home       Favorite 2010 Albums

The Rainwater Lp Citizen Cope - The Rainwater   The music is essentially urban at it's root but every time I listen to him I imagine myself floating down the Mississippi on a raft. (video)

 

 

Janelle Monae - ArchAndroid   Part James Brown and part Grace Jones this is an amazingly impressive debut.

 

 

 Lissie - Catching a Tiger  Somewhere between Neko Case and patty griffin this is a rockin' melodic catchty alt-country pop collection.

 

Imagined: The John Lennon Song Project The John Lennon Song Project - Imagined  One of the most beautiful things out there. John Lennon's beatle songs with cello, violin, accordion, harmonica, guitars and 3 part harmonies. (video) 

 

 

Jakob Dylan: Women + Country Jakob Dylan - Women + Country   He's writing and sounding as good as ever although the recording is a little muddy which is somewhat shocking considering it's produced by T-Bone Burnett. (video)

 

 

Synthesis Raul Midon - Synthesis   Produced by Larry Klein, maybe this is the one to put him over the top. (video)

 

 

Backatown Trombone Shorty - Backatown   He calls it Supafunkrock, I call it amazing! (video)

 

 

I Learned The Hard Way Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way   Best retro R&B sound around. (video)

 

 

Sigh No More Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More   They bring Fleet Foxes to mind and they sometimes sound like they're from Tennessee, so you'd never guess they're from the UK. (video)

 

 

Concrete Jungle Nneka - Concrete Jungle    Her neo-soul and hip-hop fusion is drawing comparisons to Lauren Hill as well as Sade and Corinne Bailey Rae. A great listen with a social conscience. (video)  (video)

 

Honorable Mention 2010

Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love, Robert Plant - Band of Joy, Marc Cohn - Listening Booth, Ray LaMontagne - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone, Raul Malo - Sinners and Saints,

 

 

 

Favorite 2009 Albums

Liam Mchahey and the Bones - Lonely Road  The voice of Cousteau is back!!! (video)

 

 

Lucky One Raul Malo - Lucky One   If there's a better male vocalist on the planet, please tell me who it is. The best voice in popular music since Roy Orbison (video)

 

 

Time Stands Still Chris Smither - Time Stands Still     This finger pickin' blues and folk man just keeps getting better and better. This CD is brilliant!! (video)

 

 

The Bright Mississippi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allen Toussaint - The Bright Mississippi   With guidance from producer Joe Henry, Toussaint takes a turn to classic New Orleans Jazz (Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk...) with a formidable collection of musicians. Considering the results and how obvious a move it seems, it's difficult to fathom why nobody thought of it before.  (video)

 

 

Welcome To Mali Amadou and Mariam - Welcome To Mali The blind African couple continue to fuse African rhythms with western influences for a sound that compels the listener to move. Love them! (video)

 

 

Late Music Dennis Diken - Late Music The drummer for The Smithereens steps into the spotlight with his first solo effort, a collection of pop tunes that bring the California harmonies of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean to mind.

 

 

Around the Well Iron and Wine - Around The Well  This collection of "b-sides" and rarities is a great introduction to the work of Sam Beam (Iron and Wine). It doesn't seem disjointed as these types of retrospectives can often be, It seems to hold up as a work on it's own.

 

 

Hobo cover Charlie Winston - Hobo     This British guy has taken Europe by storm. His style reaches from Tom Waits to Muddy Waters to Calexico and beyond. It has whimsy and depth. And he can really rock too! I love it! (video)

 

 

Amanda Martinez - Amor  I think it's the most beautiful thing I've heard recently. Beautiful original Latin Jazz (video)

 

 

Country Club John Doe and the Sadies - Country Club  This is one of the best country albums I've heard in some time with classics from Merle, Waylon and Tammy, among others, with a few originals all served up by the lead singer from California punk rock band X. Life is full of surprises. (video)

 

 

My One and Only Thrill Melody Gardot - My One And Only Thrill   Hints of Peggy Lee and Nina Simone as well as Joni Mitchell, this CD of new material often sounds like a collection of jazz standards. (video)

 

 

