Jackson Buck of Minneapolis:
1 Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “Downey to Lubbock.” After touring together, these veteran American roots icons — Alvin (of the Blasters and X) and Gilmore (Flatlanders) — connect on tunes hand-picked from the Americana songbook.
2 Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling, the Hook & Ladder. The interplay between Moss’ simmering guitar and Gruenling’s acclaimed harmonica set the tone. It’s no wonder their new “The High Cost of Low Living” is at the top of the blues/roots charts.
3 Playing For Change, “Listen to the Music.” Recorded live in 25 countries, this multimedia project features more than 200 musicians including Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes, Dr. John, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Tom Morello. All the profits support music education around the globe.
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Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Childish Gambino, “This Is America” video. This chilling clip juxtaposes jubilation and violence, dancing and guns, praying and guns, smoking pot and guns. “This is America,” he sings. “Guns are my area.” The controversial clip is provocative and powerful. Start the conversations once again.
2 Bishop Briggs, First Avenue. With songs worthy of an unpoetic Lorde or unbubblegum-y Katy Perry, this newcomer showed a natural hip-hop presence, an irresistibly exuberant manner and a compellingly fierce voice with pop-rock and soul instincts.
3 Nellie McKay, the Dakota. In a freewheeling, requests-heavy gig, the cabaret star was more satisfying than in recent theatrical or themed shows.