Local musicians have had a blockbuster year, by any measure.
The regional scene is drawing increasing attention from national publications -- Paste magazine namechecked Sarah Jaffe's Suburban Nature as one of its 50 favorite albums of 2010 -- and on any given night, music lovers in Fort Worth, Dallas or Denton can walk into a local club and be knocked sideways by the talent onstage.
Here's a glance, before the year gets away completely, at four albums well worth your time and money.
The Great Recession Orchestra, self-titled: "Have you ever even heard of Milton Brown?" demands the album cover. I had to confess that I hadn't. Turns out Fort Worth's Brown, who founded the Light Crust Doughboys with Bob Wills, is the overlooked father of Western swing. With his own band, the Musical Brownies, Brown recorded more than 100 tunes before Wills ever set foot in a recording studio, putting him ahead of the legendary figure frequently credited with popularizing the Western swing genre. Brown, who died in 1936 in an auto accident on Jacksboro Highway, may have paved the way for Wills, but a clutch of area pros, led by producers Steve Satterwhite and Gary Bristol, aim to reclaim his legacy with this 10-track collection. Some songs -- like Corrine Corrina or Sitting on Top of the World -- have filtered down to current standard-bearers like Asleep at the Wheel, but many of the selections, first recorded by Brown and his Brownies between 1934 and 1936, benefit from the "reinterpretations" of these dozen musicians. (www.newtexasswing.com)
Mission to the Sea, Tranquilo: Lockhart is better known for slow-smoked barbecue joints than visions of bossa nova-tinged pop-rock. Yet the Central Texas town is where Dallas-based singer-songwriter Decker Sachse laid down the hypnotic tracks that make up his band's full-length debut. Tranquilo, produced by Sachse and Deadman's Steven Collins, unfurls like a drowsy, island breeze-kissed dream. Sachse keeps things even-keeled throughout nine originals and an affecting, ukelele-limned cover of Morrissey's Everyday Is Like Sunday. It's a captivating hybrid of tropical mood and sly pop smarts. (www.missiontothesea.com)
Daniel Folmer, Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers: I keep waiting for Denton's Daniel Folmer to stumble at some point in his hyper-prolific career, but the 25-year-old singer-songwriter continues to amaze every time out. For his sixth and latest album, once again produced by Justin Collins at Echo Lab, Folmer -- who assumes the moniker Danny Rush here -- is once again prying apart his interior life and dumping the contents into song. What could have been an angry, uncomfortable record is, instead, dusted with alt-country attitude, a peerless assembly of session musicians and a fearlessness that marks him as one of the state's most exciting talents. (www.danielfolmer.com)
Darrin Kobetich, Songs for a Muse Meant: You can tell Fort Worth's Darrin Kobetich is serious about his craft before hearing a single note of his latest album. In the liner notes, the musician carefully details the exact instruments used to create this batch of 11 wondrously textured soundscapes. Rich with feeling and dense with detail, Kobetich's acoustic, instrumental compositions, such as In the Fort or That Day, conjure humble visions against truly dexterous skill. They are wonderful musical vignettes steeped in subtle pleasures. (www.myspace.com/darrinkobetich)