Blood from Stars Joe Henry - Blood From Stars   Maybe he's better known for producing Betty LaVatte, Soloman Burke, Allen Toussaint, Ani DiFrance and others (everything he touches turns to gold) but his own CD's are among my favorites. (video)       

 

 

Honorable Mention for 2009

Rosanne Cash - The List, Susan Werner - Classics, Vienna Teng - Inland Territories, Marshall Crenshaw - Jaggedland, Neko Case - Middle Cyclone, Glenn Tilbrook - Pandemonium Ensues, Jorma Kaukonen - River of Time, Dala - Everyone is Someone,

 

 

 

 

Favorite 2008 Albums

City & Colour - Bring Me Your Love  I came to this a little late but Dallas Green is on of my  favorite young singer songwriters. (video)

 

Michael Franti & Spearhead - All Rebel Rockers  He went to Jamaica to work with Sly and Robbie and put out a GREAT reggae album. He does more actual singing than he's done in the past but held on to his activist sensibility. (video)

 

 

Roll with You Eli "Paperboy"Reed- Roll With You Wow! This Boston native might be the most impressive of the bluesy soulful retro R&B singers in the mold of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett. (video)

 

 

Dee Dee Bridgewater "Red Earth" (A Malian Journey) The great contemporary jazz singer explores the rich musical heritage of Mali. Beautiful!!!

 

 

Photobucket Fleet Foxes- "Fleet Foxes" Indie folk group from Seattle with dreamlike harmonies

 

 

Shake Away Lila Downs- "Shake Away" Singing in English and Spanish and with guest appearances from a variety of artists, including Raul Midon, she could be poised for a big career breakthrough.

 

 

Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends Coldplay - "Viva La Vida" The noticeable change of direction with Brian Eno at the controls might not please some longtime Coldplay fans, but I love it.

 

 

Loverly Cassandra Wilson - "Loverly"  Another of my favorite jazz vocalists taking jazz and popular classics and putting her spin on them.

 

 

Dianne Reeves - "When You Know" Quite possibly the best jazz vocalist on the planet. Her cover of Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You" is worth the price of admission.

 

The Raconteurs- "Consolers Of The Lonely" Contrary to some opinions, there is still great rock and roll to be made. More harmonies and melodies than you might expect from Jack White.

 

Tavis Smiley Interview Airs This Weekend Lizz Wright- "The Orchard" At the moment she's my favorite female vocalist on the planet. She co-wrote many of these songs with Toshi Reagon and does a cool cover of Led Zeppelin's "Thank-You"

 

 

Just A Little Lovin' Shelby Lynn- "Just a Little Lovin' Her tribute to Dusty Springfield is full of familiar tunes like the Look Of Love and the title cut. You couldn't pick a better artist to revisit these tunes.

 

Honorable Mention 2008 

Tift Merrit - "Another Country" // Kathleen Edwards - "Asking For Flowers" // Counting Crows - "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" // Moss - "Moss" // Jeb Loy Nichols- "Days Are Mighty"// Missy Higgins - "On a Clear Night" // Raphael Sadique - "The Way I See it" // Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis - "Two Men With The Blues" // Joe Jackson - "Rain" // Boz Scaggs - Speak Low // Calexico - "Carried To Dust" // Radiohead - "In Rainbows" // Amos Lee - "Last Days At The Lodge"

 

 

                                        Favorite 2007 Albums

Red Soil In My Eyes Somi- "Red Soil In My Eyes"  East African singer has been compared to Nina Simone and Dianne Reeves. A beautiful CD of acoustic soul and jazz.

 

Jesca Hoop - "Kismet" You never know what to expect next, sometimes even in the same song, from this new California based singer/songwriter. Offbeat, eclectic and quirky folk, pop and cabaret, but hypnotic and melodic. Really beautiful.

 

 Civilians Joe Henry - "Civilians"  I think this is my favorite CD of the year. This singer/songwriter and producer has put out a CD of masterfully crafted songs with great lyrics and beautiful melodies. Haunting and thought provoking. The liner notes have the best short story I've read in a long time. This is a classic!

For Lovers, Dreamers & Me
Alice Smith- "For Lovers Dreamers and Me" This has to be the best of the neo-soul singers if I can use that phrase in a broad sense. Her music is bluesy, funky, melodic and sometimes it rocks! A beautiful and powerful work.

