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2009

On the title track to her new album Madeleine Peyroux leaves us with these parting words "...the truth itself, nothing but a gamble / it might or might not set you free / but in these bare bones there's something lovely after all..." While interpretation will vary, one thing is for sure, and that's that Peyroux did indeed take a gamble on Bare Bones, attempting something she's never done before.

To fully understand and appreciate Bell X1 is to know a little bit of the history of band. The Irish indie rock band formed in the 90's under the name Juniper and was led by singer-songwriter Damien Rice. Upon Rice's departure, drummer Paul Noonan stepped up to the microphone, replacing Rice, and ultimately launching the band we know now as Bell X1.

It's sometimes difficult to critique a band as accomplished and as influential as U2. And it must be equally as challenging to be a band of that stature and continue to create music as stimulating as your earliest works. On their 12th studio album, No Line On The Horizon, U2 has yet again crafted an album that is expansive, and at the same time attentive to that familiar U2 spirit.

For Shemekia Copeland, her new album Never Going Back reveals a new attitude, a new sound and an overall evolution for the young blues woman. Lots of things have changed since last we heard from Copeland. For the first time in her career Shemekia is releasing an album on a label other than Alligator Records; Never Going Back is her debut for the Telarc label. And her choice of producer for the new album, Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers, was another step outside the traditional blues world.

While his name seems to come up quite a bit when you reference modern independent music, it's been a couple years since we've got to enjoy an M. Ward solo record. More recently Ward has spent time recording and touring as the duo of She & Him. Hence, many are eager to get their ears on Hold Time, Ward's new solo album, which satisfies beyond expectations.

 Widely known as one half of the rock duo The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach steps out on his own with the release of his first solo record, Keep It Hid. While The Keys' music has always been steeped in the blues, Auerbach's appreciation runs deep on Keep It Hid.  Not only do we hear what the blues may sound like for a new generation, but Auerbach stretches into some territory that The Keys have yet to.

We often hear musicians talk about artistic integrity, yet few are as truthful or match the level of their ambitions as well as Andrew Bird. His songwriting, which at times will leave you reaching for your thesaurus, is as skillful as his string playing or his trademark whistling. The classically trained violin player has produced another record destined for critical praise in Noble Beasts.

Before recording had even completed on Bruce Springsteen's album Magic, producer Brendan O'Brien convinced Bruce to continue writing. So while on the road in support of Magic, Bruce & the E Street Band spent their downtime in the studio working on the songs that would ultimately become their latest release Working On A Dream.

For years now there have been a number of somewhat underground scenes of experimental music whose sonic limitations are as undefined as the venues in which they perform. It was difficult to imagine this music reaching beyond the walls of the high school gymnasiums packed with devoted disciples of the abstract, but perhaps that exemplifies the brilliance of the new album from Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Without question Derek Trucks is in the elite ranks of guitarists. But similar to when you hear someone talk about "capturing a bands live energy in the studio", Trucks had yet to release a record that both harnessed his skill and at the same time felt accessible to an audience larger than his loyal fan base. Well, with Already Free, the new album from The Derek Trucks Band, that balance is achieved and Trucks' stardom shines pretty bright.

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