Bear's Top 10 CD’s of 2006: #5 through #1
This young traditional-style bluegrass group just gets better and better. This is an album full of fun songs and countryfied blues, but they do sneak in a song that makes your jaw drop with its lyrical and musical power. From the song “I Hear Them All”:
I hear the tender words from Zion, I hear Noah’s waterfall
Hear the gentle lamb of Judah sleeping at the feet of Buddha
And the prophets from Elijah to the old Paiute Wovoka
Take their places at the table when they’re called
I hear them all . . .
#4. Trev Diesel: The Parachute EP (also available on iTunes)
OK, I’ve sung the praises of this album several times on this blog already, most recently in my entry for November 7th. So I’ll just let The Parachute EP’s position on my list speak for itself. Do I really think Trev’s album is better than this year’s releases from Jack White, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Who, and The Indigo Girls? Yes.
#3. Bruce Cockburn: Life Short, Call Now
Bruce Cockburn has been my favorite singer/songwriter since I discovered him in college (1980), so it’s no surprise his latest album places so high on this list. This one is not as angry as some of his more politically-oriented albums, although there are several songs of social conscience included here. Bruce has returned to his more acoustic-oriented folk sound here, and the album as a whole is terrific. The highlight is Bruce’s song “Mystery.” Some snippets:
Stood before the shaman, I saw star-strewn space
Behind the eye holes in his face . . .
Infinity always gives me vertigo
And fills me up with grace . . .
Don’t tell me there is no mystery
It overflows my cup . . .
Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine . . .
#2. Yusuf: An Other Cup
Cat Stevens is back and his voice sounds just like it did when he sang all those great songs for “Harold and Maude” (one of which, “I Think I See the Light,” is re-done for this album). Cat is now Yusuf Islam, and no, he isn’t a terrorist, and no, he did not support the call to kill Salman Rushdie. Given the way he has been repeatedly misrepresented in the press, it’s appropriate that one of the songs on his come-back album is a cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” The songs here are sweetly melodic, most of them profoundly spiritual, including a brief recitation from the Sufi poet Rumi. Only once does Yusuf get preachy about his Islamic faith (“In the End”), but the song is really no more preachy than what you find on most Christian rock albums. His song about Muhammad (“The Beloved”) is lovely, both lyrically and musically, and can be appreciated, I think, even by those who don’t share Yusuf’s devotion to the Prophet. “An Other Cup” is a deeply moving album I found myself listening to over and over again. One of several highlights is the song “Maybe There’s a World”:
I have dreamt of an open world, borderless and wide
Where the people move from place to place and nobody’s taking sides
Maybe there’s a world that I’m still to find
Open up O world and let me in . . .
#1. Kris Kristofferson: This Old Road (available at emusic)
This acoustic album is mostly Kris and his guitar and his gravelly voice, radiating emotion and conviction. The songs here range from the introspective (the achingly beautiful “This Old Road”) to the political (Kris is definitely a liberal, so I’m sure this album will not get much airplay on most country radio stations) to the intimate and deeply spiritual.
This album was released back in March, when I was going through a personal crisis and having to make some major decisions about a long-standing friendship and about my career. This album helped me find my way through that dark time and to forgive someone who had been dishonest and had seriously misrepresented me. Forgiveness is a recurring theme on this album, particularly in the songs “The Burden of Freedom” and “Holy Creation” (The truth is a highway/Leading to freedom/All is forgiven/Love is to blame . . .)
To me, the highlight of the album is definitely the song “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Some snippets:
I want justice, but I'll settle for some mercy
On this Holy Road through the Universal Mind . . .
I'd be crazy not to wonder if I'm worthy
Of the part I play in this dream that's coming true . . .
and the chorus, which became my personal theme song during my time of crisis:
Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way
This album, and the song “Pilgrim’s Progress” in particular, was one of my sources of strength that helped me believe I could fulfill a life-long dream and open my own counseling practice – which I did, back in May. When I opened my office, I wanted it to be a place of healing, and I feel incredibly fortunate that it has indeed been such a place. So has my second office, which I opened on Marietta Square in September. I have been deeply, deeply blessed.
Now, as the new year begins, I find myself humming this Kris Kristofferson song again, wondering what other dreams can be actualized, wondering what part I can play in the larger “dream that’s coming true” as I journey down “this Holy Road through the Universal Mind.” I have a novel I want to write, and a book on “healing the gay soul.” Maybe 2007 will be the year one of those books becomes a reality.
Happy New Year ~