These will have to be short and sweet, as I'm running behind and Santa's on his way. Nothing stands out as a #1 pick, so these aren't in any order...
Live in London - Regina Spektor - Spektor's "Far" was my top album of 2009. Most of the songs of that disc found their way into her live set, making this a must pick for 2010. Her inclusion of older songs makes me feel guity for not having yet explored her back catalogue. Truly a treasure as a quirky vocalist and songwriter.
Croweology - the Black Crowes - A gift from a friend and my only Crowes album (no, I don't even have "Shake Your Moneymaker"). This album acts as a "best of", though re-recorded and unplugged. I'm really diggin' this groove. The packaging is funky, too, with weird pockets and a pop-up inside.
American VI: Ain't No Grave - Johnny Cash - After he lost his wife June and was near death himself, Cash spent any energy and will in the studio trying to record as much as possible. Like "American V", Cash's ability to face his mortality through song is uplifting and inspiring. Producer Rick Rubin, who revived Cash's career with 1994's "American Recordings", honors his friend with this posthumous release.
Praise and Blame - Tom Jones - Yes, that Tom Jones. Forget about the repeated pop comeback attempts. This is an unexpected turn for the listener, Jones as gospel blues growler. When he sings about pain, self-doubt and being tested by God, we believe him.
Here's an abridged version of the review by my pal, Jim Bates. Reprinted and edited with permission, you can read the full version here. Mojo - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - In its heart of hearts, Mojo is a blue album. Yes there is some Zep rock (“I Should Have Known It”), a jam (“First Flash of Freedom”), some bubblegum (“Candy”), Mudcrutch influenced county (“No Reason to Cry”), a trippy story song (“The Trip to Pirate’s Cove”) and even a reggae-tinged stoner song (“Don’t Pull Me Over”), but the vast majority of the album is blues. There’s 'she’s so heavy' blues (“Good Enough”), slow lovesick blues (“Lover’s Touch”), fuzzed out blues (“Taking My Time”), traveling acoustic slide blues (“U.S. 41"), urban blues (“Let Yourself Go”) and even Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings blues (“Jefferson Jericho Blues.”) Who knew the Heatbreakers were a blues band? The songs are fun, but like many blues they have one weakness...the lyrics don’t make much sense. Tom is kind of cheating here. The words may sound good in the tune, but they don’t say anything. Heck I’m not sure what “Trip to Pirate’s Cove” is really about, let alone why Thomas Jefferson is driving to Jericho. Kind of a far drive from Monticello isn’t it? Especially as Henry Ford hadn’t invented the Model T yet, let alone a submarine car.