The Music of Jonathan Tristram



 In constant search of the best music on the planet......

~~~Sometimes Simple is Better~~~
(3 of my current favorite stripped down acoustic albums that you should own!)

Here's some great music to spin on a beautiful day:

Lowen & Navarro -Walking on a Wire  - I recently discovered how amazing this album is after diving into the lineage of Pat Benatar's hit "We Belong."  I've always loathed the 80's commercial production of that song but have always loved the lyrics.  In particular, I love the line, "Maybe it's a sign of weakness when I don't know what to say.  Maybe I just wouldn't know what to do with my strength anyway."  I would have bought this album just based on their original version of this song alone.  But believe me when I tell you that the rest of the album is also amazing! It's very stripped down with beautiful guitar and vocal arrangements through and through. Sadly, David Eric Lowen passed away in 2012 due to complications from Lou Gehrig's disease. His partner Dan Navarro (who is the cousin of Dave Navarro -guitarist of Jane's Addiction) is still writing, recording, and performing.  I hope to catch one of his shows sometime soon.

Neal Casal- Rain, Wind, and Speed - I recently discovered this recording while digging through the record stacks at of one of my favorite record stores Love Garden Sounds in Lawrence, Kansas while on my annual summer road trip out west.  I've always been a huge fan of Neal Casal's debut album Fade Away Diamond Time and was deeply saddened to hear the news of Neal's passing when he took his life in the summer of 2019. This album was his follow up record that he recorded following the news that he had been dropped by the label for his first album.  Reading the liner notes from this vinyl re-issue, I was surprised to hear that he got dropped from his label while on tour promoting Fade Away Diamond Time.  To this day, I will never understand why record labels don't do a better job of supporting and promoting their artists.  After all, if it weren't for the recording artists, your record label wouldn't have any product to sell!  As you might imagine, Neal was extremely hurt and distraught with this news.  The resulting follow-up recording Rain, Wind, and Speed is eloquently beautiful.  So stripped down and so pure.  Highly recommended to say the least.

Jackson C. Frank (Self-Titled) - Digging a little bit further back in the time machine of music, this 1965 self-titled debut produced by Paul Simon is the only album that Jackson C. Frank ever released!  File this album under the "Most influential, very essential, obscure folk album that you need to hear" category!  I discovered this album while trolling through some eBay listings and was blown away by the original pressing auction prices for this recording.  Justly so, this very stripped down vocals and guitar album is powerful. Jackson C. Frank's life story is extremely sad and makes this lone recording of his to be all the more poignant.

Bruce Cockburn- Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws  - I can't even imagine how many times I've played this recording.  If you look down this long list of recommended albums, you'll see that I've also recommended his album Stealing Fire.  But recently, I've decided that this album is my absolute favorite of his.  His guitar work, his blending of English & French, the pacing of the material, just makes this album a perfect listen from beginning to end.  I'm very glad that they finally re-mastered & reissued it.  I just hope that they kept artwork intact, because it's my favorite album cover of his as well!

The City- Now That Everything's Been Said (Carole King) - Yeah, I know... I could have easily recommended Tapestry, but everyone knows that Tapestry is an undeniably amazing album that everyone should already own.  Here's one that I picked up last spring at Vintage Vinyl.  Recorded three years before Tapestry back in 1968, this album was the only album put out by this Carole King-fronted group and what a gem it is!  If you're a fan of Carole King, you should definitely have this one in your collection.  Perhaps one of the more interesting tracks is the Carole King-penned track "That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)" which was later recorded and made famous by Blood Sweat & Tears among others.

Ralph McTell- Right Side Up - When I was in Vancouver several summers ago, I picked up a German pressing of this album with a different title (Tequila Sunset), but this album is best known as Right Side Up.  Before giving this one a spin, I was only familiar with his tune "From Clare to Here," as recorded by Nanci Griffith on her album Other Voices, Other Rooms.  From start to finish this is a great record.  Interestingly, he does a fine version of "May You Never," by John Martyn and has John Martyn performing on this album in which he plays backup guitar on another track.  What a great introduction to the music of Ralph McTell.  I just may have to pick up some other recordings of his!

Jack Costanzo- Latin Fever - If I could just have one Latin percussion album brought with me to my desert island, it would most definitely be this gem of an album.  Stereo copies of this 1958 classic always seems to bring ridiculous prices on ebay, but with good reason- the cheesecake cover is just as delicious as the music itself (although it was finally released on CD in 2003!).  Believe me.  This album is smokin' HOT!!!  Every time I play it, I need to make sure that my record stylus hasn't melted!  It's all killer with NO filler and has one of my favorite interpretations of "The Peanut Vendor" and the exotica classic "Taboo"  all on one record.  Great musicians + Great instrumentations = Perfect Record.  'Nuff said.

Tito Puente- Tambó - King of the timbales, Tito Puente recorded something like 118 records in his long career.  I have several of his recordings, and each one is a bit different.  This album, recorded in 1960 was a huge departure from his earlier works.  Again, as with any good exotic percussion album, it has a great album cover.  To quote the liner notes on the back: "If your taste runs toward the torrid and tropical, then Tambó, by Tito Puente, should suit you to a T."

Sabu Martinez- Sorcery - Louis "Sabu" Martinez is considered by many to be one of the most prolific conga players in the history of Afro-Cuban music.  From his discography, there are 2 recordings that are considered "must have's" for the collector of the percussive exotic sound- his 1958 classic album  Sorcery and his 1973 album Afro Temple.  Although I like both, I particularly enjoy the woodwind instrumentation of Martinez' Sorcery.  I kind of equate this album to a very strong cup of coffee.  It's definitely NOT for everyone, and I definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to it. 

Paul Pena (His Self-titled debut) - I could have just included the link to his official website, but I really feel that the link I've provided here really does pay an amazing tribute to the genius of Paul Pena.  To put it simply: Music + Passion = Paul Pena.  This music contained in his self-titled debut is just filled with emotionally-filled, soulful, timeless classics.  In my mind it is absolutely CRIMINAL that this album is out of print.  More of the world needs to hear Paul Pena.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed in this album.  Also, if you get the chance, be sure to check out this video that was put together at the time that his second album finally was released (some 27 years after it had been recorded!).

The Pair Extroadinaire- "In"-citement recorded very Live! -  I was lucky enough to find this album on a recent crate-diggin' adventure and boy am I glad that I picked this one up!  From what little I've been able to gather from the Internet, The Pair Extroadinaire were a musical/comedy duo with Carl Craig on vocals and Marcus Hemphill on upright bass. They had five albums on Liberty, three of which were basically their concert/club routines. (This album pick being one of them!)  They played a lot of LA Clubs in the 60's, and also worked in San Francisco. They opened for Bill Cosby a lot and made numerous TV appearances, and even turned up in two movies. Hemphill went on to write for the Cosby Show and passed away in 1986. .I hate to break the bad news to you, but this album is so out of print and under the radar, that I couldn't even find a decent website that even talks specifically about this album, but I did find a link to a great video of them performing on the 1968 CBC Vancouver series entitled Hits A-Poppin'.  Hope you enjoy!

Mongo Santamaria- Stone Soul - Mongo Santamaria is perhaps best known for having written the jazz standard "Afro Blue" which was recorded by John Coltrane among others.  But aside from this, Mongo Santamaria was really an important figure in the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with Soul and  R+B paving the way for the boogaloo era of the late 1960's that I love so much!  If you're into the more traditional Afro-Cuban music, be sure to check out Mongo's first Columbia release entitled El Bravo!  Although I like just about all of Mongo Santamaria's work, I particularly dig the late 60's latin soul jazz material.  Santamaria's Stone Soul is in my opinion, one of the best.  Not only is the entire album just jam-packed with strong material, it also has one of the coolest album covers, old style canned beer and all!

Kenny Burrell- Have Yourself a Soulful Christmas - This 1966 classic Christmas album has perhaps the most soulful interpretation I've ever heard of "Little Drummer Boy"  and an incredibly swinging version of "My Favorite Things."  As with all great Christmas albums, it has a great flow and does a great job of including a lot of classic holiday tunes, some of which are very creatively interpreted.

John Fahey- The New Possibility: John Fahey's Guitar Soli Christmas Album - Anybody who is really familiar with my finger style guitar playing certainly knows that John Fahey, Bert Jansch, & John Renbourn  all have to be HUGE influences on my guitar playing, and that they are!   John Fahey has released several solo acoustic guitar Christmas recordings over the years, but this 1968 gem is still my favorite of the bunch.  What I really like about this album (and what some will not like!) is that he chooses to perform some of the traditional pieces in a more bluesy/folksy manner and records others in the more traditional classical manner. Standouts that best showcase Fahey's bluesy/folksy interpretational ability include the Christmas classics "We Three Kings of Orient Are," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Chet Atkins- Christmas with Chet Atkins - A selection of Christmas guitar favorites wouldn't be complete without this album. Not only does this album really showcase the amazing versatility of Atkins' guitar styles, but it also contains one of the best album covers for a Christmas album.   Ever since my renewed interest in collecting vinyl, I have collected several really good Chet Atkins recordings and have really developed an appreciation for the genius of Chet Atkins.  This 1961 classic was finally re-released several years ago on CD.  Unfortunately, when they reissued it, they didn't include the original album artwork!

Les McCann and Eddie Harris- Swiss Movement - I can't believe that 40 years ago this past week, Eddie Harris, Les McCann and company blew the doors off of the place at the Montreux Jazz Festival!  This is a classic recording from the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  In addition to the Les McCann's now-signature tune "Compared to What," it also contains the very first and inspirational performance of "Cold Duck Time." 

Herbie Mann- Memphis Underground - I have to admit that my first impressions of jazz flutist Herbie Mann came from an album (1967's Glory of Love) that just didn't really move me.  For years, I just never seemed have an interest in digging any further into his catalog.  All of that changed when I found myself last fall at Vintage Vinyl purchasing an LP of this 1969 classic!  What is ironic is that both this album and Glory of Love have a rendition of the Hayes/Porter classic "Hold On, I'm Comin'."  Plain and simply put, there is simply no comparison!!  Memphis Underground just exudes a raw energy that can't be matched!  You won't find any overdubs on this gem!  This raw-jamin' masterpiece is solid from start to finish.  Even Herbie Mann's unusual interpretation of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" has grown on me over time.

Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby- The Original Jam Sessions 1969 - "5409 Take One....."  Speaking of an album with no overdubs, just pure raw-jamin' flavor, this is the one to round out your collection.  Pure Jam... No Jelly.  Recorded during the summer of 1969, these tunes were basically jam sessions with the intention of creating music for "The Bill Cosby Show."  MAN, would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall at those sessions!

Frank Hunter and His Orchestra- White Goddess - O.K.  I admit it......  I'm a HUGE fan of the obscure musical genre known as "Exotica" or "Space Age Pop."  There.    I said it.    But anybody who has been following my musical picks over the past 8 years isn't surprised.  I do have rather wide-ranging wacky tastes.  Recently, I found myself at Vintage Vinyl purchasing several Martin Denny records including Exotica - the album that started this whole genre.  Alright.  So what's the big deal about this out-of-print and obscure album??  Well, to be quite honest, I can't really place my finger on it other than the fact that this album would definitely be the first musical collection that I would choreograph if I were a involved with modern dance.  My best suggestion is that you download your own copy of it (beats purchasing an Lp copy of it on ebay for 100 bucks!) and listen to it during a rather relaxed moment in one sitting. 

Ray Price- Night Life -I'm so excited!  In a couple of weeks, I'm taking a trip up to Toronto to check out the sights and sounds of this beautiful city.  I've only heard great things about it and I've got so much planned.  On the list of things to do will be to catch a show at the venerable Massey Hall, which has providing great shows since 1894.  I've heard that the old wooden seats are a bit uncomfortable, but that  the acoustics are simply amazing.  It just so happens that Willie Nelson is doing a two night stand there.  On one of those nights, he's having Ray Price as his opener.  Man!  It just doesn't get much better than that!  I got a chance to catch both of them along with Merle Haggard a couple of summers ago during their "Last of the Breed" tour and can't wait to see both of them again.  I own a lot of Ray Price albums (7 to be exact!) and Night Life is the only Ray Price album that I own on CD because it ALWAYS goes with us when we go on our road travels.  It's that good!

Ray Charles- Love Country Style -Ray Price isn't the only guy named Ray who knows how to sing a country song!  I was recently in Red Bank, NJ poking around some of the antique stores when I stumbled upon a dusty box of records that contained this gem of an album.  I dare say that this 1970 release is BETTER than his 1962 release entitled: Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music.  For starters, I've never heard a more soulful interpretation of June Carter Cash's song "Ring of Fire."  In fact, I double-dog dare anyone to find me one that's more soulful!  Other standouts include "If You Were Mine" and "Show Me the Sunshine."

Dave Pike- Jazz for the Jet Set -I think that I just discovered THE most grooviest mondo-lounge album to come out of the year 1966.  That's right.  This is vibraphonist Dave Pike's first album for Atlantic Records entitled Jazz for the Jet Set.  Not only does this album mark the first for Dave Pike on Atlantic, but it also marks the maiden voyage of Herbie Mann as a record producer.  Add to that, the fact that this is also the debut of Herbie Hancock on the organ and you've got yourself the makings of an ultra groovy record!  Last but not least, the other thing that makes this one of the most quintessential mondo-lounge albums to come of the sixties (besides the album cover- complete with lime green go-go boots and a Jetson's space helmet!!) is the fact that they include yet another stirring rendition of the classic "Sunny."  It seems like every soul jazz act from the sixties felt like they were obligated to come up with their own stirring rendition of this tune.  Hmmmm.... perhaps the Hub Kings should follow suit?? Who knows??

Big John Patton- Let 'Em Roll -Speaking of great albums to feature the Hammond organ paired with vibraphones, this one is a must-have for any jazz collection.  It features Grant Green on guitar, Otis Finch on drums, and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes.  This recording includes one of my favorite compositions of Patton's entitled "Latona."  It's got that killer salsa rhythm in 6/8 that makes you want to hit the dance floor.  In fact I like this tune so much, I recently decided to make this a Hub King classic!

The Bamboos- Step it Up -Ranking quite high up there on my list of places to explore is Australia.  Whenever it is that I'm able to get there, I'm hoping that I'll also be able to catch this group in action!  The Bamboos currently have 3 studio releases out and after having this debut CD in heavy rotation, I'm sure it won't be long before I pick up a copy of their new one as well.

Kenny Burrell Quintet with John Coltrane -Speaking of recordings that receive heavy rotation in my CD player, I'm REALLY surprised that I've never included this classic recording here before!  This 1958 recording gets things on the good foot with the cookin' opener "Freight Trane."  It's just one of those tunes that just gets stuck in my head and won't leave me for the rest of the day.  As far as I know, this is the ONLY recorded release of this fine tune.  Any collector of Coltrane's music should have this recording as Coltrane was rarely a sideman for a guitarist as he is billed on this session.

Caitlin Cary & Thad Cockrell - Begonias -I picked this CD up a couple of months ago and immediately put it in the pile of CD's to go on our road trip this summer.  It just has that haunting old time feel of great country records of yesteryear before Nashville became pop.  Take one listen to "Please Break my Heart" and you'll see what I mean.

Todd Snider- Songs for the Daily Planet -What I just LOVE about Todd Snider's songwriting is his blend of brutal honesty mixed with a great sense of humor combined with just great rockin' songs!  Be sure to listen to the hidden track called Seattle Blues and you'll see what I mean!  It pokes fun of the whole early 90's Seattle grunge scene in a very Bob Dylanesque, tongue in cheek kinda way!

Jerry Jeff Walker- Viva Terlingua (Live)  -Looking over my list of CD picks for the past five years, I am absolutely shocked that I have not included a Jerry Jeff Walker recording on my list.  Well, here it is- perhaps my favorite of the ones that I own.  This one has all of his early classics like "Desperados Waiting for a Trian," and "Up Against the Wall Red Neck."  I have seen Jerry Jeff several times in NYC, but someday I hope to see him perform in Texas- perhaps at Gruene Hall!  Wouldn't that be great?

