BEST OF 2005

By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


January 1, 2006


Rodney Crowell, "The Outsider": Crowell delivers an affecting plea for justice and reason, preaching without being pretentious over some of the rootsiest rock around.

Eliza Gilkyson, "Paradise Hotel": Mixing politics with passion for life, Gilkyson is sweet, poetic and above all honest on songs of love, mortality and survival.

Kevin Gordon, "O Come Look at the Burning": A great, rocking singer-songwriter few people have heard of, Gordon delivers his third CD, bristling with bluesy, twangy and swampy tunes about people battling demons.

John Hiatt, "Master of Disaster": Hiatt combines images of America with tough songs about life and loss -- national and personal -- in a rocking, danceable album.

Jimmy LaFave, "Blue Nightfall": Eloquent and economical, LaFave turns down the volume and produces an album of profound beauty, ranging from the loss of love to the joy of music.

Last Train Home, "Bound Away": Eric Brace and his D.C.-based bandmates can play twangy, jazzy or bluesy, and they do it all on songs about love, loss, Johnny Cash and even a gravedigger.

James McMurtry, "Childish Things": McMurtry's razor-sharp songs and stories about dysfunctional families climax with the brutally honest "We Can't Make It Here Anymore," a chronicle of the wasting away of the American Dream. It's also a great guitar album, courtesy of McMurtry, Tim Holt and David Grissom.

Shannon McNally, "Geronimo": Rock, country and soul mix and make magic on an album that is by turns sassy and sensitive, torchy and defiant.

Tom Russell, "Hotwalker": Russell's newest CD is a largely spoken-word album with music subtitled "Charles Bukowski and a Ballad for Gone America." Russell revisits Los Angeles and America in the '50s and '60s, and the outlaws who made it vital and memorable.

Patricia Vonne, "Guitars and Castanets": The title is truth in advertising, as Vonne alternates gritty, guitar-based rock and country with acoustic flamenco music sung in Spanish. And it works stunningly well.

Honorable mentions: Cindy Bullens, "dream #29"; Hayes Carll, "Little Rock"; Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, "Begonias"; Hanna-McKuen, "Hanna-McKuen"; Robert Earl Keen, "What I Really Mean"; Knitters, "Modern Sounds of the Knitters"; Van Morrison, "Magic Time"; Bruce Springsteen, "Devils & Dust"; Marty Stuart, "Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota"; Dwight Yoakam, "Blame the Vain."


Dave Alvin, Feb. 10, Duck Room

Alison Krauss, March 1, Fox Theatre

John Mellencamp/John Fogerty, June 28, UMB Bank Pavilion

Chris Isaak, Aug. 6, Roberts Orpheum Theater

Brian Wilson, "Smile," Aug. 24, Roberts Orpheum Theater

Tom Rush, Sept. 2, Wildwood Springs Lodge, Steelville