We asked our KCBX music hosts what their favorite music was for 2015, and several of them came up with lists, many of them “in no particular order,” of songs, albums, live performances, and even theatre and art! The big favorites – across different lists – were Los Lobos, Sharon Jones, The Live Oak Music Festival, Steve Earle, Dave & Phil Alvin, Whitey Morgan, and KCBX music shows.
Neal Losey – Music Director and “The Morning Cup” weekdays 9am-noon
1. Kurt Vile "Pretty Pimpin'" song
2. Whitey Morgan Live at SLO Brew
3. Wild Child “Fools” album
4. Sharon Jones Live at Vina Robles and PAC
5. Jose Gonzalez “Vestiges & Claws” album
6. Saun & Starr “Look Closer” album
7. Fialta “Harvest Moon” song, video and cause behind the video
8. Angele Dubeau “Ludovico Einaudi: Portrait” album
9. Big Jon Atkinson “Back Down South” album
10. Mello Music Group “Persona” album
Marisa Waddell – Program Director and “The Road Home” Thursdays 6:30-8pm
1. Rhiannon Giddens live at UCSB
2. Steve Earle & the Dukes live at Live Oak Music Festival
3. The Mavericks "Mono" album
4. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings live at Vina Robles
5. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats eponymous album
6. Joan Shelley "Over and Even" album
7. Melody Gardot “Currency of Man” album
8. Sam Outlaw “Angeleno” album
9. Best collection – Signature Sounds 20th Anniversary Collection (featuring Lake Street Dive, Chris Smither, Crooked Still, Jeffrey Foucault, Eilen Jewell and many others)
10. Favorite album by a local – Jody Mulgrew “As the Sun Reclaims the Sky”
Monica Fiscalini “The Road Home” Thursdays 6:30-8pm
1. Top collaboration - Watkins Family Hour. This is the year I finally realized the power of siblings Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek). Add Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench and Greg Leisz and you've got my attention.
2. Top live music moment - When the Mavericks opened their second set at the Mid State Fair with a cover of "Harvest Moon" under a blue moon.
3. Top "believe the hype" in country music - Chris Stapleton. "Traveler" is my hands down favorite album of the year.
4. Top "believe the hype" in indie rock - Courtney Barnett. "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" makes me feel like my best 13-year-old self. Lots of words. Lots of cool.
5. Top "I love you, man!" - Good Medicine Presents. How many great shows did these promoters bring to the Central Coast? I lost count. My fave was Alejandro Escovedo at SLO Brew.
6. Top song - "Julep" by The Punch Brothers. As Rod Stewart once sang, "You're a rhapsody, a comedy. You're a symphony and a play." So is "Julep". Ageless and timeless.
7. Top third installment in a triology - Tom Jones, "Long Lost Suitcase". Producer Ethan Johns makes Americana magic with the 75-year-old.
8. Top radio - Neal Losey's transformation of "Morning Cup" weekdays on KCBX has been a treat. A mix of genres including "some of the new indie music that's out there".
9. Top local band - Shadowlands. KCBX hosts have played every track on their debut. Not many bands can say that!
10. Top of the heap - Los Lobos, "Gates of Gold". American music at its best.
John Cain “The Evening Blues” Saturdays 7-9pm. Top 10 albums
- Dave & Phil Alvin “Lost Time”
- Leon Bridges “Coming Home”
- JD McPherson “Let The Good Times Roll”
- Steve Earle “Terraplane”
- Pokey LaFarge “Something In The Water”
- Left Lane Cruiser “Dirty Spliff Blues”
- Nigel Hall “Ladies & Gentlemen”
- Pops Staples “Don’t Lose This”
- Cedell Davis “Last Man Standing”
- Ironing Board Sam “Super Spirit”
- Best music experience this year was seeing St Paul & The Broken Bones live at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, CA with 300 others – and to top it off, Fantastic Negrito opened!
Janelle Younger “Broken Spoke Folk Show” Saturdays 2-5pm
- Jose Gonzalez, "Vestiges and Claws" album
- Jim White vs. The Packway Handle Band, "Take It Like A Man" album
- The Milk Carton Kids, "Monterey" album
- Kasey Chambers, "Bittersweet" album
- The farewell performance of the Cache Valley Drifters on the Hot Licks Stage at Live Oak 2015
- "Keith Richards: Under the Influence" - Netflix documentary
- Derek Senn's show on the Hot Licks Stage at Live Oak 2015
- Richard Thompson, "Still" album
- Laura Marling, "Short Movie" album
- "The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir" - Netflix documentary
Rick Mathews “Freedom Jazz Dance” Saturdays 12-2pm. This a random review of various musical experiences we had during 2015:
- Mavis Staples - performance at the PAC in September: the process of researching her life, her music and the Civil Rights Movement and presenting a pre-concert lecture with Fred Friedman - Mavis’ EP, Your Good Fortune
- Glen David Andrews – March performance at SOhO in Santa Barbara, priming for his appearance at Live Oak Music Festival in June
- Oscar Hernandez Trio – performance in March in Arroyo Grande-thanks to Fred Friedman
- Weather Report -The Legendary Live Tapes - esp. the song: “Gibraltar” – like Joe Zawinul said, “Fusion!? We don’t fuse nothing. We play from the heart!”