Son Volt- Okemah and the Melody of Riot -I have been a huge fan of Son Volt ever since the breakup of Uncle Tupelo.  It has been several years since Jay Farrar has put Son Volt back together and put out a recording.  Well the wait was well worth  it, being that I feel that this is one of his most solid efforts to date.  I'm very glad that I got a chance to see Son Volt perform the material on this recording at Webster Hall in NYC last fall.

Eastmountainsouth (self-titled) -There are those stretches of any long road trip when you are traveling at night and just want something relaxing, yet interesting enough to listen to that you don't fall asleep.  This recording fits that bill perfectly.  Eastmountainsouth is essentially a duo of Peter Bradley Adams and Kat Maslich Bode.  It features beautiful vocal harmonies woven with interesting layers of instrumentation.  I can't wait to hear Peter Bradley Adams' solo release which is due out in the beginning of August.

The Mighty Imperials- Thunder Chicken -I recently discovered a record label called Daptone Records.  After sitting in limbo for 4 years or so, the Mighty Imperials' one and  only recording was picked up by Daptone.  Man, it  just doesn't get much funkier than this!  Plain & simple. To be honest, there isn't one weak track on the whole disc.  This is some serious heavy-hitting, funk-driven music featuring the sounds of the B3 & electric guitar reminiscent of the Meters. 

The Budos Band -Speaking of great recordings on Daptone, this is another gem worth picking up.  This funky Afrobeat orchestra's debut is also solid from start to finish.  Being that they're from Staten Island, I hope to catch them in NYC in the very near future. 

The Greyboy Allstars- Westcoast Boogaloo  -I am so excited that the Greyboy Allstars have recently reunited and are planning to put out a new release in the near future!  This particular recording has always been one of my favorites.  In fact, it was my first introduction to the great playing of saxophonist/flutist Karl Denson.   Whenever I think of a great examples of  modern recorded CD's that have that warm analog vibe, I always come back to this one.  If I absolutely HAD to pick my favorite track on this disc (not an easy task!) it might be their interpretation of Kool & The Gang classic "Let the Music Take Your Mind."  Oh.... did I forget to mention that former James Brown trombonist, Fred Wesley is also featured on this disc??

The Funky Sixteen Corners -The recordings recommended above are recent offerings that pay tribute to classic styles of funkdom, but when it comes time to dig way deep into the dusty stacks and pull out some chestnuts of yesteryear, look no further than the musical adventures of producers Egon & Peanut Butter Wolf as they take you on a musical road trip to the far corners of this country with this compilation of classic A sides performed by some of the more obscure funk artists of the 1970's.

The J.B.'s Anthology- Funky Good Time -What better way to round out a serving of hard-hitting funk than with the grand masters of funk themselves?  Years ago during my days in college radio, I would rummage through the dusty old stacks of LP's late into the night.  That's really when I discovered just how awesome Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker were in the James Brown Band.  Unfortunately much of those Polydor LP's and 45's are out of print.  Thankfully, Polydor decided to reissue many of these hard-to-find grooves on this 2-CD anthology!

Jamie Cullum- Twentysomething  -Want to catch a rising star?  Check out this guy!  I picked this up on a whim just because I this thing for collecting really good interpretations of Jimi Hendrix songs (be sure to check out his cover of "Wind Cries Mary" IT'S AWESOME!)  This is a great CD to pop in the 'ole player on a sunny afternoon.  Not only does Jamie Cullum have an interesting voice, but he also supports it with great piano work as well.

Les Paul & Mary Ford- All-Time Greatest Hits -A couple of years ago at the AES convention in NYC, I got a chance to meet the legendary recording engineer Bruce Swedien (Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson.. the list goes on & on!!) .  He was there at the convention selling & signing his newly written book Make Mine Music.  Upon reading his highly insightful book, I discovered just how important Les Paul's "Sound on Sound" recording technique was to the development of modern multi-track recording technology.  It's amazing to think that he was able to keep his recording technique a secret from the industry for about 5 years!  You can read more about his technique by checking out pg 49 & 50 of Swedien's book using Amazon's reading previewer- OR better yet, just buy the book!!  It's a fascinating read for any true lover of music or studio engineering.  This recording of Les Paul is an excellent compilation of his years with his former wife, Mary Ford.  If I'm not mistaken, all of the recordings on this compilation utilize this 'Sound on Sound" recording technique.

Lettuce - Live in Tokyo  -If you're a fan of serious 70's style funk, you should definitely add this one to your collection.  Lettuce (Let Us) features Eric Krasno from Soulive as well as a number of other great players who all met at the Berklee Summer Music program a number of years back.  This recording is the "Live" follow-up to their 2002 studio release "Outta Here." 

Cannonball Adderley- Money in the Pocket -I've been a long-time fan of Cannonball Adderley's music, ever since the first time I sat down and listened to Miles Davis' classic recording Kind of Blue, which features Cannonball & John Coltrane on saxophone.  Just having picked up this live recording, it is quickly becoming one of my favorites of his.  I just love the energy throughout.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if The Hub Kings decide to do a funky rendition of the title track!

Miles Davis- Milestones -Speaking of Miles Davis... if own and love the all-time classic jazz recording  Kind of Blue, then you should definitely pick up a copy of the recording that was put out a year prior to that seminal recording.  Like Kind of Blue, there's no filler on this disc- just solid, beautifully crafted, medium to up-tempo late-fifties classic bebop.  Particular standouts include the title track and an awesome 10+ minute rendition of the Monk classic "Straight, No Chaser."  Dig in and enjoy!

Mike Errico- Skimming -I recently discovered this talented New York City-based songwriter and found that I really love this recording.  He writes from the heart with an edge to his lyrics that convinces me that he's for real!  In this style, his writing reminds me of one of my favorite songwriters, Kevin Gilbert.  Particular standouts on this recording include "Grace," the undeniably catchy title track "Skimming,' and "Underwater."  I just LOVE how "Underwater" builds to an amazing peak!   I look forward to hearing more from this guy in the near future.  Who knows, maybe I'll get a chance to catch him in NYC.

Melvin Sparks- It Is What it Is -This past Sunday, I got a chance to catch this legendary funky guitar player for free at B.B. King's Lucille's Grill, and as with the other three times that I've seen Melvin Sparks, his performance certainly did not disappoint!   It simply doesn't get any better when you have a talented jazz-style guitar player who has an equally talented drummer and Hammond B-3 player to accompany him!  This is one of his more recent recordings and does an excellent job of capturing the style and flavor of one of his live performances.  If you get a chance, make it a point to catch him the next time he comes around.  You won't regret it!

John Scofield- That's What I Say (John Scofield plays the music of Ray Charles!)  -Speaking of great funky jazz-style guitar players, be sure to pick up a copy of Scofield's latest.  I wasn't sure what to expect when my sister gave me this recording for Christmas, but I assure you this is an awesome recording.  I guess the biggest question that I had was, "Was this going to be strictly and instrumental recording or was he going to have guest appearances to sing the words of the late great Ray?"  For the most part, he chose the latter of the two choices.  HOWEVER, my most favorite track on the disc is the instrumental of Ray Charles' tune "Sticks & Stones."  Another strong track is "Don't Need No Doctor," featuring a surprisingly strong bluesy vocal performance by John Mayer.  I just love the guitar trade-off's at the end of the piece.

Three Dog Night- Naturally -This is the classic album that contains their hugely successful hit "Joy to the World."  In fact, it was both the music of Donny Hathaway and the introduction  in  this particular song that thoroughly convinced me that I absolutely NEEDED to own a Wurlitzer electric piano.  There simply is no other sound in the world quite like it!  Plain & simple.... END of story.  Since owning a Wurlie, this is one of the songs that I perform on it on a regular basis.  But, aside from this song, which, by the way, is the last song on Three Dog Night's original album, the rest of the album is also very worthwhile.

McCoy Tyner- Time for Tyner  -After all of these years of appreciating the music of  John Coltrane, I finally got a chance to see Coltrane's piano sideman of many years, McCoy Tyner at the McCarter Theater down in Princeton, NJ.  During his time spent with Coltrane, he recorded many classic jazz albums which include My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme, Impressions, just to name a few.  Being that I don't own any of Tyner's more current recordings, I wasn't sure what to expect of his performance.  It turns out that McCoy Tyner, at the age of 68, still has what it takes to bring audiences to their feet.  This particular recording, marks one of his earlier solo efforts in his career and is one that I go back to listening to, time and time again.

Lou Rawls- Live! -On January 6, 2006, we lost one of the world's great jazz/blues vocalists.  For me, it was this recording that first turned me on to the incredible interpretive vocal style of Lou Rawls.  What I love about this recording is that it was recorded in the studio in front of a live audience.  How cool is that?  This recording really attains that fine balance between a polished studio performance while yet retaining the raw energy of a live performance.  There are really no standouts on this one because EVERY track is a standout!  It just plain and simply cooks from start to finish!

Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughn -I was fortunate enough to see Stevie Ray Vaughn four times in concert before his life was cut WAY TOO short by a helicopter crash following a show at the Alpine Music Theater, Wisconsin where earlier in the evening he appeared with Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and his older brother Jimmie Vaughn.  I have many fond memories of those four shows, once as an opening act for the Greg Allman Band, once with Jeff Beck and his last two New Year's Eve shows at The Ritz in NYC.  But if I were able to take a ride in a time machine to one more of his concerts, it would HAVE to be this one!  This 1983 performance was originally recorded for a Canadian television program.  There are no over-the-top performances that Stevie was famous for.  Instead you witness a beautiful interaction between an emerging blues great and a legendary great, as Albert King was one of Stevie's greatest idols and mentors.

Luther Allison- Live in Chicago -Speaking of blues greats, let's not forget about one of the legendary west-side Chicago greats!  Luther Allison hit the scene with his scorchin' debut Love Me Mama back in 1969.  Despite the rocky road that his musical career took, he surged with a major comeback with his signing to Alligator Records in 1994.  This 1995 recording is a terrific introduction to the mastery of Luther Allison.  I particularly LOVE the 12 + minute extended jamming version of  "All the King's Horses."  When it comes to the blues, it just doesn't get any better than this!

Jonatha Brooke- Live -When it comes to listing truly great live singer-songwriter recordings, this one ranks right up there with my all-time favorites.  I've been a long-time fan of Jonatha Brooke, dating back to her days with The Story.  (See my November 2002 picks for my favorite recording of that group!)  This ten-song recording came out right after her departure with MCA and the formation of her independent label and does an exceptionally great job of capturing her brilliant songwriting and equally compelling performances.

Nina Simone- At the Village Gate -Nina Simone possessed one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices I've EVER heard.  But aside from being a great vocalist, she was an equally great pianist.  This 1961 live performance does an excellent job of showcasing both talents.  Just listen to "Bye Bye Blackbird" and you'll see what I mean.  My other favorite on this recording is her interpretation of "House of the Rising Sun," which, I am sure inspired Eric Burdon to record this song just three years later with The Animals.

Bernard Allison- Across the Water -I got turned on to the music of Bernard Allison recently.   Not knowing much about Bernard Allison, other than the fact that he's the son of blues great Luther Allison, I decided to pick up a few CD's upon the recommendation of my friend Kevin Murtagh.  Of the ones that I have, I would say that this one is my current favorite.  Particular standouts on this recording include the ultra-funky "Meet Me Half Way," and the heavily Hendrix-influenced "Coming Back (Across the Water)."

The Byrds- Sweetheart of the Rodeo -I finally got the opportunity to catch Roger McGuinn after being disappointed in May of 2002 of not seeing him on the Judy Collins Wildflowers Tour. (See May 2002 CD Picks for more info.) It was well worth the wait, as his performance did not disappoint.  In fact, it was heartening to see such a legendary performer play some of his classic Byrds songs with the kind of energy and excitement as if they had just been written last week!  Sweetheart of the Rodeo was the Byrds' sixth album, and perhaps their most stylistically risky venture for the time.  After all, who wanted to hear a great rock band most famous for tunes like "So You Want to be a Rock 'n Roll Star" and "Eight Miles High" perform county tunes that had been covered by the likes of Merle Haggard and George Jones??  Ironically, for such a risky musical venture, this recording has held up well over the course of time.  In fact, this CD often-times makes the play list of CD's that go on our cross-country road trips!

Roger McGuinn- The Folk Den Project  -The question that so often arises with such legendary performers as Roger McGuinn is, "What have you done lately?"  The answer in this case is PLENTY!  For the past ten years, Roger McGuinn has been working on a project called The Folk Den Project- a project aimed at preserving the music that he loves, Folk Music.  Each month, Roger records a traditional folk song, prints the lyrics and the chords, adds a personal not to each song and posts it on his web site.  This 4-CD set is a compilation and re-recording of 100 of those songs that he has posted on his site for the past ten years.

Soulive- Break Out -A couple of weeks ago I grabbed the L train and headed over to Brooklyn's Warsaw and saw one of my favorite jamin' bands: Soulive!  They are currently out on tour supporting their most recent studio release entitled Breakout.  Which, as the title might suggest represents somewhat of a new direction for their music.  In particular, this recording features a number of great soulful vocalists including one of my favorites: Reggie Watts and a surprisingly good song entitled "Freedom" featuring a great performance by Living Colour's Corey Glover!  Not only was the show awesome, but we were all treated to having a guest appearance by Reggie Watts! 

Sonya Kitchell- Cold Day (EP) -I recently stumbled upon this short 6-song EP in my travels. At 15 years of age, Sonya Kitchell shows tremendous promise.  Her voice is sweet and smooth and very mature for a person her age.  In particular, I really like the mellow flow to this impeccably recorded CD.  I can't wait until her full-length CD comes out in April called Words Came Back to Me.  Expect to hear more great things about her in the near future.  Just remember, you heard it from me first!

KT Tunstall- Eye to the Telescope -I just got turned onto this gem by my friend/fellow musician Amy Greco (Yes..... She assures me that her CD should be out sometime in the new year!)  Eye to the Telescope  has made extremely high rotation in my car's CD player this month.  It seems like every so many days, I have another song off of this recording that gets stuck in my head.  It's going to be a lot of fun buying &  KT's earlier releases in the coming year and ... who knows??  Perhaps KT Tunstall will make the journey across the Atlantic and play a show or two in NYC!

Dan May- Once Was Red -Speaking of solid recordings... this debut recording by Philadelphia singer-songwriter Dan May also ranks up there with my favorite CD's of the year. After a 12-year career in the opera and a subsequent recovery of surgery on his vocal chords, Dan May has once again taken to the stage to perform his own brand of songs.  What I absolutely LOVE about this disc is that it contains a real variety of well crafted songs done in different styles... yet it all seems to blend perfectly together in a cohesive manner that makes for a great listen from start to finish.

Roseanne Cash- Rules of Travel  -Last week, I had a chance to catch a very rare concert performance of Roseanne Cash at Outpost in the Burbs in an absolutely gorgeous church in  Montclair, NJ.  I love seeing concerts there.  Not only is the sound great, but the whole vibe of experiencing a concert in such a beautiful church  is just so amazing!  Apparently, Roseanne feels the same way about the performance space, being that it was her second time performing there and one of her very few concert appearances for the whole year.  As with any concert that I have seen there, this one certainly did not disappoint.  Roseanne performed the whole acoustic concert with only the musical help of her husband John Leventhal - who just happens to be one of my favorite producers out there!  I particularly enjoyed watching the dynamics of such a talented husband & wife team on stage together.  If you enjoyed Ten Song Demo as much as I did ( CD pick  for  the month of May 2002!) then you will absolutely love this long-awaited follow-up.... AND you will also be wise to purchase her new, but not-yet-released recording entitled Black Cadillac (coming out Jan. 24th- most of the material which she performed that night will be featured on the new release!).  FYI:  Here's a great site that explians why Rules of Travel took so long to be released and just what a difficult time it was for Roseanne!

Johnny Cash- Unchained -It seems hard to believe that the Man in Black left this world over two years ago.  It's even more difficult to believe that Johnny Cash's Unchained was released over 9 years ago!  This recording was Cash's follow-up to his hugely successful stripped down 1994 acoustic CD entitled American Recordings.  Both recordings were masterfully produced by Rick Rubin and are two of my all-time favorite Cash recordings. I love this one  in particular, because Cash & Rick Rubin decided to compliment their great selection of songs with the musical backing of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers!  What I've always loved about Johnny Cash is that so many of his recordings reflect his eclectic taste in music- from choosing to cover Shel Silverstein's "A Boy Named Sue,"  to the first 4 songs on this recording: "Rowboat," by Beck, "Sea of Heartbreak," by Don Gibson, "Rusty Cage," by Soundgarden, & "The One Rose," by Jimmie Rodgers..... Man!  Who else could pull off a recording with such a diverse choice in music and make it all sound his own!!???

