Justin Townes Earle - "Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now" - Wonderful songwriting and arrangements with references to his dad and his demons. Hopefully Earle can stay healthy.
Dr. John - "Locked Down" - Might be best album of the 72 year old's entire career. An exercise in "tricknology" (Read the liner notes). Produced by Dan Auerbach who helped bring some much needed heaviness back to the Good Doctor's ever present voodoo vibe.
Alejandro Escovedo - "Big Station" - One of my favourite artists continues his late career surge as producer Tony Visconti has again managed to recapture the spirit of Escovedo's early punk days. Jon Landau deserves a lot of credit for getting Escovedo back in The Show.
The Gaslight Anthem - "Handwritten" - Major label debut for Jersey quartet led by passionate vocals of Brian Fallon. And how's this for literary chops - Intro/liner notes penned by Nick Hornby - who suggests the boys are mining the same gold discovered by Little Richard and The Clash. Hard to disagree.
Green Day - "!Uno!", "!Dos!", "!Tre!" - Billie Joe Armstrong closes his rock opera indulgence (for now) only to open up his trilogy playbook. Results are mixed. "!Uno!" is filled with anger, not surprising considering Armstrong's on stage meltdown this year. "!Dos!" & "!Tre!" are more accessible. Armstrong is going to be something really special. When he grows up.
Buddy Guy - "Live At Legends" - A confusing album. One of the all time great blues guitarists on stage at his own club in Chicago, recorded three years ago. And it's a sub par recording, missing a bottom and featuring sloppy editing. But the disc is saved by three bonus studio recordings that is vintage Buddy Guy. Maybe he owed RCA an album and didn't have enough original material.
George Harrison - "Early Takes Volume 1" - Beautiful stripped down early takes and demos of some Harrison classics and covers courtesy of the Martin Scorsese documentary. Volume 2 please.
John Hiatt - "Mystic Pinball" - Nothing fancy about Hiatt. But he does what he does better than almost anybody in music. Fall concert at Club Soda, his first Montreal appearance in 15 years, was spectacular.
The Hives - "Lex Hives" - Best punks to come out of Sweden since the Ulf boys - Sterner & Samuelsson.
Patterson Hood - "Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance" - Second solo outing from frontman of Drive By Truckers. Inspired by the life and death of his Great Uncle, Hood went to work on retracing his youthful steps (and missteps) in Alabama. The result is quiet introspection from one of rock's best songwriters.
Michael Jackson - "Bad25" - 25th anniversary edition of landmark Jackson-Quincy Jones follow up to Thriller. Nine #1 singles. (And the short films to go with them, which eventually led to the creation of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award) A second disc features demos and unreleased material including an early working version of "Smooth Criminal" titled "Al Capone".
Wanda Jackson - "Unfinished Business" - The Queen of Rockabilly gets back to basics. Jack White should be lauded for giving Jackson a much needed boost and return to recording. But the album he produced for her ("The Party Ain't Over") was really a Jack White album sung by Jackson. This time around, Justin Townes Earle is at the producer's console and his lighter touch makes for a more satisfying listen.
Japandroids - "Celebration Rock" - Once in awhile I still buy music the old fashioned way. I look at the cover and think "this is going to sound good" without knowing anything about the artist/band. That's what happened with these guys from Vancouver (Brian King & david Prowse). Eight straight ahead pile driven tunes that remain with you until you decide to play them all over again. And again. And again. Might be the rock and roll album of the year.