 

Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals - "Lifeline"  Acoustic soul with Americana pop at it's best. Recorded live in the studio after their 2006 tour. A very easy listen.

 

Marc Cohn - "Join The Parade"  Marc had a bullet lodged in his skull after a car jacking incident a few years ago. With song titles like "Dance Back From The Grave", "Giving Up The Ghost" and "If I Were an Angel" it's clear that he's been contemplating his own mortality. But rather than a dark work, this turns out to be a celebration of life as in the title cut lyric "Please come join the parade, don't let it pass you by". A great work.

Habib Koite- "Afriki"   One of my favorite African musicians (Mali), this CD is full of beautiful acoustic guitar work, great melodies and harmonies, assorted African musical styles and even a reggae tune. Accessible even to ears not accustomed to African music. Just beautiful.

 

CeU- "CeU" This young Brazilian singer blends samba with a touch of electronica making her music sound completely contemporary. Her version of Bob Marley's Concrete Jungle is worth the price of admission. 

 

Crowded House- "Time On Earth"     Because of their beautiful melodies, great harmonies and catchy hooks, I've often described them as "The Beatles Down Under". They've reunited with a CD that picks up where they left off without missing a beat. 

 

Dobet Gnahore- "Na Afriki"  This great talent from The Ivory Coast announced to her father when she was 12 years old that she was quitting school to live with him at an artists commune of sorts. She learned her craft well. A great performer who sings, dances and writes, this CD has beautiful melodies, harmonies and rhythms, which is what I like about all my favorite African CD's. 

Ryan Shaw- "This Is Ryan Shaw"  This young soul singer is a throw back to the day when soul music could be gritty and/or romantic. It's very satisfying that so many young artists are beginning to embrace the classic sounds of soul, blues and R & B. He's got a powerful voice that moves you.

 

Careful What You Wish For Jonatha Brooke- "Careful What You Wish For" One of my favorite performers in recent years she rocks more than her singer/songwriter title might suggest. Although there art always a fair share of beautiful haunting ballads. She does a song in French that takes my breath away.  

  Angelique Kidjo- "Djin Djin": Not that this African singer, originally from Republic of Benin next to Nigeria, needed any help but this Cd has guest artists including Alicia Keys, Santana, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley, Josh Groban and others. You've read about her here many times. She's one of my favorites and this is beautiful. Her cover of the Sade song Pearls, with Josh Groban and Santana, gives me chills

Lura- "M'bem di fora" (I Come From The Country) She grew up in Portugal but her roots are in Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa near Senegal. She combines traditional sounds of both places with contemporary R & B for an end result that's danceable and infectious. One of my favorite new singers. It also doesn't hurt that she reminds me of Halle Berry.

 

Norah Jones- "not too late"    If you don't like her first two CD's, you probably won't like this either. But I think this might be her best work and I love it. She did most of the writing on this one making it the most personal, and explores some new avenues including a New Orleans sound and even politics.

 

Honorable Mention 2007

Richard Shindell - Back To Delia // John Butler Trio - Grand National // Sinead O'Connor - Theology // Tori Amos - American Doll Posse // Amy Winehouse - Back To Black  // The National- Boxer // Lyle Lovett - It's Not Big It's Large //  Mark Knopfler - Kill To Get Crimson // Kenneth Babyface Nelson - Playlist // Raul Malo - After Hours //  Feist- The Reminder // Robert Plant and Alison Kraus // Radiohead- "In Rainbows"

 

                              Favorite 2006 Albums

 

  Tom Waits- "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards"  His voice is an acquired taste but if you imagine Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald singing the songs, you'll recognize what a great songwriter he is. One critic wrote that the Brawlers disc was his best work in years but I think the Bawlers CD is one of his best ever.