Jude Johnstone- Coming of Age -I recently stumbled across this disc in my travels and discovered to learn that Jude Johnstone was the songwriter who wrote, "Unchained"- the title track for Johnny Cash's 1996 recording!  It's amazing how things sometimes come full-circle in my CD picks!  Outstanding tracks on this recording debut include "Doesn't Anyone Know but Me", "Not Long for this World" & my favorite:  "Wounded Heart."  I just LOVE the way that Jackson Browne's background vocals take this song to an even better place.  It's no surprise to me that Bonnie Raitt decided to cover this awesomely heartfelt song as the closing track on her 2002 release Silver Lining.

Paul Pena- New Train -Last month, the music world lost an amazing musician by the name of Paul Pena. New Train, recorded in 1973 was supposed to be the follow-up to his highly acclaimed self-titled debut (which is out of print).  Sadly, due to artistic differences between Paul and  Albert Grossman of Bearsville Records, it was never released...... until the year 2000!!!  27 years later, this recording finally received the critical acclaim it deserved by Rolling Stone Magazine.  Musicians on the recording include Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders on several of the tracks.  Interestingly, it was produced by Ben Sidran who was, at the time the keyboardist for the Steve Miller Band.  Sidran played Steve Miller the tracks he was producing and Miller was so taken by the third track "Jet Airliner," that he and the Steve Miller Band decided to record it.  The rest, as we say, is history!

Paul Pena- Genghis Blues -I have yet to see this academy-nominated film about Paul Pena's journey into the lost land of Tuva. The story goes that Paul first heard a fragment of harmonic singing on a shortwave Radio Moscow broadcast on December 29, 1984 and he was so struck by it, he spent almost eight years trying to track down its source. In 1991 he was finally able to locate a recording of Tuvan music and taught himself the vocal techniques known as 'Khoomei, Sygyt, and Kargyraa'.  These vocal techniques produce other harmonics like no other vocal technique I know.  This film documents Pena's journey to Tuva's capital city, Kyzyl where Paul took first place in the Kargyraa division of the contest and became known as 'Earthquake' for his amazingly deep voice.

Shirley Horn- You Won't Forget Me  -Last month also marked the loss of yet another wonderful talent in the music world.  I had a chance to see Shirley Horn at NJPAC a couple of years ago, but unfortunately dropped the ball on this one.  I think New York Times music critic John Pareles put it best when he wrote, "songs are lucky when Shirley Horn chooses them."  Her vocal phrasing, along with her own style of piano accompaniment all help to make songs truly her own.  This 1991 release features the musical support of  Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, & Toots Thielemans.  As the recording's title aptly puts it, "You Won't Forget Me." We surely won't Shirley!

Gordon Lightfoot- Summertime Dream -I had a chance to catch Gordon Lightfoot at the Count Basie Theatre in Redbank, NJ last month for his long-awaited return to the stage after suffering an abdominal aneurysm in the fall of 2002.  Three operations and three years later, Gordon Lightfoot provided a great 2-hour+ performance which highlighted so many of his great songs from his 38 years of writing.  Summertime Dream is one of my favorite recordings of his which contains the amazingly awesome song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."  Two summers ago, this song became much more meaningful to me when I hiked the 225 mile Superior Hiking Trail which parallels the coast of Lake Superior.  I got a much greater sense what the "gales of November" could do to such a ship!  By the way, here's a good website that explains a lot of the historical material that Lightfoot's song is based upon.

Jonathan Edwards- self-titled -Speaking of great singer-songwriters, here's one that I have yet to include on my CD picks.  Many years ago, I got a chance to see Jonathan Edwards put on  a great show in Vermont as an opening act for NRBQ.  There are several recordings I could have chosen, including his most recent, Man in the Moon (which I just ordered!) but there's something about his first recording that I like so much!  It's got such a nice flow to it that seems to fit so many occasions.  Favorites here include, "Athens County," "Dusty Morning," & "Train of Glory."

Porcupine Tree- In Absentia -I've always been a fan of progressive rock of the likes of Rush, Yes, King Crimson, etc...  If you find yourself of similar mindset and you haven't heard these guys yet, then you owe it to yourself!!  They are amazing.  Their music is a great blend of styles which of course, makes their music harder for music critics & radio suits to categorize.  Their mix of  acoustic, electric guitars & keyboard pads really compliments the ethereal voice of Steven Wilson.  I could kick myself for not seeing them perform a couple of weeks ago in NYC with special guest Robert Fripp! I just picked up a copy of their follow-up recording:  Deadwing and highly recommend it as well.

The First 200 CD Picks.......

Dinosaur Jr.- Where You Been -To date, this is my all-time favorite recording of J Mascis.  Considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of indie rock, J Mascis is the brains behind Dinosaur Jr., and I'm really excited that the original line-up of the band has decided to re-unite with dates in Chicago & NYC already lined up.  Am I going to miss this?? You kiddin' me?  It's been close to ten years since I saw Dinosaur Jr.  My strongest memory of that show, besides it being way too loud and totally rocking out, was being absolutely AMAZED by the number of guitar stomp box pedals J Mascis had his guitar running through on stage.  Seriously, he must have had about 15 or 20 pedals in front of him!

System of a Down- Mezmerize  -Speaking of awesome shows, I finally got a chance to check out these guys this summer at the Meadowlands in NJ.  I could totally kick myself for not motivating to see them when they played at Irving Plaza in NYC during their Toxicity tour.  As much as I loathe seeing shows at arena venues, these guys did an amazing job!  What I love about these guys is their blend of driving music complemented by amazing vocal harmonies that at times can send an eerie chill down your spine!  Just take a listen to the song "Question!" and you'll soon see what I mean!  For me, System of a Down's Mezmerize  just proves once again, what an amazing band they are and what an equally amazing producer Rick Rubin continues to be.

Led Zeppelin- BBC Sessions -In my opinion, Led Zeppelin is one of the most important cornerstones of rock music.  In fact, my very first rock concert featured Jimmy Page on guitar.  Growing up in the seventies when "rock radio" never heard of the term "classic rock,"  I used to listen to DJ Carol Miller's show "Get the Led Out."  Not only did she play a wide variety of music from this band's tremendous discography, but she would also sometimes feature live cuts as well.  One concert in particular stuck out in my memory as being just simply jaw-droppingly amazing- Led Zeppelin's performance at the Paris Theatre in London on January 4th, 1971.  That concert to me, just proved that their studio recordings were not the result of smoke and mirrors, but rather a result of 4 amazingly talented individuals.  Fast-forward to 1997.......  I'm strolling about one of my favorite music stores at the time.  I come across THAT very performance on CD!!  Do you think I dropped some cash down for that??  You betcha!  And so should you.

Motörhead- No Sleep 'til Hammersmith -Let me just start off by saying that bassist/lead-singer Lemmy Killmeister rules!  Plain and simple.  He embodies everything that rock 'n roll should be about.  If you were to only own one Motörhead recording, this should be it.  The raw, thrashing, shredding music of this cast of characters has never been better represented than what you hear in this recording.  In fact, I would say that it's a performance like this that probably did a major job in inspiring the film Spinal Tap in a MOST AWESOME way!  I got a chance several years ago to catch them at the Birch Hill before that place closed down.  The t-shirt I got from that show still ranks as one of my favorite one's to wear.  On the back of the shirt is says "Everything Louder Than Everything Else!" - Well put Lemmy.

Jill Sobule- Happy Town -A number of years ago, I got a chance to see Jill Sobule as an opening act for Richie Havens at Maxwells in Hoboken.  Since that time, Jill Sobule continues to be one of my favorite songwriters on the scene.   This recording of hers is still one of my favorites.  I absolutely love the way she is able to perfectly paint character portraits in many of her songs.  A great example of this writing style on this disc can be seen in her song, "Underachiever."  Aside from painting great character portraits, Jill's writing is funny and a lot of fun to listen to.  Happy Town is choc-full of catchy tunes, from its title track (a great commentary about our pill-popping society) to "When my Ship Comes in."  And let's not forget "Love is Never Equal"- a duet with one of my favorite writers/performers- Steve Earle!

Jim Infantino (Jim's Big Ego)- Don't Get Smart! -I first got turned onto the funny writing of Jim Infantino during the Fast Folk Magazine days with a live performance of his signature tune- "Stress."  That tune, by the way, still ranks as one of my top ten choices of funniest songs of all times.  Don't Get Smart, although it doesn't contain this song, is a great sampling of Jim's quirky, yet catchy writing style, from "Cheat to Lose" to "Big Whoop"- a tune in which he weaves various nursery rhymes into the tune.  This CD also contains the most original interpretation of Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song."  This song  alone  makes the CD worth buying!  Trust me!

The Lemonheads- It's a Shame About Ray  -Speaking of great Simon & Garfunkel covers, be sure to check out The Lemonheads' rockin' cover of "Mrs. Robinson," which appears as the bonus track at the end of this CD.  Surprisingly, this cover was not on the original release and was simply recorded to promote the video release of The Graduate.  So, if you're looking for a copy of this recording, make sure that you find one that is the reissue.  I just love the recording style of this whole CD- a combination of rockin' electric guitars and jangling acoustic guitars along with the vocal-doubling technique used on all of Evan Dando's vocal parts.

Amos Lee- (self-titled)  -I picked up this CD last spring and it hasn't left the CD rotation in my car yet!  Amos' debut recording has such a great flow to it.  The instrumentation on this CD really compliments his beautiful voice and writing style.  Not only is it the perfect length, (not too long!) but it's also one of those recordings where you have a new favorite track each week.  My favorite track this week is the last track, "All of My Friends."  I can't wait to see him perform at Irving Plaza in the beginning of October!

Pete Vash- Five Corners -A couple of Tuesdays ago on September 13th, marked the end of an era:  The Spook Handy Show- the longest-running open-mic in the state of New Jersey.  Being  the 1,000th and final show, it was an evening where performer's from all corners of the globe came out in celebration of a good thing.  One of those performers was Pete Vash.  I probably hadn't seen Pete in close to ten years!  Luckily for me, Pete still had a few CD's left in his merchandise box and... boy, am I glad!  I highly recommend picking up this independent label debut CD.  After checking out the free downloads,  you'll soon be wanting to purchase the whole CD.

Xavier Rudd- To Let -This talented singer-songwriter from Australia performs everything from a Weissenborn style lap guitar- to 6 & 12 strings, to a stomp box, to an Aztec Drum, and of course, let's not forget his homeland instrument- the Didgeridoo!  On stage, he often performs as a one man band, playing more than one instrument at a time.  I really love his new CD entitled Solace, which contains several re-recorded versions of songs that are on To Let, however, I would get this recording first.  I just feel that the recording just sounds a little more intimate on this particular recording, and I guess in some ways captures his amazing spirit just a little better!

Jack Johnson- In Between Dreams -Interestingly, Jack Johnson is not just a great musician, but a world-class surfer as well.  To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Jack Johnson's debut recording- Brushfire Fairytales.  For some reason, that recording didn't grab me like this one does!  This recording is Jack Johnson's third and my favorite by far.  The songs are well crafted and just plain fun to listen to- from start to finish.

Bedouin Soundclash  -Looking for some more great music while catching some good waves and cool breezes at the beach?  This CD is just the ticket!  My friend Pete just recently turned me onto this CD.  As I've mentioned before, I'm no expert on Reggae music, but I must say that I really enjoy listening to this one!

Rodney Crowell- Fate's Right Hand -As in many a past summer, we will be heading out on one of our famous road trips.  As you drive across the  great plains, it is imperative that you bring along plenty of good country music.  What better music than the music of one of Nashville's most gifted songwriter- Rodney Crowell!  I got a chance to check out one of his shows this spring and he most certainly didn't disappoint.  If you ever get a chance, his show is WELL worth the price of any admission!

Texas Tornados- Live From the Limo Vol. 1 -I can't believe I've been posting CD picks for close to five years now and have NEVER put a Texas Tornados CD on any of my lists!  Shame on me!!  How can you go wrong with the voice  of  Freddy Fender and the awesome accordion playing of  Flaco Jimenez?  While this recording is not my favorite studio recording... (that will have to wait for another month of CD picks!)  I definitely plan to bring this one along for the road trip, being that it is a live recording.  There's just something about the uninterrupted  listening of a live recording during a long car ride that I just love!

Memphis Slim- The Gate of the Horn -How can you go wrong with Memphis Slim on piano and Matt "guitar" Murphy on the six string?? This one ranks right up there in my desert island discs of great blues recordings!  The combination of Memphis Slim's voice, piano, and the smokin' hot licks of Matt "guitar" Murphy make this one a real chestnut that's solid from start to finish.  Here's another good site that provides an essential discography of his music.

Howlin' Wolf- Self-Titled("The Rocking Chair Album") -Howlin' Wolf had one of the most unique blues voices ever!  Known by many as simply "The Rocking Chair Album," this recording was the Wolf's second LP for Chess records and contains some of the all-time classics written by Willie Dixon including "Wang Dang Doodle, "The Red Rooster," "Spoonful," and "Back Door Man."  Be sure to pick up the CD which contains this album plus another great recording of his called Moanin' in the Moonlight all on one CD!

Junior Wells & Buddy Guy- Hoodoo Man Blues -What is the blues without a little harmonica??  Junior Wells ranks up there as one of my favorites.  It's not just his harp playing that I love about this recording. It's the combination of his harp, his voice and the soulful guitar playing of Buddy Guy that makes this recording a real pleasure to listen to.  I particularly love the Leslie speaker effect that Buddy Guy used on much of his guitar for this recording session !   Released in 1965, this became one of Chess Records best sellers to date.  One listen, and you'll see why.

John Lee Hooker- It Serves You Right to Suffer -With over 100 original releases & compilations to choose from, how does one recommend just one recording?  While I certainly don't own his complete discography, there are a few recordings that come to mind as essential must-have's when it comes to John Lee Hooker.  As far as studio recordings go, It Serves You Right to Suffer ranks among my favorites. (Live at Newport or Live at Cafe Au Go Go (Soledad Prison)  are two great live recordings!)  It just amazes me how John Lee Hooker was able to beautifully pull off some of his songs that were simply one chord vamps!  This recording is just packed with those kinds of one chord wonders.

Muddy Waters- Folk Singer -WAY BEFORE MTV's unplugged series became popular, there have been other recordings to come out with a "stripped-down" approach to the music.  My all-time  favorite "stripped down" blues recording would have to be this 1964 recording by Muddy Waters.  If ever, one person's music could define the blues, it might be Muddy Waters- one listen to this recording and you'll see why.

Joan Osborne- Early Recordings  -I have such fond memories of trekking into New York to the Wetlands club in the middle of the week to catch the amazingly awesome performances of Joan Osborne and her great back-up band.  This was in the early 90's, a number of years before her CD Relish put her on the map with her hit "One of Us."  As much as I enjoyed that recording, I still felt like most of the public still didn't have a sense of who she really was!  A year or so after her music started to really hit the airwaves, I was delighted to hear that Mercury decided to release a live recording of some of her earlier music.  Early Recordings does an admirable job of capturing the true essence of Joan's soulful spirit.  Standouts include "Dreamin' About the Day," "Match Burn Twice," and hey.... how can you go wrong with "Son of a Preacher Man"????

Joan Osborne- How Sweet it Is -A couple of months ago I picked up Joan's new release and it hasn't left my car's CD collection yet!  Produced by none other than John Leventhal, this studio recording is Joan's best yet.  Joan Osborne's & John Leventhal's unique interpretations  of well-known classics all seem to work so well.  In fact, I can honestly say that there isn't one song that falls short on this disc, which is quite a feat considering what a tremendous undertaking it is to do an entire album of unique interpretations of great songs!  If I had to only pick a couple of favorites, it would have to be Jimi Hendrix's "Axis: Bold as Love" and The Temptations' "Smiling Faces" (an awesomely funky duet that Joan does with Isaac Hayes!)

