After a couple of very fine Neil Young concert releases, we now have a brand new album from the ageless master. Chrome Dreams II represents a return to from, at least from one of the Neil Young's we've been presented with over the years.
Perhaps only the fantasy duo of King Kong and Bambi could be a more bizarre pairing than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Yet on Raising Sand, their haunting and brilliant collaboration, the Led Zeppelin screamer and Nashville's most hypnotic song whisperer seem made for each other. This, however, is not the howling Plant of "Whole Lotta Love," but a far more precise and softer singer than even the one who emerged with Dreamland (2002).
The brand new Steve Earle album - Washington Square Serenade - is all about New York City. It's also about an established artist combining all of his considerable attributes to create a very un-ironic and enjoyable disc. It's the best thing Earle's done since - oh - I'd say I'm Alright over 10 years ago.
For her new album, Joni Mitchell has chosen to look back upon one of her most interesting musical periods, in my opinion. Shine reminds me a lot of her mid-70's albums like Hejira or Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. Time will tell how well this stands up to her classic material, but it sounds very good so far.
Having already seen these guys live a couple of times, I can attest to the fact that Sea Wolf is a tremendous live act (go see them if you get a chance - you will not be disappointed). On their debut album Leaves In The River, many of the same attributes that make them so interesting live (tension, interesting instrumentation, intensity, etc.) make this a very, very good debut album.
It wasn't easy to successfully follow-up her debut album Eye To The Telescope, but Scottish singer/songwriter K.T. Tunstall has done a pretty fair job on Drastic Fantastic. Her strength on this album - as it was on the debut - is her ability to write engaging pop songs that don't venture too far into the pop song jungle. You don't have to be ashamed to say that you dig K.T. Tunstall.
This album has my vote for best debut album of 2007. Englishman Scott Matthews has put together a very strong, emotional set of tunes for his album Passing Stranger. He's got it all: a great voice, interesting ideas, passion to burn. There's nothing, really, not to like about this album.
For his first album for Lost Highway, Lyle Lovett has refueled his Large Band (36 different members contributed to this album) with some pretty satisfying results. It's Not Big It's Large sounds like classic early Lovett: country, pop, gospel, jazz, rock all fused together with the help of some crafty tunes.
On Lifeline, Ben Harper has gone back to his roots in a major way. Already the king of effortless groove, this album sounds like it was conceived, written and produced in a few weeks... which it was (the whole recording process took just a week, start to finish). That's a very good thing in this instance, because the spontaneity is absolutely refreshing. The songcraft on Lifeline rivals any other Harper release, and Ben and the Innocent Crimminals play the tunes with an uplifting sense of discovery.
Josh Ritter is a prime example of an artist getting better and better as he goes along. We all knew he was super-talented, but even that didn't prepare me for the genius of this new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. It's a bona fide best of '07 contender, and a completely rewarding listening experience, whether you hear the album from start to finish or hear it a song at a time. Ritter's got it goin' on...