Vienna Teng - "Dreaming Thru The Noise" Beautiful melodies on this CD that blends chamber music, jazz, folk and pop. Strong effort from front to back. Some comparisons to Tori Amos are on the mark. (video clip)

Ollabelle - "Riverside battle Songs" The second effort from this American Roots group may have outdone the debut CD. They've begun to stretch their own writing muscles with a CD that is predominately original works, although still in the traditional gospel and country styles. Beautiful harmonies.  (video clip)

James Hunter - "People Gonna Talk" This British R & B soul singer, songwriter and guitarist has captured the feel of 50's and 60's soul music better than any contemporary artist I've heard. Comparisons to Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson are numerous and well deserved. The horn arrangements are amazing as is his tasty guitar work which sometimes recalls Chuck Berry. This is a great CD. (video clip)

Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Stadium Arcadium" This double CD might be the most listenable work they've done yet. If you were never a fan, listen to this one just for me. Of course, as with all double CD's, a little bit of pork could have been trimmed and one long single CD could have been a classic.

The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife" Catchy hooks and nice melodies on this progressive rock concept album. Two of it's songs are 10+ minutes long, so you won't be hearing them on commercial radio.

Cesaria Evora - "Rogamar" From the islands of Cape Verde off the West coast of Africa, Cesaria retired from music at one point because she couldn't make any money. Twenty years ago she came out of retirement and has become the worlds foremost performer of "morna" which combines West African rhythms, the beautiful melodies of Portuguese fado and maybe some Brazilian and British influences as well. This is one of the most beautiful things I've heard this year.

Jehro - "Jehro" This French artist has released an English version, with a touch of Spanish, of his French CD which melds mostly original reggae, calypso, Latin, soul and pop tunes. His voice can be high pitched and soulful like Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder or hoarse and breathy like Steve Forbert or Harry Belafonte. (My friend Ed said his voice reminds him of Sting, which I think might be a more accurate description) His cover of Wonder's "Master Blaster" could fool you into thinking it was an alternate version by Stevie. (video clip)

Bruce Springsteen - "We Shall Overcome" The Seeger Sessions   Some Springsteen fans are going to vehemently disagree with me, but I think this is his best CD since 1975's "Born To Run". He's touring with a 17 piece band to perform these gospel, bluegrass and New Orleans Jazz influenced renditions of songs associated with Pete Seeger. I put this 180 degree effort on a par with Paul Simon's "Graceland". (video clip)

Charanga Cakewalk - "Chicano Zen"  Michael Ramos has play keyboards and accordion for John Mellencamp, Paul Simon, Patty Griffin and numerous others. The only thing I can say about his new project is that when I listen to it, and that's often, it makes me happy. Blending Latin, rock and traditional Mexican styles these songs make you want to dance around your living room. Numerous guest include Lila Downs and Patty Griffin.

 Ben Harper - "Both Sides Of The Gun" A double CD. One a mellow acoustic collection and the other a more soulful bluesy pop rock collection. One acoustic song sounds exactly like Cat Stevens

Tina Dico - "In The Red"  This Danish singer/songwriter outsells Coldplay in Denmark. A nice collection of melodic and somewhat moody songs.  Her music falls into the region between Jonatha Brooke, Coldplay and Sia (last song from six feet under).  (video clip)    

Honorable Mention 2006

Country, Americana & Folk : Van Morrison - "Pay The Devil" // The Little Willies - "The Little Willies" // Ralph Stanley - "A Distant Land To Roam" // The Duhks- "Migrations" // the subdudes - "Behind The Levee" // Alan Jackson - "Like Red On A Rose"

World Music : Lila Downs - "La Cantina" // Sara Tavares - "Balance" // Rodrigo & Gabriela - "Rodrigo & Gabriela" // Marisa Monte - "Infinito Particular" // Michael Franti and Spearhead - "Yell Fire"

Rock & Roll : Raconteurs - "Broken Boy Soldiers" //  The Fray - "How To Save A Life" // Ray Davies - "Other People's Lives" // New York Dolls - "One Day It Will Please Us...." // My Chemical Romance - "The Black Parade" // Arctic Monkeys - "Whatever They Say I Am..."

