Following my personal Top 10 of records published in 2006:
10 - Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Is there anything new that I could potentially say about Mr Zimmermann? I doubt it, simply fact that the greatest American poet of the 20th century has produced a new album warrants a spot in the Top 10.
9 - Dr John - Mercernary
Dr. John covering Johnny Mercer. Mac Rebennack has published typically New Orleans albums in the last couple of years and all of them are good. His voice coupled with the typical New Orleans piano and the brass in the back work every time.
8 - Van Morrison - Pay The Devil
Van the Man goes country. With three Hank Williams covers, the most American Irish ever shows just how far he has immersed himself in American music. Great Album.
7 - Solomon Burke - Nashville
And another Soul crooner exploring the country route. Burke had already recorded the odd country tune before (and Southern Soul and Country have been perpetually close anyway). I would call this the best traditional Country album of the year and it definitely should have been up there in the Country charts (only made it to 55 though as modern country simply is too washed up and poppy nowadays).
6 - Aaron Neville - Bring It On Home
I usually don't really like Aaron's solo work (the Neville Brothers' stuff is great), his voice is too soft and his material and back up to much geared for the Easy Listening market, but this one is simply amazing. The subtitle is The Soul Classics giving it the impression of a compilation, but Neville has decided to re-rerecord classics by Sam Cooke, The Stable Singers et al. I wish he would always sing like this.
5 - Charlie Musselwhite - Delta Hardware
I hadn't really known this guy before, had him down as just another mediocre white Blues singer. In fact he is far better and this is easily the best blues album of the year. Nomen est omen, this is pure delta material, nothing extravagant, nothing fancy, no Fat Possum-like electronic experiments. Just the good stuff.
4 - Neil Young - Living With War
As above my opinion of Neil Young hadn't been to high before (too experimental a folkie for me that dude) and I wonder how this album will sound in 10 years when all this furor about the current US-administration has quieted down. Yet, right now this is a great album, a running commentary on politics in the vein of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and the Almanac Singers, a blunt attack on the misuse of power by Bush and his cabinet set to rocky music.
3 - Jerry Lee Lewis - Last Man Standing
If I calculated an age average of the singers on this list here it would probably not bode too well for my standing for younger readers of my blog (meaning everyone), but what can I do, the music is just so much better. As most older legends do at some point Jerry Lee has recorded a duets album, these sometimes are quite sad affairs with older geniuses coupled with young pop guys in order to prop up sales delivering songs that suck. This is not the case here, not at all, most of the co-singers are older stars in their own right (Buddy Guy, Little Richard, Keith Richards...notable exceptions are Toby Keith and Kid Rock) and Jerry Lee dominates all of them. Wonderful Rock N Roll album.
2 - Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome
Bruce Springsteen definitely is too much of a Classic Rock kind of guy for me. Decent and everything, just doesn't really work for me this Stadium Rock stuff. This is different. Covering Seeger songs (and thus again a political statement considering Seeger's well-documented left-wing history) Springsteen and band sound as if they just got together one saturday night at his house and recorded these songs for fun. You can hear how much fun they had playing this stuff, good ol'timin' stuff.
1 - Hank Williams III - Straight To Hell
And finally someone under 40 on this list. May I introduce the son of Hank Williams Jr, the grandson of Hank Williams himself. Can anyone think of a more pressing heritage as a singer? His third (studio) album of Country music and it is his best. Aggressive, hard-rocking Country that keeps the Outlaw tradition going. None of that soft, bland Nashville BS, neither the flag-waving Toby Keith kind. My only problem is that I can never decide whether I like the hard rockers or the slow crooning songs better. Get it!