure intent and natural talent combine forces into a genius work of art, something Rowan knows all too well.

Key Tracks: “Jailer Jailer” / “The Family Demon” / “So Good”

Railroad Earth – Railroad Earth

Harnessing the finest elements of bluegrass, folk, and rock, the band seamlessly weaves them together into an Americana gumbo hearty enough for even the most hungry of music enthusiasts. One begins to piece together the shared notion that Railroad Earth is crisscrossing the country with such vigor, talent, and harmony, could they be the current torchbearers of a legacy founded by the Grateful Dead?

Key Tracks: “Jupiter and the 119” / “Spring-Heeled Jack”

Top Albums of 2010

1. Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs – God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise

2. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do

3. John Mellencamp – No Better Than This

4. The Black Crowes – Croweology

5. Blues and Lasers – After All We’re Only Human

6. Sam Amidon – I See The Sign

7. Dead Confederate – Sugar

8. White Pines – The Falls

9. 7 Walkers – 7 Walkers

10. Cotton Jones – Tall Hours in the Glowstream