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Already and XPN favorite because of her heartfelt songs and incredible voice, BRANDI CARLILE has upped the ante with her sophomore album The Story. The choice of veteran roots poducer T-BONE BURNETT was a wise one, because he's able to capture Carlile's emotion perfectly, and he coaxed some very, very stellar vocal performances out of her.

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.

Call it the musical surprise of 2006 thus far: the Dixie Chicks emerge from a couple of years of turmoil to create one of the most sincere, poignant discs we've heard in some time. It may have been once easy to dimiss the Chicks as some kind of "country-lite" creation, but no more. Taking The Long Way has way too many good songs, harmonies and ideas to dismiss.

Ever since the Nebraska album in 1982 (and probably earlier for astute Bruce-heads), we've known that Springsteen has has more than a healthy dose of respect for the folk idiom. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is not only a salute to the stylings of PETE SEEEGER, but also an acknowledgement of the American tradition of storytelling through song. It's a lovingly detailed album from an artist who understands his roots more than most musical superstars.

On his third solo album - and his first in twenty years since About Face - PINK FLOYD's DAVID GILMOUR doesn't dissappoint those enamored with the Floyd-ian "wall of guitar" sound or his lovely, plaintive vocal stylings. On An Island is a pretty satisfying venture that - while not really breaking any new ground - certainly will fill whatever cravings you have for the classic rock juggernaut that was the Floyd.

As witnessed by his incredible performance at the XPN All About The Music Festival in July, Rodney Crowell has returned with yet another amazing album of country influenced rock songs. The Outsider is the third of a trilogy of CD’s that he’s released (The Houston Kid and Fate’s Right Hand being the first two) that find him at yet another creative peak of his long outstanding career.

When Ryan Adams’ first band Whiskeytown debuted in the mid-Nineties they were one of the few “alt-country” bands that critics and fans of the genre felt could break through to mainstream success. Truth is however, while Whiskeytown was a critical success, creatively that had as much to do with “country” music as the Eagles did during their prime. If anything, Adams established himself as an excellent songwriter with a variety of influences, country music being just one of them.

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