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The Best of 2006: Music

8. Buddy Guy, "Can't Quit the Blues," and John Lee Hooker, "Hooker." Box sets that do justice to two blues greats, each with a long and tangled multi-label history.

9. Chuck Berry, "Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll." As enjoyable as the concert footage is, what distinguishes this four-volume "Ultimate Collector's Edition" DVD is a previously unseen trove of rehearsal outtakes and interviews with Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis, among many others.

10. The Fretboard Journal. Kudos for its first full year of publication. A more handsomely produced and photographically appealing magazine devoted to exquisite and mostly handcrafted instruments won't be surfacing anytime soon.


1. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, April 28-30 and May 5-7. The first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina challenged musicians to articulate all the pain, anger and hope stemming from the failure of several levees and governments. Famous visitors (Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello) and lesser-known Gulf Coasters (John Boutté, Bobby Lounge, Allen Toussaint, Snooks Eaglin, Susan Cowsill and the Pine Leaf Boys) responded with some of the best performances of their lives. Working together, Costello and Toussaint transferred that spirit to a CD ("The River in Reverse") and a DVD ("Hot as a Pistol, Keen as a Blade").

2. Drive-By Truckers, "A Blessing & a Curse." What good is it to be the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band if the world at large doesn't care? The DBTs contemplate that and other dilemmas of adulthood on this bleak, brilliant album.

3. Kenny Garrett and Pharoah Sanders, "Beyond the Wall." Garrett, the young alto saxophonist, joined his hero and elder, tenor saxophonist Sanders, for the year's best jazz album and for a terrific show at Blues Alley on Sept. 17.

4. The True Believers Alumni Association. Two of the year's best rock 'n' roll albums came from former bandmates in the Austin roots-punk band, the True Believers. Alejandro Escovedo's "The Boxing Mirror" was good, but Jon Dee Graham's "Full" was even better.

5. Anthony Hamilton live. The best R&B singer-songwriter of the current decade, a cross between Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers, supported his latest album, "Ain't Nobody Worryin'," with stunning shows at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin on March 16 and at Baltimore's Lyric Opera House on May 10.

6. Gnarls Barkley, "St. Elsewhere." Producer Danger Mouse got most of the credit for the irresistible blend of pop and hip-hop on "St. Elsewhere," but the soulful vocals of Goodie Mob's Cee-Lo Green gave the hooky songs heart as well as smarts.

7. Bill Frisell at Lisner Auditorium, Nov. 16. The jazz guitarist released a terrific trio album, "Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian," but was even more impressive when he brought his eight-piece, horns-and-strings Unspeakable Orchestra to Lisner.

8. Don Rigsby, "Hillbilly Heartache." The year's best country singing could be heard on the new album from this Kentucky mandolinist, still underrated even in his own bluegrass circles.

9. Los Lobos, "The Town and the City." Immigration was in the news all year, but no commentators were more perceptive or more articulate than these five East Los Angeles musicians on this album.

10. The SFJazz Collective , "SFJazz Collective 2." This octet, led by Joshua Redman and sponsored by the San Francisco Jazz Festival, is a rarity among jazz bands today: a well-rehearsed, large combo that moves surely from notation to improvisation, from solos and duets to trios and ensembles. The group proved it with this album and an exciting show at the Music Center at Strathmore on March 22. ยท

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