Alan Evans- Let it Ride -Speaking of awesomely funky.. be sure to check out this great solo recording by none other than the funky drummer from one of my favorite bands, Soulive.  These days, when drummer Alan Evans is not playing with his brother Neal (B3 organ player for Soulive) he's out on the road with his new project called PlayonBrother.  Last weekend, I got a chance to see PlayonBrother perform at the Lion's Den with Alan's brother sitting in on keyboards.  To my surprise, Neal Evans wasn't behind the usual Hammond B3, but rather was jamming out some funky stuff on a beat-up old Hohner D6 Clavinet-  Ah yes, another classic keyboard that I someday hope to play and own!

Lenny Kravitz- Circus -I also got a chance this past week to finally catch a Lenny Kravitz show- something that I have been meaning to do for quite some time now.  I've always had  a tremendous amount of respect for him and his music.  And I must say that his show lived up to every one of my expectations!  How many musicians out there can record and perform all of the instruments on their recordings?  He certainly has been an inspiration to me.  It's so hard to pick just one of Lenny's recordings- even his new one Baptism is great!  But, perhaps one of his lesser-known and still one of my favorites has to be his 1995 release entitled Circus, although I must admit that the inside  photo layout for the CD is one of his more bizarre to say the least!

Wynton Kelly Trio with Wes Montgomery- Smokin' at the Half Note -I purchased this recording early last fall and it still remains my most favorite late-night driving listens.  I've always loved the guitar work of Wes Montgomery, but this recording captures him during one of his finest and most lucid moments performing live with the tremendous talent and support of the Wynton Kelly Trio with Wynton on piano, Paul Chambers on Bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums.  In particular, be sure to check out the tune "Unit 7"  That tune just cooks from start to finish.  By the way, did you know that Ellis Marsalis named his second son Wynton in honor of Wynton Kelly?

Kevin Gilbert- Toy Matinee -Ever since I got turned on to Kevin Gilbert's Thud (see selected picks February 2002), I've often wondered if there were any other recordings of his that I could get my hands on.  It turns out that Kevin Gilbert's only official solo release (Thud) happened before his untimely death.  I  was recently checking out the website dedicated to his music, and it turns out that there are several other recordings of his!  This particular recording is the first of those that I've picked up and it's EXCELLENT.  Like Thud, there are so many finely crafted songs on this recording.  My favorites include "Things She Said."  In fact, you may even get a chance to hear me cover this song now and again!

Amber deLaurentis- By George -To put it simply, Amber deLaurentis rocks!  She was the winner of the 2002 Discmakers Independent Music World Series One of these days soon, I hope to catch her at the Bitter End in NYC.  If this live recording is any indication of what her live show is capable of being, I think I'll be in for a real treat! 

Nine Days- The Madding Crowd -This CD is just choc-full of awesome, undeniably catchy pop tunes! Named after the amount of time they had to record their first record, Nine Days started  around 1994 when talented songwriters Brian Desveaux and John Hampson began writing songs together after spending years in other bands playing in and around New York.  After releasing 3 independent recordings, the major labels began to take serious interest.  Soon, they were signed to Sony and released this gem of a recording- The Madding Crowd, named after the Thomas Hardy's Novel "Far From the Madding Crowd."  Their follow-up recording So Happily Unsatisfied as far as I know, still remains in the hands of Sony!  After parting ways with Sony, these guys continue to persevere by continuing to write great music and independently released another GREAT CD which I highly recommend, called Flying the Corporate Jet .  Be  sure to download the song "Reality TV" to fully appreciate their disgust with the entire entertainment industry.

Single- Welcome Nada -I recently stumbled upon this recording while surfing the net.  I really don't know too much about this band other than the fact that this rock trio is based in Los Angeles.  Their short, ten-song CD flows beautifully from start to finish and just goes to once, again prove that less is oftentimes more.  I can't stand it when artists release a sixteen-song CD which has ten great songs and six lame songs to fill up the 74 minutes that can be recorded onto a CD.  Here's a great essay that does a great exploration of this topic of CD length.  I couldn't agree more with this essay.

State Radio- Peace Between Nations -During my days at Middlebury College, I was always amazed at just how many great musicians there were on campus.  That tradition certainly has continued since my graduation day on the slopes of the college ski bowl.  A couple of years after graduating, a band by the name of One Fell Swoop formed and began performing at many of the same hangouts where I used to perform.  They eventually changed their name to Dispatch and became widely successful in their musical endeavors.  (By the Way, I highly recommend their recording- Silent Steeples.)  Unfortunately last year, the members of Dispatch decided to disband and pursue other musical endeavors.  Chad Urmston's latest project is called State Radio.  I got a chance to set them open up for Donavon Frankenreiter last month at the Bowery Ballroom.  State Radio's reggae-tinged political rock music is a true breath of fresh air!  In particular, be sure to check out the song "Democracy in Kind."

Jimmy Smith- Organ Grinder Swing -On February 8, 2005 the music world suffered a tremendous loss.  At the age of 76, THE master of the Hammond B3 Organ,  Jimmy Smith died in his sleep.  There are a number of musicians that I wished I had jumped at the opportunity to see at various points in my life.  Sadly, I will have to add Jimmy Smith to my list.  Topping off my CD picks for this month, are two of my all-time favorite recordings of his. The Organ Grinder Swing (along with Root Down - see June 2004 picks!) would have to be my first recommendation for anyone unfamiliar with the awesome music.  Besides the fact that there isn't a dull moment on this recording, I  love the way you can hear him singing & talking on different takes throughout the recording. 

Jimmy Smith & Joey Defrancesco- Legacy -This recording was scheduled to be released just days after his death.  It is befitting to include this as an essential pick, not only for the fact that this recording demonstrates just how awesome Jimmy Smith was up until the very end of his life, but that it truly is a great recording!  Sadly, the tour that Defrancesco and Smith had planned in support of this CD will never happen.  By the way, if you like this CD, you will also LOVE their live CD together entitled Incredible!

Joe Cocker- Organic -I just got a chance  this month to check out Joe Cocker at the Count Basie Theatre in Redbank.  Since my only vision of him was his heart-wrenching performance at the original Woodstock Festival (I saw it on film, that is!) I didn't know what to expect!  Even if I had high expectations, I was not disappointed in the least!  What a tremendous show!  This 1996 release, produced by the legendary Don Was, is a testament to the fact that Joe does not rest on his laurels but continues to put out great recordings and performances to this day! 

Chet Baker- It Could Happen to You  -Looking for that perfect Valentine's Day CD to play while having a romantic dinner?  This one's it!  That is, if you can put Chet's awfully tragic & tormented roller-coaster of a life out of your mind as you're eating dinner!  Man!  What a GIFT he had!  This recording does a great job of showcasing his amazing trumpet along with vocal lines that only a jazz trumpeter could possibly dream up!

The Ramsey Lewis Trio- The In Crowd -Want some real cookin' jazz?  This 1965 live recording is a classic!  This Chess Records recording marks the 18th recording in Ramsey Lewis' long  career that continues to this day and is considered to be the one that put him on the map.  In addition to the title track-The In Crowd," "Felicadade (happiness)"  is one of my all-time favorites of his. 

Ray Charles- The Genius of Ray Charles -Looking back at the year 2004, the music world lost one of the best to ever grace the stage.  Just one listen to this 1959 recording and you'll see why Ray is considered to be one of the most soulful, heartfelt performers that could take a song and make it his own! 

Ray Charles- Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music -Perhaps just as classic a recording as his 1959 recording:  The Genius of Ray Charles is this one.  By the year 1962, Ray already had developed a sizeable fan base and already had  released a number of great recordings.  For his next recording project, Ray decided to do something entirely different- a Ray Charles interpretation of current country hits.  Not surprisingly, the record company advised Ray that this venture was not wise due to the fact that it might alienate some of his devoted listeners (who were not huge country music fans!)  Ray Charles paid no heed to his record execs. conservative strategies.  His risky venture into the world of Country & Western music was a HUGE success, and greatly widened his appreciative fan base!  In fact, this recording still remains one of Ray Charles' most successful selling recordings to date!  Just goes to show you what little those record execs. know anyhow!!

Donavon Frankenreiter- (Self Titled) -What do you get when you cross an old-school surfer with an acoustic guitar wielding singer-songwriter?  You get the likes of Donavon Frankenreiter of course!  My friend Pete just turned me on to this disc, and what a beauty it is! Only 38 minutes in length, this disc proves to me once again that just because a CD can hold almost 70 minutes worth of music, most of the time.....less is more!  Every track is solidly groovin' and fun.  In particular, I like his use of the Wurlitzer electric piano on a lot of his songs.  It just feels so right!  I'm hoping to catch him at the Bowery Ballroom early next month.

Candi Staton- (Self-Titled Early Collection) - If you love the early sounds of Aretha Franklin, you'll LOVE this Holland import!  I had never heard of Candi Staton until very recently when I was browsing around one of my favorite music stores and happened to stumble upon this chestnut!  This disc chronicles her six years of recording for FAME records of Muscle Shoals.  If you love the sounds of old-school soul, this is a must-have for your collection!

James Carr- The Complete Goldwax Records Singles -Here's another must-have if you love the early soulful sounds of Motown.  Although not a Motown recording artist, James Carr proves on this complete Goldwax collection that he can deliver like the best of 'em!  It is unfortunate that James Carr never received quite the same notoriety as artist like Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding , but one listen to this recording and I think you'll agree that he was just as fine a performer!

Eliza Gilkyson- Land of Milk and Honey  -What can I say?  Eliza Gilkyson is one of my heroes!  She is one of my favorite female singer-songwriters out there today.  That's why I'm including two of her recordings on my CD picks this month.  The daughter of songwriter Terry Gilkyson, Eliza's songs are well crafted, and extremely powerful in their message.  This most-recent release of hers is one of her finest to date.  My favorites include "Not Lonely," "Tender Mercies," Ballad of Yvonne Johnson," and "Milk and Honey."

Eliza Gilkyson- Through the Looking Glass -This is an earlier recording of hers that I absolutely love as well.  When I first purchased this CD, it stayed in my CD player for several months.  That's a very long time for me.  This recording was the first of hers when she returned to the United States in the mid-nineties.  "All you Want" is one of my favorite songs of hers, not just from this recording, but from  all of the recordings I own of hers!  It just showcases her stunningly beautiful voice so well.

Cake- Pressure Chief -This past week I had a chance to finally catch one of their shows.  Being a west coast band, they rarely seem to make it out the the tri-state area.  I had a chance to catch their Fashion Nugget tour as an opening band for the Counting Crows, however at the last minute the Counting Crows cancelled the rest of their tour due to Adam Duritz's ailing voice.  When they rescheduled the show, Cake was no longer the opener.  They were awesome and well worth the several year wait!  If you're a huge Cake fan like I am, this latest CD doesn't disappoint!

Zero7- Simple Things - There are certain CD's that I put on just to relax.  This is one of those types of CD's.  Zero7 is a group from England that rarely makes it over to these parts.  I'm hoping at some point to catch them in the city.  They're a blend of west coast soul funk, folk-jazz, with a techno beat.  Their follow-up release is supposedly good as well.  One of these days I'm sure I'll get around to buying that as well.

Jethro Tull- Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of  Wight 1970 -The Isle of Wight 3-day concert was England's equivalent to America's Woodstock.  The last day of the show on August 18th featured one of Jimi Hendrix's final performances (he died 18 days later!) as well as an AMAZING performance by Jethro Tull.  They have finally released this legendary performance on CD and it is well worth purchasing if you're a fan of Tull.  The sound quality is as best as it can be considering the circumstances, and the high energy performances well make up for any shortcomings on the sound quality.

John Kay- Heretics and Privateers -A couple of years ago as I was traveling across the country, I stopped by the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  One of the  displays that remains forever etched in my mind was the display of original lyric sheets to some of the most famous rock songs of all times.  Included in that collection was John Kay & Ruston Moreve's "Magic Carpet Ride!"  It sent chills my spine to read the the original scribbling in pencil on that piece of faded white-lined paper.  Not long after that experience, I came across this awesome recording of John Kay's.  One listen to this CD, and you'll realize that John Kay is still an incredible writer & performer!

Holly Williams- The Ones We Never Knew -Holly Williams is a breath of fresh air from a family steeped in the musical past.  The grand-daughter of Hank Williams Sr., her style is more like a cross between Shawn Colvin & Mary Chapin-Carpenter.  This collection of a dozen songs is a fine set of introspective ballads.  I'm looking forward to hearing more great recordings from her in the near future.

Corey Small- Midnight Golf Course -A couple of weeks ago, I was rummaging around my studio and I stumbled across this gem of a CD that I had forgotten about.  Several years ago, while playing at the Spook Handy show in New Brunswick I entered the dingy basement of the Corner Tavern to be absolutely blown away by a performance by Corey Small.  I guess the best way to describe his music is to use Corey's description of "hyper-folk."  This CD is just packed with well constructed songs that are complimented by beautifully fluid finger-style guitar.  He now has a new one out called "Wafflelicious!"  I'm looking forward to picking this one up soon as well.

Clearwater Hot Club- Sammo -Speaking of awesome guitar players...  This past summer I was up in Grand Marias, Minnesota while thru-hiking the Superior Trail.  There was a three-day festival going on when we arrived in Grand Marias.  We were in desperate need of a shower, good food, and a soft bed.  While there on our day off, we got a chance to check out this phenomenal music group whose sole mission is to keep the tradition of gypsy jazz guitar music alive and well.  Their interpretations of Django Reinhardt's music were some of the best that I've ever heard.  Buy one of their CD's and see for yourself.

Jimmy Bruno- Burnin' -If you dig the sounds of jazz guitar, then you absolutely NEED to pick up any recording by Jimmy Bruno!  Of the ones that I've heard, I really like this one the best.  Craig Thomas on bass & Steve Holloway  on drums really drive this recording.  Just listen to Bruno's interpretation of Coletrane's "Giant Steps" and you'll see what I mean!

Population 1- Sessions from Room 4  -I just checked these guys out a couple of weeks ago opening up for King's X.  What an awesome show!  My only criticism of their show was that it wasn't long enough!  Oh well, what can you do when you're not the headliner!  Take my word for it.   These guys rock!  This five-song EP is a great introduction to their music.  This band features the legendary lead man Nuno Bettencourt from the band Extreme.  I can't wait to see them again!  By the way... if you're a huge Nuno fan, here's another website you should check out!

King's X- (Self-titled) -This CD was the follow-up to their hugely successful Faith Hope Love.  It also marked the end of their longstanding relationship with producer Sam Taylor.  If you don't own any of their recordings, this would be the first one I would purchase.  The thing I love most about this band is their ability to create these amazing soaring vocal harmonies over some fairly hard rockin' music.  My favorites on this disc includes "Lost in Germany" & "Prisoner."  Seeing them perform a couple of weeks ago was a real treat as their show did not disappoint!  (Especially- their encore with the acappella audience  participation  of "Over My Head."  I won't ever forget that!)

Heart- Jupiter's Darling -This is Heart's first studio recording in ten years, and BOY has it been worth the wait!  In my opinion this is their best work as a band since their early days when they released Dreamboat Annie & Little QueenJupiter's Darling rocks from start to finish. I defy anyone to tell me that the song "Oldest Story in the World" doesn't rock!  I'm just bummed that I didn't get a chance to check them out this past summer on tour in support of this gem of a release!

Jimi Hendrix Experience- Radio One -I can't believe that I haven't included a Hendrix recording in all of my picks thus far!  This is my favorite lesser-known recordings from this rock guitar genius. (If you're buying your first Hendrix CD, get Axis Bold as Love, followed by Electric Ladyland)  Before this got released by Ryko in the late 80's, this was a radio bootleg.  My tape copy got so stretched and eaten by many a bad tape player during my college days.  I was so thankful when it was finally released on CD.  I still enjoy crankin' "Drivin' South" at full tilt!

Robin Trower- Bridge of Sighs -If you like Jimi Hendrix's guitar style, you'll also like Robin Trower.  You might have heard the 1967 hit song "A Whiter Shade of Pale" from the British  band Procol Harum, but you may not have heard of Robin Trower.  He is one of the founding members of that band and went out on his own in 1973 to record several fine albums.  This recording is his second full-length LP and remains one of my favorites. 

