I should also note that I see no reason to put Paul McCartney's New CD on this list. A: I don't have it yet because I'm expecting Santa to put it in my Christmas stocking; and B: Paul McCartney doesn't need my recommendation to boost his sales. But from the samples I've listened to on Amazon, it does sound as if Macca is back on form, after the cringe-worthy Kisses on the Bottom. (Don't get me wrong; I like standards, I just prefer if they are sung in tune.)
On the other hand, these artists do deserve a shout-out...
The Wood Brothers -- Muse
"Sing About It"
As I've said before, the Wood Brothers are one of my very favorite acts. Don't know why, exactly -- ever since I discovered them, purely by chance, in 2006, they just hit home with me, album after album. And feeling possessive and protective about them, as I always do with My Guys, I worry that they get overshadowed by the Avett Brothers (more on them soon), who have similar close brother harmonies and Americana twang. Dang, I love the Avetts too, but I really love the Wood Brothers. Please check them out.
Are they country? Are they folk? Are they blues? Are they jazz? The answer is YES, and Muse shows them operating with equal fluency in every one of those genres. It was hard to pick just one track to play for you from this brilliant, soulful album, but this one's as good as any.
Unclassifiable as their music is, it's a true synthesis, not just a pair of music nerds showing off by switching styles. In all of their songs, they blend the raw emotion of the blues, the storytelling itch of country, the gentle honesty of folk, the wry wit of jazz. Plus, they don't do songs about getting the girl or about how tough it is to be a celebrity; they write about getting drunk and finding salvation and dying and searching for joy -- the real stuff of life.
I could listen to Oliver Wood's voice for hours, the skillful way he works the grit and rasp in his voice. This is a truly American voice, and a national treasure, in my book.