- Charlie Hunter Trio - Let The Bells Ring On - Their December performance at SLO Grange and interview on “Freedom Jazz Dance”
- Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. - September performance - raising the finely detailed roof of the Granada Theater, Santa Barbara
- Doheny Blues Festival - performances w/ Boz Scaggs, Los Lobos, Rebirth Brass Band, Otis Taylor, Igor Prado Blues Band featuring Carl Sonny Leyland
- Billie Holiday tribute albums by Jose James (Yesterday I Had the Blues) and Cassandra Wilson (Coming Forth By Day)
- Great new jazz albums from young artists like Robert Glasper (Covered), J.D. Allen (Graffiti), Kamasi Washington (The Epic), Vijay Iyer (Break Stuff), Aaron Diehl (Space, Time, Continuum), Christian Scott (Stretch Music)
- The Cellars at NOVO, downtown SLO - Sunday nights –great local jazz performances!
Blair Gillespie “Basically Bluegrass” Tuesdays 8-10pm
- Dale "frickin’" Watson at SLO Brew - country music royalty and a nice guy. I finally found out what a kolache is from the man himself.
- Whitey Morgan and the 78's at SLO Brew - Beer drinking great time! Great music that makes you realize that country music is not dead.
- Sturgill Simpson at the Crystal Palace - Awesome live show. Can't wait for new music to see where he goes with it.
- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at Vina Robles - Holy Crap.
- Dave and Phil Alvin - Great show. Was lucky to see them.
- Big Jon Atkinson- Great artist, great BBQ/beer, seen with a great friend.
- John Moreland at Dunbar Brewing Company - Powerful performer. Not much more to say about him.
- Music on Kcbx - The fact that unique music is played every day of the week is quite a testament to the time and energy that people spend producing quality shows. Thanks!
- “Traveler” by Chris Stapleton. I love the album and have enjoyed him from his days in The Steeldrivers. His side project of The Jompson Brothers is cool as well.
- “Tennessee Love Song” by Sarah Gayle Meech. Part of Dale Watson’s past Ameripolitan music award winners.
- “Call Me Insane” by Dale Watson. Another confirmation that great country music is out there.
Rob Kimball “Pickin’ Up the Tempo” Tuesdays 8-10pm, “Classical Showcase” Wednesdays 8-10pm. Top 10 Albums
1. Joan Shelley “Over and Even”
2. Dale Watson “Call Me Insane”
3. Brandi Carlile “The Firewatcher's Daughter”
4. Eric Tingstad “Mississippi”
5. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell “The Traveling Kind”
6. The Milk Carton Kids “Monterey”
7. Martin Courtney “Many Moons”
8. Amy Helm “Didn't It Rain”
9. Whitey Morgan and The 78's “Sonic Ranch”
10. The Lone Bellow “Then Came the Morning”
Rene Engel “Citybilly” Tuesdays 6:30-8pm
- The year of Los Lobos - Honored by the Americana Music Association with a Lifetime achievement Award, a great new album "Gates Of Gold" and some of the best performances of their career (that's saying something, considering they are the best Rock 'N' Roll band of all time! Sorry Rolling Stones!!). This 40th anniversary year is truly the "Year of the Wolf"...next stop? Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame!!!
- Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: Volume 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966
- Steve Earle & The Dukes at Live Oak Music Festival
- Grateful Dead "Fare Thee Well" concerts, especially the Equal Marriage Rights rainbow in Santa Clara
- All things Suzy Bogguss - Her set at Live Oak was another highlight of a great festival!
- Americana Music Conference in Nashville this September
- Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette this April
- Rediscovery of old Blues - Columbia Legacy
- “The Dude” - All things Los Angeles Philharmonic & Gustavo Dudamel - Mahler, Shostakovich & Stravinsky. We're privileged to have the best band in the world in L.A. and lucky to have an energetic, exuberant, devoted, probing, young musician at the helm.
- Guests on Citybilly - meeting new musicians & discovering artists that I don't know that well: Callaghan, Angela Easterling, Corb Lund, Heather Maloney, David Myles
Fred Friedman “Jazz Liner Notes” Thursdays 10pm-midnight
1. “Robert Trujillo Presents Jaco” DVD. Great presentation on the life of Jaco Pastorius.