Jazz, Blues & R&B : Dr. John - Mercernary // Catherine Russell - "Cat" // Cassandra Wilson - "Thunderbird" // Bob Dylan - "Modern Times" // Madeline Peyroux - "Half the Perfect World" // Corrine Bailey Rae - "Corrine Bailey Rae"  // Regina Carter - "I'll Be Seeing You..." // Guy Davis - Skunkmellow // Derek Trucks - Songlines

Singer/Songwriters : Jonatha Brooke - "Live In New York" // Ray LaMontagne - "Till the Sun Turns Back" // Nellie McKay - Pretty Little Head

                     

                            Favorite 2005 Albums  

Lura - "di korpu ku alma"  Young singer from the Cape Verde Islands, off West Africa, has released a beautiful and completely infectious CD/DVD. I've been listening to it almost every day for a month. Watch the DVD first if you can. It will make you want to see her in concert. (video clip)

 

Sinead O'conner - "Throw Down Your Arms" She recorded this collection of classic Reggae tunes in Jamaica with real Reggae musicians and the original arrangements as a tribute to her heroes, the men whose words have led the effort to separate God from religion. Great CD!

 

Jackson Browne - "Solo Acoustic"  You get Jackson Browne playing guitar, piano, singing and telling stories. Beautiful versions of familiar songs plus the decades old but never recorded "The Birds Of St. Marks". A great sounding album.

 

Coldplay - "X and Y"  I agree with some of the criticism that Chris Martin's voice is thin and some of the music isn't particularly original but I love the emotion and I love listening to this CD and in the end that's all that counts.

 

Neil Diamond - "12 Songs" It's probably fair to say that Neil has spent the last two decades living off the success of his first two decades. Not any more. These stripped down melodic songs beautifully remind us of the genius of Diamond's songwriting.

 

Lizz Wright - "Dreaming Wide Awake" Beautiful, sultry and jazzy R&B versions that cover Neil Young, Marc Anthony Thompson (aka Chocolate Genius), Jesse Harris of Norah Jones fame, and mega hits A Taste of Honey and Get Together along with some originals. One of my favorite new voices. (video clip)

 

East Village Opera Company - It would be easy to right off this "Puccini and Bizet meet Queen and The Who" album as a novelty except that the amazing vocals of AnnMarie Milazzo and Tyley Ross and the contemporary arrangements make this a completely viable commercial CD. The melodies and harmonies show why these songs will last forever. I love this CD

 

Abdel Wright - "Abdel Wright" This "Jamaican Johnny Cash" honed his musical skills in prison and blends reggae, pop and hip-hop with socially conscious lyrics. Bono from U-2 has called him the most important artist from Jamaica since Bob Marley.

 

Daby Toure - "Diam" Although this CD was released in 2004, I just discovered it and was so overwhelmed that I'm putting it on my favorites for 2005 so it gets the attention it deserves. This blend of African music from Mauritania with western pop music will be one of my favorite CD's for a long long time. Need I say more? 

David Poe - "Love Is Red"  I hesitated to put this on my list because half the songs are reworks of songs previously released. But ultimately, I love listening to this CD. The songs sway from jazzy lounge moods to catchy pop tunes and ballads, most with dark and desperate lyrics.

 

  Raul Midon - "State of Mind" I've been telling you about this guy for over two years. Now his major label debut is out and even People Magazine gives it three and a half stars. Produced by Joe and Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan...), this is a beautiful and soulful CD with great guitar work and vocals. (video clip)

 

Jack Johnson - "In Between Dreams" This singer/songwriter/guitarist infuses his catchy pop rock tunes with his laid back "surfer dude" attitude. Definitely a finger snapping and toe tapping experience.

 

Hubert Sumlin - "About Them Shoes"  Former guitarist for Howling Wolf has put out an excellent album of Muddy Waters tunes, some written by Willie Dixon, with help from Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, David Johansen, James Cotton and others. Hubert handles most of the vocals but Johansen's vocals on Walkin' Thru The Park is particularly cool. This CD is the real deal for Blues lovers.

Aaron Neville - "Gospel Roots"  In this two CD set Aaron covers a bunch of traditional Gospel songs and then sprinkles his gospel magic on an interesting mix of inspirational contemporary tunes such as Oh Happy Day, Morning Has Broken, Let It Be,  A Change Is Gonna Come, Gotta Serve Somebody and Bridge Over Troubled Water among others. He's doing some of his best work recently.

