Okay, I'm going to try and get through as many CDs as possible before year end. Here we go...
James Maddock - Sunrise on Avenue C (2009)
James Maddock's return (has it really been 10 years?) may very well be the very best CD of the year. It starts with the lyrics. The songs about relationships desired and lost have insight that is rarely seen in pop music. There are wonderful hooks throughout and the production is beautiful without being overly done. There is not a weak song among the dozen here. If you're going to buy one more CD before the end of the year, this is it.
Luke Powers - Running to Paradise (2009)
This new CD from Luke brings us 16 more stories/songs sung by a man who someday will be a folk legend. The term "folk" may be too limiting for the style of his music which seems to capture the best of the Texas and Tennessee scenes. His CDs always dip into our collective past, and this one not only goes back to the 60's for "The Real Elenor Rigby", but also the 70's for "Johnny Rotten Come to Jesus". Always a favorite indie release of mine. Get more info at http://www.phoebeclaire.net or you can purchase it at CD Baby.
Rodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11 (2009)
If you love guitar, how you can't love this duo is beyond me. Armed with acoustic guitars and no real limits as to where they can go, the music is exciting, amazing and filled with the kind of joy that so few artists project.
The Swell Season - Strict Joy (deluxe edition) (2009)
The deluxe set of this follow up CD from the duo that made "Once" one of the best musical movies a year or so ago, is a must have. Disc 1 is the new music. It feels like more time and money were allowed for this CD and you hear some beautiful arrangements; especially the standout "Low Rising". Disc 2 is a live performance, which demonstrates their ability to not only convert their studio recordings into live pieces, but gives you a hint on just how good they can be in concert. Backed by The Frames, this alone is worth purchasing the CD. Disc 3 is a DVD (I'll get around to that some day).Angela McCluskey - You Could Start a Fight in an Empty House (2009)
Right off the bat you have one of my favorite album titles of the year. But seriously, Angela and her friends have put together what is now my favorite post Wild Colonials CD. With Shark and Paul busy making soundtracks among other things, Angela has created a wonderful CD. A couple of the songs have a bit of the techno sound that Angela has been dabbling in, but generally this CD is all about Angela; her voice, her lyrics and her friends (like Joseph Arthur for example). Angela McCluskey is in a league with Lucinda Williams when it comes to letting you hear the pain in her voice. So when she slows it down and tells you a sad story, you really feel it. A couple of the later Wild Colonial songs are included here which just adds to the enjoyment. This is an excellent CD and it will easily hold us over until the gang gets back together again.Ellsworth - Bright Red Road (2009)
As with his last CD, it is hard to label Ellsworth's music. It is less Americana this time and more... I don't know... Troubadour like? Ellsworth has focused his lyrics on the world and so many of it's problems. This is very much a social commentary CD, yet it never gets too heavy. Although you I might be tempted to call it folk, it is very modern folk with full arrangements and solid production. This CD is going to get plenty of play on The Promise. For more info, you can go to http://www.ellsworthsongs.com