2. “At Home” CD by Fatoumata Diawara & Roberto Fonseca
3. Charles Lloyd & Bill Frisell in concert together at The Lobero in Santa Barbara
4. “Break Stuff” CD by Vijay Iyer
5. Dave & Phil Alvin, both in concert and their CD “Lost Time”
6. “Introducing” CD by Darlene Love
7. Steel House (Brian Blade, Edward Simon & Scott Colley) concert in SLO
8. “The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981” CD by Weather Report
9. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Tedeschi/Trucks in concert at Vina Robles
10. “Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats” CD
Jim Dee “Music of the World’s People” Sundays 9-11pm. Top 10 Albums
- Daby Toure “Amonafi”
- Gina Chavez “Uprooted”
- Razia “Akory”
- “Brasslands” Soundtrack
- Fat Freddy's Drop “Bays”
- Los Lobos “Gates of Gold”
- Dhafer Youssef “Birds Requiem”
- Anouar Brahem “Souvenance”
- Lila Downs “Balas Y Chocolate”
- Andy Narell “Oui Ma Cherie”
Shawn Hafley “Citizen Sound” Sundays 11pm-1am. Top 10 Albums
- Death Cab For Cutie “Kintsugi”
- Ryan Adams “1989”
- Sleater Kinney “No Cities To Love”
- Father John Misty “I Love You, Honeybear”
- Sufjan Stevens “Carrie & Lowell”
- My Morning Jacket “The Waterfall”
- Kamasi Washington “The Epic”
- Jason Isbell “Something More Than Free”
- Beach House “Depression Cherry”
- Richard Hawley “Hollow Meadows”
Sal Espana “Beyond the Fringe” Tuesdays 10pm-1am. Top 10 Albums
- Ciccada - "The Finest of Miracles" - Beautiful, melodic Progressive Rock from Greece.
- Franz Ferdinand Sparks - "FFS" - Perfect blend of both bands. Album is excellent; live show was amazing!
- David Gilmour - "Rattle That Lock" - Nice, varied collection of songs showcasing Gilmour's many talents.
- Kaki King - "The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body" - More stunning guitar work from this underground talent.
- Ozric Tentacles - "Technicians of the Sacred" - Latest release from these Progressive/Space Rock legends is two discs full of wonderful musical adventures.
- Tangerine Dream - "Mala Kunia" - German Electronic legends (likely) final studio album showcases their strengths while staying original.
- The Unthanks - "Mount The Air" - More hauntingly beautiful vocal and instrumental vignettes from the British sisters and friends.
- Van Der Graaf Generator - "Merlin Atmos" - Peter Hammill and company blast out classics and new tracks in a live setting, revealing themselves to be at the top of their game.
- Steve Wilson - "Hand. Cannot. Erase." - Porcupine Tree front man takes time away from remastering classic Progressive Rock albums to create one of his own.
- Frank Zappa - "Dance Me This" - Zappa's 100th (and final?) release of new music showcases his Synclavier work alongside his trademark guitar.
John Pillow “Classical World” Mondays 7:30-10pm, Top 10 Live Performances and Art
- Gil Shaham, violin & David Michalek, video artist; Bach Sonatas and Partitas on March 31st at the Granada Theater in Santa Barbara. A "once in a lifetime" experience.
- Alonzo King LINES Ballet Oct 20th at the PAC in San Luis Obispo. Very fine modern ballet.
- Nikki Hill "Hot Licks Dance" performance June 19th at the Live Oak Music Festival. A great, hot singer and rock-tight band.
- San Luis Obispo Symphony conducted by Nir Kabaretti with Zuill Bailey, Cello October 3rd at the PAC in San Luis Obispo. Symphony performance with a rare, emotional intensity.
- "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" April 25th on Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. An amazing "remote" installation by the most important artist of the 21st Century.
- "J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free", exhibit at the Getty Center last week of May. Having missed the Tate on my only trip to London, seeing these paintings "in the flesh" for the first time was a revelation; a visual counterpart to his contemporary Beethoven's early 19th century aesthetic break-though.
- "Hair" performed by students of Academy of Art College on April 24th in San Francisco. A performance with an enormous amount of heart and soul.
- "Dear I Of That Day: Remembered Songs of a Distant World": John Astaire, cimbalom with Inga Swearingen, vocals; Faculty recital on May 14th at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. A transporting performance by two skilled artists.
- "Polyrhythmics" Cal Poly's Percussion Ensemble directed by John Astaire. Music by Bill Bruford, Terry Riley and others on May 19th in the Pavillion at the PAC. Unusual music played unusually well.
- "Pool 63" by Cuesta College drama students and Phillip Valle, directed by bree valle at Cuesta College February 1st.