  Ani DiFranco - "Knuckle Down" This folk singer/songwriter with the punk attitude, has always had a lot to say and has always said it smartly. Her syncopated guitar work and biting lyrics have always made her music interesting. This CD is not so unlike much of her previous work except it seems somehow more accessible with some of the most beautiful melodies I've heard from her along with very personal and introspective lyrics. (likely due to the efforts of producer Joe Henry)

 

                                           Honorable Mention for 2005

Rock/Pop :  John Hiatt - "Master Of Disaster" // Jason Mraz - "Mr. A-Z" // Aimee Mann - "The Forgotten Arm" // Herbie Hancock - "Possibilities" // Susie Suh - "Susie Suh" // White Stripes - "Get Behind Me Satan" // Bruce Springsteen - "Devils and Dust" // Tori Amos - "The Beekeeper"

Country/Folk : Tracy Grammer - "Flower Of Avalon" // Nicklecreek -"Why Should The Fire Die"

Jazz/Blues/R&B : John Scoffield - "That's What I Say" // John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers - "Road Dogs" // Van Morrison - "Magic Time" // Dianne Reeves - "Goodnight and Good Luck" // Betty LaVette - I've Got My Own Hell To Raise" // Lewis Taylor - "Stoned"

World Music : Si*Se - "More Shine" // Ozomotli - "Live at the Filmore" // Amadou and Mariam - "Je Pense A Toi" AND "Dimanche A Bamako"

     

                      Favorite 2004 Albums

 Joseph Arthur - "Our Shadows Will Remain" When I heard Can't Exist on the radio I thought "This must be U-2's new album. It sounds great!" When the song was over I found out it was Joseph Arthur and was truly shocked.  I'm familiar with some of his music and I liked it, but it never sounded like this. I listened the CD four times the day I bought it. It's great from beginning to end. It's warm and intelligent and it rocks. You need to look into this!

Zap Mama - "Ancestry in Progress"  Marie Daulne, who founded the group and does most of the writing and vocal arrangements, was born in Zaire but raised in Europe after her Belgian father was killed. She returned to Zaire (The Congo) in her early twenties where she reconnected with her musical heritage. She formed Zap Mama in the early nineties as an all girl a cappella quintet doing world music with various African and Arabian influences. After being discovered by David Byrne they began to incorporate some western sounds and instruments into the music. This CD blends their original African influences with the urban sounds of Hip-Hop, Rap and R&B blending beautiful vocal harmonies and danceable rhythms. Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and ?uestlove are a few of the several guest artists.    

Citizen Cope - "The Clarence Greenwood Recordings"  This CD is hypnotic. Cope writes stories about quirky characters and social issues and delivers them with an obvious urban influence that is so restrained that it might seem more at home on a raft on the Mississippi! The rhythms get under your skin, the melodies haunt your day and the lyrics are very clever. I love this record.

Sam Phillips - "a boot and a shoe" Following in the footsteps of 2001's "Fan Dance", Sam's new album offers thirteen stripped down songs with infectious melodies and thought provoking, sometimes surreal, lyrics.  Produced, again, by now former husband T-Bone Burnett ("Oh Brother, Where Art Thou") many of the songs are simple variations of one voice with guitar, bass and/or drums. Even when they use strings it is very simple and elegant. There is an "Old-Timey" feel to some of the songs, as if you could imagine Leon Redbone singing them. A beautiful album that really grows on you.

Rufus Wainwright - "Want Two"    This CD makes my list with a disclaimer. I think it's brilliant, but you might want to listen to it before you buy it. It's not for everybody. The CD begins with 30 seconds of noise on a violin followed by 60 seconds of Middle Eastern music after which he chants the Agnus Dei in Latin from the Catholic Mass. Not your typical beginning for a pop album but it sends chills up my spine. The next tune, The One I Love, is an incredibly catchy pop tune that you end up humming the rest of the day. Go figure.  If you removed the lyrics from Little Sister it would sound like a classical piece written by Handle and This Love Affair, if sung in Italian, would sound like an aria from an opera. If you're not familiar with him, you'll need some time to get accustomed to his unusual voice.

