Slaid Cleaves - Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
After toiling in the trenches these many years as a folk-tinged journeyman singer-songwriter, Cleaves has finally painted his masterpiece, one that ought to make both his longtime fans and those who are still novices react with awe.
Richie Furay - Alive
The good reverend enthusiastically retraces his entire history with a stunning two-disc concert set, embarking from the Buffalo Springfield and then delving fully into his timeless efforts with Poco, the band that helped define the country rock crossover.
Gavin Sutherland - The Deal
Half the band of brothers that reaped such classics as Lifeboat and its flagship song "Arms of Mary" returns with a modest, limited edition comeback LP some three-plus decades removed and still sounding as assertive as ever.
The Voyces - Let Me Die In Southern California
Despite the psychedelic spelling of their name, it appears that the Voyces have already achieved the wish echoed in the title of this latest opus. Soft, cooing harmonies and dreamy melodies at least offer that illusion.
Tol-Puddle Martyrs - A Celebrated Man
Re-emerging from the Aussie underground, the Tol-Puddle Martyrs revisit the quaint yet engaging sounds they originally procured back in the '60s, a time when music was still open to discovery. The results are a thoroughly charming, unabashed attempt at engaging innocence with pure pop appeal.
Ben Kweller - Changing Horses
The pop rocker goes country in his attempt to recapture his personal roots, mining a stirring crossover effort that finds him strumming from the back porch and gazing at the heartland.
The Dimes - The King Can Drink the Harbo Dry
A late arrival but possibly the most profound pop discovery of 2009. Like their fellow residents of the Pacific Northwest, the Decemberists, the Dimes offer a delicate blend of precious, pristine melodies that radiate both intellect and appeal.
Aztec Two-Step - Time It Was: The Simon & Garfunkel Songbook Live
A venerable though sadly unappreciated Boston duo offer a tribute to their better-known brethren and in so doing, shine a spotlight on themselves even while diverting the gaze to the prototypical duo that inspired them initially.
Katy Lied - Echo Games
They may hail from the U.K., but this group that takes it name from Steely Dan's epoch album make a classic rock sound that could just as easily originated in America's west coastal realms. The signature song "Katy Lied" is reason enough to inspire confidence.
Peter Lacey - Behind the Scenes
Stephen J. Kalinich and Peter Lacey -- South Downs Ways
British journeyman Peter Lacey has never hid his affection for the Beach Boys, as conveyed through the immaculate chamber pop of his own making. This past year, Lacey expanded on his ambitions with two new albums -- the former a fine example of his charmingly whimsical designs, the latter a broad outreach towards pastoral reflection and rugged narratives.