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Back For More (Kevin Macneil Brown)

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Dustedís Kevin Macneil Brown sticks to six. Here are his most memorable recordings of 2005.

Back For More (Kevin Macneil Brown)

Thinking about the records I liked best in 2005, I canít help but remember the handful that had something-- a strange beauty, a sense of mystery, an enigmatic energy perhaps-- that drew me in to listen again and again.

Jim Foxís piece Descansos, Past (Cold Blue) is an utterly beautiful, aching work; a meditation on journey and loss, scored for cellos and solo double bass. Fox has a remarkable ability to balance darkness and light in his music; what seems at first a state of calm questioning might, as this work unfolds, open up the listener to a deeper sense of the awe and mystery at the heart of sound and thought.

Robert Fripp has released a selection of his more consonant and, well, pretty, solo guitar soundscapes -- spacious and arching live performances of compositions for looped and delayed guitar. Love Cannot Bear (Discipline Global Mobile) makes for stunning early-morning listening. Fripp gets close, sometimes, to Arvo Partís sense of music as prayer; he also brings his own touch of distinctly British pastoral romanticism .

Altogether noisier, but equally redolent of awe and mystery, is The Giant Pin by The Nels Cline Singers (Cryptogramophone). Left-field guitar hero Clineís outing with bassist Devin Hoff and drummer-electronicist Scott Amendola is a festival of textures and emotions from plangent to explosive, all held in together by the wonder of ecstatically engaged trio interplay .

Bill Frisellís trio with the fine groove- and color- drummer Kenny Wollesen and honey-toned bassist Tony Scherr offers, on the ďEastĒ disc of the live set East/West (Nonesuch), a short history of the guitar in American vernacular music. With Wollesen and Scherr in full Bill Evans trio mode, Frisell takes country -fresh guitar twang a-la Hank Garland and puts it to work on some Jim Hall-like harmonic conceptions. And then thereís the paradoxical Frisell factor itself: despite all his up-front influences, the guy always manages to sound like nobody else in the world.

Shelby Lynneís Suit Yourself (Capitol) brings the brilliant southern pop singer close to the mark of her masterpiece I Am Shelby Lynne. This time out sheís found her perfect back-up band, one that keeps it simple, stripped-down, and swampy in a Muscle Shoals- meets- Nashville mode. And Lynneís husky, whisper- in- your -ear -at- night vocals are as fine as ever on a set of strong and stark original songs. It probably doesnít hurt that soul master Tony Joe White is on hand, too.

Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrellís Begonias (Yep Roc) is a sleeper. The clean, vintage California country-rock backups are intimate, recorded with warmth and elegance. The songs are, at first listen, pretty good. Then they get better. This is a bittersweet collection of love and heartbreak songs sung with perfect inflection and real feeling. Cary and Cockrell at times recall Gram and Emmylou; even better, they sometimes knock on the Appalachian door of the Everly Brothers, raising up timeless shivers and chills when their nearly twin-voiced harmonies slide into focus.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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