I did a list of the best 10 records that came out in 2006 last year. This year I didn't listen to new music as much, or maybe not that many great new albums came out, in any case, it'll be only a Top 5:
5 - Vieux Farke Touré - Vieux Farka Touré
I loved his Dad's stuff (may he rest in peace) and I thought at first this was just a son cashing in on his father's talent, wile having none of his own (say Julian Lennon, what little I have heard of him). Not true. Granted he does sound a lot like Ali Farka Touré, but he simply does a good job himself and that Niafunké sound is just wonderful.
4 - Porter Wagoner - Wagonmaster
I didn't know anything of this guy until me and a friend from Kansas saw him on CMT in a motel in Nashville by accident. Considering the bullshit they play on that station usually I was struck by his voice, his age, his experience, his wisdom that he expressed through it. A reflective, quiet old man's album, wonderful. And the guy went to Hank William's first appearence in the Grand Ol' Opry for God's sake, so sad that all these old-timers are dying out.
3 - Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade
Definitely one of the strongest singers still alive and kickin' today. His outlaw, hick music speaks to me in ways that I have a hard time explaining (considering I am a German (Berliner) city slicker). He moved to New York last year and his album is a less politicized affaire, more a personal narration of Greenwich Village. Not his best album (but then to be fair is it even possible to top Copperhead Road or Christmas in Washington?), but very enjoyable and I felt like it grows on you too.
2 - Dion - Son of Skip James
Ever heard of Dion & The Belmonts? A Teenager in Love? The Wanderer? Catchy 50s Doo Wop tunes? Rings a bell? Well, that guy has produced the best blues album of the year (granted I didn't listen to that many this year and this is the second year in a row this award goes to a white guy, not quite sure what that means). It seems to be a weird career path true, but this is actually his second blues album (Bronx in Blue in 2006 was the other one) and he is superb. He apparently got exposed to the blues on the folk circuit during the 60s, which explains the reference to Skip James with whom he played, and he definitely learned his lesson well. A great bluesified cover of Chuck Berry's Nadine for example.
1 - Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer
So, I flew home for Christmas and my Dad once I get there hands me this CD and says: 'Heard this one? Very good one. You need to check it out.' And I did, think I listened to it for the whole following week without becoming tired of his whiny voice. Did I mention that I love rural American music? No logical explanation, sorry. Helm whom I had never heard of (he was the drummer for the Band and sang some for them too, I did thus kind of know him already) covers ol'-timey music on this album. Great, great country-rock. One Steve Earle cover, The Mountain, that is simply a stunner. Wonderful album, you need to listen to it, trust me.
The poor old dirt farmer he's lost all his corn,
and now where's the money to pay off his loan?
Honorable mentions and albums that could be good but that I haven't listened to enough yet (in no particular order):
Guru - Jazzmatazz - Volume 4 - The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger - Back to the Future
Devin The Dude - Waitin' To Inhale
Prodigy - Return Of The Mac
Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams
Tiken Jah Fakoly - L'Africain
Ry Cooder - My Name is Buddy
John Fogerty - Revival
The Holmes Brothers - State of Grace