Patrick Watson -- Wooden Arms
Tom Waits trashcan percussion, Thom Yorke moans, and ever-evolving Andrew Bird melodies. No whistling. Darn. But a very fine, atmospheric, and lovely album. Watson's 2006 album Close to Paradise raised some eyebrows by beating out Feist and Arcade Fire for a Polaris Award, Canada's equivalent of the Mercury Prize. This one is better. Watson has lost the Chris Martin/Coldplay affectations, and if he retains the Bird and Radiohead influences, it's hard to fault him for that.
Pine Leaf Boys -- Homage au Passe
Beausoleil gets all the Cajun love, and rightly so. But Pine Leaf Boys are considerably younger and rowdier, albeit equally steeped in the tradition, and the fiddles and accordions jump throughout. If you're still of the opinion that the accordion can't rock, you really need to hear this. There's a bit of rockabilly here, a bit of Hank Williams high lonesome country, and a whole lot of Cajun rocking and reeling. Great stuff.
Patterson Hood -- Murdering Oscar (and other Love Songs)
Sure, there are plenty of echoes of Drive-By Truckers here (how could there not be?), and the DBT folks are out in force, but Hood also enlists his old man David on bass (merely one of the best ever), and Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel mastermind Will Johnson on various stringed instruments and vocals. Most of these songs were written 15 years ago, before the Truckers got it in gear, and a few of them sound tentative. But musically, this is the best smoldering Crazy Horse album since, well, Weld. Do you remember how to do this, Neil?