Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band - Live In Dublin (2007)
The story goes (and it may not be true, but it has always sounded good): String convinced Bruce that in order to stretch as an artist, he needed to dump his band (the great E Street Band). And he may have been right, but I don't think his timing was. The problem was the Bruce didn't really have a direction or purpose and so when he put together the replacement band, it was merely a copy of the E Street Band. Most fans weren't happy and ultimately Bruce brought back the E Street Band. But with the Seeger Sessions there was now a purpose; a direction. And the fun of that CD, the concerts last summer and this new live CD/DVD is watching Springsteen stretch. Even if the Seeger Sessions CD didn't do it for you, the live stuff is just too good to ignore. Bouncing around between Dixie Land, Gospel, Two Step and whatever else they can conjure up, this is pure energy. It is a foot stomping good time. It is as powerful as it is poignant. My favorite section of this CD is on disc two where he goes directly from "Open All Night" with its huge band (because the term big band just isn't enough) swing into the sing-a-long "Pay Me My Money Down" with horns blazing and the crowd singing. The song fades out with the crowd continuing to sing the chorus. When the music starts again, we've got a country/rockin'/two steppin' "Growin' Up", that you just have to hear to believe. There are other reworked classics that will blow your mind if you haven't heard them already, including: "Atlantic city", "Further On (Up the Road)", "Highway Patrolman" and "Blinded By The Light". I haven't watched the DVD yet. I'll get around to it. But this CD is going to be hanging around on my CD player for some time to come. http://www.brucespringsteen.net/
Shane Nicholson - Faith & Science (2007)
Someone else said it and I usually wouldn't use someone else's worlds, but I was thinking the same thing as I listened for the first time: "This is the best music Crowded House never recorded". The beauty, the passion, the vocals, they are all here. The melodies are as sweet as a summer afternoon at the beach. Which is to say, they aren't sugary, but they sure look good. The first listen made me think, this is good, but it doesn't have the big songs like the last CD. But by the second time around I was already picking out favorites. This is an excellent CD. For more info go to http://www.shanenicholson.com .
Joan Armatrading - Into The Blues (2007)
I remember reading an interview with Joan many years ago and she stated (maybe more for effect than based on her reality) that she didn't see the difference between herself and say Led Zeppelin. It takes a a true artist to make an outrageous statement like that. Joan writes her own type of pop music, just like LedZep did. What is the difference? Just as Led Zepp merged blues and psychedelic music into an institution, Joan has been fiddling with styles for years. In the 70's it was her unique blend of folk and jazz. In the 80's it was punk and ska and folk and jazz. With "Into The Blues", Joan takes on the Blues and like the rest of her work, it doesn't sound like anything else you've ever heard. It is Joan's take on the Blues and... well, it is really good. Find out more at http://www.429records.com .
Keren Ann - Keren Ann (2007)
I called her voice whispery when I first saw her in 2005 at the Hotel Cafe. But two years later, the voice is stronger and more confident. The songs still float, like a boat on the Mediterranean on a summer's day. Another enjoyable CD from the Israeli born, French raised singer/songwriter. http://www.kerenann.com
The Lava Province - Strangeway (2006)
Full of hooks and strong guitar chords, this CD will take you back to the 80's when bands like REM where stretching the limits of New Wave. Laurens Vernot , who is the band, has a strong understanding of how to write a pop song, and rarely deviates. You might find yourself delightfully surprised by this unassuming CD. http://www.lavaprovince.com/
Joan Osborne - Breakfast in Bed (2007)
What a wonderful title. I can see myself the morning after a long night... uhmmm... in bed... listening to this CD as we eat the croissants and fruit that room service brought in. Okay, focus... So, it was only a matter of time before Joan, with her big powerful voice, not only took on some classic soul and R&B tunes but created a few for herself. Although the originals don't compare to the classics, they fit very nicely and, more importantly, Joan continues to improve as a songwriter. I still think Joan can go even farther with her voice, but this is a very nice distraction while we wait. http://www.joanosborne.com/site.php