1. Shelby Lynne - Suit Yourself
What a great CD! We need more country artists such as Ms. Lynne who sing intelligent country songs with a great voice and a rock n' roll attitude that enhances the songs. Two light rockers, "I Won't Die Alone" and "You Don't Have A Heart," and the ballad "Johnny Met June," her ode to Johnny Cash, are highlights. See the complete review.
2. Robert Lamm - Leap Of Faith: Live In New Zealand
Chicago's most eclectic and artistic composer shows us all what this band could still be if they hadn't sold out many years ago. Live albums don't usually make my Top Five but Lamm's is an exception. I long for a new rocking horn band, like Chicago of the 1970s, in which the horn section actually drives the arrangements and isn't mere window dressing.
3. Michelle Shocked - Don't Ask Don't Tell
This CD is the closest Shocked has come to replicating her magnificent major label debut Short Sharp Shocked. This many faceted and textured disc is one of three releases she issued on the same day and they all deserve a listen. This CD has everything from roots music, to singer-songwriter fare, to punk. See the review of Don't Ask Don't Tell and its two 2005 sister CDs that were released in a package called Threesome.
4. Neil Young - Prairie Wind
Some believe that whenever Neil Young returns to his most loved style of music that he does so only for commercial reasons. I hope not. Even so Prairie Wind is both a pleasure and a revelation.
5. The Young Dubliners - Real World
One way or another a Celtic rock band always seems to find a place in my top five and 2005 is no exception. Normally Black 47 would issue a disc that would rocket to the top position but this year The Dubliners found their way here instead. While they are more mainstream and less Irish than either Black 47 or The Saw Doctors their roots still show through at times and that is what gives this CD its spark. Find out more in this review.
Honorable Mention goes to Ryan Adams and his band the Cardinals for their country-rock album Cold Roses. An album I wish had been released this year so it could have made the 2005 list is Alison Moyet's Voice. At least discovering good music late is better than not discovering it at all.
Unfortunately, every year has its disappointments. Kathleen Edward's sophomore release, Back To Me, was simply a case of "second verse, same as the first" and shockingly with Elvis Murphy's Green Suede Shoes Black 47 failed to come up with an interesting followup to the two fantastic studio albums that preceded it. The CD was a big disappointment.