O Sister! The Women’s Bluegrass Collection (Rounder). Rounder’s
ambrosial collection of some of the most talented and powerful
musicians in bluegrass–from Wilma Lee Cooper to Alison Krauss–will
leave you hummin’, grinnin’, and tappin’ your feet.
Gone Polka by Jimmy Sturr (Rounder). This fun-loving introduction
to America’s most overlooked style of roots music features Willie
Nelson and Brenda Lee sitting in with Sturr’s band, winner of 11
Grammy awards. Together, they cover musical terrain from Texas to
Poland, all done with an infectious polka bounce.
Inside Out by Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette
(ECM). This trio transcends jazz convention with telepathic
interplay and improvisational oomph. After a bout with illness,
pianist Jarrett is back with a passion that flows straight to his
Not All Who Wander Are Lost by Chris Thile (Sugar Hill). This
mandolin whiz kid’s main gig is with young bluegrass band Nickel
Creek, but he roams much broader territory as a solo artist. Folk,
classical, and near-jazz flourishes color his taut, graceful
Songs in a Northern Key by Varnaline
(E Squared/Artemis). Lonesome but dignified, the songs of Anders
Parker ring with a hushed power. His fleeting lyrical images and
eclectic sounds are never predictable, keeping his vignettes
perennially interesting. –K.G.
The American Seasons by Mark O’Connor with the Metamorphosen
Chamber Orchestra (Sony). Working in the fertile seam where
classical meets folk, the masterful fiddler enriches both musical
traditions while offering up a modern alternative to Vivaldi.
Totally Hep: The Best of the Heptones and Stay Loose: The Best of
the Ethiopians (both Music Club). The sheer exuberance and
sweetness of the ’60s and ’70s Jamaican music scene shine through
in these compilations, where ‘rude boys’ and a rock-steady beat