Jackson Browne - Standing in the Breach
This is Jackson Browne’s best album in many years. Few singer-songwriters do the personal and the political so well. What’s more he’s brought together some great musicians, including the remarkable guitarists Val McCallum and Greg Leisz.
Lucinda Williams - Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
Lucinda William’s lazy drawl of a voice set to another great collection of bluesy, literate, country rock. It’s a double album but there are no fillers. And yes, the guitarists Val McCallum and Greg Leisz feature again.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - CSNY 1974
Much has been written about the tour that this 3 CD set is taken from – drugs, drink, infighting, money – but people seem to have forgetten that great music was also being played. Graham Nash has done a great job in cleaning up the original tapes. A wonderful musical chronicle of the time.
Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems
His musical style may not have changed much over the past ten years or more, but in his 80th year Leonard Cohen still writes beautiful lyrics and music. He rarely disappoints.
Ben Watt – Hendra
One of the surprise musical discoveries for me this year was Ben Watt, a musician I knew nothing about. A gorgeous collection of songs driven by Bernard Butler’s lyrical guitar.
Case Hardin – PM
Yet another discovery. Case Hardin is effectively the work of Pete Gow and the album a set of meticulously recorded, dark and emotional songs.
Bap Kennedy - Let's Start Again
Bap Kennedy, an Irish singer-songwriter, has been around for many years and has released a number of albums over the past ten years and more. For me Let’s Start Again is his strongest, an incredibly laidback but captivating mixture of musical styles.
Blue Rose Code - The Ballads of Peckham Rye
I only discovered this album after reading about it on Ian Rankin’s best of the year list. Since that time I haven’t stopped listening to it. Blue Rose Code is in fact the Scottish singer-songwriter Ross Wilson. He describes himself as crossover artist and his music is certainly difficult to classify. Whatever, with each play the album grows on you like no other.
Joshua Redman – Trios Live
This is a live recording of the jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman backed by drums and bass. The album is essentially a series of extended improvisations which immediately make you think of John Coltrane but with Redman’s distinctive style. Brilliant.
Harold López-Nussa - New Day
Coming from a well-known Cuban musical family, the jazz pianist Harold López-Nussa has received international acclaim. New Day is a fine example of his virtuosity.
James Farm – City Folk
This strangely named jazz band is another outlet for the saxophonist Joshua Redman, together with the pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland. They make highly creative modern jazz.
The Gloaming – The Gloaming
Most would see The Gloaming as an Irish traditional music group and album, yet it is so much more. While a major component of the band is the Irish fiddler Martin Hayes and the sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, there are clear influences from contemporary classical music and even jazz. It makes for a magnificent and, at times, intense musical experience.