Mavis Staples - "Have a Little Faith" Mavis Staples is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has had quite a successful career due to her work with the Staple Singers. Her solo albums have been somewhat uneven and it's been over ten years since her last. But it was worth the wait! This blend of Gospel, Soul and R&B blended with contemporary grooves ranks with her best work ever. Her message of love and equality inspires and her groove makes you move. Great singer, Great songs and a Great Great album!

Julia Fordham - "That's Life" In a recent interview, Julia told the story of when she was a young girl and she showed her best friend how low she could sing. Her friend said "That's not normal, you should keep that to yourself". Later, in her teen years, she showed her musician boyfriend how many octaves her voice covered and he said "You must go to London immediately and start singing". The rest is history. This album of jazzy pop tunes from this British singer/songwriter is filled with memorable melodies and danceable rhythms along with that "Oh so amazing" voice.

Angelique Kidjo - "Oyaya" This is the third album of a trilogy which connects the music of the Americas with it's roots in Africa. The first two dealt with music of the United States and then Brazil. This album celebrates the African roots of Latin and Caribbean music. Angelique is a great singer with a great band. Lots of horns,  percussion, guitars and voices. (and lots of fun)

 

 Ricky Fante (pronounced Fon-Tay) - "Rewind" Of this album Isaac Hayes said "I finally heard the type of recording that's been missing in all our lives". This twenty five year old soul singer has made an album that brings your ears back to the heyday of soul music. Comparisons to Otis Redding, Al Green, and Wilson Pickett are all in order, but the songs, co-written with Jesse Harris of Norah Jones fame, are contemporary and fresh. This is a great recording.

 

Jeffrey Gaines - "LIVE" It's my understanding that this is the first hybrid disc in the USA. One side is a 14 song CD of a live performance in front of a WXPN crowd in Philadelphia, and the other side is a 12 song DVD of the same concert. Beautiful versions of many of his fan favorites including the obligatory cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" (not from this concert) plus a moving rendition of Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come". He performs accompanied by keyboard and electric guitar which is a new slant for these familiar songs. (His 2003 album "Toward The Sun" is also deserving of more attention)

 

 Susan Werner - "I Can't Be New" You would think that this is an album of jazz standards and you would be wrong.  The songs are written by Susan in the style of Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and the like. And it works beautifully! Susan said that she felt someone should be writing songs like this because song production from these guys has "really dropped off".  This album could really expand her following.

 

  Ollabelle - "Ollabelle" It's feasible that when you hear something described as "gospel music" you may conjure an image of a choir in long blue robes clapping and singing about Jesus. A beautiful image, but inaccurate for this group. For this group think "The Band" fronted by young Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow singing Gospel and country blues and too busy playing to do much clapping. It consists of several traditional songs, a few originals and an amazing cover of the Rolling Stones "I Am Waiting". The song "Elijah Rock" is reminiscent of Peggy Lee singing "Fever". After I fell for this album I learned singer Amy Helm is Levon Helm's daughter. This is an excellent album.

 

The Holmes Brothers - "Simple Truths" This amazing guitar, bass and drum combo do rockin' gospel and blues and soulful ballads. Their original material is first rate and they do a wide variety of covers from Towne Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" to Gillian Welch's "Everything is Free". Also covered is the song "Shine" written by Dolly Parton and made popular by Collective Soul.

 

Honorable Mention for 2004

Jazz, Blues and World :

Keb Mo' - "Keep it Simple" // Eric Clapton - "Me and Mr. Johnson" // Diana Krall - "The Girl in the Other Room" // Charlie Musselwhite - "Santuary" // Queen Latifah - the dana owens album // Lila Downs - "One Blood" // Omara Portuondo - "Flor De Amor"

 

Pop/Rock/Folk/Jazz : (assorted genre singer songwriters)

Jonatha Brooke - "Back in the Circus" // Nellie McKay - "Get Away From Me" // Peter Himmelman - "Unstoppable Forces" // Norah Jones - Feels Like Home // Bruce Hornsby - Halcyon Days // Ray LaMontagne - "Trouble"

 

Rock and Roll :

The Vines - "Winning Days" // Patti Smith - "Trampin" // Morrisey - "You Are The Quarry" //  David Byrne - "Grown Backwards" // The Mavericks - "Live in Austin Texas" //U-2 "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" // Green Day - "American Idiot"

 

R&B - Soul :

