Every year, I end up with a stack of CDs that aren't quite country, but that country fans might like anyway. Usually falling somewhere between pop-rock and acoustic folk, these projects are hard to categorize, yet easy to enjoy. Here are 10 CDs from 2007 you might have missed.
Follow the Lights (Lost Highway), Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Sad and romantic, this EP reminds me why I fell hard for his music in the first place. "Follow the Lights" and "My Love for You Is Real" show he's still a master at melodies.
S.O.S.: Save Our Soul (Vanguard), Marc Broussard
R&B classics are sure fun to sing, and Broussard has the groovy, greasy chops to pull it off. "Let the Music Get Down in Your Soul" is a kick -- not to mention, good advice.
Ex-Tempore (Rte 8/Rising Son/RCAM), Johnny Irion
I'm a midtempo guy, so this suits me fine. Recorded on the fly, you can tell everybody had fun making it. "Brush Yr Teeth Blues #56," a cool lullaby, is a keeper for all ages.
Throwing Punches in the Dark (self-released), Matthew Perryman Jones
My favorite Nashville release lately. It's brooding but not depressing, and his vocals are just vulnerable enough to grab your attention. This one sounds perfect when it's really late.
The Scene of the Crime (Anti), Bettye LaVette
This woman is bad-ass. A once-forgotten soul singer, LaVette teamed with Drive-By Truckers in Muscle Shoals' Fame Studios for this tour de force of survival. Don't miss it.
At My Age (Yep Roc), Nick Lowe
Equally fond of sarcasm and seduction, Lowe writes effortlessly about romance and revenge. Either way, his smooth vocals and timeless arrangements draw you in.
Some Mad Hope (Vanguard), Matt Nathanson
I wish I'd had this record in my 20s, when figuring out the world was so important. I'm a sucker for frustration buried under pop melodies, so I played this one all summer long.
Music From the Motion Picture Once (Canvasback/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax)
Two musicians learn that love is as much about good timing as mutual attraction in this movie. I was hooked early on, from "Falling Slowly," and nobody could write a more perfect ending.
Breakfast in Bed (Time-Life), Joan Osborne
Inspired by the classic pop writers on this mostly-covers album, Osborne balances pride and heartache beautifully. Her originals are knockouts, too. Long live unrequited love.
Radio Songs (Red House), Robin and Linda Williams
A favorite on Prairie Home Companion, this folk duo gathers their own terrific material and exquisite covers, like the popular World War II-era ballad, "We'll Meet Again."
More albums you might have missed in 2007