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  • Rich Kassirer

Favorites of 2009

Regina Spektor blowing the shofar at the House of Blues.
Regina Spektor blowing the shofar at the House of Blues.

FAVORITE CD “I and Love and You,” the Avett Brothers; “Sea of Tears,” Eilen Jewell. The Avetts’ mountain music has just enough punky attitude. Yes, we realize the band’s sound has been scrubbed a little cleaner than in the past, thanks to legendary producer Rick Rubin, but “I and Love and You” still comes off fresh and exciting, and new to those of us who hadn’t been paying attention before. As for “Sea of Tears,” Eilen’s timeless voice gets backing from some of the most-kickass late-’60s and early-’70s guitar-based sounds from a band who appears to have totally found its groove. (Read our album reviews: Avetts HERE; Eilen HERE)

SURPRISE CD “Friend of a Friend,” David Rawlings Machine. Since we’ve been waiting six years, anytime there is new music from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings it is a surprise. (Read album review HERE; check out Dave’s music HERE)

MEMORABLE CONCERT MOMENT Regina Spektor blowing the shofar as part of her encore. (See above).

FAVORITE CONCERT PHOTO Dragonforce guitar player Herman Li (see review HERE)

FAVORITE CONCERT Big Surprise Tour. We went to see Gillian and David. We also got to hear the Felice Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Justin Townes Earle – all together sharing the stage in one big hoedown. The highlight was a concert-ending full-on version of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll).” (Watch our video HERE; read our CONCERT review HERE).

FAVORITE VENUE House of Blues Boston. We have mixed feelings about this. We love small clubs for their intimacy and HOB is a corporate rock club that holds a couple thousand people. But we saw six shows there this year – from Regina’s Spektor’s pin-drop quietude to the jam-rock of Grace Potter — and the sound was perfect every time. Even when there were nearly 15 musicians on the stage for the Big Surprise Tour, we could hear every instrument and vocal nuance. While you do have to stand most of the time, the sightlines are surprisingly very good. One thing: $6 for a can of Bud? That’s why corporate rock really sucks. A special shoutout to the Palladium in Worcester. We had never been there before and it’s a pretty cool place to see a show. (read our GRACE concert review HERE)

BEST TIME AT A SHOW Regina Spektor at the House of Blues, Dragonforce at the Worcester Palladium. Anytime you can experience music with your kids, it’s a good time. (read our REGINA concert review HERE).

FAVORITE QUOTE Q. How would you respond to some critics saying that “Inhuman Rampage” is just playing fast at the expense of taste? Vadim Pruzhanov, Dragonforce keyboard player: We love to shred and shredding is what we do. There are plenty of bands that play mid-tempo power metal whilst looking at their fretboards and not move at all. If it’s too fast, you’re too fucking old! (FROM SAVIORSOFROCK.COM)

FAVORITE NEW ARTIST The Low Anthem. This R.I. band caught our attention with their song “Charlie Darwin.” We look forward to their next album. (Check out the Low Anthem HERE).

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER Steve Earle. We’ve known about Steve for a long time. But after seeing him at the Berklee Performance Center, we realized he is the real deal, a folk singer with that political drive to keep going. (Steve’s Music HERE)

OTHER MEMORABLE CONCERTS Jenny Lewis at House of Blues We knew Jenny had a great voice, but we were amazed that in concert she hits all the notes, whether singing a solo gospel number or fronting her full-tilt rock band. (Read our concert review HERE; check out her music HERE)

The Avett Brothers at the House of Blues We’d heard that seeing these guys live is a different experience than hearing their albums. And it is true. The energy level is ratcheted up to the point where you can’t help but dance. (Read our concert review HERE; check out their music HERE)

Kathleen Edwards at Paradise This was our second time seeing Kathleen. She puts on a great show, stomping around the stage and firing off funny stories about life on the road. (Read our concert review HERE; check out her music HERE)

Eilen Jewell doing Loretta Lynn songs at Lizard Lounge We almost didn’t go to the show, but at the last minute changed our minds. And we’re glad we did. (Read our concert review HERE; check out her music HERE)

OTHER MEMORABLE ALBUMS Erin McKeown, “Hundreds of Lions” Erin has a spark, a wit, and a way with songs like no other. Take a listen to “(Put the Fun Back in) the Funeral” and “The Rascal” and try not to smile. (Read our album review HERE; check out her music HERE)

Regina Spektor, “Far” We thought we’d never love a Regina album as much as we did “Begin to Hope.’’ But, lo and behold, “Far” hooked us. It has so many great tunes full of her amazing vocal acrobatics. One listen to “Eet” or “Dance Anthem of the ’ 80s’’ and you’ll be hooked too. (Read our album review HERE; check out her music HERE)

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, “Rattlin’ Bones” Kasey is a nationally known folk-pop singer; Shane, her husband, is apparently known mostly in their native Australia. This album, a mix of folk, blues and bluegrass, really stands out for the way their voices meld into one. The best songs — “Jackson Hole,” “The Devil’s Inside My Head” – are romping tunes filled out with some furious banjo picking. (Read our album review HERE; check out their music HERE)

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