T.J. Kirk -Self Titled (featuring the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown, & Rahsaan Roland Kirk) -I've always been a big fan of Charlie Hunter, but for some reason, I've never stumbled upon his collaborative work with Will Bernard, John Schott, & Scott Amendola.  That is until last month, when I found this disc  in a really cool music store in New Paltz, New York.   Not only has this been a great disc to play drums to, but it's also been an interesting listen for me as well- reviving my interest in the works of Brown and Monk as well as turning me on to the music of Kirk.

Roland Kirk- Domino -Not long after purchasing T.J. Kirk, I had to learn more about Rahsaan Roland Kirk.  I had never heard any of his music before, but recently went out and bought this 1962 release which is considered by many music critics to be one of his finest.  There are times on this recording where he performs 2 or 3 wind instruments at the same time ! Be sure to read the introduction page of the website dedicated to his life and music to learn what a truly gifted and exceptional person he was.  To quote Charles Mingus, "This man is what jazz is all about.  He's real!"

Thelonious Monk- Underground -Ever since watching the film Straight No Chaser during a college course that I took in jazz performance, I've always found Thelonious Monk to be a very fascinating person.  I have fond memories of going to my school's music library and listening to a number of his recordings on vinyl, including this later recording of his. 

Thelonious Monk- Criss Cross -It's just so strange how things just seem to happen at the times that they do.  I was in one of my favorite used CD stores the other day and came across just about half of Monk's discography all in the used bin!  What a true find!  (Somebody else's loss & my gain!) I was already planning to include Monk's Underground recording in my picks for the month, but now seem to find myself needing to include this standout recording to the ranks of highly recommended CD's!

James Brown- Get on the Good Foot -O.K., you've probably figured out the theme for this month centers around pick #1.  Well, here's my personal favorite of his.  It doesn't have all of his greatest hits (Get the 4-disc collection called Star Time if you want that!), but it contains some real chestnuts.  Standouts include the title track, "Funky Side of Town," and THE most screachin' version of "I've Got a Bag of my Own." 

Donny Hathaway- Live -Here's a real desert island disc for ya.  I recently got turned onto this disc by my drum teacher.  Man, does Donny and his band just groove!   From start to finish, this disc just won't quit!  I've been listening to this disc incessantly for the past couple of weeks and plan to learn more about Donny and his music.  Sadly enough, Donny Hathaway had a very short-lived career and released  only  three solo recordings before his life ended in 1978.

B.B. King- Live in Cook County Jail -It's a tough call to pick only one great live recording out of the many great live recordings of B.B. King.  To be quite honest, I was really torn between Live in Cook County Jail  and Live at the Regal, but decided to go with Cook County Jail if only for the fact that it's a bit rawer of a performance, and the show had a much tougher audience to please as well!

Merle Haggard- Okie From Muskogee -To put it simply, I love all of Merle Haggard's music- from his very early recordings to his most recent recording: Like Never Before.  I most recently bought this classic live recording: Okie from Muskogee on CD after having it for a while on LP.  You can be sure that this one will be playing in my car on my summer road trip.  I just love how this one-night performance in the fall of 1969 in Muskogee, Oklahoma beautifully captures the spirit of Merle's early works.

Miles Davis- At Carnegie Hall May 19, 1961 -The performances on this recording reflect a fine balance between the bop & cool schools of the late 1950's early 60's jazz and perfectly capture the spirit of the post-Coltrane Miles Davis Quintet with Hank Mobley.  This recording is one of my all-time favorites of Miles Davis and ranks among one of finest live recordings in the huge discography of Miles Davis.  In fact, some critics consider this particular night to be the finest of ALL of his live recordings.  I'll let you be the judge of that! 

Jimmy Smith- Root Down- Jimmy Smith Live! -Speaking of real classics, how can you not include a live recording from the likes of Jimmy Smith.  Man, this chestnut of a live recording is what I consider to be an essential, must-have for old-school funk enthusiasts.  Hey, if you're into The Beastie Boys, check out their EP "Root Down."  Catch the crew rhymin' ....Root Down.....Gonna Kick it Root Down!

Delbert McClinton- Nothing Personal -This week, I got a chance to catch one of Delbert's two nights at B.B. King's blues club in NYC.  His show did not disappoint.  What an incredible writer and performer he is!  I had a tough time just picking one of his recordings to feature this month, however Nothing Personal still ranks as my favorite recording of his.  I like the variety of musical styles that he explores on this CD.  My two favorite tracks include, "When Rita Leaves" and  of course, how can you go wrong with the CD's opener "Livin' it Down!"

Rob McNelley- ON -I was particularly impressed with Delbert McClinton's band.  Each person in that band was really a top-notch musician.    Near the end of the show, Delbert told the audience that he was going to take a fifteen minute break.  In his absence, Delbert let the audience enjoy a performance from each of  his backup musicians.  The performance that most struck a chord with me was from his guitarist Rob McNelley.  He performed his song "Angelina." (Which by the way, you can download from his website!) You could just tell by the electricity in the place that the night was far from being over.  After the show, I immediately purchased McNelley's CD and it hasn't left my car's CD player yet!  Man...... this boy's got some serious soul!

The Meters- Look-Ka Py Py -What can I say about these guys?  These guys are the real deal.  They are the Founding Fathers of Funk, right up there with the JB's.  'Nuff said.  Recently I got a chance to see the Funky Meters perform in NYC, and they've still got the right funky chemistry to rock the house.  This recording has many of my favorites including the title track: "Look-Ka Py Py."   The birth of this tune has a most interesting story to it.   According to bassist George Porter, "We got the riff for 'Look-Ka Py Py' from a burnt piston in the engine of our van.  It kept going 'ooka-she-uh, ooka-she-ah,' over and over.  Leo and Zig started singing along to it, and beating on the seats of our van.  Zig would beat on the roof, too, 'cause it had such a great bass drum sound.  Then Art started singing 'bom she bom bom,' and we  worked the whole thing out right there in the van."  Cool story, eh??

Janis Joplin w/Big Brother & The Holding Company- Cheap Thrills -This recording ranks up there with the all-time best recordings of the late sixties.  In fact, I'm surprised that this hasn't made my CD picks sooner than this.  Be sure to pick up the digitally remastered version which includes a couple of worthwhile bonus tracks.  Although Janis Joplin didn't stay long with Big Brother & The Holding Company, this live recording, along with Pearl are perhaps her two finest recordings.  Standouts on this include the spine-chilling rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime" and Big Mama Thornton's "Ball & Chain."

Big Mama Thornton- Jail -Speaking of Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, her 1975 recording on the Vanguard label entitled Jail is a must-have for blues enthusiasts!  This incredibly-performed live recording contains two of her classics, one of which is  "Hound Dog." She first recorded this song just  three years prior to Elvis Presley's success with "Hound Dog".  The other classic song on here is her own composition "Ball & Chain," which I just mentioned was made much more famous by Janis Joplin.

 John Martyn- Solid Air  -For the past several years, I have been very hesitant to place this CD on my CD picks- being that I thought this recording was out of print.  In fact, I've played this recording so many times, I'm surprised that  the vinyl grooves on my record haven't worn through the other side of the record@! I recently was able to purchase a CD of this recording from England thanks to the wonderful power of the internet!  So here it is.... One of my top 20 desert island discs finally making the CD picks of the month.  In my opinion, this is the best recording that John Martyn has ever made.  The power of his ethereal voice and his tremendous finger-style acoustic guitar playing converge on this recording and delivers a solid one-two punch like no other recording of his does.

Jorma Kaukonen- Quah  -You might have heard of a band from the sixties called the Jefferson Airplane.  Well, Jorma was one of the founding members of that band.  In fact, I would have to say that his guitar instrumental "Embryonic Journey" from their 1967 release Surrealistic Pillow, still remains one of my all-time favorite guitar instrumentals.  In fact, I would have to say that "Embryonic Journey" was one of those pieces of music that first inspired me to study finger-style guitar.  Quah was Jorma's first solo release.  This recording, along with many of his Hot Tuna recordings (a performance duo with former Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady)  still remains among my favorites of his.  Not only does this recording really showcase his amazing finger-style playing (reminiscent of the Rev. Gary Davis), but does a beautiful job of recording his voice as well.

Bert Jansch- The Circus Comes to Town -During my college radio DJ days, I came across many great recordings, including some wonderful recordings by the likes of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn.  Anything that they recorded in the 1960's is just amazing.  Be sure to check out some of the work that they both did in the group Pentangle.  Most recently I picked up this recording that Bert recorded in 1995 which again, reaffirmed my belief that he is still an amazing writer and musician.

John Renbourn- The Lady and the Unicorn -This recording is also a "must-have" in the realm of great finger-style oriented recordings.  I just love the opening track- "Trotto/Saltarello"  on this masterpiece of a recording.  You can hear this opening track by going to the listening section of John Renbourn's web site.  If you like both of the Renbourn & Jansch recordings that I've recommended, you'll definitely also want to get the 1966 release entitled: Bert and John.  This recording was re-released on Shanachie several years back entitled Bert Jansch- John Renbourn- Historic Collaborations.

Brooks Williams- How the Night-Time Sings  -It's amazing how things go in full-circle!  I was just reading Brooks Williams' web site page on "guitars, gear, & teachers."  On this page he speaks of guitarists who have influenced his playing style.  It turns out that he mentions every single one of the people mentioned above.  He also includes a free live MP3 recording of John Martyn's "May You Never" which you can download.  It's no wonder that I think Brooks is one of the most amazing guitar players/singer-songwriters on the stage today!  Unfortunately, all of Brooks' early recordings, including How the Night-Time Sings are currently out of print.  I would, however, recommend just about any of his recordings.  Do not despair.  His recording  Dead Sea Cafe  and Acoustic Beginnings 1990-1991 both contain a nice  selection of his early out-of-print  recordings.

 Bryan Thomas- One's & Zeros -Back in my Middlebury College days, there were a number of great bands on campus.  My band wasn't one of them, but we sure as heck were the LOUDEST of 'em all!  Keyboardist Bryan Thomas was in one of those bands.  Boy, did he have a great voice.  So musically talented, he picked up the guitar his junior year and just took off with it!   Now a well-rounded and accomplished musician, he performs all of the instruments on this second CD of his.  I can't wait to pick up a copy of his latest live acoustic CD entitled Babylon.

Vorcza Trio- Maximalist  -Another great musician on campus was a guy by the name of Ray Paczkowski.  I have such great memories of him and his band  lugging around one of those huge heavy Fender Rhodes pianos into the basements of all of the coolest late-night hangouts.  Ever since those days, I've been periodically keeping tabs on what Ray's been up to- from his days in the "So-called Jazz Sextet" to his days in the band "Viperhouse" to his most recent stint as the keyboardist for the Trey Anastasio Band.  The Vorcza Trio is his latest project and like all of the rest, it doesn't disappoint.

Steven Delopoulos- Me Died Blue -Back when I first started out as a solo artist, I used to frequent open-mics in Red Bank and New Brunswick, NJ.  It was down in Red Bank that I met Josh Zandman and his cousin Stephen Delopoulos -two very talented musicians who eventually helped to form an awesome band called "Burlap to Cashmere."  In addition to the two amazing A&M releases that they put out as the band "Burlap to Cashmere," they've each released solo releases that are both  worthy of making my CD picks.  (Josh's CD- The Summer Album is listed below.)  Both solo releases are excellent follow-ups to their last album as "Burlap to Cashmere" called Anybody Out There which, in my opinion is also a must-have CD!

Spook Handy- Breakfast at Bill's -If I had to credit just one person for giving me the greatest help in starting my solo career, it would have to be none other than the New Brunswick legend himself- Spook Handy.  After all, it was his Tuesday night open mic at the Corner Tavern in New Brunswick that got me started as a solo artist.  Spook's open-mic is the longest continuously running open mic in NJ- if not the whole country!  It was also Spook Handy who helped me land my very-first solo gig in New Brunswick at the now-defunct Cafe Newz.  Sometimes on a sunny afternoon, I like to put this on my stereo and jam to it on my Dobro!

Eystone- Up for Air  -Over the past couple of years, I've had the great pleasure and good fortune of becoming good friends with a very talented bass and trumpet  player by the name of John Messenger.  Whenever I've needed a solid bass player to accompany me with some of my performance projects, John's been there.  In our time together, I've had the pleasure of checking out his band Eystone- which features the wonderful voice of  Karen Rush.  Most recently, I did a show with them in which I got to sing backup vocals on one of my favorite tunes from this disc called "Out of my System."  What a great feeling it was to be on stage singing along to one of my favorite songs@!

Spiraling- Transmitter -Joining Eystone and myself on the bill that night was the band Spiraling- formerly called "You Were Spiraling."  This band features the talented writing & keyboard work of Tom Brislin.  This band also features the great guitar work of my friend Marty O'Kane . I've known Marty for a long time, going back to the days when he was in a really good band called Cooper Green.  Marty has also played guitar in some of my live projects as well.  I don't own any other CD's by Spiraling or any other incarnation thereof, but I must say that this one is REALLY good!

Joss Stone- The Soul Sessions -This recording is, by far, one of the most soulful recordings that I've heard in recent years.  You wouldn't think that such soulful sounds could come out of a sixteen-year-old from the UK, but this freshman effort does everything to smash all stereotypes.  I just love the manner in which this CD was recorded.  The vocals are very much up-front and intimate sounding without them being drowned out in a huge wash of reverb.  The sound of this recording has just got 2-inch tape written all over it!  Gosh, I just LOVE the analog vibe!  Not only is the sound old-school, but Joss is supported by a cast of great musicians- many of whom shaped some of the soul hits of the 70's themselves.  This recording has THE BEST EVER interpretation of "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Wylie Gustafson & The Wild West- Paradise  -Wylie who??  Yeah, you heard me right- Wylie Gustafson!  He may not be a household name, but you've heard his distinctive yodeling in the Yahoo ads.  Wylie Gustafson is the real deal.  For every thousand guys struttin' on stage with a cowboy hat (most of 'em in Nashville!) there's a REAL singing cowboy like Wylie Gustafson.  When he's not touring with his group- The Wild West, he's up at 5:30 AM taking care of his cattle on his ranch in Dusty, Washington (pop. 11).   When I was backpacking on the continental divide a couple of summers ago, I got a chance to hear him perform at the annual Carbon County Gathering in Rawlins, Wyoming.  What an unexpected treat that was!  This disc really showcases his great ability to blend styles of western swing, classic country, cowboy and folk.  I've never heard anyone sing yodeling harmonies as well as Wylie does.  Just check out the last track "Yodel Boogie," and you'll know exactly what I mean.  This disc also contains one of the best- ever recorded versions of Dylan's classic "Girl from the North Country." 

Guy Clark- Old No. 1  -If the guitars that Guy Clark builds are anything like the songs he crafts, they must be some of the finest 6-string instruments being built today.  I unfortunately have yet to play one of his guitars.  Old No. 1 still ranks as one of my favorite Guy Clark recordings, and would serve as a great introduction to his music to the first-time listener.  This disc contains a lot of his classic songs including "LA Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting for the Train." I got a chance to see Guy Clark perform last Friday at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, and Joe Ely- what a songwriter's listening paradise!

Phil Vassar- American Child -Speaking of great shows, I'm really looking forward to seeing Phil Vassar play at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank this month.  His new CD American Child is just packed with undeniably great Nashville-style hook-laden songs .  Of course, it didn't hurt that he co-wrote all of the songs on this disc with some of the best songwriters that Nashville currently has to offer-including Craig Wiseman, Jerry Vandiver, Annie Roboff- just to name a few!  He even co-writes a song with his friend  Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty.  It will be interesting to see how well the songs on this disc translate into live performances.  I'm sure his back-up band will be full of top-notch musicians.

Nanci Griffith- Flyer  -The week that I'm seeing Phil Vassar, I'm also going to be seeing Nanci Griffith in Montclair, NJ.  Nanci has a lot of great recordings:  One Fair Summer Evening, Late Night Grande Hotel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, just to name a few.  But for me, it was Flyer that turned me on to her music.  Not only is this disc  a solid effort in songwriting from start to finish, but also has quite an eclectic bunch of folks contributing to the recording, including front man of Counting Crows Adam Duritz, as well as Emmylou Harris, The Chieftains, and Mark Knoffler of Dire Straits.  If you visit her website, be sure to check out the demo of her new song "Big Blue Ball of War."

