Bear’s Top 10 CD’s of 2006: #10 to #6
#10. Honkeytonk Homeslice (available at emusic)
A beautiful slice of countryfied Americana from Honkeytonk Homeslice, an acoustic trio featuring Bill Nershi (from The String Cheese Incident), mandolin/guitar player Scott Law, and Bill’s wife Jillian Nershi, who sounds just like Emmylou Harris.
#9. Ashley Cleveland: Before the Daylight’s Shot
(from iTunes or AshleyCleveland.com)
This is the only album on my list that also appears on Christianity Today’s list of Best Christian Albums of 2006 (at #10). It’s a fantastic blues/rock album from a singer with a wonderful “blues-y” voice, a voice CT describes as “a brassy and gutsy wail that’s also tender and emotional.” Highlight: “Queen of Soul,” about the biblical woman at the well as well as the woman at the tomb (Mary Magdalene): “Queen of Soul/there’s a woman in the room/in the fullness of her power.”
#8. The Indigo Girls: Despite Our Differences
Another great release from the gals, opening with the topical “Pendulum Swinger” (referencing gnostic gospels, The Da Vinci Code, and the patriarchy of the church). This one covers all the bases, from passion to painful exclusion (“They Won’t Have Me”), from Amy’s driving rock (“Rock and Roll Heaven’s Gate,” with background vocals by Pink) to Emily’s heartwarming balladry – including my favorite track on the album, “I Believe in Love,” a bittersweet look back at a relationship that morphed from passion into friendship.
#7. Bob Dylan: Modern Times
This album will probably show up on most Top 10 lists for 2006, and deservedly so. This is Dylan doing what he does best: folk/rock with a heavy blues vibe. As Sojourners magazine recently said about this album, Dylan has “ended up right back where he began – with those mysterious old songs of death, love, and redemption that floated up from the holiness churches, railroad gangs, and prison farms of 19th- and early 20th-century America.” Kato, my cat, does not like this album (he meows loudly at the speakers till I turn it off or put on some jazz), but he and I disagree on this one.
#6. The Who: Endless Wire
The Who is now basically just Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry with backup musicians, but that’s enough. This is their first studio album of new material in 24 years. It includes a “mini-opera” called Wire & Glass, along with nine songs that sound like classic Who while also being postmodern-relevant. Pete wrote two of the songs in response to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion,” including “A Man in a Purple Dress,” a biting indictment of “priests, mullahs, popes, and rabbis” who claim to speak for God. (Pete’s comment on the song: “It is the idea that men need to dress up in order to represent God that appalls me. If I wanted to be as insane as to attempt to represent God I’d just go ahead and do it, I wouldn’t dress up like a drag-queen.”)
Pete Townshend’s mysticism (he is a student of Meher Baba) shows through in many of the songs, including “God Speaks of Marty Robbins” (Pete: “Very simple song. God is asleep, before Creation – before the Big Bang – and gets the whim to wake, and decides it could be worth going through it all in order to be able to hear some music, and most of all, one of his best creations, Marty Robbins”). My favorite song on the disc is the opener, “Fragments” (which Kato likes, too):
Are we breathing out
or breathing in
Are we leaving life
or moving in
Ingrained in good
or stained in sin
Are we the parts
Are we the whole
Are we the thoughts
Are we the soul
The parts of me
and this is true
The parts of me
belong to you
and you . . .
Coming Soon: #5 through #1.