1. The Waterboys: Universal Hall
– Recorded in a studio under Universal Hall at the spiritual center Findhom, in Scotland, this record is filled with healing music of the highest order, built around acoustic instruments. Mike Scott continues to create the Big Music his own way with no regard to current trends or the hit parade. A true musical hero.
2. The Jayhawks: Rainy Day Music
– The best record of their career. Amazing song writing and vocals from Gary Louris. The guitars ring out and you will not find bettor harmony singers in the world today. In addition the 1st pressings came with a bonus disc of out takes and live cuts including an acoustic live vision of “Waiting for the Sun” that is gorgeous. It’s insulting to compare than to today’s alt. country bands. The Jayhawks belong with Springfield, Byrds, CSNY and Poco. They’re that good.
3. The White Stripes: Elephant
– This record could have been made anytime during the last 35 years. Not so much old school as it is timeless. Great rode and roll played with style, dignity and pure joy. I think they would have been John Lennon’s favorite band.
4. Warren Zevon – The Wind
– from the first Asylum album through Sentimental Hygiene, Zevon was perfect. Each album was filled with torch ballads, blistering rockers and that twisted, wonderful sense of humor Zevon was famous for. The Wind is a return to that level of greatness. “Disorder in the House” is equal to any of his great rockers, with Springsteen getting cameo of the year for his guitar and backup vocals on this number. The ballads like Please Stay, with Emmylou on backup and the closer Keep Me in Your Heart rank with his best. Too soon gone.
5. Lucinda Williams:Worid Without Tears
– Another great record from Lucinda. There is a wide range of song styles on this CD with several claiming a much harder musical/lyrical territofy then Lucinda has shown in the past. “Iron-Cast Songs and Torch Ballads” of the highest order.
6. Johnny Cash: Cash Unearthed
– This is not some archival historical box set you’d play once and file away. This is five CD’s of the real deal. You couldn’t write a greater ending to an amazing career. Too soon gone.
7.Roseanne Cash: Rules of Travel
– The first new Roseanne Cash album in years and it’s a good one. The record was beautifully produced by her husband John Leventhal and features his great guitar work. The highlight of the record is a duet with her father on a song called “September When it Comes”.
8. Soundtracks: Masked and Anonymous and God’s and Generals
– On the Masked and Anonymous disc Dylan does amazing new versions of Down in the Flood, Diamond Joe, Dixie and a ripping life version of Cold Iron Bound. There is also beautifill versions of” Serve Somebody” by Shirley Ceaser, “City of Gold” by the Dixie Hummingbirds and “Most of the Time” by Sophie Zeimani. On God’s and Generals you get Dylan’s majestic “Cross the Green Mountain”.
9. Over the Rhine: Ohio
– This band is led by a married couple, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler from Ohio. Although this is their 10th CD, this is the first time I’ve heard them.This two CD set is strong from start to finish. Their music reminds me of the great early 70’s stuff from Eiton John, Linda Rondstat and Karia Bonoff The chorus’s and organ sometimes give the music a gospel driven feel. With all the great stations we have in this area (WDST,WFUV,WKZE), I can’t believe I’ve never heard this band on the radio.
10. Kathleen Edwards: Failer
– Another great Canadian singer/songwriter. Her influences seem to be Lucinda and Crazy Horse. Not a bad combination.
11. Dan Bern: Fleeting Days
– Not his strongest collection, but there is still a lot of good stuff here. I think he leaves some of his best songs like “Kid’s Prayer and “Lithuania” off his major releases. He probably wouldn’t agree or care what I think.
12. Allison Moorer: Show
13. Shelby Lynne: Identity Crisis
– The Allison Moorer is a CD of her live show including 3 songs with her sister Shelby Lynne and a great version ofNeil Young’s “Don’t Cry No Tears”. The Shelby Lynne is a strong collection of songs with a stripped down sound probably influenced by Nora Jones’s success. If there was any justice in country music both of them would be as big as Shania Twain.
14. Rodney Crowell: Fate’s Right Hand
– On Crowell’s last album. The Houston Kid he looked back at growing
up in Texas on the poor side of town. Tills album deals with all the trials and tribulations of reaching middle age, losing loved ones, looking inward and reminding yourself and your children that all things will pass.
15. Aleri Murdoch: Four Songs
– This independent 4 song cd is available from CDBABY. This is the English
folk singers first available songs. His vocal style is reminiscent of Nick Drake but his songs have a whole lot more muscle. There is a song on this cd called ” Orange Sky” that makes me believe this guy is destined for greatness.
16. Concert for George:
Some of the greatest songs ever written, performed by some of the greatest musicians. Highlights far me include Billy Preston doing “Isn’t it a Pity”, Paul McCartney doing “All Things Must Pass” and Clapton doing “Wah Wah”
17. Ryan Adams: Rock & Roll, Love is Hell( Pt I & 2)
– For most of this year I was really sick of this guy and avoided listening to him. However, there is no denying the great music contained on these cd’s. If he only would stop talking…..
18. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Greendale
– Not a great album by Neil Young standards. The whole thing scans silly and the songs all start to blend into each other. How about old Neil’s ticket prices?
19. Rickie Lee Jones: The Evening of My Best Day
– I’m not a huge fan, but tlus record is starting to find itself in my CD player on a regular basis. Tell Someliody (Repeal The Patriot Act) is a great protest song.
20. Lyic Lovett: My Baby Don’t Tolerate
– This album has yet to really take off for me. It just doesn’t have the great songs Lyie usually has. But sometimes his music takes time to get into your head and heart.
Bob Dylan: Remasters Series
– Columbia hit it right on the head with their marketing campaign slogan, “You could never improve the music but wait until you hear the sound”. The sound truly is remarkable. I can’t imagine a world where these songs don’t exist and when my time comes. I’m taking them all with me.
The Beatles: Let it Be, Naked
– I loved the original record and I love this version but I’ll always be emotionally tied to the original. Did any of us really believe they would never play together again? If the Naked vision was the first time we heard these songs, it would easily be the best record of the year.
FAVORITE LIVE MUSIC 2003
Dan Bern at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock
Kathleen Edwards at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock
Roseanne Cash – The Helen Hayes Thea.
The Jayhawks at the Bearsville Thea.
The Waterboys at the Bearsville Thea.