The Wrenfields- 21st Century Pioneer -Looking for some good ole home-cooked American alt-country/rock'n roll?  Look no further than the Wrenfields!  This group, hailing from Michigan, has gradually developed a cult-following of sorts in the alt-country circles that the music industry should take notice of (in my mind at least!)... Be sure to check out the four songs that you can download from this CD for free.  I just love the song "Rise Above!"  Also, be sure to check out their second release aptly called "Seconds." It contains my favorite of all of their songs called "Carry Me Away."  Thanks Nolan for suggesting that I check out this band.

Michelle Shocked- Arkansas Traveler -I finally got a chance to check out Michelle Shocked last month at Joe's Pub in NYC.  I had never seen a show there.  It's a pretty good place to catch an intimate  sit-down type of show.  Michelle Shocked was AMAZING!  I just love what she's able to do with her voice.  She's one of my favorite songwriters out there today.  I'm so excited that Michelle finally has ownership and control over her Mercury releases.  If you want to learn more about this story, be sure to read her bio page. Her current tour is supporting the re-release of her recording Short Sharp Shocked (which, by the way was one of my CD picks for December 2001).  

Ellis Paul- The Speed of Trees  -Speaking of great songwriters, check out this disc by Ellis Paul!  Not only is the title of this disc great, but the music is exquisite as well.  I just love the flow of this recording.  He has a new recording out called Side of the Road with another tremendous singer-songwriter Vance Gilbert .  I don't own this new one, but if it's like any of Ellis Paul or Vance Gilbert's other recordings, I'm sure it is excellent.  One of these days, I hope to catch a show with both of them together.

Fastball- All the Pain Money Can Buy -Here's another disc with a great title!  I just got turned onto this band last week by my friend and co-writer Jim Mudrak.  (By the way, we're working on some great new tunes.... Just you wait!)  This recording is just packed with great-sounding rock'n roll tunes.  You probably have heard the song "Out of My Head" and thought it was an Elvis Costello song.  (I know that I did!)  Anyway, these guys are great- check em out!  Cool website too!

Merle Haggard- Like Never Before  -Just like a fine wine that just improves with age, Merle Haggard just keeps getting better.  Be sure to check out his controversial tune on this disc called "That's the News."  I also really like the duet that he does with Willie Nelson on the Woody Guthrie 's "Reno Blues (Philadelphia Lawyer)."  What impresses me most about this CD, is the fact that Merle doesn't rest on his laurels.  With the exception of the Woody Guthrie song, all of the rest of the songs on this disc were recently written by himself- new material that's just as good as some of his classics!  By the way, if you're interested, you can buy Merle's houseboat.

The Brilliant Mistakes- Dumb Luck -I just picked up this CD the other day and have absolutely fallen in love with it!  I enjoyed their first release All Hands & the Cook, but I have to say that I'm liking their second release even more- a solid CD from start to finish.  I'm just amazed that these guys are still playing small venues.  I think that their title track sums up the struggle that so many great bands face in getting recognized by the music industry.

Joni Mitchell- Clouds  -This is my all-time favorite recording of hers.  (Yes, I even like it better than Blue or  Ladies of the Canyon!) In fact, this disc would make my desert island picks in the singer/songwriter category.  I just love the whole vibe of this second recording of hers.   The sparse arrangements on Clouds do such a great job of showcasing her awesomely beautiful voice.  To me, sometimes there can be nothing more powerful and evocative than listening to a well recorded acoustic guitar to compliment an equally amazing voice.

David Wilcox- How Did You Find Me Here -Speaking of great singer/songwriters, David Wilcox's sophomore release How Did You Find Me Here also ranks up there with some of my all-time favorite recordings.  Like Joni Mitchell's Clouds, this recording also features well-crafted songs that are not overproduced.  I got the opportunity to catch him perform several times  at Mead Chapel when I was a student at Middlebury College. The songs on this, his second CD bring back a lot of warm memories. 

Phish- Lawn Boy -Speaking of my college days in Vermont, I got tons of opportunities to check out this little known band at the time called Phish (Man did they have trouble spelling  or what??) at a place called The Front in Burlington, VT.  Sadly, The Front is no longer a club, nor does the building still stand, but the band that I saw so many times is still going strong!  Just check out their discography and you'll see what I mean.  Being a huge fan of Frank Zappa, I quickly fell in love with their crazy high-energy style.  Speaking of Zappa- for those of you who are familiar with this CD, doesn't the song "Reba" sound a whole lot like Frank Zappa's "Dinah-moe Humm?  I've always thought that!

Stone Temple Pilots- Purple  -"The second album........twelve gracious melodies!"  Hey, how could I do a list of great sophomore CD picks without throwing this one in there!  (Just listen to the hidden CD track on this disc to get my reference!)  To be quite honest, I wasn't all that taken in with Stone Temple Pilot's first disc.  At the time I thought, "Oh great, another grunge band!"  It was only after Purple came out that I really took notice of what this band has to offer.  By the way, nowhere on the disc does it say Purple.  I guess that the Chinese symbol on the cover says "Purple." 

Emmylou Harris- Brand New Dance  How can you pick just one recording from her incredibly rich and deep discography?  I could have picked , Wrecking Ball considered to be her 1995 musical renaissance, or Red Dirt Girl which won a Grammy in 2000 for best modern folk album, or her brand new recording: Stumble into Grace, which I feel is one of her best recordings yet!  In fact, I got a chance to catch her at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago and had to immediately go out and buy it.  But I'd rather dig deeper into her discography and pull out a real gem that you might not have heard of.  I am particularly fond of her Warner Bros. recording Brand New Dance. Standout tracks include: Rollin' and Ramblin' (Death of Hank Williams), Better off Without You, and of course the title track as well!

Steve Earle- Train a Comin'  -I also got a chance to see Steve Earle at Carnegie Hall that same week that Emmylou Harris performed.  This concert was a much more intimate performance, being at Zankel Hall (650 seat capacity!) Steve Earle is considered by many (myself included) to be one of the greatest saviors of country music.   With six discs in six years and touring 150 nights a year, Steve Earle is a very busy man.  Every one of his recordings is so different from the last.  This 1995 recording remains my absolute favorite recording of his.  I never grow tired of listening to it.  More than any of his other recordings, (which are also great!!) Train a Comin' best captures the spirit of what I saw on stage that night at Zankel Hall -just a great man with one terrific story after the next and an acoustic guitar.

Jason Mraz- Waiting for My Rocket to Come -I just picked up this fresh-sounding CD produced by John Alagia, and I must admit, it's a solid debut for Mraz from start to finish.  As you might remember, John Alagia has produced recordings for Dave Matthews and John Mayer, and this CD has a bit of that vibe going on.  What I really enjoy about Jason Mraz, is his ability to do cool things with his voice.  Just check out "Sleep All Day" and you'll know just what I mean. 

Joe Firstman- The War of Women – Speaking of solid debut CD's, Joe Firstman's The War of Women ranks up there with the best of 'em.  I've had this one in my car's CD player for several weeks and it hasn't come out yet!  Joe Firstman is an artist who's not afraid to speak his mind and he's certainly one who never minces his words.  Full of energy and passion, this CD is packed with a wide variety of great songs- from piano-driven ballads like "Now you're Gorgeous, Now You're Gone" to rootsy rockin' songs like "Breaking all the Ground."  

Ralph Peterson- Tests of Time - To quote Steve Decker- my drum teacher, "Ralph Peterson is the real deal."  I got a chance to hear his quintet as part of the NJPAC underground series.  I got to the show early enough to get a seat about 10 feet from the side of his drum set, and boy, did I feel lucky!  A protégé of the late great Art Blakey, Peterson carries on the tradition of being an awesome drummer and an equally great band leader that constantly challenges his band mates to strive for new musical directions.  Tests of Time, just released September of this year, not only showcases his talents as a performer, but as a great writer as well. 

The First 100 CD Picks.......

King Crimson- In the Court of the Crimson King Alright, let's start with the old school and work our way to the present with this list of five.  This recording is considered by many critics to be one of the seminal recordings of progressive rock.  I still think it has one of the coolest looking  album covers in the history of rock n' roll, and still ranks as one of my favorite King Crimson recordings.  If you like this recording, be sure to check out  Larks' Tongues in Aspic or one of their more recent recordings 1995's Thrak (very Beatlesque!)

Yes- The Yes Album  -For me, it's such a toss-up between this recording and their follow-up Fragile.  But I would say that overall, this recording has more of my favorite pieces on it, like "Yours is No Disgrace," "I've Seen All Good People," and "Perpetual Change."  By the way, Rhino has remastered and reissued this recording.  You can purchase it on vinyl, or you can get the CD with bonus tracks such as a studio version of Steve Howe's  acoustic guitar masterpiece "The Clap!"  It's too bad that I already have three copies of this- one  on vinyl, one on CD, and one on cassette.  Do you think I kinda like this recording??

Rush- A Farewell to Kings -How can you just pick one Rush album from their entire discography?  Decisions, decisions....  well, if I had to pick just one, I think it would have to be A Farewell to Kings- their studio follow-up to their landmark recording 2112 and a precursor to perhaps my second favorite recording of theirs- Hemispheres.  Like most of their recordings, I find that you can't listen to them in small snippets.  You really need to sit down and listen to them in their entirety!  I got a chance in June of 2002 to see Rush on the second night of their whole Vapor Trails tour and was blown away by the intensity of the show.  After all of these years Lee, Peart, and Lifeson still have it!

Don Caballero- Don Caballero 2 – WARNING- this recording is not for the TIMID!!  Several years ago, I was browsing around a CD store in Austin TX and heard this unbelievably intensely crazy music blasting from their PA that was set up in their store.  I asked the dude behind the counter who we were listening to and he handed me this disc.  In my opinion, this recording still represents some of the most adventurous progressive music to come out in a long time.  Be sure to check out track 2: "please tokio, please THIS IS TOKIO."  I'm not sure if I've ever heard a band saw used before in a piece of music!  Someday, maybe I'll get a chance to check out one of their shows.

The Mars Volta- De-loused in the Comatorium  - I'm not sure what the heck the title means, but this recording, produced by Rick Rubin on Universal Records has created quite a buzz in the music industry as of late. This band is one of the two offshoots of the group At the Drive-in ( be sure to check out the other offshoot group- Sparta.)  The music of The Mars Volta  is drawing a lot of comparisons to a wide range of bands from Fugazi to Santana, from Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis.  I'm looking forward to getting the full story on what the title of this CD means when the lyrics/story booklet is published which, I am told, will be soon!  I'm also looking forward to catching their show at the Roseland Ballroom in a few weeks.

Ella Fitzgerald- Sings the Irving Berlin Song Book Ella remains one of my absolute favorite female jazz vocalists of all time.  Recorded in 1958, during the early years of her recordings with Verve Records, this recording is a true  jazz classic.  I'd be hard-pressed to find any other vocalist that has done justice to the incredible catalog of Irving Berlin's works.

The Jayhawks- Rainy Day Music  -I got a chance to check out The Jayhawks tour with The Thorns this summer.  What a great show from start to finish.  Rainy Day Music, produced by Ethan Johns, is by far their best studio effort since Tomorrow the Green Grass.  It has a nice flow to it (good for long cross-country road trips!). Not only is recording and production done nicely, but the songwriting is fairly solid throughout.

Patty Larkin- Tango  -Where were you during the great blackout of 2003?  I was in an awesome CD store in Fargo, North Dakota picking up a copy of this great disc!  Man... I haven't listened to this disc since my college radio DJ days.  Not only has the music held up well over time, it still remains as one of my favorite recordings of Patty Larkin.  Not only is she a great songwriter, but she's an AMAZING finger style guitar player as well, just listen to the piece "Solo Flight" and you'll exactly what I mean!

Al Green- Don't Look Back  Yeah, I could have chosen Let's Stay Together, or  I'm Still in Love With You, but that would be choosing the obvious.  This recording, originally released in 1993, was not available in the states for several years.  In my opinion, it represents some of the best studio work that I've heard him record since the seventies!  Interestingly enough, many of the tracks on this recording were produced and arranged by David Steele and Andy Cox from the band Fine Young Cannibals!

Maktub- Khronos  –Speaking of great voices, if you dig the sweet sound of Al Green, then you should check out the voice of Reggie Watts.  Based out of Seattle, Maktub (pronounced mock'-tube, Arabic for "it is written") features the super-smoothie voice of Watts.  The cool thing about this band, is that they really have a cool blend of so many musical styles from soul, to trip-hop, to rock with a hard edge.  I 'm looking forward to picking up a copy of Reggie Watts' new recording project called Simplified.  

The Thorns (self-titled) What do you get when you put the likes of three great songwriters like Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge all together in one room?... You get the terrific writing and vocal harmonies from  a musical super-group called The Thorns!  Upon first listening, I  heard some serious echoings of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (just listen to "Dragonfly" and you know what I mean!) and a slight tinge of the Beach Boys ( just listen to the opening track- "Runaway Feeling").  I wonder if the Thorns are a one-record deal like Blind Faith was in the sixties or will we continue to hear great things from them in the future?

Dan Baird- Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired A number of years ago I heard the song "I Love You Period" on the radio and thought to myself, "What a cleverly written tune!"  The voice sounded a little like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, or perhaps the singer from the Georgia Satellites, but I never learned who it was.  Well, just last week I was rifling around the CD bins at my local CD store and happened upon this recording.   It turns out that Dan Baird is the former front man of the Georgia Satellites This CD is meant to be played with the stereo cranked up to eleven!  Rock on dude!

Johnny Cash- Water from the Wells of Home -As I gather CD's from my collection to take on our annual summer road trip, I  always make sure that we have enough country music with us.  I don't know why, but listening to Johnny Cash and being stuck in Jersey traffic on rte 1 just doesn't seem to go together as well as listening to Johnny Cash while driving across the vast plains of Kansas.  I discovered this gem of a recording last year in Steamboat Colorado of all places!  I particularly like Jack Clement's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," and Cash's duet with June Carter on "Where did we go Right," and let's not forget the title track either!

Rodney Crowell- The Houston Kid This is another CD that we'll be taking with us on our road trip.  Put simply, I think Rodney Crowell is a great songwriter.  This is my favorite recording of his.  He has such a great ability to write songs that tell an interesting story- be sure to listen to "Highway 17" or "Banks of the Old Bandera."  I also enjoy the duet that he does with Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line (Revisited).  His next recording is due out at the end of August.  I can't wait!

Rascal Flatts (self-titled)This CD will also travel with us this summer.  Anyone learning how to write a current-sounding hit song with great vocal harmonies for Nashville should own this disc.  It's quite funny, when I first listened to this CD it didn't really grab me, but after several listenings in the car, I couldn't stop listening to it!  All songwriters in their own right, this vocal trio spent countless hours of listening to over a thousand song demos to find the absolute strongest songs to put on their debut CD- it sure shows!

Robbie Williams- Escapeology Plain and simply, Robbie Williams just proves again, what a great songwriter he is.  I really loved his recording- The Ego Has Landed  and wondered if it was possible to top that one.  In my opinion, he's done it!  Each week, another song just grabs me.  This week I'm really diggin' "Handsome Man."  Be sure to check out his website.  I aspire to put together a website like that someday!

Nikka Costa- Everybody Got Their Something I got a chance to check her out last year at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and was completely blown away by the intensity of her show.  This recording barely scratches the surface of what this woman has to offer.  Mark my words- expect to hear more great things from her in the future.

The Jones Brothers- Keepin' Up With the Joneses I'm really psyched to see jazz drummer extraordinaire Elvin Jones next month at the Blue Note in NYC.  This recording, done in the late 1950's represents one of the very few times that all of the Jones brothers-Hank (organ and piano), Thad (trumpet and flugelhorn), Eddie (bass), and, of coarse Elvin (drums) played together.  It's a shame that they didn't put out a lot more recordings together.

Nickel Creek- This Side I got turned on to this trio  a couple of years back with the release of their self-titled debut.  As you may recall, this newer recording, produced by Alison Krauss, won a Grammy for the best contemporary folk album of the year.  What I love about this group is the fact that they're all sincere and incredible musicians....and their songwriting's not too shabby either!

