I am doing a lot of raving this month and I just can't help it. This is a great crop of CDs and I'm so happy I can play them for you.
Susan Laurenzi - Rich In The Soul (2009)
Close your eyes. Think back to a time when music was created because it had to be created. We needed it, but not as much as the creator needed to create it. It was the early to mid 70's and among the many styles of music out there was a jazzy, soul like, acoustic stew that felt... like home. Susan Laurenzi's long awaited (I've been playing pre-releases of this CD for years now) first CD "Rich In The Soul" captures this era without feeling retro. With a clean and open production style, this is one of the finest independent recordings I have heard in some time. As you listen to this CD, you will feel like you are in a club and Susan and her band are just a few feet away. With a voice in the lower registers, you may be tempted to compare her to Joan Armatrading or Tracy Chapman, but don't. She is a unique talent that has spent years on a vision that is soft, beautiful and exciting. The songs are about life and relationships and the lyrics blend wonderfully into the music. I will be listening to this CD a lot this year. You should be listening to it too. You can purchase her CD at her website: http://www.susanlaurenzi.com/ ,CDBaby, Amazon or Itunes.
Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew (2009)
With her whispery voice Lisa steps out from the shadow of Damian Rice and creates a beautiful CD. During the softer times on this CD I'm reminded of the Innocence Mission. But Sea Saw has a unique sound that stands on its own; beautiful, captivating, enchanting. An early favorite of the year.
The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (2008)
Got this one from Paste Magazine. If you are a VIP (that means you pay a bit extra) you get CD downloads monthly (or so). And this CD has paid for the yearly subscription. Soft and beautiful one moment, channeling Tom Waits the next, you never know where this band is headed; and it doesn't matter. This was the first Paste VIP CD I listened to and I was just going to give it a quick once over. It ended up staying in my player for a few days. The songs are intelligent both lyrically and musically. This is definitely a band to check out.
Rodney Crowell - Sex & Gasoline (2008)
I always thought he was country, but he has morphed into an Americana artist (whatever that means). This is a great collection of songs about women written by a modern day John Prine. I loved every song on this CD. It would have been on my best of lists for 2008 had I gotten to it in time.
JD Souther - If The World Was You (2008)
Owing more to Bruce Hornsby than The Eagles, JD Souther has created a magnificent CD that is more jazz based than country. Using piano and horns and banjos and God knows what else, Souther creates a genre blending masterpiece. I understand the CD was recorded live in the studio, creating an intimate session; warts and all. I just can't praise this CD enough. You have to hear it to believe it. And I would never have checked it out had it not been for The Loft on XM playing a few of the songs. Thanks Mike!
Naked Hearts - Naked Hearts (2000)
Good melodies, nice songs. I really enjoyed listening to this one. You can find out more at Jon's website http://www.johndeyoung.net/
Walt Cronin - The Gousters (2008)
On his own this time (as far as songwriting goes), Walt generates another strong piece of Americana/folk for us to listen to. His deep plain voice doesn't grab you right away, but as the CD goes on you find yourself enjoying it a lot. There are several really nice songs here. You can find Walt at http://www.thegousters.com
Thomas Hendley - Road Tunes and Regrets (2009)
This is a fun ride (pun intended); an Americana/country joy ride with some interesting and even outrageous stories. It is well produced with a full sound and some tasty guitar licks when needed. http://www.thomashendley.com
The Rosebuds - Life Like (2008)
Here is another CD I received from Paste. I suppose you can put this music in the Arcade Fire synthy but driving style. I really found myself tapping along as this upbeat yet dense sound wouldn't let go. The fun, "Bow to the Middle" took me back to the early 90's and bands like the Pixies and Belly.
Jon Dee Graham - Swept Away (2008)
This is the soundtrack to a documentary on Jon Dee. Or maybe it is just an excuse for a live album. Doesn't matter. I love Jon's music live and this CD did not disappoint. Like going to the Rendezvous in Memphis, a live Jon Dee Graham show is a must when visiting Austin.
Love - Live Whisky A Go-Go 1978 (2009)
The mediocre recording of this powerful show only enhances its potency. It actually sounds like it was recorded in 1968; back when there wasn't a wall of sound at rock shows and you could hear each instrument and most every mistake. There are some great songs on this CD ("Alone Again Or", "Old Man", "7 & 7 Is", "My Little Red Book") and they power through them like the historic rock and roll band that they were.