Ellis Hooks - "Uncomplicated" // Van Hunt - "Van Hunt" // Anthony David - "Three Chords and the Truth" // Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama - "There Will Be a Light"

 

Country - Bluegrass :

Alison Kraus - "Lonely Runs Both Ways" // Kasey Chambers -"Wayward Angel" // Graham Parker - "Your Country" // Allison Moorer - "Duel"

 

Folk :

Lucy Kaplansky - "The Red Thread" // Richie Havens - "Grace of the Sun" // Richard Shindell - "Vuelta"

 

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Favorite 2003 Albums  

Lizz Wright - "Salt"   Young jazzy R&B singer from Atlanta

Susheela Raman - "Love Trap"  Blends traditional Indian with pop blues and jazz

Rufus Wainwright - "Want One" Singer songwriter. One of my favorites. Not for everybody

Dave Matthews - "Some Devil" I love this CD

Virginia Rodriguez - "Mares Profundos" Beautiful Brazilian tunes

Los Lonely Boys - "Los Lonely Boys" Think Santana meets Richie Valens

Van Morrison - "What's Wrong With This Picture?" Blues blues and blues

Dianne Reeves - "A Little Moonlight" Stripped down jazz

Boz Scaggs - "But Beautiful" A nice CD of standards

Aaron Neville - "Nature Boy" Same as above

Cesaria Evora - "Voz D'Amor" Brazilian music from Cape Verde Islands in W. Africa

The Jayhawks - "Rainy Day Music" alt-country catchy pop tunes and harmonies

Steve Winwood - "About Time" His familiar Hammond organ mixed with world beats

Vusi Mahlsela - "The Voice"  South African singer/songwriter/guitarist

Les Nubians - "One Step Forward" French sistas blend jazz, R&B, reggae and hip-hop

 

Honorable Mention for 2003

Country flavored : Shelby Lynn - "Identity Crisis" // The Mavericks - "The Mavericks" // Lyle Lovett - "My Baby Don't Tolerate" // eastmountainsouth - "eastmountainsouth"

Jazz and World Music : Regina Carter - "Pagannini : After a Dream" // Sting - "Sacred Love" //  Cassandra Wilson - "Glamoured"// Ziggy Marley - "Dragonfly"  

Pop and Classic rock : Annie Lennox - "Bare" // Richard Thompson - "The Old Kit Bag" // Daniel Lanois - "Shine"

Folk Pop and Rock : The Kennedy's - "Stand" // 4 Way Street - "Pretzel Park" 

Hard Rock/Alternative : Coldplay - "Live 2003" // Jet - "Get Born"// Ween - "Quebec" // White Stripes - "Elephant"

Soul and  R&B : Al Green - "I Can't Stop" //  Seal - "Seal IV"

 

Top 10 albums 2002   (give or take)

Norah Jones - "Come Away With Me" / Angelique Kidjo - "Black Ivory Soul"  /  Neil Finn - "One  All"  /  Joan Osborne - "How Sweet It Is"  /  David Poe - "The Late Album" / Martin Sexton  - "Live Wide Open"  /  Sade - "Lovers Live"  /  Cassandra Wilson - "Belly of the Sun" / Cousteau - "Sirena"  /  Tori Amos  - "Scarlett's Walk" / Julia Fordham - "Concrete Love" / Peter Gabriel   - "UP"   /  Patricia Barber - "Verse" /  Diana Krall - "Live in Paris" / Patty Griffin "1000 Kisses"  / Joe Sample - "The Pecan Tree" / Alison Krauss and Union Station - "New Favorite"

 

Top 10 albums 2001

Raul Malo -"Today" / Jimmy Scott -"Over the Rainbow"  / Tony Bennett  -"Playing with My Friends" /  Kirsty MacColl - "Tropical Brainstorm"  /  Bob Dylan - "Love and Theft"  / Sam Phillips - "Fan Dance" /  Cousteau - "Cousteau" /  Coldplay - "Parachutes"  /  Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - "Global a Go Go" / Soundtrack to : "Oh Brother, Where art thou?" / Kenny Rankin - "A Song For You"  / Rufus Wainwright - "Poses" // Habib Koite - "Baro"