Artist to Watch

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Lily Allen is January's Artist To Watch. Winner of 2006 Digital Music Awards, Lily Allen is the 21 year old singer songwriter who has been tearing up the web lately. >Here's a bona fide Internet/My Space success story. Lily Allen's much downloaded tunes and much read muses on her personal page were the sparks that launched her promising career. With "Smile" already a U.K. number one, and her album dropping this week in the U.S., is superstardom pending? Perhaps it is, and, if it happens, I for one will be watching with interest because Allen is one quirky, unpredictable could-be pop star.

I know, I know... it's kind of hard to get worked up over yet another "tribute" album. What started in the 90's as a cool idea - that being contemporary bands paying homage to their musical heroes by covering songs from said heroes and then packaging it together as an album - has gotten stale and predictable. I must say that this one - Endless Highway: The Music Of The Band - is done with enough spirit and attitude to make you forget that you were tired of these things. A couple of dozen classic, timeless tunes to cover doesn't hurt, either.

A lot more than some bland nod to the "Great American Songbook" ala Rod Stewart, Erin McKeown's latest is a totally engaging romp through some truly great old tunes. I really think Cole Porter would be happy to hear this.

It's kind of hard to think of Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith as a seasoned vet, yet Time Being will be his 10th album. His laid-back style and way with words is still intact, and this new album may be one of his best ever.

For her 7th full-length studio album - and her first for over 9 years - Canadian singer, songwriter, accordionist, harpist, and pianist Loreena McKennitt has followed An Ancient Muse indeed.

This unique compilation project brings together the legendary musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club and some of today's most popular artists Radiohead, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Sting, U2's Bono, Dido, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Jack Johnson and others. They perform collaborations of some of their classic hits, and the result is pure genius.

Already considered by many rock critics to be one of the finest offerings of '06, Boys & Girls In America is a great album on a number of different levels. The intensity, hooks and words of The Hold Stady's latest are quite remarkable, and the album's charm grows with each listen.

Consisting of two brothers and a childhood friend, The Slip play like they know each other all their lives. Their Bar/None Records debut - Eisenhower - is a sonic treat, boasting powerful musical interaction with some very well written songs.

Endless Wire is the first studio album in 24 years to consist of new material from The Who. The last two Who standing - Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend - have delivered an enjoyable, if uneven, album worth of new material.

One of this year's most outstanding new artists, Rodrigo y Gabriela are Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintana, Mexico City natives who now live in and wrok out of Dublin, Ireland. It's a simple formula, really... two acoustic guitars, all instrumental songs. I can assure you that the results are much more interesting than the description.

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