Best Old Music of 2023

Time has marched on from year-end review season. I did think, briefly, to write a top-ten post but soon realized that I no longer really know what’s new, old, re-issued, re-hashed, re-recorded. Spotify says my top two artists are Alejandro Escovedo and Jean Sibelius. Only one is alive and neither had new music in 2023. (Though Alejandro has a new album for 2024.)

Following new music, as opposed to just “music”, was a pandemic pastime. One where I felt a close, personal relationship to someone like Anders Osborne via his weekly online concerts and my need to constantly purchase signed vinyl and merch from the man. (Friends, I walked past his home in New Orleans in summer ’23, noted its existence, and then walked on — I’m a lazy stalker.) One yearned for connection 2020-2022 and one wanted that connection to be alive, new, vibrant. A nice aspect of 2023 was that I was able to go right to the source and experience that connection first-hand. Yay, life.

My first concert after ankle surgery in Dec. ’22, with boot and crutches, was the sublime Amy LaVere (with equally sublime Will Sexton):

Amy LaVere at Carol’s Pub, February 2023

I don’t have any “best of” 2023s to list, but I have a few moments to note:

Strangest Musical Experience of 2023

Male menopause (I assume) means that all men who have not yet listened to Led Zeppelin will go through a phase. I mean, Kashmir??!?!? The hair! The screeching! The guitar-godness of it. I finally get it.

New Music that was Better than Expected

Paul Simon and the Temptations did not, in the year 2023, need to put out any music at all. I had a mystical time riding my bike along the Fox River and listening to Simon’s Seven Psalms in June. I had a blast at the Temptations concert. The new song (written by and featuring one S. Robinson) “Is it Gonna Be Yes or No?” sat comfortably with the classics.

The Temptations at the Chicago theater in Oct. ’23.

Best Re-issue of an Album I never heard of before…

It’s gotta be All That! (The album is called “Eponymous Debut”)

Davis Rogan with a re-united All That at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, June ’23. (Yes, I got the signed vinyl.)

Most Postponed Listening Experience

It’s a long story, but after three years of holding tickets we finally got to see Crowded House in May ’23 (though not in Ireland as originally planned).

Best Kool-Aid Man Tattoo

Riley Downing of the Deslondes. (Also, the Deslondes are the best.)

Best Musical Book Tour

Mark Guarino’s book Country and Midwestern tracks the history of country music in Chicago. Each stop on his tour featured music from or inspired by musicians in the book. To name a few: Special Consensus, Don Stiernberg, the Texas Rubies, Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford, Mark Dvorak, Dennis Leise, Danny Black, the Lawrence Peters Outfit, and Bonnie Koloc. Long live The Blacks! (Danny Black did an amazing set at The Hideout.)

Least Surprising Washboard Fire

I mean, if ever a washboard was going to be set ablaze and swung around, it would be on stage with Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band. They’re just that hot.

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band at Fitzgerald’s (Berwyn!) in Dec. ’23

Biggest Musical Impact

Nothing hit as close to home as Kristin Gourlay with Lovehouse at the Fitzgerald’s sidebar.

Kristin Gourlay getting her Waylon Jennings on at Fitzgerald’s with Lovehouse.