For his 31st (!) studio album, Bob Dylan has not really broken any new ground, but the musically sacred ground he continues to till is rich indeed. Modern Times is an album that only Dylan - with his peerless wordplay and insight - could make sound as, well, modern as it does.
Whether or not Ray LaMontagne will become this generation's Van Morrison is something that's yet to be determined, but you'll be hard-pressed to find another singer who combines light and dark, power and subtlety as well as this New Hampshire native. His second album - Till The Sun Turns Black - is another well thought-out, well delivered set of music.
For their second album, the Nashville-based OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW mines the same rich earth for inspiration that they so expertly did on their epononymous 2004 debut album. This is a string band with attitude, and their songs may remind you of the past, but their outlook and presentation is most definitely of today.
If you have been looking for a singularly unique listening experience, it just may have arrived from this Brooklyn-based group. I'm not exaggerating when I say that TV ON THE RADIO sound like nothing else out there today.
The Tejas brothers are back with their second album, and those of us who enjoyed the Garzas great harmonies, engaging tunes, and guitar-hero leads will not be disappointed by Sacred.
Along with Gnarls Barkley, Corinne Bailey Rae has made one of the most spectacular debut splashes of the first half of this year. This 27 year-old, Leeds, England native's eponomous album is a versatile, flowing, 11-song listen that sounds perfect for these hot summer days (and nights).
If you're like me, you always look forward to a new TOM PETTY release. He's never quite gotten the critical acclaim that he possibly deserves, despite the fact that he's certainly been given respect over the years by music writers and has sold millions of records. Petty's kind of like the corner bar version of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and/or BOB DYLAN - and that's no slight, by the way. Never as downright poetic as Dylan (but then again, who is?) or as cinematic as Springsteen, T.P. nevertheless is an important American rocker, and one who has penned and performed more than his fair share of classic anthems. His contribution to the culture is quite remarkable, come to think of it.
For his first solo album, RADIOHEAD's charismatic frontman THOM YORKE does not dissappoint the faithful. There is nobody in music today who can communicate alienation through song like Yorke, through his lyrics and - probably most importantly - through his vocal stylings.
Slowly but surely, WIDESPREAD PANIC has established themselves as one of America's most popular and consistent live acts. Their recorded output hasn't quite reached the success of their road show, but - with Earth To America - the band has finally gotten their feel and passion properly on disc.
The poignancy and brilliance of the fifth and final installment of Johnny Cash's American series is a lasting testimony to the genius of an American icon. As reported in Rolling Stone magazine, the story goes that the day after his wife June Carter Cash died on May 15th, 2003, Johnny Cash called Rick Rubin - his producer and said to him: "I have to get to work. If you don't have something for me to do every day, I'm going to die." Unfortunately, his life ended too soon.