John Denver- Higher GroundSpeaking of sincere artists, John Denver's music has always grabbed me, because it always speaks directly from the heart.  This recording marked a new beginning in John's life and career.  After his troubled times in the early to mid-eighties, John moved to Australia, met and subsequently married Cassandra Delaney who gave birth to their daughter Jesse Belle.  It was at this period of his life that John began to feel reborn.  In 1989, John began to work on new songs.  It was the start of a renaissance that was to see FOUR Denver albums in a little over a year!  This was the first of them.  My favorite song on this recording is "Whispering Jesse"- you can imagine just who this song refers to.

Sonny Burgess (Self-titled) –In my opinion, Sonny Burgess still remains as one of the kings of rockabilly music. One of the pioneers of this new-fangled music called rock ’n roll, Sonny cut his doubled-sided classic "Red-Headed Woman" and "We Wanna Boogie" back in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis- the same place where this guy named Elvis got his start. Unfortunately, not every talented musician can share the spotlight, and Sonny Burgess never became a household name. Just take one listen to this 1996 Rounder Records recording, and you’ll agree with me that Sonny’s still has what it takes!

Alison Brown- Quartet – How many Grammy-winning Harvard grad. investment bankers do you know that can play circles around anyone on the banjo? Well… I can only think of one, and her name is Alison Brown. With seven recordings to her name, Alison Brown has made her mark in the world of banjo music with a style that infuses jazz, pop, classical, folk, and Latin all in one. This 1996 Vanguard recording was the one that really changed my opinion about how the banjo could be approached.

Pat Martino- We'll Be Together Again –Whenever I just want to sit back, relax, and chill out, this recording of jazz guitar extraordinaire Pat Martino is just the ticket. What I love about this recording is that it is just him on guitar and Gil Goldstein on Fender Rhodes. The interplay between the two of them is just terrific! Recorded in New York over a period of two days, this recording, originally released in 1976 on the Muse label was out of print for many years and was finally reissued on CD only a few years ago.

Stanton Moore- All Kooked Out! – Stanton Moore has to be one of my favorite drummers makin’ a racket on the planet today! The drummer of the New Orleans-based band Galactic, Stanton Moore has out a number of great solo projects. He kind of reminds me of the late Art Blakey in the sense that when he puts a project together, you know it’s going to be jam-packed with awesome musicians. This recording features guitarist Charlie Hunter and saxophonist Skerik amongst many other great talents that contribute to this recording. Go to his website to listen to the sample tracks from this recording, and you’ll agree with me that it’s good! I can’t wait to pick up a copy of his latest recording that features Karl Denson and Chris Wood.

Romero - Live at Trinity ChurchYou just never know when you’re going to hear great music. About a month ago, I was invited to a surround-sound recording seminar at the Guitar Center in Springfield, NJ. The featured performer and the subject of the recording was this guy Hernan Romero. It only took about fifteen seconds of listening to him perform, when I realized that I just had to get a copy of his music. A combination of flamenco, Latin, jazz, and classical, this live recording really captures the spirit and energy of this virtuoso guitarist.

Wynton Marsalis- Standard Time Vol. 1 –I was fortunate enough to witness an important chapter in jazz history last night at NJPAC in Newark, NJ with the performance of the Ellis Marsalis and his sons- Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason. What a rare treat to be able to hear the amazing talent of this family in such an acoustically incredible place! This recording still ranks up there with my all-time favorite jazz recordings. Just listen to the opening eight and a half-minute rendition of "Caravan" and you’ll know what I mean!

Charles Earland -Intensity – To me, there’s nothing quite like the sound of the Hammond B3 played by the likes of Charles Earland. What makes this recording so special is that it features the final takes ever recorded of the late great trumpeter Lee Morgan. Two days after the combo tracks on this disc were recorded, Helen More- a girlfriend of Morgan’s at the time, shot him on the stage of New York City nightclub Slug’s on Feb. 19, 1972. Morgan died on the spot.

Allison Moorer- Miss FortuneThis is Allison’s third recording to date, and in my opinion, her most stylistically adventurous release. Her first two recordings for MCA Nashville are also wonderful recordings, however- this album eclipses those efforts by a long shot. Mark my words- you will be hearing more and more about this artist in the years to come!

Aimee Mann- Bachelor No. 2 – Aimee Mann, former lead singer of the eighties band Til Tuesday is still going stronger than ever with her solo releases. I admire her fierce independence in dealing with the music industry. Just listen to the opening track of this recording and you’ll know exactly what I mean! Hey- if you like this recording, also be sure to pick up her latest release Lost in Space.

John Gorka- Land of the Bottom Line –I just picked up this recording recently. I haven’t listened to this CD since my college radio DJ days. Not only do I feel that this recording has held up well over time, in retrospect, it just might be one of his strongest releases in his discography. If you like this recording, be sure to check out my equally favorite recording of his: Temporary Road, which, by the way, you can download for free on his web siteJ .

Booker T. & the MG’s…..And Now! –Everyone is familiar with the sound of Booker T. & the MG’s whether they know it or not through their classic hit "Green Onions." With Booker T. Jones on the ole Hammond B3, Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass, and Al Jackson Jr. on Drums, this dynamic quartet wrote and performed some of the coolest funky ditties of the sixties. This original recording is my favorite of theirs. Check out the tune "No Matter What Shape" and you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean.

Willie Nelson- Stardust -Speaking of Booker T. Jones, this Willie Nelson recording (one of my favorites) was produced and arranged by Booker T. himself.  A good friend of mine, Reggie Jayne has been giving me a whole lot of grief that not one Willie Nelson recording has made the CD picks list....not yet, that is. ( Reggie- How can you just pick one Willie Nelson  recording to put on this list?) This recording features Willie performing some real classic songs.  Standouts include such standards as"Georgia on my Mind," "Unchained Melody," and "Moonlight in Vermont."

Alison Krauss + Union Station Live My sister gave me this recording for Christmas and it hasn't left my car's CD player since!   I've been waiting patiently for years for Alison Krauss + Union Station to put out a live recording and here it is.  From start to finish, this is a real gem.  I just wish I could play the Dobro about one-tenth as well as Jerry Douglas does on this recording.  Sit back and enjoy!

Heart- Little Queen You just never know what little chestnuts you'll come across when you go rifling through the used CD section.  This recording was their follow-up album to their self-titled debut release.  Although it was panned by Rolling Stone Magazine back in 1977, I still think that this recording has held up well over time and just might be one of their best recordings in my opinion.  Standouts include: "Barracuda," "Sylvan Song," "Dream of the Archer," and "Little Queen."

Bob Marley- Talking Blues  –When one is asked to name the first reggae artist that comes to mind, certainly, the name Bob Marley is first on tip of most peoples tongues.  Asked to name a second artist, some might mention Peter Tosh.  Asked to name a third, most people would draw a blank. I am by no means an expert on the genre of reggae music, but I certainly love the music of Bob Marley.  This recording is my  favorite recording of his music.  This CD features the music recorded for a broadcast for KSAN during the Wailers' first American tour in 1973.  Interspersed between songs are clips of Bob Marley being interviewed.  Good luck in trying to understand everything that he says!

James Brown’s Funky Christmas –There is no doubt in my mind that James Brown is THE man when it comes to the power of funk and soul! Although this recording is a compilation of several of his holiday albums over the years, it’s got all the James Brown holiday chestnuts you’d ever want. Be sure to check out "Soulful Christmas" for a dose of the funk. Also, be sure to check out his stirring rendition of "The Christmas Song version 1" as well. It always brings a tear to my eye.

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album – I was turned on to this recording by a fellow teacher of mine- Don Pray who is a huge Beach Boys fan. This CD is always sure to put me in the holiday spirit. Be sure to check out Brian Wilson’s quirky little ditty "The Man with all the Toys." I also enjoy the a cappella takes of "Auld Lang Syne" and "The Lord’s Prayer"- both really showcase their wonderful ability to harmonize.

A Charlie Brown Christmas- Vince Guaraldi TrioI grew up enjoying all of the Charlie Brown holiday specials on my folk's black and white TV. This recording has one of my all-time favorite jazz interpretations of "O Tannenbaum" and "What Child is This?" And, of course, let’s not forget the all-time classic Charlie Brown music track: "Linus & Lucy."

The Roches- We Three Kings – My wife turned me on to this recording. She first heard this recording a number of years ago on Vins Scelsa’s radio show "Idiot’s Delight." The vocal harmonies of these three sisters really shine through on this recording. Legend has it that they used to perform these Christmas carols together in Penn Station. I wonder if they still do?

Shawn Colvin- Holiday Songs & Lullabies –I have loved the music of Shawn Colvin the moment I first heard a recording of her singing "Shotgun Down the Avalanche." This CD features so many unusual and beautiful holiday songs. My current favorites on this CD are "Windy Nights"- a Robert Louis Stevenson poem set to music, "Love Came Down on Christmas" and Vince Guaraldi’s "Christmas Time is Here."

The Story- Grace in Gravity -I have been a huge fan of Jonatha Brooke for many years.  This CD is the  first of very many great recordings of hers.   Now a solo artist, I was lucky enough to see her perform with the musical group The Story with the incredible vocal harmonies of Jennifer Kimball way back when the Wetlands was going strong on Hudson St. in NYC on a Sunday afternoon.  This CD is still one of my favorites of hers.  Be sure to check out the e.e. cummings poem "love is more thicker than forget" set to the haunting, spine-tingling harmonies of Kimball and Brooke!

Gil Scott-Heron-  Pieces of a Man -If James Brown is the Godfather of Soul, then Gil Scott-Heron is the Godfather of if's, and's, or but's about it!  There have been a number of reissues and compilations of his earlier work, but I always prefer the original recordings the way the artist intended it to be.  This original recording not only contains "The Revolution will not be Televised," but also contains "Lady Day and John Coltrane," and, of course my favorite- the title track "Pieces of a Man."  This piece always inspires me to sit down at the piano.

Chick Corea- Akoustic Band -I finally got a chance to catch Chick Corea a few weeks ago at the Blue Note in NYC with The Elektrik Band- an all-star cast of musicians that included Dave Weckl (drums), Eric Marienthal (sax), and Frank Gambale (guitar)  Jimmy Earl (bass) (instead of John Patitiucci) for the first time in 10 years to present both original CCEB repertoire as well as new compositions Chick created for the later version of the band.   I, unfortunately don't yet own any CD's of Chick's Elektrik Band, but will soon go out and buy some after being blown away by how incredible they were!  This disc- Akoustic Band has all of the same musicians and contains great acoustic jazz classics such as "Autumn Leaves," "Someday my Prince Will Come," as well as a great acoustic rendition of Chick Corea's "Spain."

Charlie Christian- The Original Guitar Hero -I love getting back to the deep roots of all musical styles.  Charlie Christian an incredible jazz guitarist, takes you back to the real beginnings of rock'n roll guitar.   It's a shame that he died at the early age of 25 of tuberculosis.  This Columbia/Legacy recording not only features the chops of Charlie Christian, but also the great work of the recently departed Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman.  This short 8 song recording is a good way to get introduced to the music of this electric guitar pioneer.  Maybe Santa will bring me the 3 CD box set for Christmas!

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe- The Bridge -As I said in my CD picks for the month of April, there is really no Karl Denson CD that I don't like.  This is his latest exploration into the world of funk, jazz, hip-hop, blues, whatever...........  What more needs to be said- go out and get it!  It's well worth the money!

Denise Barbarita- Beauty Lied -Based out of NYC, I just got the chance to catch Denise  at last week's Tuesday night Vision and Sound show at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick.  Not only is Denise a wonderfully talented artist with an equally talented backup band, but she is a genuinely warm and kind-hearted person.  Be sure to check out this debut CD.  My favorite tunes on this disc are: "Only for My Sake," "On Your Side," and the last track, "What I Believe."

The Indigo Girls- Become You -To be quite honest, I haven't been all that thrilled with the Indigo Girls' last few recordings.   Their directions into a more electric sound (as opposed to their signature acoustic sound!) have not really spoken to me.  This brand new album has changed all of that for me.  This CD may very likely, become one of my favorites of theirs (although it is awfully difficult to top Rites of Passage!)  I got a chance to see them perform a couple of weeks ago at the PNC arts center.  What an amazing band, just Emily, Amy, and one other woman performing background parts- keyboards, accordion, tin whistle etc.  Sometimes I need to remind myself that keeping it simple is, often times, the way to go!

K's Choice- Cocoon Crash -Opening that night for the Indigo Girls was this group that I had never heard of- K's Choice.  "K's who?" you ask?   This Belgian rock band, I've come to find out, has been around now for a number of years.  Just like the Indigo Girls, they also performed without their full band...just letting the vocals and acoustic guitar soar through the air on that Fall night.  A few days after the  show, I picked up this CD at the store...what a great blend of acoustic and electric sounds.   Looking at their web site, it appears that I just might have to pick up the rest of their CDs!

Bruce Cockburn- Stealing Fire -I've been a fan of Bruce Cockburn for a long time.  This CD still remains as one of my favorites (perhaps, just as good as his 1980 CD Humans).  My favorite tracks on this disc are "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," "If I had a Rocket Launcher,"  and "Making Contact."  The song, "Making Contact"  sounds like the kind of song that I'd love to hear on a Caribbean vacation.... don't ask me why  :)

New Jersey Kings- Party to the Bus Stop -I've always been a fan of funk and acid jazz.  In fact, I'm planning to go see Karl Denson perform tonight at Irving Plaza in NYC.  I picked  this disc up randomly in the CD store last spring.  I think what caught my eye, was that the yellow cover from this disc reminds me so much of Miles Davis' CD On the Corner.   I don't know much about this band, other than I believe that they come from England and that the NJ Kings are the freelance face of the James Taylor Quartet.   Supposedly, they can pop up anywhere around NYC under this alias and rock the house.... if I could be that lucky!

Lyle Lovett- Live in Texas -During my travels this summer, I got a chance to check out the Madison Blues Festival.  What an incredible festival!  Tons of great music, perfect weather, and a perfect location- in Olin Park - right on one of Madison's two lakes.  I was disappointed to find out when I arrived in Madison that Aretha Franklin had cancelled her engagement to play, but to my delight, Lyle Lovett agreed at the last minute to be the headliner for Saturday's show.   What an unexpected treat!  This CD, recorded in 1999, really gives you a flavor of what a Lyle Lovett show is all about- a wonderful mixture of country and gospel music.

Lyle Lovett- Step Inside This House -Every summer, before we embark on our road trip, I have the daunting task of selecting music for the road.  This CD is one that always comes with us.  This double CD shows the more intimate side of Lyle- featuring such wonderful musicians as Victor and Alison Krauss along with Jerry Douglas performing some of Lyle's personal favorite songs written by some of his favorite Texan songwriters.

K.D. Lang- All You Can Eat -I picked this CD up during our travels this summer- don't remember exactly where...  nonetheless, it didn't take long for me to absolutely fall in love with this recording.  What can I say.  Her sultry voice just absolutely sucks me right in!  Just listen to the track "Maybe"   and you'll know exactly what I mean.  I'm really looking forward to hearing her rendition of "Leavin' on Your Mind" on the soon-to-released Patsy Cline tribute album.

Norah Jones- Come Away With Me -Speaking of sultry voices....this CD was recommended to me last spring by my friend Nolan.   This full-length recording debut marks the beginning of a lot more wonderful music to come from this incredibly talented musician.  My favorite tracks include "Seven Years," "Shoot the Moon,"  and a really jazzy rendition of Hank Williams' classic "Cold Cold Heart."  Rumor has it, that Norah Jones will also be a featured artist on the soon-to-be-released Patsy Cline tribute album.   I can't wait!

The Counting Crows- Hard Candy -I just got this CD a few days ago and it hasn't left my car's CD player yet.  In my opinion they have yet to come out with a CD that I don't like.  Hard Candy is yet another solid album to add to their discography.  The only thing that bums me out about them recently, is the fact that it is so difficult to get tickets to see them- three nights at the Hammerstein Ballroom sold out!!  Oh well, I'm glad I got a chance to see their Recovering the Satellites tour a few years back at the State Theatre in New Brunswick.  Be sure to check out the hidden track- a great rendition of Joni Mitchel's "Big Yellow Taxi."

Suzanne Vega- Nine Objects of Desire -Everybody knows her landmark album Solitude Standing with such tracks as "Luca" and "Tom's Diner."  But have you heard any of her other terrific recordings?   Suzanne Vega has grown tremendously as an artist since the days of Solitude Standing.  In particular, be sure to check out the songs-   "Tombstone," "The World Before Columbus" and the intriguing song "Honeymoon Suite."

