Mariss McTucker, our intrepid music reporter, offers this list of favorite Montana-made recordings for 2014, “in no particular order” :
• The Hooligans, Beggars and Thieves: The debut compilation from this Bozeman band is replete with original and traditional tunes sporting killer harmonies and inventive instrumental work.
• Chad Fadely, Amity Road: Consummate Missoula mandolin picker’s fourth CD features his original instrumentals wrapped in stellar musicianship. Bluegrass, old-time, newgrass, whatever you want, it’s all here.
• The Lil’ Smokies: Fast-rising Missoula bluegrass group stretches the genre with this self-titled first effort. The band creates its own style that’s rich with melody, hooks, vocal and instrumental harmonies, and superb technique.
• Wylie and the Wild West, Relic: Conrad cowboy Wylie Gustafson’s 20th album contains lots of newly-penned material, including his trademark show-stopping falsetto singing and kick-ass dance tunes.
• Ben Bullington: After being diagnosed with a terminal illness, the Livingston guitarist/songwriter quit his medical practice to make music. The self-titled recording, gritty and wistful, has original music played by a man who knows he doesn’t have much time left, and it speaks to the heart.
• Two Bit Franks: John Lowell’s Gallatin Valley supergroup of tuneslayers unleashes an eponymous EP of dazzling bluegrass musicianship.
• MJ Williams Trio, It’s about the Song: Basin resident and Montana’s queen of jazz MJ Williams and her trio have produced a subtle and gentle album, focusing on wistful jazz gems. It’s terrific in every way.
• The Whizpops, Sea Blue Sea: Missoula’s “silliest children’s band” is the wacky gang that teaches children about the world around them through music. This album is melodic, funny and informative, and the perfect package for teaching kids.