Holiday shopping is mostly completed. There are a few minor things left to get, but on the whole, pretty much done. Then there's the baking and packing of the goody boxes for out-of-state friends, and viola! I have, though, bought more for individuals - I think I've lost track of how much I've gotten for rahirah and sillymagpie, just 'cause.
I once again, however, spent myself into a hole (one of those ones where everything is paid off, but I only have about $5 to last until next Friday, and hope nothing comes up). I have a problem buying things for myself while shopping for others, but I DID get a pair of boots I've wanted for ages for about $100 less than they retail for at the Last Chance store.
Last night we went to my Company holiday party, which was semi-formal and actually quite fun. The food was amazingly good, I danced a little, and I looked quite spiffy in my crushed velvet teal sheath dress. They took a formal portrait, so I'll post it when I get it.
Then I dreamed I was the Doctor (ten) and was with Rose in this large facility that was near a coast, and I knew that there was going to be a major disaster coming up shortly, but this was one structure that was safe. I remember clearly the sight of the landscape around the place being destroyed (a sort of pseudo-nuclear blast), and then the windows cracked and the sea started coming in. I said to myself, "Curious. That didn't happen last time," because of course I'd been there before and knew what was supposed to occur, and I started shouting orders to get people out quickly, figuring I'd just try and get to the top of the area by floating, but then I remembered that Rose couldn't swim and I sort of panicked as I tried to get her out ahead of the crowd. Oh, and I think there was sex. I do wish I could remember more of this dream...
It's that time of year again, and I just turned in my Top Ten (20) picks for the year - although there was really only space for 12, so I got cut slightly, so I'll post :
Rosanne Cash - Black Cadillac
Rosanne packs it all into this masterpiece. The sheer beauty and poignancy of the lyrics makes
for an absolutely glorious listen, beginning to end, a roller coaster of gorgeous emotion and
desperate sadness, over all a magnificent piece of music. The sorrow of the disc nearly made me
place it at number two on the list, but I couldn't deny the genius of this release. It's by far and
away the greatest single album release of the year, if not the decade. It's hard to admit that great
events in an artist's life make for great art, but it's certainly true. It's not easy to listen to music,
but it's absolutely ART.
Kris Kristofferson - This Old Road
In a sharp juxtaposition from my #1 pick, Kristofferson's newest release celebrates life and joy
in a way only a man who has trod some hard roads can do. With mastery of word and melody,
Kristofferson brings out a sound that is completely and totally honest, simply putting himself out
there on display and saying "Hey. When it all comes down to it, life's pretty awesome." Sadness
does exist, but there is so much happiness in life, it all balances out in the long run. There's
hardship, there's trials, there's death and sickness and war - but in the end, there's also love and
family and success, and life is good.
Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways
Three years after his death, Johnny Cash's fifth "American Recordings" was finally released,
and it shows without a shadow of a doubt that even in the midst of loss, Cash was still joyous
when it came to making music. Much of this album was recorded after the death of wife June,
but you can hear in every labored breath that Johnny knew the soul is eternal. While American
IV was a man preparing for death, V is a man who is ready for the next life. Cash's version of
"Four Strong Winds" alone makes this disc a top ten contender - the disc as a whole is as strong
a Johnny Cash CD as any release in his long career.
Dale Watson - Whiskey or God
It may be kind of a cheat to call this a top release of 2006, since technically this disc was
actually released in Europe in 2005 (under the title "Heeah!"), but I don't care. It's a great disc
and deserves any attention that folks are willing to show it, and it certainly falls into my personal
top ten favorites of the year. Dale Watson may have spent a goodly part of the last year in semi-
retirement, but it doesn't stop his powerful voice from rattling windows. He's a gentleman and a
true country singer, right down to the bone. When you say "country music," what you mean is
Dave Insley - Here With You Tonight
Dave Insley's sophomore effort is every bit as good as his first release - the tough thing was, he
didn't quite make it to #1 because of the very stiff competition. Leave it to say, my Top Five
here is really all pretty close to a five-way tie for #1 - Dave Insley's amazing voice and artistry
with words marks him a legend in the making, a true country artist with a sharp western edge
and a cowboy flare that makes waves wherever he plays. My only complaint with Dave Insley
CDs so far is that they're way too short. More music, please! This guy is going places, and I'm
going to enjoy the ride.
Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash - Mile Markers
Mark Stuart and his boys have come a long way from being a good garage band with a name that
makes people chuckle. They do their adopted father proud with this release, an emotion-packed
selection of serious tunes dedicated to the American Southwest, from Austin to Bakersfield.
Capturing the essence of western roots music, they pack it tightly into these twelve tracks,
flavored with Stuart's strong, distinctive voice and some sharp playing. It's Stuart's baby from
start to end, pressed on Stuart's own new label and produced by Stuart as part of the Texicali 3,
and a sure-fire Americana classic.
Sunny Sweeney - Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame
Sunny Sweeney turned out to be exactly what I've been looking for, and I didn't even realize it
until I heard her sing - a girl singer whose music is neither bubblegum pop nor faux-country-girl-
power junk. This is just hardcore good country, like Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson. Sunny
just comes on strong with a great, likeable voice and some really awesome songs, as well as
some of the best covers I've heard in a while. This is a terrific debut album, immediately
marking Sunny in my mind as one of the best female country singers out there - one of the best
country singers, period. And that's what I REALLY wanted.
Chris Jones - Too Far Down The Road
I fell in love with this disc practically from the first moment I put it in my CD player. Jones'
voice hit me with the same power as guys like Dale Watson and Roger Wallace did - immediate
and total head-over-heels WOW. Although Jones has been playing and singing bluegrass for
years, this is his first venture into the honky-tonk halls, and he does a bang-up job of it. With
some powerful tunes and hot players (provided by the always awesome gang at Little Dog
Records and featuring the amazing Pete Anderson on guitar), this disc can't help but hit any "top
of the year" list.
John Corbett - John Corbett
John Corbett proved to be as instantly likeable as a singer as he is an actor. Forgetting his past
roles, it's easy to just listen to the music and find out he can really sing. His comfortable, clear
tenor voice knows exactly how to deliver a song, with honesty and a relaxed emotional clarity.
Corbett's approach is pure and pleasant and I just plain loved this debut CD. It's amazing when
someone can start out on such a high. With songs like [b]"Wichita,"[/b] [b]"Simple Man,"[/b]
and [b]"Cash,"[/b] this disc turned out to be one of the best surprises of the year, and quite
Pinmonkey - Big Shiny Cars
I chose this disc for my Top Ten on the strength of two of the songs - the surprise hit [b]"Train
Don't Run By Here No More"[/b] (I'll be honest, I never expected to see any music I like ever
again on CMT or GAC) and the incredible title track, [b]"Big Shiny Cars."[/b] But the rest of the
disc is just as good, really - it's just those songs grabbed me by the neck and held on, until I
realized much later, after I'd rotated it out of play for a few months, just how deep they'd settled.
So it's without any reservation I give the little group with the cool name a spot on the Top Ten.
Note: I'd have put John Prine's [i]Fair and Square[/I] at #1 last year, if I'd received it before
Christmas (the release date was April 2005, but I missed it until late in the year). I'd like to at
least give it Honorable Mention this year.
Neil Young - Living With War
Guy Clark - Workbench Songs
T-Bone Burnett - Twenty Twenty: The Essential T-Bone Burnett
Slaid Cleaves - Unsung
JJ Baron - Brand New Stranger
Martina McBride - Timeless
Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Reckless Kelly - Reckless Kelly Was Here
Johnny Cash at San Quentin - Box Set w/DVD
Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. (Expanded)