By my estimates, I probably listened to about 300 albums in 2006 -- and I don't simply mean that I received that many. Each of those discs spent at least a few minutes in my stereo. Of course, some titles held on significantly longer. Here are 10 of my favorite releases from last year, listed in alphabetical order by artist, that deserve more attention.
Peter Bradley Adams, Gather Up (Mouse in the Moon)
The undercurrent of rhythms and melodies keep this from getting too mellow. Instead, songs like "One Picture" subtly provide meaningful lyrics and musical depth.
Jim Cuddy, The Light That Guides You Home (Warner Bros. Canada)
A principal in Blue Rodeo, this Canadian songwriter positively shines on the uplifting title track and "Pull Me Through." These are some of his most appealing lyrics yet.
Mark Johnson and Emory Lester, Acoustic Rising (Mountain Home)
Whether Johnson's clawhammer banjo is paired with Lester's guitar or his mandolin, the ear-catching instrumentals resonate much deeper than you'd expect from just two pickers.
Delbert McClinton, Live From Austin TX (New West)
Concert discs are usually a tough sell, but this show from Austin City Limits' archive is the exception. Soulful singing, a great band and a vibe that won't quit.
Old Crow Medicine Show, Big Iron World (Nettwerk)
These young guys have a jones for old-time roots music, and their enthusiasm is immediately contagious. Should they visit your city in 2007, you won't regret going to see them.
Joan Osborne, Pretty Little Stranger (Vanguard)
Osborne has lately established herself as a remarkable interpreter, from Motown to the Grateful Dead. On this Nashville-made album, she does right by country. One of us, indeed.
RobinElla, Solace for the Lonely (Dualtone)
Her girlish vocals are bright, yet vulnerable, but it's her captivating lyrics that lend a sense of intrigue to her music. I bet I listened to this album more than any other in 2006.
Various, Why the Hell Not: The Songs of Kinky Friedman (Sustain)
He's not a Texas governor, after all, but oh, what fun we had thinking about it. Honorable tributes come from Kevin Fowler, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Todd Snider and more.
Randy Weeks, Sugarfinger (self-released)
The bouncing "Transistor Radio" kicked off many a mix CD this summer. Easy to sing, impossible to get out of your head. Overall, a solid album from this L.A. songwriter.
Kate York, Sadlylove (self-released)
My favorite Nashville songwriter completed her first album, and it's one to be reckoned with. It's not country, but it is heartfelt -- even if that heart's been stomped on a few times.