Bonnaroo’s Killer Lineup: Phish, Wilco, David Byrne, King Sunny Ade, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Gov’t Mule

Some of the country’s big ‘n’ eclectic rock/jam festivals, like Langerado in South Florida, are calling it quits this year. Or, at least, taking a break until 2010.

Bonnaroo, though, is standing strong, with a recently announced lineup that includes a huge gift to fans of a certain highly revered jamband.

Yep, Phish, reuniting in March to play three dates in Virginia, is headed to Bonnaroo, June 11-14 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Trey and Co., slated to play two shows – count ’em – at the music-and-camping fest, are at the top of the bill, along with a long list of acts boasting serious music muscle.

The lineup includes Wilco, David Byrne, Wilco, the Rev. Al Green, Elvis Costello (solo), and the seriously over-exposed Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. More: Gov’t Mule, Erykah Badu, TV on the Radio, Band of Horses, Ben Harper, Merle Haggard, moe, Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate, Galactic, Booker T & the Drive-by Truckers, David Grisman, Lucinda Williams, Gomez, Femi Kuti, Alejandro Escovedo, Cherryholmes, the Steeldrivers, and – yes – Nigerian juju star King Sunny Ade. More TBA.

By any measure, it’s a killer bill.

Best Jazz CDs of the Year?

It’s always one of a music critic’s toughest jobs.

How do you pick out the “best” recordings, of any genre, for any given year?

And, given the volume of CDs that continue to be unleashed, who – anywhere – has the time and wherewithal to listen to all the good, or even great, stuff that’s out there?

I never feel like I get it quite right – as soon as one of my year-ender pieces is published, I feel like I ought to go back and sub one of the discs for another that I’ve decided is more deserving.

At any rate, with the certainty that I’m leaving out one or two, or a dozen or more, great recordings, below is my “working” list of the year’s best jazz CDs.

This, of course, doesn’t include my favorites from other genres, a list that would include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, and the self-titled debut from The Steeldrivers.

An expanded version of my jazz list, with teensy descriptions of each disc, will soon be published elsewhere. When that happens, I’ll link to it.

The Best Jazz Discs of 2008 (in alphabetical order)

  • Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • John Ellis, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)metheny
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)
  • Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Robert Walter, Cure All (Palmetto)
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)

Threadhead Records: New Susan Cowsill Project Kicks Off in January

Threadhead Records, a recently launched fan-supported label organized by devotees of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (and NOLA music, in general), is now accepting contributions to fund the new CD from Susan Cowsill.

Singer-songwriter Cowsill, most recently of the Continental Drifters, and most famously the youngest member of late ’60s family band the Cowsills (inspiration for television’s “Partridge Family”), is headed to the studio in January to record her second solo album. Susan Cowsill, on stage at the Louisiana Music Factory

Her first solo release, Just Believe It, recorded shortly after Hurricane Katrina, is being remixed and remastered for a January release on Threadhead Records. That 2005 disc, featuring guest appearances by Lucinda Williams, Vicki Peterson, and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, generated loads of critical acclaim.

According to Cowsill’s entry in the All Music Guide: “Quite simply, debut albums are rarely as moving, as revealing, or as accomplished as Just Believe It, and while it may have taken Susan Cowsill nearly 35 years to get to this point in her career, the results are more than worth it — this is masterful music from a major talent.”

Threadhead Records is already home to new recordings by Paul Sanchez, John Boutte, and Glen David Andrews, and several others are in the works.

For more information on how to support Cowsill’s recording, or how to participate in other Threadhead Records artist projects, click here.

And check out the recent feature on the label in New Orleans music monthly Offbeat.