Isaac Hayes- Hot Buttered Soul -Isaac Hayes is one of the most soulful performers that I know of.  You may have heard his music in the "Theme from Shaft."  But did you also know that he was part of one of the most important songwriting duos working with David Porter.  Among some of their most famous tunes, were the ones recorded by Sam and Dave.... "Soul Man",   and "Hold on, I'm Comin'"  Be sure to check out the tune "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" - cool title for an equally cool tune eh?

Elvis 56 -I'm not usually a huge fan of compilation recordings, however, I did come across this gem of a recording while rifling through the stacks of my local music store.  This compilation includes every single song that Elvis recorded in the year 1956, and what an amazing year it was for this legend of rock'n roll: "Heartbreak Hotel," Blue Suede Shoes," Tutti Frutti," "Hound Dog" ....the list goes on and on!

Steely Dan- Katy Lied -Being the recording engineer nut that I am, I am shocked that I have yet to include a Steely Dan recording in my list of required listenings!  Every Steely Dan record is a true masterpiece of engineering from start to finish.  Listen to any one of their recordings with a pair of headphones on, close your eyes, and point to where the instruments are playing in your sound field.  It's an amazing exercise for any aspiring, up and coming engineer to do!  This recording is my all-time favorite of theirs.  Close your eyes, listen, and enjoy!

Buddy Miles Express- Hell and Back -Buddy Miles is always associated with his work with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox from the Band of Gypsies.  They were only able to put out one album before the untimely death of Mr. Hendrix himself.  Several years ago, I was checking out country musician and guitar genius Junior Brown at Tramps in New York.  During the course of the show, I kept looking at the drummer, wondering where I had seen him before.  Near the end of the show, Junior Brown introduced the band.  Low and behold, when Junior Brown introduced the drummer as Buddy Miles, they broke into Miles' signature song "Them Changes."  Needless to say, the entire place went nuts!  By the way, if you're a drummer, this disk is a must-have to play along to!

Rosanne Cash- 10 Song Demo -I found this CD while rummaging through  a music store in Austin, TX several years ago.  The story goes that Rosanne put together a demo of songs for her next CD.  Gary Gersh was so taken by the quality, simplicity, and raw emotion of the demos that he suggested to Rosanne to release them just as they were!  My favorites on this recording include "Bells & Roses," "I Want to Know," and "Mid-Air."

Bob Dylan- Nashville Skyline -Almost every musician I know has their own favorite choice of Bob Dylan recordings.  And, believe me, narrowing down my choice to just one is a very difficult decision.  Nashville Skyline definitely ranks up there in my top five favorite Dylan recordings.  From the opening duet with Johnny Cash on Dylan's song, "Girl from the North Country" to the closing track "Tonight I'll be Staying Here With You," this album just has a great feel to it.  It is the only recording of his that I know of, where Dylan's voice has a Roy Orbison quality to it.

John Mayer- Room for Squares -This recording was lent to me by my good friend and fellow band member- drummer extroadinaire Nick Rosolanko.   This CD is just jam-packed with great songs from start to finish.  John's music has an almost Dave Matthews feel to it- no surprise to me..... it turns out that Dave Matthews' producer John Alagia is the producer and engineer for this recording as well.  I'm hoping that I get a chance to catch one of John Mayer's shows the next time he comes to NYC.

Janis Ian- Breaking Silence -A couple of weekends ago, I went to NJPAC in Newark to see the Judy Collins Wildflowers Tour in hopes of seeing Janis Ian.  I was disappointed to find out that Janis Ian (and Roger McGuinn for that matter!) were no longer a part of the concert bill.  Lucy Kaplansky and Tom Rush did not disappoint, but I still wished that I had gotten a chance to see Janis Ian (and McGuinn!)  This recording came out in 1992 and just proves what a terrific writer and singer Janis continues to be!  By the way, if you don't own a copy of the complete Janis Ian Verve recordings, you owe it to yourself to get that too!

John Pizzarelli Trio- Dear Mr. Cole -A number of years ago, I went to a wine festival somewhere in western NJ.   The wine was terrible, but the music was what knocked my socks off.  I got a chance to see John Pizzarelli perform with his father- the legendary  Bucky Pizzarelli.  Both father and son are incredible jazz guitar players.  I thought to myself, "What the heck are these two amazing  musicians doing playing here?"  Ah yes, such the sad state of the jazz music world (at least in the USA).  What's great about this recording, is that it really showcases the beautiful voice of John Pizzarelli as well as his great talent on the fretboard as well.

Robert Lee Castleman- Crazy as Me -Robert Lee Castleman won his first Grammy last month for best country song- The Lucky One, which was recorded by Alison Krauss and Union Station.   Songwriter/truck driver Castleman's debut CD on Rounder records is truly a great recording- packed with well-crafted song after well-crafted  song.  The story goes, that Castleman went to a birthday party for Alison Krauss.  Later on that night when almost everyone else went home, the remaining folks at the party asked him to sing.   Alison  was so taken by his performance, she called Ken Irwin of Rounder Records- the rest, as we say, is history.

Karl Denson- Chunky Pecan Pie -Printed in Germany and released in '94, this (I believe) is Karl Denson's third recording. As with his earlier two recordings, this one is also straight ahead jazz.  To be quite honest, there is absolutely no recording of Karl Denson that I don't like.  I just happen to find this particular recording to be my current favorite.  Most of his more recent work- The Greyboy Allstars and, even more recently-  Karl Denson's Tiny Universe is more   "funktified!"  Dig in and enjoy this dish!

Nancy Wilson- Live at McCabes Guitar Shop -Yes, this is the Nancy Wilson from that dynamically rockin' group called Heart.  This recording is such a wonderful showcase of Nancy's talent and diversity in musical styles.  I especially love some of her newer songs that she plays, such as "Half Moon" which she performs on Mandolin.  Also, be sure to check out her covers of Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song" and Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You."

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie- An Historic Musical First -The sound of Sinatra, the sound of Basie- two of the great sounds of the day joined forces for this first historic collaboration.  These Jersey boys recorded these song over a period of a few weeks back in Oct. of 1962.  This recording has some real chestnuts on it!  Be sure to check out Gershwin's "Nice Work if You Can Get It" and Cahn & Van Heusen's "(Love is) The Tender Trap."

Robert Johnson- King of the Delta Blues Singers -Yeah, I know by now, that if you know anything at all about the Delta Blues- you know about Robert Johnson.  Eric Clapton was perhaps the first person to bring the music of Robert Johnson to the ignorant masses with his version of "Cross Road Blues" that he recorded with his power trio Cream back in the late 60's.   Robert Johnson's short lived music career is filled with a whole lot of myth and mystery.  This Columbia recording  is the first definitive post-mortem release of Robert Johnson's music.

Waylon Jennings- Love of the Common People -Last month, I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of one of the greatest outlaw cowboy singers to ever grace the stage.  This month features two of my favorite recordings by Waylon Jennings.   This recording, from 1967 is one of his earlier recordings.  To fully appreciate Waylon's diversity of styles, be sure to check out his cover of the Beatle's tune- "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

Waylon Jennings- Honky Tonk Heroes -This  recording features the great writing of one of Waylon's songwriting buddies- Billy Joe Shaver. Honkey Tonk Heroes is truly a gem from start to finish.  Both this recording and Love of the Common People have recently been re-released on Buddha Records.

Kasey Chambers- Barricades & Brickwalls -I got a chance to hear this recording for the first time last week as I was browsing around in one of my favorite CD stores.   To be honest, not very many recordings that I have casually heard in CD stores in recent memory have caught my ear as quickly is this one did!  I could kick myself for not knowing that this Australian singer/songwriter played at the Bottom Line last month in New York! 

Galactic- We Love 'em Tonight- Live at Tipitina's -If funky grooves are up your alley, be sure to check this one out!  Galactic is a great band that comes out of New Orleans.  Where should a great band from New Orleans choose to record a live show??  Tipitina's of course- one of New Orleans best clubs!   Many years back, I got a chance to see The Dixie Dreggs and the Mike Watt's band Firehose- talk about two great rockin' shows!

Nick Drake- Five Leaves Left -This recording was the first of only three recordings that Nick Drake ever officially released before his death at the age of 26.  Posthumous awareness of Nick Drake's music has developed into an increasing cult of devoted fans.  I first was turned on to his music when I was a Middlebury College radio DJ.  His  ethereal voice compliments his introspective and often melancholy lyrics. If you enjoy Five Leaves Left, be sure to check out his other two official recordings.  In fact, you can purchase all three of these recordings and other unofficial releases in a well put-together box set.

Kevin Gilbert -Thud -Kevin Gilbert's music was first introduced to me by my friend and fellow musician Rob Jones who hosts the open mic at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick on Wednesday nights.  This was Kevin Gilbert's only official solo recording that he released before he died.  It saddens me to realize only now, what a true musical & lyrical genius the world lost.   Please visit his website to learn more!

Aztec Two-Step (Self titled) -This was the recording that put the amazing acoustic duo of Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman on the map.  This CD is one that I always carry with me on any of my long road trips.   Be sure to check out the songs, "Killing Me"  and "Persecution & Restoration of Dean Moriarty."

Robert Walter- Spirit of '70 -Former Greyboy Allstar keyboardist Robert Walter's recording Spirit of '70 is  my favorite of all of Robert Walter's recordings.  This recording also features the awesome saxophone work of both Gary Bartz and Karl Denson.  The  jazz-driven funk grooves on this recording just keep coming.  In addition to their own wonderful creations, be  sure to check out their interpretations of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover"  and Miles Davis' "Jan Jan."

Joan Baez- Gone From Danger -This is Joan Baez's most recent studio effort   and boy, is it a good one!  She covers a number of great songs by Richard Shindell and Dar Williams.  Great songs, great production, great recording.   What else needs to be said?

Pete Droge & The Sinners- Find a Door -This is the recording that got me into the sounds and style of Pete Droge.  Pete Droge's music has popped up in all sorts of strange and unusual places, including the soundtrack to Dumb and Dumber.  In addition to this CD, I also really like his first one called  Necktie Second.  I'm really looking forward to his new album due out sometime later this year!

Gillian Welch- Revival -I just discovered this gem of a recording just the other week.  What a great recording from start to finish.  Great writing, superb delivery, and great sounding recording. This CD is a must-have for anyone who enjoys the style of music found on the soundtrack to "Oh Brother- Where art Thou?"  I'm going to have to go out and buy her other recordings!

Joshua Bell & Edgar Meyer- Short Trip Home -This is a recording that was recommended to me by my good friend Nolan.  The music featured on this recording is a cross between classical and bluegrass music.  The incredible talent and diversity of both Bell & Meyer's musical styles are what cause me to find something new,  every time I listen to this recording.  Thanks Nolan for the recommendation!

The Brand New Heavies- Original Flava -If you're a fan of acid jazz/hip-hop/funk, then this just might be what the doctor ordered.  I enjoy just about all of the recordings from The Brand New Heavies, but this one in particular is my favorite.  Oddly enough, it is a compilation of "B sides" and previously unreleased cuts.  Dig in and enjoy!

Richard Shindell- Somewhere Near Paterson - Now on the Signature Sounds label (previously on Shannachie) this is Richard's most recent studio recording.  I'm excited to hear his brand new live recording- due out in February called Courier.  As with all of his other recordings, I enjoy this one from start to finish.  I particularly like his song "Wisteria"   and his cover of Darr Williams' song "Calling the Moon"- it sends shivers up my spine each time I hear it.

Son Volt- Straightaways -I was a long time fan of the band Uncle Tupelo and I was sorry to see them break up.  From that breakup, however, emerged two wonderful bands- Son Volt and Wilco.  To be honest, I am partial to the sound of Jay Farrar's voice, so this month's pick happens to be my favorite of his recordings.  Also, be sure to check out his new project called Sebastapol.   Like all of his recordings, it takes a while for them to grow on me.   Nonetheless, I think it will probably end of ranking up there with all of his others!

John Prine- Souvenirs -John Prine's Souvenirs is the type of recording that I have waited countless years for.   This CD was recorded in a very short amount of time with very stripped-down arrangements featuring  some of his favorite songs that he has written over his very long and prolific career.  This recording is a must-have for any long-time fan of John Prine, or for someone who has never heard the genius of his style.

The Mavericks- Music for all Occasions -This is the recording that put The Mavericks on the map.   Right from the get-go, I knew that this was going to be a CD that I would listen to for years to come.  The style in which the opening track "Foolish Heart" is recorded, is very reminiscent of Patsy Cline's music.  Raol Malo's voice just shines on every track on this CD.  I was lucky enough to catch his solo tour at Irving Plaza last month.  What a great show...from start to finish.

Soulive- Turn it Out -If you like funk-driven jazz grooves then you'll LOVE this band!  I got a chance to see them at the Bowery Ballroom last month and they were great!  This recording includes a bit of jazz guitarist John Scofield as well (as if they really needed anyone else to make their music awesome!!) If you like this one, be sure to check out their newest one Doin' Something which includes the trombone work of the one and only Fred Wesley.

Michelle Shocked- Short Sharp Shocked -This is one of Michelle's early recordings when she was on the Mercury label.  It is chock-full of great songwriting in so many diverse styles.  It would be hard to pick out my favorites.  Be sure to check out "If Love was a Train," "L and N Don't Stop here Anymore," and "Memories of East Texas."

John Coltrane- My Favorite Things -What more needs to be said.  If you haven't listened to John Coltrane, you are missing out on one of the most important musicians of the 20th Century in my opinion.  Roger & Hamerstein's "My Favorite Things" is, of course, the best known piece from this recording- but in my opinion, all of the pieces on this recording are equally great to listen to!

Herbie Hancock- Maiden Voyage -Not his first recording, but the first of his that I really listened to!  I got a chance to hear him at NJPAC in October with Brian Blade, John Pattitucci, Roy Hardgrove, & Michael Brecker.  What an incredible concert!!

Catie Curtis- Truth from Lies -What's not to love about Catie Curtis?   Be sure to check out the song "Troubled Mind"- beautiful background vocals by John Gorka.

Josh Zandman- The Summer Album -A couple of years ago a wonderful group called Burlap to Cashmere burst out on to the scene with an A&M recording- Is Anybody Out There?  Rumor has it, that the band is still together but some of the members including Josh Zandman have started out on their own.  What a great recording!

Shaver- The Earth Rolls On -Billy Joe Shaver is one of Texas' best kept secrets.  This CD is packed with beautifully simple and direct songs.  I got a chance to see him perform this summer at the historic Gruene Hall

Cake- Prolonging the Magic -Cake is a band with an extremely eclectic mix of styles.  Their diverse use of instrumentation and their great sense of humor is what keeps me wanting to hear more from this great band. This is Cake's third   recording, and their last on Capricorn Records before signing to Capital.   I just got their new release Comfort Eagle.   As with all of their other recordings, their new one won't disappoint you either!

Spirit- The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus -This is one of my all-time favorite titles for an album.   Spirit is one of those more obscure bands from the early 70's.  Spirit is probably best known for their hit song- "I Got a Line on You." 

The Bach Lute Suites performed by John Williams -Recorded in 1975, this recording consistently comes up on my desert island disc list.  What can I say?  J.S. Bach was one of the greatest composers ever.  John Williams- a student of Andrés Segovia, does a beautiful job taking some of Bach's pieces written for lute and transcribing them for guitar.

Ben Folds Five (Self-titled debut CD) -This was the CD that got me hooked on Ben Folds.  The band has since broken up, but Ben Folds has recently released a solo album that I'm looking forward to hearing!

Miles Davis- A Tribute to Jack Johnson -This recording is one of Miles' more obscure recordings.  It is actually a soundtrack to the movie with the same name.  Although I haven't ever seen the movie, (It's supposedly a story about the life of a once famous boxer Jack Johnson.)  I have listened to this recording countless times and always find something new in it to appreciate.

Cowboy Mouth- Are You With Me? -In my opinion, they are one of the best new rock bands to come out of the south in a long time.  Hailing from New Orleans, this band is a must-see to fully appreciate them.   Just listening to them, you would never guess that the front man for the band is the drummer!  When they perform live- the drum set is positioned front and center on the stage!