Triple Played: A look at the best releases in 2016
It is time for my favorite music releases for 2016. Here they are, in no particular order, with a short description:
Van Morrison, “Keep Me Singing”
Van the man’s voice is as good as ever. Add to that a batch of great songs, and this is his best recording in a quarter century.
Mudcrutch, “Mudcrutch 2”
What is new is old. What is old is new. No matter. Whenever Tom Petty is involved the results are always very good.
Norah Jones, “Day Breaks”
Ms. Jones is at her best when she is she is fronting a jazz outfit. With her beautiful sultry voice and spot on delivery, she adeptly draws the listener in. This new disc is my favorite of hers since her classic debut “Come Away With Me.”
Timothy B. Schmit, “Leap of Faith”
Schmit is not a prolific songwriter. He prefers quality over quantity and this great disc, with echoes of Poco and the Eagles, is proof. The 12 tracks include a tribute to Glenn Frey and an homage to the Beach Boys. Included in Wilco “Schmilco,” the title is a nod to Harry Nilsson. Its 12 short, catchy, mostly acoustic tunes remind me of their wonderful debut “A.M.”
The Rolling Stones, “Blue and Lonesome”
This record of great blues covers was recorded “live” in Mark Knopfler’s recording studio with no overdubs, making it my favorite Stones record in decades.
Bob Weir, “Blue Mountain”
My favorite singer from the Grateful Dead has his best solo recording since 1972’s “Ace.” Recorded with members of the National, Weir revisits old territory and presents it in a fresh new way.
Eric Clapton, “I Still Do”
One of the world’s greatest guitarists has earned the right to do what he wants. Here, he and his band mates adeptly perform a dozen songs. From Bob Dylan to JJ Cale, Robert Johnson and Skip James, this is a great listen for all of his fans.
David Bowie, “Blackstar”
Bowie has always been one of my favorite artists and his passing was a shock. On this, his final recording, he reassures all of his fans of his incredible genius. A terrific swan song.
Lucinda Williams, “Ghosts of Highway 20”
I have always thought Lucinda was one of our greatest singer-songwriters. Her last record — and this new one — show her to be at the top of her game at this point in her career. Every song on this two-CD set is outstanding. Greg Leisz and Bill Frisell on guitar are amazing.
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, “Shine A Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad”
Recorded on a train trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, this great set features two incredible artists covering a baker’s dozen of greats songs. John Hartford, Gordon Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Michelle Shocked and many more artists are covered here. Outstanding musicianship makes this one of the fun listens of the year.
Sturgill Simpson, “A Sailors Guide To Earth”
On his third record Simpson proves that he is a force to be reckoned with. Here, he turns the corner from Waylon Jennings’ style alt-country to a concept record featuring soul. psychedelia and rock, while not leaving his country roots behind.