I have the great good fortune to be buddies with a lot of incredibly talented musicians, and it just so happens that a bunch of them released pretty amazing records this year. So, here’s my year end list of my favorite CDs from independent singer/songwriter pals of mine, not necessarily in this order because my top changes depending on my mood.
Katie Herzig – Apple Tree: Katie is my favorite emerging female singer/songwriter. As I’ve said before, I love how she balances depth of emotion with mischief of melody and production. Her tales of romantic woe rank right up there with Patty Griffin’s in my book, it’s just that the landscapes she paints them in aren’t quite as achy-sounding. If you act fast, you can still download this gem for free.

Robby Hecht – Late Last Night:
In my ear, Robby is the Paul Simon (or maybe James Taylor) of the new generation. His tender meanderings are just right and Lex Price’s production is spot on, as well. I’ve blathered on about him previously, and I don’t like to repeat myself because I know you’re listening attentively to every word I write. So, just go on over to NoiseTrade and download this one for free, too.
Vonda Shepard – From the Sun: Vonda is one of the people I love most in this world. We have quite a history and I’ve been working with her on this release. (That would be a disclaimer right there.) But setting aside personal affinity for professional objectivity, this is a wonderful CD. It pulls the soulfulness that Ally McBeal fans love into the singer/songwriter format where she can examine her ever-constant seeking of love, truth, joy, home.

Peter Bradley Adams – Leavetaking:
You might know Peter from the short-lived Eastmountainsouth experience. On his sophomore solo flight, he continues in the beautiful, mellow vein. This guy is a definite craftsman both as a songsmith and a musician. That zeal for perfection makes his albums really shine. Leavetaking is another Lex Price production so it’s a nice companion piece to Robby’s.
Matthew Perryman Jones – Swallow the Sea: My sweet, sweet pal Matthew and his more pop/rock offering often sound rather much like Bono. His songs are so catchy and great, they’ve been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and some movie I can’t remember right now. This one might be free over on NoiseTrade, too. I can’t remember that right now either. Even still, find it and get it.
Amy Ray – Didn’t It Feel Kinder: Amy steps up her game on this one, often matching the brilliance of “Laramie” from her first solo effort. She pushes herself vocally and stylistically on each track here, and yet it’s a cohesive collective that earns a badge of honor on the merits of its messages, as much as anything else. Amy never fails to say important things in ways that make you want to listen.
Steven Delopoulos – Straightjacket: I’m going to say the Steven may be the Cat Stevens of the new generation with touches of Paul Simon thrown in. He weaves incredible imagery into into his explorations of faith. You’ve perhaps never heard anyone like Steven before. His work is deep and beautiful, challenging and thoughtful. He has all of that in his personality, as well, but it is expressed in a much more jovial style. That leads some of us to believe that he sort of channels his songs from a source not of his own making.

The Ditty Bops – Summer Rains:
These gals are just plain fun to listen to, like if you need some happy tunes to lift your mood while cleaning the house or something mundane like that. The playfulness that comes through the bouncy melodies and old-time instrumentation makes everything okay for a style of work that could fail miserably in other, less talented hands.
Tommy and the Whale – Shot for the Moon: Tommy churns out great pop songs. Full stop. Sometimes they reside in fairly straightforward musical settings; other times, not so much. These boys certainly owe more to Brit pop bands like Gomez and Coldplay than anyone in their Nashville homestead. You just have to love it when a trumpet comes cutting through the arrangement to accentuate a melodic line that deserves your recognition.
Megan McCormick – Eyes of Green (EP): This wunderkind is off to a fantastic start with this digital EP. Strong songs with interesting twists and turns – lyrically and melodically – are just the start. Add on impassioned vocal delivery and top-notch guitar chops and you have the makings of something really special. Download this one so you can say you knew her when.