Hopefully you’ve at least heard of some of them.
1. John Trudell & Bad Dog, Wazi’s Dream (Sobeit Reccording Label): Compelling, spiritual, transcendent…John Trudell was all these, and the brilliance of his softly spoken yet razor sharp stories and teachings (“the truth is to know when not to lie”) and monologues, in tandem with Bad Dog’s blend of rock, folk and Native American music and vocal backing, make his passing Dec. 8 all the more unbearable.
2. Darlene Love, Introducing Darlene Love (Wicked Cool Records/Columbia): She’s never gone out of style in her five-plus decades of performing, and now with this Steven Van Zandt-produced album, style has caught up with her thanks to perfect songs from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Webb, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Linda Perry and Van Zandt himself.
3. Feufollet, Two Universes (Feufollet Records): Totally tuneful and varied outing from a Lafayette band that started out as Cajun kids and have grown up into something entirely new and special.
4. Richard Thompson, Still (Fantasy Records): Nothing really special, here—just another exercise in stunning songwriting, vocals, and of course, guitar playing.
5. Kinky Friedman, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A Records): First album of new material from the Kinkster in 39 years deserved the rave reviews, what with great new originals like the titletrack and “Lady Yesterday,” covers like Willie Nelson’s “Bloody Mary Morning” (sung with Nelson) and Merle Haggard’s “Mama’s Hungry Eyes,” and a lean production that focuses on Friedman’s now seasoned and well-traveled voice.
6. Terry Adams, Talk Thelonious (Clang! Records): Unique interpretations of unique jazz legend by unique contemporary artist who had unique relationship with him.
7. Rhiannon Giddens, Tomorrow is My Turn (Nonesuch): Lead singer/violinist/banjo player and founding member of country/blues/old-time band Carolina Chocolate Drops steps out with debut solo album and is equally at home on songs ranging from Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” to the Charles Aznavour titletrack, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head,” Elizabeth Cotten’s “Shake Sugaree” and a pair of originals.
8. Billy Gibbons and the BFG’s, Perfectamundo (Concord Records): What might seem like a new direction for Billy F Gibbons is really a return to his Latin music roots (he studied percussion with Tito Puente long before ZZ Top), with all the gusto he brings to that little ol’ band from Texas.
9. Charlie Musselwhite, I Ain’t Lyin’ (Henrietta Records): Memphis Charlie’s never sounded better, singing or blowing harp, live or on record—with the latter here finding a near non-stop rockin’ blues groove.
10. Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz (Smiley Miley Inc.) Truly the anti-Taylor Swift on just about every level imaginable, Miley Cyrus showed here that she’s more than all shock and raunch–at 23 tracks and over 92 atmospheric and confessional minutes, much more.
[The Examiner has written liner notes on releases from Darlene Love, Richard Thompson, Kinky Friedman and Billy F Gibbons.]