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The Year in Music (Kevin Macneil Brown)

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Kevin Macneil Brown unpacks some of his favorite musical memories from the past year.

The Year in Music (Kevin Macneil Brown)

The only record I ever came close to shop-lifting was Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen's Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas. Back then in the early and middle 1970s they were musical heroes to me -- especially Telecaster king Bill Kirchen and pedal steeler Bobby Black -- and with my best friend and duo partner Bill Morrison I made a few hitchhiking pilgrimages to see them live. They always rocked and swung like crazy. And I did eventually scrape up enough money to buy the album, thus avoiding a life of crime.

So my musical highlight for 2003 came when I got roped last minute into joining an alt-country honky tonk band called Rusty Romance and the Rednecks, opening for the still-rocking, still-swinging Bill Kirchen. On a nice March night near the end of the long Vermont winter, I got to twang and steel on the same stage as a long-time guitar hero of mine. I was on a musical high for months after!

Here are my top ten recordings for 2003, listed in no particular order:

1. Shelby Lynne - (Capitol)
A heart-rending singer delivers another wide open and vulnerable collection of songs rooted in country and soul.

2. Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes (Thrill Jockey)
Demented, haunted, modal Americana pop that somehow channels Dock Boggs, Big Star, and 70s Elton John all at once.

3. Daniel Lanois - Shine (Anti)
A bit front-loaded, but full of simple, transcendent journey songs and eerie, glistening pedal steel guitar.

4. Jimmy Bryant - Frettin’ Fingers (Sundazed)
Country, jazz, and space age twang from an all-time master of the Telecaster—one of the greatest guitar players ever to walk the planet.

5. Various Artists - Complete Ten Inch Series From Cold Blue (Cold Blue)
Three CDs of 1980s California "new music" that, taken together, make for a spacious, expansive sonic journey.

6. Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music (American/Lost Highway)
Pure nostalgia for me -- in the spirit of Poco, Springfield, the Burritos, and Byrds; bittersweet, intelligent, and melodic.

7. Miles Davis - Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (Columbia/Sony)
An exhaustive -- and sometimes exhausting -- document of a fusion milestone; a rare look into the Miles and Teo workshop; and a major treat for John Mclaughlin fans, too...

8. Kekele - Congo Life (Stern's Africa)
The classic Congo rumba returns to its acoustic roots: gorgeous interlocking guitars, plaintive vocals, heart-racing percussion. Just plain beautiful!

9. Bill Frisell - The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch)
A masterful world-jazz essay in ensemble playing from a group of polyglot musicians who really know how to listen to each other.

10. Various Artists - Joe Gibbs Productions (Soul Jazz)
Proto-dancehall and passionate, militant roots-reggae from the late 70s; dread soul, thunder and lightning all the way.

Oh yeah: there's also Grandaddy's Sumday, Bau's Cape Verdean Melancholy, Chas Smith's An Hour Out Of Desert Center, Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban...

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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